Review by Demigod_Tyek
An amazing story to the end of an amazing trilogy, with the exception of the actual ending itself
It took me a long time to finally get into the Mass Effect series. I received the first game as a Christmas present way back in 2007, but unfortunately, didn't get around to doing a complete play through until early 2011 (I know, I'm a disgusting person). It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the game, it's just I didn't get into it as much as I did when I tried again in 2011. I am glad I decided to randomly start a new character that one night, as I did finally become engrossed. I quickly fell in love with the game's characters and fairly compelling storyline. While the combat itself left some fun to be desired, I found the most enjoyable parts of the game to be speaking to my squad members before and during missions to learn more about their very personal back stories and the universe's lore.
While I cannot say I was with this game since it's beginning, I still would like to call myself a veteran here. I did four complete play throughs of Mass Effect 1 and three complete (five altogether) of Mass Effect 2. Just in the last year. That is the effect the games had on me. So here is my review for the much anticipated Mass Effect 3.
It's been several months since the destruction of the Collector Base from Mass Effect 2, when the Reaper invasion finally arrives, and their first priority is Earth. Humanity is not prepared, since the Council dismissed all the claims from Mass Effect 1 and 2. So the very emotional intro to the game shows Commander Sheperd fleeing Earth, as the Reapers are already at work destroying anything and everything on the surface. The main storyline consists of Sheperd recruiting any and all forces he can across the galaxy, in an attempt to retake Earth and hopefully destroy the Reapers once and for all. Sheperd will come across many familiar faces as he traverses the galaxy (granted they survived previous encounters). The characters are diverse enough, as you would expect from a BioWare game. And some show a completely different side you've never seen before.
The story and writing is sharp. Several of the choices you made in Mass Effect 1 and 2 does shape your journey to a certain extent, but they do not matter since the final moments of the game throw out everything the trilogy built itself upon. Besides having one of the worst endings I've ever seen in any form of media, I believe it directly insults the fan base itself. Whether this was done to lay the foundation for future DLC or even a Mass Effect 4 itself, or because of imbecilic development choices, no one knows. I will try to elaborate more on the ending later, in it's own paragraph. And I do not plan to spoil anything, so don't worry.
The gameplay is by far the best of the series. Soon after the escape from Earth, you'll find yourself aboard Sheperd's space vessel, Normandy. Since the primary concept of the game is to gather forces, you'll be updated by your Effective Military Strength (also known as EMS), which measures any and all of the forces you acquire as a point system. The higher your EMS by the end of the game, the better your ending is supposed to be. Though, honestly, your total EMS shapes very little of what happens in the final battle, and it is almost seems pointless doing side missions and exploration for the highest amount of EMS. Speaking of side quests, most of them amount to nothing except tedious planet scanning, Even with the new Reaper chase sequences, traversing the galaxy map just becomes tiresome in this game, unlike in Mass Effect 1 and 2. The game's strong point here, fortunately, is the story missions themselves, called Priority missions. Mass Effect 3 definitely has the best storyline in the trilogy.
Having only 6 squad mates (this can be even lower, depending on certain character's fates from the first two games) seems like a step back from Mass Effect 2. There is an optional, seventh squad mate, who turns out to be a living Prothean itself. Lore-wise, he is the most important squad mate in the game, in my opinion. Despite this, EA decided to remove him from the game and release him as day one DLC. So you have to pay $10 and have your console connected online if you want this amazing character and your team at maximum strength. Shame on you, EA!
One thing you may have never expected from a Mass Effect game was multiplayer. Well, it is introduced here. But before you shake your head, let me just say it was very well done. And an interesting distraction from the single player game. Instead of matchmaking, it is simple waves of increasingly powerful enemies that throw themselves at you and up to 3 other players (very similar to Gears of War's Horde mode, and Call of Duty's Zombie mode, etc). You can level up your multiplayer character, unlock new weapons and abilities, etc.
While the multiplayer is completely optional and BioWare swore that it would not affect the main storyline in any way... well, it does. As you play in multiplayer, you have a Galactic Readiness Rating that rises in percentage as your win matches. It is a simple 0-100% scale, and increases by 2-4% per victory (and decreases by 2% every 12 hours, regardless of if you're playing or not). But unfortunately, it is IMPOSSIBLE to obtain the best ending in the storyline without having the scale at 100%. Good lie, BioWare.
The combat has been improved substantially. Sheperd can finally somersault, do decent melee attacks, and move in and out of cover flawlessly. Despite these advancements, it's still not as smooth as a few of the more defined third person, cover-based, shooters out there. You occasionally might not be able to take cover behind a certain, obvious piece of cover. Or Sheperd might refuse to bolt over a gap, even though he is supposed to. Weapons have more weight now and more recoil than the past games. The weight is also heavily integrated into combat. Your encumbrance is proportional to how quickly or slowly your biotic powers regenerate. Also, each weapon can be customized with mods that can be installed. Finally, the stupid, little mini-games from Mass Effect 2 known as hacking and bypassing don't exist in this game. This time you'll just see Sheperd crack the code or open a locked door automatically.
Unfortunately, BioWare really dropped the ball with the dialogue in this game. Neutral choices have been completely removed from the conversation wheels, forcing you to always choose the paragon (good) or renegade (evil) choices. And Sheperd annoyingly says some things you have no control over, and may not necessarily agree with even. The conversation wheel just feels very gimped in this game, compared to Mass Effect 1 and 2. The amount of persuasion options have been cut down drastically.
BioWare has improved upon the series' graphics with each installment. And the same can be said here. The graphics are beautiful. Characters look much more detailed, armor and weapons are more detailed and everything looks more crisp. That being said, the graphics can sometimes bug out. Texture pop in is still a problem here, and sometimes a character's model might not load instantly, causing them to be absent in a conversation or scene for a few seconds.
Several new enemies have been introduced to the game, as the Reapers have now arrived, they can mind control the races we've come to know and love into monstrous entities we must face and kill (known as indoctrination). The asari become banshees. The batarians become cannibals. The turians become marauders. And so on. These new Reaper forces are very difficult to face. And Cerberus will make several appearances as well, now Sheperd's enemies after the ending of Mass Effect 2.
The soundtrack hasn't changed much from the first game, but that's not a bad thing. The voice acting is the best of the trilogy, and one of the best in any game. Mark Meer (the voice of male Sheperd) delivers a very emotional voice for the character at times. I never cared much for female Sheperd's voice actress, Jennifer Hale. She just sounds so... fake, at times, like she's trying too hard. I am in the minority though, as most people from forums and polls seem to like Jennifer Hale over Mark Meer. I don't know why, maybe it's just because she's a woman? Yeah, I went there, considering a lot of these players are probably teenage to adolescence males, it wouldn't surprise me.
One sound effect from the game that definitely stands out are the loud, alarming, horns of the Reapers themselves. They are delivered brilliantly, and are even a bit scary at times. Same goes for the shrill, demented screams of the enemies known as banshees. In the level where you first encounter banshees, it could almost pass as a survival-horror type of game, as the lighting is low and you hear the screams of the banshees off screen as you approach inevitable battles against them. Very well done, and unexpected, as there was nothing particularly scary in Mass Effect 1 and 2.
Alright, now let me give my rant about the ending of this game. I'm sure you've heard of the phrase, It's more about the journey than the destination? Well, that is surely the case you need to accept here. Granted, this is all a matter of my own opinion:
Summed up, the ending is BAD. Really BAD. The ending effectively destroyed all love I had for the trilogy building up to that point. No, I am not exaggerating. Let me just say this, immediately after I beat the game and saw the end cutscene, I spent the next five hours (yes, FIVE HOURS) doing nothing but browsing the online forums and BioWare Social Network, looking for anything and everything I could cling onto in hopes of understanding what I'd just witnessed. Nothing did and has yet fulfilled that.
I know I was years late to becoming a Mass Effect fan, but I still grew a strong attachment to the many characters and story I experienced from multiple play throughs of the first two games. The ending of this trilogy almost seems like a big, fat joke. A troll move by BioWare. A kick in the teeth to all us fans. It is that bad.
I hate the concept of DLC. Now since DLC exists, developers sell us half-ass, incomplete games on disc and then releases the remaining parts of the game in the future. Yes, this means we DO finally get a complete game, but only after months (sometimes years) of waiting and coughing up the additional money for them. The industry just needs to officially price tag video games at $100 retail value. Because it seems like that's what we end up paying in the end if we want to experience the full game.
The reason I just gave that rant about DLC is because I fear that is what will happen to Mass Effect 3. BioWare has already confirmed they are releasing ending DLC (thankfully, it will be free, due to the amount of death threats they have received from their fan base. Seriously.), and you know more will come from that.
And the question has been brought up as to why Mass Effect 3's bad ending has brought about so much controversy, when there have been previous games that have had bad endings as well. Well, I think I have an answer for that. If a game has a bad ending, you can usually shrug it off. Rage for a little bit, but accept that the game ran out of steam. Mass Effect 3 was just a game too, but it was so close to perfection. Game of the decade worthy, even. The perfection only required some logic and good choices to be made. It became an ego trip or something. It became a plan to eventually make a Mass Effect 4, possibly even. The ball has never dropped this hard and pointlessly. NO other game has worse of an ending than Mass Effect 3. Because no other game was as much of a masterpiece as Mass Effect 3 up until the final moments.
I even called it months before the game even released (and you can ask my dear friend Travis about it, as he was the one I was talking with at the time!), saying that BioWare wrote themselves into a corner, especially concerning how powerful they've made the Reapers.
Mass Effect 3's ending is the best case example of the term dues ex machina, and a poor one to say the least.
Concept: The finale of the Mass Effect trilogy. Bioware said that it would end the current story arc and bring everything to a close. It does not, and opens up even further questions at the game's conclusion.
Graphics: Best of the trilogy, and some of the best of this generation. The different worlds you visit have their own environments, and each one is beautiful. Characters models are amazing.
Sounds: The entire Mass Effect trilogy has been one memorable soundtrack. From the beautifully orchestrated music tracks to the creepy buzzing of the Reapers, everything in this game is fantastic to listen to. Amazing voice acting.
Entertainment: The game delivers an atmosphere few others games could manage, as you are finally experiencing the event the entire trilogy has been leading up to: the war against the Reapers. Deep customization, involving universe and characters, and phenomenal 3rd person combat despite it's bad ending.
Last Remark: The first 99% of the game is phenomenal. Game of the decade worthy, possibly. Unfortunately, that last 1% of the game may leave such a bad taste in your mouth, it could ruin a lot of what the series built itself upon for you. It is an unacceptable and completely lazy end to such an epic trilogy. I normally don't give in to all this DLC stuff, but if BioWare were to eventually retcon the ending, or release some form of dlc that changes the ending (similar to Fallout 3's expansion Broken Steel), I would be jumping with joy. I was truly in love with this game until the final 15 minutes. This is the worse hiccup in the history of BioWare, and I would be so gullible to say in game history. The Mass Effect series is a masterpiece and it was such a shame to see it end this way.
I give Mass Effect 3 a 9.0 out of 10.
I would have taken off more solely because of the ending, but that would be unfair to the rest of the game.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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