Review by DarkSymbiote

"So close to being the one the best of all time"

In 2007, BioWare gave us Mass Effect, a space opera where our choices really did matter. As Commander Shepard, the first ever Spectre in an intergalactic community, it was his or her job to protect the galaxy from prejudiced scum, rebellious machines and brobdingnagian harvesters. It was planned as the beginning of a trilogy and started as one of the more original games of this generation. More than two years later we had the sequel. The quest wasn't as important as the first but the deeper level of character interaction, the much improved combat and muchly varied environments made it an overall superior game at least in terms of fun.

Over the years fans have made their choices in each game and kept their save files to finally conclude their Shepard's story in Mass Effect 3. Is this Earth's last hope or have we had enough of EA's disingenuous assertions?

Story

Tell your friends we're coming for them.

It's been 6 months since the destruction of the Collector Base and the Reapers are already at Earth. No one is prepared however since the Council had "dismissed that claim". The incursion forces Shepard to step off Earth and recruit a massive army. You'll need one if stopping Reapers is of any importance. While asking for assistance from the other races, Shepard will come across familiar faces granted they survived previous adventures. The characters are diverse enough as you expect from a BioWare game and some show a different side to them never seen before.

The writing is sharp with a few hiccups every now and then and Shepard's bon mots are still entertaining. Past choices does change your journey to a certain extent but that may not matter since the final moments throws out everything you have done so far throughout the three games. Besides having one of the worst endings of all time, it directly insults fans who have been with the series since the beginning. Whether this was done for future DLC or because of imbecilic developmental choices is unknown. Just be prepared that the end is abominable compared to the journey and you will save yourself some disappointment.

Design and Gameplay

I don't know what drugs you're on, but stay back and I won't shoot you.

Soon after the rushed opening you'll be back as the Normandy's Captain and make your way to other homeworlds and space stations. Since the primary concept is of gathering an army you'll be updated with your current Effective Military Strength in the Normandy's War room. Your total strength shapes very little of what happens in the final battle and spending hours on side quests doesn't seem worth it. Speaking of side quests, most of them amount to little more than tedious planet scanning. Even with the new Reaper chase feature in the galaxy map these become tiresome. The N7 missions are basically the multiplayer maps with some story thrown in. Regardless to say, these feel very indolent. At least the primary, story missions are some of the best in the series.

Having only six squadmates seems like a step back from Mass Effect 2 especially considering there are no teammate specific missions this time around. The seventh character is a Prothean, Javik. Lore wise, he is the most important character in the game. Despite this EA decided to remove him from the game and release him as day one DLC. So you better be ready to pay extra and have your console connected online if you want you want your team to at maximum strength.

Multiplayer offers an interesting distraction. It's basically Horde mode ala Gears of War with the waves of enemies assaulting you and up to three others, but without the same level of depth. The kick here is that it ties in to your Shepard's actual war effort and getting the 'best' ending is nearly impossible without multiplayer... which is odd.

Thankfully, the shooting has been improved substantially. Rolls are finally in place along with a new heavy melee feature, unique for each class. The one of a kind feature the game brings to the table is being able to pick up and instantly kill the enemy antipodal to your cover. Despite these advancements, it's still not as smooth the best cover based shooters with you occasionally not being able to park behind the obvious wall or and Shepard often refuses to bolt over. Guns now have more kickback and weight to them. A weapon's weight is also heavily integrated into combat. Your encumbrance is proportional to how quickly your powers recharge so choosing your weapons carefully is more important now. Also, each weapon, besides heavy ones, can be customised with mods that can be installed on benches. Finally, hacking has been removed for some reason. This time you'll just watch as Shepard cracks a console or door security automatically.

However, despite the above improvements, the dialogue has been heavily gimped. Neutral choices have been completely abolished and Shepard annoyingly goes into autopilot mode for the majority of verbal exchanges and utter things you might not agree with. The amount of persuasion options have been cut down by more than a third. At the very least the number of Paragon and Renegade interrupts have increased. The game also gives you the choice of choosing three modes at the start if you don't import; "Action", "Story" and "RPG". It's highly recommended to not play the "Action" mode as it basically eradicates all dialogue choices, leading to a more dumbed down game. Why this was done is a mystery. For the new Kinect addition? Or because of EA's desperation to break into the action crowd?

Visulas

Take a good long look at me. Do I look like a looter?

Using the Unreal Engine 3 ever since the first game, BioWare have improved upon the series' looks with each new installment. It may not look significantly better than the last one but the faces look more detailed, lip-syncing is superior, armours and weapons are slightly more detailed and the overall look is crispier, though the texture pop-up still exists and characters often disappear from conversations. Hair still looks hideous and your human allies seem to have better coiffures than you.

Audio

What sound will you make when you hit the ground? You think you'll hear it before you die?

If you expected something similar to the rush of "Suicide Mission" or the creepy beauty or "Samara", you will be disappointed. Clint Mansell replaces Jack Wall this time around and the tone of music definitely changes. Some stand out but the somber tunes sound too alike. It's a shame that the best tracks are from prior games. That's not to say Mass Effect 3's soundtrack is bad however. Sound effects could have used a lot more work but at least gunfire is more pleasing to the ear.

Voice acting is exactly what is expected from BioWare. With some of the best voice actors in the industry vocalising the main characters and are delighting to listen to. Mark Meer has definitely meliorated as MaleShep but at times still sounds like he doesn't feel a thing while Jennifer Hale delivers FemShep nicely once again.

Pros:

- Bettered combat
- Atmosphere of an actual war going on
- Deeper customisation than Mass Effect 2

Cons:

- Day one DLC
- Significantly dumbed down conversation system
- Hellacious ending

Final verdict

You can either fight at my side or get crushed under my heel. But you will not stand in my way.

Many fans have been waiting since November of 2007 to complete the trilogy and kick the Reapers back to "whatever black hole they crawled out of". What we are left with is disappointment in the final hour. Newcomers may not care much but since this game has "3" in its title, it will be judged accordingly. With that said you may be wondering why I'm giving this one such a high score. Well, up until the moments when everything we did is tossed aside for an incongruous conclusion to what could have been the best trilogy in gaming history, the moments leading up to it are some of the best of all time. If you can manage to accept that the finale will most likely not satisfy you then you shouldn't think twice about playing this space opera.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/30/12, Updated 04/18/12

Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)


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