Review by nwowwe723

"Mass Effect 3: The end of an amazing journey"

It's amazing how much easier it for game franchises to get better as they go on than it is for movies. With movies you may be fortunate if you can pull out a sequel that can be thought of in equal regard to the original, but usually it will happen only once in a series and . This does not seem to apply to many game franchises where improved (or at least equal level) sequels are common if not out-right expected. So how does BioWare live up to and exceed the already high bar set from Mass Effect 1 and 2? As the saying goes, the answer lies in the details.

For any long-time fan of the series, a summary of where we are in the story isn't needed, but BioWare does claim that Mass Effect 3 is a perfectly acceptable starting point for newcomers so let's briefly take a look at where we are. The long and short of it is that the Reapers have finally arrived, despite the best efforts of Commander Shepard and his squad, and thanks to some of his or her more extreme actions (particularly the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC Arrival), Shepard has been grounded on Earth for the past few months trying to cope with the knowledge of what is coming. By the time people seem ready to start taking the matter seriously, it's too late and the Reapers arrive at Earth and begin laying waste to everything in sight. Shepard manages to escape to the Normandy and must travel to the Citadel (and elsewhere) to unite the races of the galaxy in a last stand against the Reapers. So yes, a new player could very well start here and get a basic appreciation for the story and events that will transpire throughout the game, but one of Mass Effect 3's greatest strengths is how it takes the characters that you have been following and developing close bonds with for 2 games and using those emotional connections to drive the story and make you feel the decisions you make. This just simply is not there if you start cold from Mass Effect 3. If you are importing from ME 1 and 2 however it is an immensely rewarding experience. Now the only lacking part of this experience is that a lot of your squad from Mass Effect 2 end up in diminished roles in favor of focusing on the longer established teammates like Ashley/Kaidan, Liara, Garrus, and Tali. As such the total size of your available squad is much reduced from Mass Effect 2, but this largely for the better all things considered because Mass Effect 2's squad list ended up feeling too crowded (especially if you also had the two bonus DLC characters). Without saying too much the main story of the game is easily the deepest and most emotional of the game, and for the first time the sidequests really feel like they have a place in the larger story. This is mostly due to the fact that they focus on retrieving useful Intel and personal to recruit for your war efforts.

One feature that has been largely diminished from the previous two games is that there is now an almost complete lack of hub-worlds, with the Citadel (and the Normandy itself) being the only hold-outs. Of course given the situation the galaxy finds itself in during this game this is perfectly justifiable. There's just no time to casually stroll around planets when they are being actively invaded by Reapers. Otherwise the gameplay of Mass Effect 3 brings together a well-crafted mesh of elements from 1 and 2. The combat plays out very similar to how 2 felt, but with the abilities being more fleshed out. We get a return to weapon customization like ME1 featured where you can acquire different attachments to improve the performance of you weapons in different ways. This is done in a system closer to Army of Two than ME1, but it is a welcome addition all the same. The weapon system has also been changed in a different way. Instead of being restricted to what kind of weapon you can carry based on your class, you can now carry any combination of weapons you like, but each weapon has a designated weight value which will negatively impact your power cooldown times as you carry more weapons.

Those comfortable with the controls of Mass Effect 2 will be right at home here in Mass Effect 3 as it plays very much the same way. One of the newer combat elements is the addition of a unique heavy melee attack for each class. The enemy AI is far more tactical and aggressive this time around which in turn encourages you to use more strategy in regards to power use for both yourself and your squadmates and how you approach each fight. Staying in one place too long? You will be flanked, and with a wider variety of enemy types you will be doing a lot of adjusting to your combat tactics throughout the game.

One of the biggest (and controversial) additions to the game is the multiplayer. Thankfully it works pretty well, mostly for sticking with the trendy “horde-mode” style of gameplay instead of vs.-style, because lets face it, that would be horrifically unbalanced. You have (barring the release of DLC) 3 different enemies to face (Cerberus, Geth, or Reaper forces) over a selection of maps pulled from the sidequests in the main game. In addition there are 3 levels of difficulty and plenty of unlockable characters, weapons, and upgrades you can buy from the random unlock packs (okay I tried my best to make that last one at least sound good). Playing the multiplayer can also boost your assets for the main campaign, but fear not because you can still do just as well without playing the multiplayer.

In reviewing Mass Effect 1 and 2, I gushed over the soundtrack as composed by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick, and while I would like to say that I would be less flowery here, that is a foolish delusion. Clint Mansell seamlessly replaces Jack Wall in scoring the game. He brings a more theatrical flavor to the music while still incorporating the iconic themes from the earlier games. Mass Effect still offers one of the best soundtracks you'll find out there. Even the dialogue manages to outdo itself by not only featuring at least twice as many lines as either of the previous installments, but it also contains the best writing and character development in the trilogy.

So what do we say for the end of the Mass Effect trilogy? Any personal feelings about the ending aside, it would hard to argue that Mass Effect 3 delivers an emotionally charged conclusion to the story of Commander Shepard. Very few games can boast the level of depth of story and wealth of information while still remaining easily accessible to any level of gamer and being so much fun to play. I'm a firm believer that a perfect score isn't something to be given out freely or just because a game has a grand and epic feel to it, but I find it hard to not give Mass Effect 3 a 10. This series simply got better as it went on.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/15/12

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

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