Review by Soldier_0_Cross
"Not quite the fitting end many hoped for, but near perfect in almost every other regard."
It took me a pretty long time to finally get into the Mass Effect series. Despite the fact that my friends went on about it for around 2-3 years till I finally decided to play it, I did however manage to learn all the words to the Commander Shepard song well before that. I had bought the first Mass Effect but gave it little more than an hours play time and got bored in the citadel and put it down for quite some time. Fast forward to when Mass Effect 3 came out and I finally decided to see what the hell everyone was talking about so much. Im glad I did, because I quickly became enraptured within the games rich characters and fairly compelling plot. While the combat and RPG system left some fun to be desired I found the most enjoyable parts throughout the first game to be speaking with my crew in between each mission and learning about the backstory of the characters and the world's lore.
Pleasantly surprised and eager to become Commander Shepard once again I hopped into the 2nd game without even a break inbetween and loved it even more. The combat was cleaner, graphics were nicer and they simplified the RPG system into fundamentally a 3rd person shooter with just a few RPG qualities. The plot wasn't as strong as the first game but the characters were stronger and the side stories more than made up for that and became the main focus of the game. It became one of my favorite gaming experiences to date, getting to know my crew in a much more intimate way and having the solid gameplay to carry it along made it all the better. Although part of me will always miss the Mako.
Now I finally got to play the 3rd game and experience the finale of the series that Ive enjoyed for the past 3 weeks or so. So while I having been apart of this series as long as most have, Id still like to contribute my thoughts on this tales final installment, because unlike many sequels, in my mind does the series a great deal of justice (minus one glaring flaw, which I will touch upon later and many of you already know what I will say).
Simple to say Mass Effect 3 is a much cleaner looking game than its predecessor, while 2 looked better than 1, 3 looks better than 2. Characters are overall more detailed, environments are nicer but never breathtaking and overall it's a solid looking game. It wont be winning any awards for graphics or atmosphere, but it's solid and by no means looks bad, bland or unimaginative.
The gameplay by far is the most perfected the series has achieved. While 2 was much tighter than 1 was it threw out all the RPG elements and made the game almost entirely 3rd person shooter based. 3 manages to find a good balance between these. While the first game had far too many gun options as well as mundane leveling up the 2nd had to little and the 3rd finds a nice balance in between both. There are a good amount of guns to be found but not so many as to feel overwhelming, no random drops so it does feel less RPGish but I felt this was a strong change that was smart to carry over from 2. They have enough skills as to keep the game interesting and giving the ability to forge your character completely differently from someone else, but not so many as it feels pointless and arbitrary. As well with 6 classes to play all with different playstyles it will be easy to replay the game in an entirely different fashion and experience something else entirely.
The actual combat is much tighter and very Gears of War inspired, the cover system is more elaborate and not entirely as broken as it was in the 2nd game. Working with your squadmates feels purposeful and necessary (especially on higher difficulties). One small qualm I have though was given that the 2nd game had many more squadmates than the first I would have expected a middle ground in regards to numbers of potential crewmates. Whereas the first game had 6, the 2nd had double that (with both DLCs), however ME3 only has 6 (7 with dlc) to choose from. Not a terrible problem, but somewhere between 8-10 would have been nice to add more variety going on a mission.
As I said initially, the biggest draw to Mass Effect for me was the characters and getting to know them, the witty dialogue, the special conversations in between missions and unique and different personalities they all sported helped to make my journey feel so much more alive and purposeful. For a game to sport such quality writing in their characters is rare and it was a joy throughout the series making these new friends and relationships. The 3rd game is not a slouch in this regards and makes for a massively rich experience as you unite your old friends from previous games from across the galaxy and build up to something amazing. Witty dialogue, funny, likable characters make it so easy and fun to get into the world of Mass Effect, even more than the actual story the characters are what drew me in.
The story itself throughout the series was very solid and well told although in my opinion somewhat overrated considering in how high regards some fans hold it in. Yes, it's a good, strong coherent plot. But in terms of deep, layered storytelling it's far from special, much more akin to a typical albeit very well written action sci fi plot. Truth be told, I loved the story in the 2nd one the most. It had almost nothing to do with the main plot, however most of the games actual story was experienced through the characters and again, building those relationships and the ME universe's lore. It was a very real and easy way to experience it and worked very well. Now by no means am I saying Mass Effect has a less than subpar story, as far as games go it's probably one of the more solid ones most people will play, it's just not that stellar.
With all that said the story in the 3rd game felt truly epic and engaging. Centering around the plot to save the entire galaxy from the reapers. You spend most of the game recruiting other world to help you in the effort to save Earth and in turn, save the whole galaxy from annihilation. Many things in the series come to be tied up very well in this game, finally seeing the fruits of your efforts and the choices you made in prior games affecting things in this game had a very strong feel to it. Almost every moment of the game felt purposely, engaging and absorbing, I was entirely hooked. I was into the battle to save Earth, my crew was and the entire races and planets I was recruiting were into it too, the buildup felt amazing and every single moment I felt apart of what was going on.
So I guess that's where the games only real problem comes from. The ending, if you're reading this review there's a strong chance you know about the ending or know that people don't like it. For a game so epic, engaging and something that gave me an experience where I was so drawn in, I truly felt cheated and shocked by the ending. Going in I knew what was going to happen and had the game spoiled, however actually experiencing it felt so underwhelming and un-purposeful. I won't chew it out too much since there's no point. However I can only say it was the only disappointing part of the game and outside of those final 10 minutes, some of my favorite gaming moments hands down. Beautiful cutscenes, amazing characters, engaging and captivating story and strong gameplay to tie it all together makes it an easy buy.
To add onto all that, the game has multiplayer. While unfortunately it seems that multiplayer is becoming something that is often tacked onto games as a selling feature I don't tend to mind as long as it never draws away from the main experience. I also tend to enjoy it because it gives me a new way to experience the game. Both Bioshock 2 and Dead Space 2's MP I had fun with and the level of quality put into ME3's multiplayer is beyond either of those. It plays identically to the single player although with 4 player co-op. You still get 6 classes to choose from as well as a race so that also helps to add more depth in to it. Free DLC came out rather quickly so it also shows strong promise that Bioware believes in keeping life in it while creating insentive to keep playing to unlock more characters and weapons. It's easy to lose hours playing with friends just fighting hordes of reapers and geth.
Overall Mass Effect 3 is a very amazing game, stellar all around, gameplay, story, characters, graphics and setting all help to make it one of the better games I've been able to experience. As I said before the only major flaw is the ending. Bioware has said they will add to it to introduce more depth and clarity to what we've seen. This may or may not fix the issue, either way, we'll see when it comes out. Until then we have a very good game to enjoy.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/12
Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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