Mass Effect 3 Review
Although Mass Effect 3 was released almost a month ago, its effects are still being felt and conversed today. I thought now would be the best time for PSTB to offer its thoughts on ME3 and all its aspects, ending included. While the game is seemingly being remembered for its ending we want to offer fans and newcomers to the series a look into Bioware’s most recent entry. We hope you enjoy our review of Mass Effect 3 by editor Justin Cangelosi!
Bioware’s Mass Effect series has been one of the most successful series to date, providing players with an engaging story, unique characters, and an entire galaxy full of sci-fi lore. The newest installment that has graced my Xbox 360, is the introduction of Mass Effect 3, the final game of the trilogy. It once again places you into the-more than capable- hands of Commander Shepard, as he tries to bring peace to the galaxy and save every sentient species from the Reapers, a synthetic race whose sole purpose is extinction. With the highest of hopes, I placed disc 1 (really?) into the system and began my out-of-this world journey to galactic peace.
Like the previous title, you are allowed the choice to import a finished file from your hard drive which contains the look, choices, and experience points that your Shepard obtained through Mass Effect 1 and 2. If you don’t import a file, you can create your Shepard and choose key choices that impact some of the major plot points of the previous installments. In most cases for me however, the ability to transfer the image of my Shepard’s face was halted because of unrecognizable code, which is how they keep track of your appearance.
This really disappointed me because I wanted my Shepard from the first Mass Effect, who went through the grueling hours of Mako mineral hunting and the unforgiving Insanity difficulty, all the way through Mass Effect 2, who also endured the turtle-paced planet scanning and careful decision making choices, to feel the impact of his work, his choices, and his effort with his ORIGINAL identity intact! But unfortunately for me, I had to give the man a new face, even though it wasn’t blown off in a Normandy explosion, which, for me, made me feel as if the credit went to some new guy that stepped straight out the N7 program. This may not annoy other players as much as it did me, but I felt a real connection with my Shepard, especially since I spent over a combined 150 hours with the guy, through the course of two games on the highest difficulty (multiple files excluded).
But enough of my rant, let’s get back to what this is about, Mass Effect 3. This time, you begin the game on Earth, where you are going to be tried for the destruction of a Batarian colony and a Mass Relay. These events happened during the Arrival DLC of the previous game, so if you did not purchase this DLC, you may be at a bit loss to what is going on, but the details of your crime don’t really matter, seeing that the galaxy has a bigger problem: the Reapers have arrived.
During your hearing, the Reapers attack and kill your would be judges, leaving you and the others for dead in the destruction. Of course, you survive (you’ve had worse) and head out with Admiral Anderson to escape the onslaught of Reaper attacks to get to the Normandy, so you can once again go on life or death mission to save the galaxy and Earth in the process. Once on board, the game starts to get interesting. Shepard is given the task to unite all the races in the galaxy, so they can create a mass army to take back Earth and defeat the Reapers once and for all. Along your journey, you will meet familiar faces, create new allies, and discover the mystery that is the Reapers.
How the game does this is by incorporating a rating system which they call War Assets, which is the collection of all the troops, ships, and equipment you obtain from the other races and your own, over the course of the game. These assets will come from doing story and side missions, system scanning, and choices you make along your play through. You are given a bare minimum to fill, as not having enough troops or allies always determines a war. If you are unable to get a high enough amount because you missed some assets or you didn’t import a previous save, you can boost your assets through other means such as multiplayer or Mass Effect related media (we’ll go into this later).
Your Readiness Rating, the total of your War Assets, multiplied by your Effective Military Strength (multiplayer, media) determines the outcome of which endings are available to you. This was probably the most annoying gimmick that Bioware decided to put into this game. It requires you to hunt down every inch of the galaxy to search for resources if you did not import a character, and most of the time, is not enough without multiplayer. This only matters if you care about multiple endings, but if not, don’t waste your time trying to get it as high as possible. In my personal opinion, the prize isn’t worth the hunt.
With the disappointing decision out the way, let’s talk about how the game plays. Mass Effect’s combat has always been fun to engage in, providing you with challenge and some well-placed strategy so you can take out your enemies with satisfaction. The cover system is still a bit clunky, as the system is still based off the multiple use single button. You’ll find yourself sprinting into gunfire when you were merely trying put your back against a wall, or diving into a grenade when you were trying to take cover. This causes some issues in fluidity, but is easily overcome if you use patience while playing, making sure you’re in contact with a piece of cover when looking for shelter or keeping distance away from an object while sprinting.
Another problem with having a multiple use button is when it comes to squad command. Your squad mate’s powers are mapped to the same buttons which gives them movement or action orders, which causes them to misuse abilities or move straight into an enemy group and get slaughtered. Again, patience is key, but if you have a problem with that you can always bring up the power menu to pause the combat and get your bearings.
Gunplay is improved, as your weapons have more kick and require you to aim well, to kill well. Some guns even have high enough power to pierce through some thin cover which adds a bit more realism. You can also improve your arsenal with upgrades, which increases ammo capacity, damage, and aim. Another factor to consider is weight, as having more firepower decreases the time it takes for your powers to recharge. So if you’re not a gun toting Soldier, you may want to keep it light, ensuring that you have your powers to fall back on if the heat of battle rises. Powers now have more use than ever before, as they can now combine to create multiple explosions of different qualities. You still have your typical Singularity+Warp biotic combos and what not, but now you can have Tech explosions like Cryo Blast+Incinerate to over burn your opponents in a fiery death. Experimentation gives birth to reward when it comes to power use, so throw different combos together to see explosive results!
While taking down enemy forces, you may notice the enhancement to the graphics, as this game has more sheen and polish than the second one. Faces have more detailed texture, colors have deeper hues, and enemies’ heads explode in a bloody fashion (yeah!). Environments are vaster and covered with debris, people, and quality. The world that surrounds you breathes variety as you’re thrown into futuristic settlements, dark caverns, and devastated landscapes. What ties these worlds together is the stellar soundtrack that blankets each area. The music fits the scenery, as your ears hit with pulse pounding beats while gunfire ensues and tranquil techno as you explore an abandoned area. The music has always been a high point when it comes to these games and I thank the orchestra for their contribution. Music makes an experience more emotional, which is what this game tangles with throughout.
With the merger of Bioware and Electronic Arts (EA), probably the biggest influence that got pushed into this game was the addition of a multiplayer aspect. Multiplayer for this game is a typical format (if not a clone) of Horde or Wave Mode, providing you with a four player team trying to survive an onslaught of enemies of increasing difficulty. During some waves, they throw in a challenge like holding a point for a designated time or activating certain objects on the map to complete your objective for bonuses. When you complete a match, you gain experience and currency so you can upgrade your characters abilities and buy equipment packs to increase your arsenal or customization options. Every time you engage in multiplayer, you gain a percentage increase toward your Galaxy at War map, which affects your Effective Military Strength for the Campaign. This Military Strength is technically a multiplier for your War Assets, which increases their values to enhance your overall total.
This means that if your Military Strength is high, you won’t have to hunt down more resources to get more options for an ending. But be warned, if you engage in even one multiplayer match your Galaxy at War map will begin to drop in value, every day, by a certain percentage, which means you have to constantly play multiplayer if you don’t want to see it hit rock bottom. This can create problems for those of you that just wanted to try it out for fun, as it could affect your story if you’re not observant. Thankfully, Bioware has said that they will provide ways to increase this without multiplayer so that players who dislike online play won’t have to force themselves to play it, but still get more endings. This will be especially useful for those who avoid multiplayer on PS3, seeing that it never had a chance to have the first game on its’ platform for extra assets.
Mass Effect 3 is a great game to play. It provides you with a compelling story, outlandish combat, and an array of unforgettable characters. The music and graphics alone puts this above its competition, given you emotion through sound and symphony and gracing your eyes with vividly displayed surroundings. Unfortunately, the experience is dulled because of unchanged control issues and the introduction of a system that relies heavily on socially adept players with possession of previous data of play, to gain the full experience. On a side note, diehard fans have expressed their disappointment over the endings not having to do with any of the decisions they made over all the installments, which is something the developers should have accounted for before release. Also, another problem is the fact that there is no sense of dire consequence with which actions you take and in what order, which makes the game seem more linear, even though the events of ME3 are far more catastrophic than ME2.
With these issues in hand, it sounds like I’m saying Mass Effect 3 was a disappointment for a finale, and in way, it was. But my overall experience with the game outweighs the multiple endings that fans seem to only complain about. How I see it, playing a game and enjoying its contents is more important than how it ends. If you’ve done your research, you may have noticed that most people didn’t complain until they actually FINISHED the game, which means before the ending they probably liked what they were playing. So if you get anything out of this review, try to see that Mass Effect 3 is a great game to play and is an experience that I will always remember. It left me with a sense of fulfillment and finished off a trilogy that was one of the best I have played. Thank you Bioware, and here’s to a brighter future! I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite game in 2012.