Review by Bullshifty12
"A bitter end to a great trilogy of games."
Let it first be said that I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect franchise. I played the first installment several times through, and it's sequel was even stronger than the first. It's a franchise that seamlessly blends action and role-playing in a universe full of extraterrestrial intrigue and diverse, interesting, familiar, characters.
I knew it would be difficult for ME3 to live up to it's predecessors, but that's not a fair way to grade the quality of a game like this. However, there are some glaring elements that were removed from this third installment that simply make me wonder "why?" by the time the game ended. Overall, ME3 ended up being a good game, but a disappointment compared to the quality of other installments in the series.
The third person shooting aspect from ME2 remains pretty much intact in this latest installment in the franchise, and that is one of the major selling points of the game. Moreso than ever, combat in ME3 feels fantastic. It continues to blend in great shooting mechanics with an array of abilities at your, and your companion's, disposal. Aside from the additions of new weapon mods, this aspect of the game feels familiar. Even when the difficulty curve seems a bit spastic at points, combat in ME3 is a delight, and there's very few nit-picks that I can point out about it.
Other elements have also remained somewhat intact, such as exploration and character development. It is here, though, that some differences become apparent. For one, the character roster in ME3 is smaller than it was in ME2, and there are no 'personal side missions' to participate in any more. In many ways it feels like this has been sacrificed in order to relay the urgency in which your missions are done.
Character interaction is now done with a reputation system rather than involving side quests. This is a shame, as one of the best parts of ME2 was the character involvement when it came to doing these missions. It added a sense of depth and strengthened the bond between characters. Since about half of the character roster in ME3 is made up of new (or relatively new) faces, it'd have been nice to add a bit more to strengthen the bond I had with said characters in this game.
Also gone (and rightly so) are the probing missions that forced you to painstakingly scan planets for their resources. However, instead of down-right getting ride of this system, it has been replaced by a similar system where you find relics on planets and return them to the Citadel. Unfortunately, these are little more than fetch quests and in many ways is a system just as redundant as the probing mechanic in ME2. To complicate this, the mission journal tells you very little about where to go in particular to find these relics. I had to frequently consult online wikis to find several systems that, for some reason, weren't marked on the galactic map.
Nearly all of the missions, side missions, relic hunting, and exploration contribute to your "war assets" in ME3. The amount of these assets you earn influences how ready you are to take on the reapers at the end of the game. This mechanic, while seeming a bit negligible, is nice because it shows you how ready you are and lets you know what you have, and what you are missing. So, in the end, it's worth exploring every nook and cranny you can to prepare you for the final battle.
Mass Effect 3 looks as beautiful of ever, and it's polish hasn't been tarnished in this newest installment. The game looks and sounds fantastic with only a few minor audio hiccups that are mentionable. This shiny space opera will lead you to fantastic locations that look great, but I didn't personally find them any better than the ones in Mass Effect 2, which, in my opinion, looked just as good.
As good as the game looks and sounds, there are some problems I have with the menus...particularly the journal and the way mission data is organized. The game seems to tell you the bare basics about a mission or a relic and just isn't up to par with the way missions (or quests, if you like) should be tracked.
There really isn't much else to say about the presentation, suffice to say it's about on par with what ME2 had to offer. It hasn't made any design leaps to be excited about, but still looks gorgeous.
BioWare has always been a studio with superb writing and story telling; a studio that has always been able to deliver when it comes to creating stories and characters that people care about. Mass Effect 2's story and character roster was, in my opinion, one of the most endearing in recent gaming history. It''s unfortunate that this prowess hasn't remained fully intact for the third installment.
The overarching story is what you'd expect if you've been playing the series: The Reapers have attacked, and it's up to Shepard to rally every race in the galaxy against them. This aspect of the story is done quite well, and the sense of urgency in the game gives you the idea of how much of a desperate struggle the Milky Way has been involved in. For whatever reason, however, this all simply boils down to having to recruit your friends for a third and final time.
It's in the character development department that the game begins to stutter, and ultimately the experience suffers because of it. Many of the companion characters in ME3 are new, and it's a bit unfortunate that they've joined the party so late. Other characters, ones which were previously on your side, only make cameo appearances throughout the game. Some, depending on your old save states, don't even bother to show up at all.
The problem isn' t that the franchise is introducing new characters; it's that they're being introduced so late in the game's timeline while older, more familiar characters have fallen by the wayside. Some characters that will play major roles in the final hours of the game won't even be introduced until halfway through ME3; as is the instance with Kai Leng...a character not many will be familiar with, and is introduced very poorly as a major villain when there are so many other villains that could have easily (and better) filled his spot.
These new characters are uninteresting from the start. Without the personal side missions from ME2, they feel less important and it's harder to get attached to them. Fortunately, Garrus, Tali, and Liara are still beside Shepard...but with so many great personalities from the previous games; it's a shame that there aren't more like them. It's also a shame that your roster is, in fact, SMALLER than it was in Mass Effect 2...and one of these characters has been introduced as day one DLC, limiting you even more if you refuse to buy it.
Fortunately, at it's best, the story in ME3 is still fantastic and player choice plays an even greater role in how the future unfolds. You will frequently have to make difficult decisions that decide the fate of you, your companions, and ultimately the entire galaxy. The first half of ME3 is masterfully done, and it's not until about half way through that the story begins to really suffer from sour elements attached to certain characters and redundant situations.
It's in the game's conclusion that the biggest disappointment spawns from. The ending of ME3 is dreadful, and in some ways makes a mockery of the whole series. This was a game hyped from the beginning of it's development as the conclusion to an epic intergalactic struggle; but this idea seems to have been shelved in hopes of milking the franchise. It's an absolute sin, and if you are expecting closure to this "trilogy", you will not find it here.
I will not ruin the ending for anyone still willing to play, but suffice to say there's very little gold at the end of the rainbow to be had...and that is a crying shame.
Mass Effect 3 is a great game. It's worth playing, even if not for finding closure. It's just unfortunate that the shenanigans BioWare has been up to recently has effected it so greatly. Between the horrendous ending, day one DLC, poor quality character development, and other nitpicks that either spawn from poor design or greedy developers; I cannot in all honestly say this game lives up to it's predecessors.
But even with these problems, it's still worth playing. It's a great game at heart, and whether or not you want to continue to play the series is up to you. Hopefully BioWare can conclude this trilogy in a manner which will not further alienate it's fanbase...and when it does, perhaps I will show up.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/26/12
Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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