Review by YggdrasilsSword
"A great game, but incomplete..."
Mass Effect 3 is excellent for all of the beginning, the middle, and most of the end. The shooter/RPG hybrid gameplay has integrated the best elements of Mass Effect's character and weapon customization with Mass Effect 2's third-person shooter combat style, even improving on the elements of both. The new power leveling system gives the player more choices regarding their powers, and weapon mods and a broadened weapon and armor selection alleviate complaints about the previous game. As for the in-game combat, rolling and an improved cover system eliminate most of the annoying awkward moments that could cause trouble in Mass Effect 2 at critical moments.
The graphics and sound of Mass Effect 3 are a step up from the previous games. Faces still take on a certain artificial quality at times, but in general, they are far more believable than before. The sense of scale of seeing a Reaper in the distance is breathtaking. Occasional graphical glitches are bothersome, but usually not too jarring (at one point, a rock in Shepard's hand becomes invisible, and he continues pretending it is still there). The music contains many familiar motifs from previous games (the main theme, the Reaper theme, the Illusive Man's theme, the Arrival combat theme), but many of the new tracks, including most of the new combat themes, are uninspired.
Mass Effect introduces a new multiplayer mode that is surprisingly enjoyable. Taking inspiration from the online play of Modern Warfare and the horde mode of Gears of War, Bioware has created a surprisingly enjoyable experience. The power repertoire of each class has been simplified, giving each class three of its single-player powers. However, players can play as different race/class combinations to change which powers are available, and the powers can be upgraded just as in the single player game. Players earn credits separate from EXP with which to buy randomized card packs, which can unlock new weapons, customization options, and character races for each class.
However, the multiplayer starts feeling redundant more quickly than Gears's horde mode, due to the limited variety of game types. Additionally, the most annoying part of multiplayer is that, contrary to Bioware's advertising, one achievement cannot be unlocked without playing multiplayer. Additionally, while multiplayer is not required, not playing it severely hinders your single-player Galactic Readiness score, fixing it at 50%. It is still possible to get the best ending by exploring the single player galaxy thoroughly, but because the multiplayer requires an Alliance Network pass (plus Xbox Live Gold for Xbox 360 players), the big "50% Galactic Readiness" reminder on single-player-only games is more than a little insulting.
The game gives players the opportunity to see real consequences for their choices across the whole franchise, including some of its own difficult decisions as well. For followers of the franchise, many moments will have the rare emotional impact needed to elicit tears over a video game. Unfortunately, the compelling story is likely to propel players to reach the game's end, which is almost an inevitable disappointment.
STORY (not including ending): 10/10
The ending of Mass Effect 3 was actually fairly acceptable up until the game's final choice. I will not spoil this any more than it has already been spoiled by its own creators, but suffice to say that it is very much out of sync with the rest of the game and leaves players (in other words, me) feeling empty and unfulfilled. After everything that players who imported their saves had put into the game, it was incredibly disappointing to come to an ending that was only vaguely impacted by the player's choices up until that point, and which railroaded players into making an ultimate choice based on an extremely shaky reasoning and inadequate explanation. The most critical element of these choices is unavoidable: no matter what choice you take, the ending is almost exactly the same, leaving you wondering why you were even offered the illusion of choice to begin with.
All of the endings (and the insulting pop-up message after the final scene) heavily imply that Bioware intends to release DLC to supplement the ending. However, considering the fanbase's outrage at the idea that From Ashes might have been intentionally left out of the game, it is unsurprising that many are unsatisfied with the notion that Bioware was simply saving the rest of the ending for DLC. Future add-on content may present the possibility of a satisfactory ending, but this review is for Mass Effect 3, not for any additional paid content that may or may not be released later.
Mass Effect 3 is a great game with a few severe flaws. It's definitely worth playing for any fan of the series, but unlike Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, that greatness lets out right at the most critical moment: the ending. Furthermore, the insulting insistence that players use the Alliance Network online pass (with its entertaining but not stellar multiplayer mode) is even more annoying than the online pass requirements of other games (which only inhibit multiplayer play), and ultimately detracts from the enjoyment of the game as a whole.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/13/12
Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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