Review by BigReed

Reviewed: 03/13/12 | Updated: 05/21/13

A beautiful game that ultimately polarizes the fanbase

Mass Effect 3 is Bioware’s conclusion to the Commander Shepard trilogy. First releasing in 2007, Mass Effect was highly rated and very popular. Set in a science fiction universe that is portrayed in a realistic manner, the ME series was able to craft a story by letting players control their own Shepard and by letting them choose how they wanted their story to play out. Players obviously became very attached to the series and its characters, and the tension of ending the trilogy one day, began.I will not be speaking about the multiplayer. Although I did play some of it, I did not purchase ME3 for the multiplayer portion. It is simple and fun, but does not stand out in any way.

*In this review, I will go in depth to the story but I will not reveal any major spoilers.*

Customizable weapons and a new weapon "weight" system balance combat out
Mass Effect 3 continues the series progression of changing combat. The shooting in ME1 was rough around the edges compared to actual shooters. Many people, including myself, played the game because of the characters and story. After Bioware was purchased by EA, the “quality” or production values at least were much larger with the showing of ME2. The shooting and cover systems were tweaked, and the controls felt more polished. And again, the basic cover system and shooting mechanics are once again tweaked. This time around, Bioware has added many new elements to battle the lack of role playing ideas in ME2.

Every weapon now has 2 slots for upgrades. Upgrades can be purchased, and are found on every mission. Seriously, there are a ton of them. You can upgrade range, vision, damage, clip size, stability, weapon weight etc. I liked this addition personally. Not only can you choose the weapon you want to use, but you’re also able to upgrade it to your liking. Bioware also introduced weapon weight. Essentially better weapons weigh more. If you have too many weapons equipped, you’ll have too much weapon weight, and this will lead to a slower recharge speed for your powers. I believe however, that the Soldier class is not affected by weapon weight. So if you’ve always liked the shooting combat, then you’ll probably want 5 different weapons with no penalty.

For several hours on my Engineer, I actually had -200% for my recharge speed. I was wondering why I was allowed to carry any weapon I found. So beware, if you’re a biotic or another power user you only want to equip weapons that are specifically tailored for your build.Along with the combat, there is still a ton of exploration and dialogue to be had on the gameplay front in ME3. My friend watched me play for a couple of hours, and jokingly called the game a “space station simulator”. There are many little side quests in ME3, but they are done differently in ME3. Shepard will pass someone without stopping, and you’ll hear a random NPC mention something. Oddly enough, this leads to a side quest. Sometimes you do not even actually hear what they say because they are cut off quickly. But the codex and journal will update.

My problem with these little side quests there are very many, and they do not actually open up the dialogue wheel. So they do not feel that important. It can also be difficult to keep track of who the quests were for. In ME2, the game would lock on to objects of interest including quests from a large distance. This is not true in ME3, so you need to read the journal to keep track of all the side quests. Overall, the gameplay is familiar but slightly improved, and fans of the series will feel right at home jumping into the game.

One of the best stories in gaming
Now the story portion of this review is something I would like to concentrate on. For me, the main draw of the Mass Effect series has always been the story, and the character/character development. ME3 was released to conclude Shepard's story, along with his battle against the reapers. Until now, everyone outside of Shepard and his crew have only seen a reaper once. During ME1, the council races were forced to help Shepard and the alliance defeat a reaper that directly attacked the citadel. In 2, Shepard and his crew conducted a suicide mission seemingly buying time against an imminent threat that nobody outside of the crew believes. Even after the events of 1 and 2, the council along with the alliance defense committee does not believe the size of the threat that the reapers pose. It is basically too late by the time every race admits there is a problem, and something must be done to survive as a species.

Mass Effect 3 starts off very strongly. Shepard is summoned to tell Earth what they should have believed two games ago. The Reapers, a giant synthetic race that is almost indestructible is coming to kill and harvest every organic being in the galaxy. Since no race was preparing since they did not believe Shepard, initial damage is catastrophic. Earth is laid to waste within days, and Anderson stays behind as he sends Shepard off to unite the galaxy and amass a fleet to fight not to win, but to survive.

From the very beginning of the game, Bioware introduces characters that Shepard seems to know pretty well, that players have never seen before. Bioware did this once before with 2, which was a little more understandable considering the events in between 1 and 2. The entire goal in ME2 was to build a team that fully trusts you, to complete a suicide mission. Now, once again in 3, you must build a team. Bioware did do a fine job at keeping the fan favorites, so it is not all that bad. Starting off with James Vega though felt really weird. He and Shepard speak as if they are friends, but as a player not only have I never seen him before, but I asked myself: what was the point? I have no hate for Vega by any means, but I feel that Bioware could have used an existing character for this role.

Along with Vega, there is another character that I will briefly explain without any spoilers. There is an assassin you meet roughly halfway through the game. Now of course, this character is known by several characters that have appeared in previous games. Yet the player has never seen or met this character before. I believe that Bioware wanted another humanized character for the player to hate, that epitomized evil or wrong doing. Once again, this bugged me slightly because I feel that Bioware had 2 games full of characters they could have used. ME3 should have been a conclusion to the other two games, not a chance to introduce new characters and plot ideas.

One thing that Bioware does very well is that they do wrap up side storylines and characters. Every character you have come to love from the previous two games makes at least a cameo. Even miniscule things from the other games are finalized in 3. Throughout the game, I was very impressed that Bioware was willing to wrap things up and attempt to give the fans closure.

One thing that veterans of the franchise will notice with the dialogue wheel is that many gray area options were removed. Anytime you speak to somebody, there is a top right and bottom right set of options. Top is paragon, bottom is renegade. With the other games it felt like there was more diversity as far as dialogue choice went. With 3, the game is clearly streamlined on many fronts including the wheel. Not to say that this is bad, in fact it is much easier to do a paragon or renegade run. One thing that is bad though, is that I pretty much would quickly read the response and then would just select the top option every time, since I have always done paragon runs. Another thing I noticed is that the paragon and renegade dialogue options (Blue and red on the left hand side of the wheel) are few and far between. In other games, they were more frequent. In 3, there are only a handful of the options throughout the entire story

Now I must talk about what is essentially the main reason why I could not score this game a perfect 10; the ending. It had to end. Mass Effect had to come to a conclusion eventually. Prior to playing Mass Effect 3, I avoided anything about it on the internet. The only thing I heard about it before its release was the inclusion of the multiplayer portion. I played and completed ME3 without any outside sources of influence or bias. And in all honesty, I did not like the ending. I’ve listened to people debate its meaning, or attempt to argue that it makes sense. Part of the reason why I enjoyed the ME series, is because it is a science fiction game that is portrayed like everything on screen is not amazing and mind blowing. Different alien races share human problems, so it is very easy to relate to them even if they are different.

The ending to ME3 took a way different approach to what the series had done before. I am not sure if Bioware planned this ending from the beginning, but not only did it give me no closure, for the first time ever for me, ME felt alien. Leading up to the finale I was very happy with how the game was going. Bioware was tying up loose ends, and it was looking like they were going to stay true to what they created. But the ending didn’t make much sense, even when explained, and also felt different from the rest of the content in all 3 games.

This ending has polarized fans for sure.

One thing you’ll notice as soon as you begin playing is that the character models are much more detailed. The graphical engine Bioware used for ME3 looks much better than the one used in 2, but one problem is that it is also much darker. Being on the Normandy in 2 and 3 are completely different experiences visually. I am not sure if it is just the game engine, or if Bioware wanted the game to be darker to go along with the tone of the plot. All and all, the game looks great. I have no complaints since graphics and sound are just icing on the cake if they are good.

The sound in ME3 is much more like ME1. I believe that Bioware has listened to the fans after the release of 2. There were many complaints that the music was too much unlike 1, and that too many role playing elements were removed. Well from the opening screen the music is back to its roots, so fans can rest easy. Mass Effect 3 sounds like science fiction, as odd as that sounds. The music fits the game very well.

Mass effect 3 was slightly shorter than my other ME playthroughs. I have completed 1 twice and 2 four times. My first completion of 2 without any dlc, and with doing ever possible thing in the game was roughly 35-38 hours. My final save with no dlc and completing everything I could in 3 was 24 hours. The game also felt short, but that could be due to the fact that I was on the edge of my seat for the ending the whole game. Overall, the play time was solid. The game also heavily encourages multiple playthroughs of the game, which is common to the series. There is also dlc on day one of the games release, so that is some extra content with a new character, if you are willing to pay 10 extra dollars for the game on the release day.

Final Recommendation: Buy it
If you have played mass effect 1 and 2, then I highly suggest playing 3. If you are a newcomer to the series, and just want to play 3 and see what all the hype is about, then I recommend it but in a different way. If you start off with playing 3, then do not expect to understand why I am rating this game highly. ME3 is a story heavy sequel to two other games, so ultimately I suggest playing all 3 games in order. Bioware though has made it very easy to jump in at any point though.Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic game. The series has amassed high critic review scores and a passionate fan base. But all good things must come to an end. I just wish the ending offered a better explanation with some actual closure.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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