Reviews

Mass Effect 3 – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Publisher: EA
Developer: Bioware
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer 1-4 player co-op.
PEGI: 18+

Mass Effect 3 was provided by EA free of charge for review.

It has taken me three weeks to write the 6,814 words that make up this rather lengthy review. And I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, here: I have no excuse for the amount of time it has taken to write this. I could have made up something elaborate, a cunning lie, but the simple truth is that the past few weeks have been a little tough for me, leading to something that I had always assumed was a bit of a myth: writers block. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get this review written, the words just wouldn’t come no matter how hard I tried. It certainly didn’t help that I was dreading writing the review about Mass Effect 3, because in so many ways I was conflicted about the game and had so many things to say about it in this review that it was inevitably going to end up as a bit of a mess. So I freely admit that this review is terrible, but it does have one saving grace: it’s passionate, just like I am about this series. So, let’s do this, shall we?

After two games of trying to warn the galaxy, of trying to stop them, the Reapers are here, attacking Earth and things are looking grim for humanity and every other species in the Galaxy. The Reapers are descending from the sky, leaving swathes of land as nothing more than burning chunks of dead land littered with the dying.  Just ten minutes in to the game you witness the death of a small child at the hands of the Reapers as a beautiful piano piece plays in the background. It’s such an emotional, chilling scene and sets the tone for the rest of the game perfectly: this is a desperate fight for survival. In comparison to the destruction you witness in the games first level, which acts as the tutorial, this single death is nothing, and yet it will haunt both you and Shepard for the rest of the game through chilling dream sequences that illustrate the burden Shepard carries. Shepard feels the burden not only of that child’s death, but of the death of every one of his friends and, most of all, the deaths of all those he leaves behind on Earth as he sets off to complete his final and most important mission: to unite the galaxy under one banner anc construct an ancient super-weapon that is your only hope against the giant, ruthless machines that are now wiping out every trace of life in the galaxy.

But massive machines hell-bent on destroying absolutely sodding everything aren’t your only concern as the Illusive Man and his bunch of pro-human goons known as Cerberus also play a large role in events, the alliance of convience between Shepard and the Illusive Man now well and truly over after the Events (that’s right, with a capital “E”). As you would expect from the still fantastically acted Illusive Man, he’ll certainly make things interesting as you go.

 Like both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 before it, Mass Effect 3’s writing is sublime, capturing the tragedy, drama and the urgency of your quest almost perfectly whilst still managing to find the time to slip in those odd moments of peace, joy and even humour. Some of Mass Effect 3’s best moments are simple quiet moments between you and other characters, be it relaxing with a certain Turian high up in the Citadel Commons or whether it’s having a few moments to simply sit and talk with your love interest. Speaking of which, the characters and your relationships with them are arguably the most important thing in the Mass Effect games, and so it’s nice to see that almost all of your previous squadmates return in Mass Effect 3, although only four of them will actually be rejoining your crew and fighting by your side. As for the others it’s a touch disappointing that some of the old friends and comrades get relatively minor roles to play in the overall story of Mass Effect 3, relegated to small, albeit still very interesting, sub-plots, but at least their reasons for not returning to the Normandy are well justified in these encounters, making their absence on the ship easier to deal with. Still, while many have smaller roles, a few of your friends get to play much larger roles in your adventure, impacting the story in interesting ways, including one that will have all but the most stone-hearted bastards in tears. But regardless of whether their role is big or small, simply getting to see and interact with these people that I’d come to know and love one last time was fantastic and brought a sense of completion to the game – it simply wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Joining your four old squadmates onboard the Normandy are two brand new characters to the series to help keep things fresh. The second new character to join your crew comes in later in the game and I’m loath to talk about her (that’s the only clue you’re getting) as her storyline is incredibly interesting and talking about it would ruin the surprise. The other character, however, is fair game as he’s been talked about considerably in the build-up to the games release. The person I speak of is of course James Vega, the heavyweight soldier that’s introduced in the opening minutes of the game. At first he seems to be little more than your stereotypical soldier character, but it’s not too long before he begins to relax and exhibit a far more interesting and enjoyable personality, even referring to Shepard as “loco”. He’s a straight fighter, determined to be in the thick of the action, that most of all hates having to leave Earth, instead wishing that he could have stayed and fought. Since he’s a brand new character with just one game to make his mark on you it’s a shame that Bioware didn’t really take the time to delve into his character a little more and flesh out his personality. He is fairly interesting all ready, that’s for sure, but he feels like he could have been more. Above all it’s a shame that Bioware don’t have any equivalent of the loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2 for any of the characters in your crew, allowing you to connect even further with them, especially as this would have truly given Vega the chance to make his mark on you. The simple truth, though, is that James Vega’s role is primarily that of Exposition Man for new comers to the series. Since he’s a new member of Shep’s crew he’ll constantly be asking questions, conveniently giving Bioware a chance to fill in some of the blanks for new players.

Speaking of new players, EA made some considerable bluster in their build-up to the release of Mass Effect 3 stating that new players could jump straight into the adventure without a problem, which, to a small degree, is true – you can indeed jump into Mass Effect 3, but you shouldn’t, because despite James “The Hell Is Going On” Vega and some rather clunky dialog that pops up should you not have imported a save from Mass Effect 2 that attempts to explain some of what’s going on, you simply won’t get the same experience from Mass Effect 3 that fans of the series will get. You won’t have the same attachments to the characters, making certain moments fall flat. You won’t have an understanding of the galactic conflicts at work that Shepard must solve to unite the galaxy, meaning that certain massive decisions that must just won’t have the same weight. In short, go out and buy Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2: play them, love them, become engrossed in the story and characters and then, and only then, should you play Mass Effect 3. But still, if are still determined to jump into this epic sci-fi trilogy at the third game then you might at least like to know EA have given you a few options on how to play the game which you can select from on the starting menu to try to make the game a bit more accessible: RPG acts as your normal Mass Effect experience, allowing you to focus on making decisions and blasting your way across the galaxy.  Action mode strips away the ability to make decisions, leaving dialogue sequences as straight cut-scenes letting you focus on the combat only. The final mode is Story mode, which tones down the combat difficulty so you can simply focus on working your way through the story and enjoying the game without worrying about getting your head blown off. While I do maintain that it would be silly for somebody to jump into a series such as Mass Effect 3 in the final game, the concept of giving new comers three ways to play the game is a good one, even if it is hard to see why anyone would want to play Mass Effect as just a straight shooter.

If you’re anything like me then you’re probably wondering if Bioware delivered on one of their biggest concepts: choice. In regards to this Mass Effect 3 is somewhat conflicted, disappointing me in some respects and impressing me in others., Throughout the series we’ve been given countless chances to alter the story in small ways, and during the build-up to Mass Effect 3’s launch fans have been building the hype, believing that every single little choice made during the past two games would return to either haunt you or help you, each one having a huge impact on your game, changing the way everything plays out in massive ways. The simple, truth, though, is that they don’t. Or at least, not always to the extent that the fans and myself would have perhaps liked, and yet this shouldn’t be taken out of context, because Mass Effect’s concept of choice has always been largely an illusion: no matter what you chose to do you never really altered the stories major plot points that much. Instead smaller events would be changed based on your choices, giving you the illusion of having truly changed to the course of events, but in reality the major components of the tale would always play out in the same way. Some of the decisions you’ve made previously impact the story in fairly significant ways, sometimes removing options from you entirely, whilst other decisions you’ve made are almost ignored by Bioware, presumably because they looked back at their games and had a panic attack when they realised how hard it would be to finish telling the story they want to of every single one of your choices changed the landscape of the tale. At times it’s disappointing to see what, at the time, felt like monumental choices barely effect your story in Mass Effect 3, but this is offset by when you do encounter moments where you stop and think “well, this just wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t done this and that back then.”

In contrast, though, decisions you make in Mass Effect 3 do feel like they have huge impacts on the game,  but this comes at the expense of getting far fewer opportunities to do so. It’s rather strange, but the famous Mass Effect dialogue wheel which we’ve used so often to help shape the galaxy, for better or worse, in previous games pops up considerably less often in Mass Effect 3, helping to cement the fan-feeling that this is a much more action-orientated game that we’ve seen from the series before. Or in other words, making it feel a bit more like Gears of War in space rather Game of Thrones. Did that make sense? No? Well, fuck it, it made sense to me. It’ll likely also irritate and annoy fans to discover that Bioware have done away with the Neutral options on the dialogue wheel, just leaving two options to choose from. Along with that they’ve also done away with a considerable chunk of the exposition options which normally resided on the left hand side of the wheel,. At first this baffling decision rather annoyed me, leaving me with the feeling that I had a hell of a lot less ways to express myself through my Shepard, because usually I was one of those who would ask absolutely everything I possibly could before making a decision, that way I knew exactly how much pain, suffering and arse-kicking I was going to be going through before I actually got there. But this is offset by the fact that Bioware have finally started to blur the lines between Renegade and Paragon options, giving those big choices less of a black and white feel. And what choices! Sure, there’s less moments to make decisions in Mass Effect 3, but when you do get to make a call you really do feel like you’re making a major impact on the universe, mostly because twice in the game you get to hold the fates of entire species as well as beloved characters in your sweaty palms. In particular, the second of these two moments around three-quarters of the way through the story is a piece of writing excellence that is perhaps one of, if not the, greatest moments in the trilogy, creating a truly tense moment between two races that can have horrible, heart-breaking, spine-chilling outcomes. Every fibre of my being wants to tell you about this moment, to describe it in glorious detail, but I won’t, because that wouldn’t be fair. Suffice to say, should things go wrong, you’re going to be in tears. Again, Bioware’s new-found talent for creating decisions where Paragon and Renegade are almost entirely pointless definitions play a massive part in creating those two moments. Instead of simply choosing Paragon options b default, because they generally lead to the best outcomes in the previous two games, you’ve now got a real reason to consider the Renegade options, because now you’re having to choose between your morality and the better good of the galaxy. Should you save the colony, thereby making yourself feel all warm and fuzzy, or should you take the squadron of Volus bombers, which in turn will give a better chance defeating the Reapers? Still, don’t take all of this out of context as the decisions you make and the impacts you have are still  an illusion: the major plot points still play out almost exactly the same – it’s just a more convincing illusion this time.

All of these decisions you make, in both this game and the previous games, whether it’s what to have for breakfast or which species gets to live, and nearly every mission you complete awards you with War Assets which feed into the Galaxy at War system, which is a fancy way of saying a bar that fills up indicating whether you’ll get your arse kicked in the final battle with the Reapers or whether you’ll do well. Simply put, this bar determines exactly which of the three endings you can get it the game. Again, it’s hard not to feel disappointed that all your hard work brokering alliances, fighting the enemy and making harsh decisions simply gets turned into a lifeless number that represents how well you’ll do in the finale. It’s also disappointing that Bioware seem to have missed a beat, because while  you’re building up these forces feels like you’re going to be the one that decides what to do with all these assets when the times comes, able to effect the games outcome by careful use of the fleets and troops that you’ve acquired through missions, planet scanning and more, yet there’s only one moment in the entire game you even get to see your assets, and you certainly never get to exert any control over them. Still, at least the game does provide you with plenty of reading material on the various assets you’ve acquired along the way, and there is a certain addictive element to picking up a new asset and then running off to the terminal on the Normandy to read about what it is and how it affects your army. Aside from a handful of true side-missions that offer decent distractions, there’s a few other missions you can pick up to increase your army size, but here Mass Effect 3 drops the ball in two ways: the first is that there’s quite a few missions that simply recycle the co-op mission maps (more on that later) and make you fight through some bad guys. That’s it, there’s nothing else to them. The second way it drops the ball is by its use of pointless, dull fetch questions which are all gained via eaves-dropping in the games only hub, the Citadel. These missions simply require you to fly to a part of the galaxy, scan a planet for some random relic and then return it to whichever random person you acquired the quest from. Not only is this a rather cheap way of  increasing the games length, and a dull one at that, but it also feels rather out-of-place to be flying around the sodding galaxy looking for random artifacts when the Earth is getting its teeth kicked in by the Reapers.

With the galaxy being at war and everything, Mass Effect 3 is going to have you in combat quite a bit during its 30-hour campaign. It’s sad to realise that most of the galaxies problems can be solved by shooting things in the face with big guns, but solve them with guns you shall. Thankfully, then, the combat has seen some nice upgrades since Mass Effect 2 stormed onto shop shelves. One of the biggest changes comes in the form of a massive overhaul on how weapons handle, all thanks to DICE,  the creators of the Battlefield games, who were brought in during the game’s development to help Bioware understand how to make more meaty feeling weapons and how rounds travelled through the air. The result is that Mass Effect 3’s weapons, of which there is a considerable amount of choice, feel far meatier to fire. In some ways this has slightly tarnished the sense of these weapons being technologically superior to ours, especially with sniper rifles that only hold one bloody round, as they feel almost exactly like current day weapons, but on the other hand it has made them far more satisfying to use as they really do feel like they have power. Along with more powerful feeling weapons Command Shepard has gained a brutal new heavy melee move to help out when you get a little too close to the enemy. This, on paper, should help to do away with those troublesome moments that plagued the past two games where you and your opponent would sort of dance around each other trying vainly to get in a strike or two, but sadly it doesn’t: the heavy melee move looks awesome, but it locks you into an animation that enemies will often simply avoid without a problem, despite the fact that they seemed to be perfectly aligned for the move. But wait, there’s more: Shepard has also gained a new melee grab move that can be used against enemies on the other side of cover, allowing you to lean over, grab them and then deliver a brutal blow. The core of combat, the cover system, has also had a few minor tweaks to make it feel a little smoother, making for a far more enjoyable experience, but it still suffers from a slight stickiness and occasional bugs that ensure that Mass Effect 3 won’t be giving the Gears of War series any reason to fret.

Considering that the combat has been upgraded to make it feel like a smoother and more flexible system it’s a shame that the AI hasn’t been improved to match. The Mass Effect series has never been known for having smart enemies or allies and while Mass Effect 3 has indeed seen a bit of an improvement they’re still a pretty stupid bunch all around. Your AI allies are a bit more dependable this time, though, generally being less inclined to stand around in the open like they’re tourists staring at Big Ben for the first time and actually do something useful. The enemies, on the other hand, still have a tendency to make rather daft decisions such as taking cover on the wrong side of a wall or even standing up on a crate making them the perfect target for a well placed headshot. And did I mention that you can now literally pop heads with sniper rifles? No? Well, you can, and you should, because it’s awesome. Admittedly the enemy no longer make anywhere near as many mistakes as they did before, but it’s still a little disappointing to see that their AI doesn’t manage to match the actual quality of the combat to make it an even better experience.

Still, things are certainly improved by the fact that Bioware have spent some time creating new enemy types for you to go up against, which really helps to keep things from getting stale as the game progresses, especially as you get to the stages of the game and enemy types are cunningly combined to increase  the challenge. Most notable of the new enemies are Cerberus who pack one hell of a punch, combining a range of infantry that use cover more effectively than other types with their brutal Atlas mechs that can deliver a stupid amount of firepower. If that wasn’t bad enough they’ve also get Phantoms, which are essentially space-ninja’s that run around with swords. They may not sound scary, but they damn well are.  Or how about the new Reaper brutes? These massive bastards follow the old-school rules of using raw power to smash your face in, utilising their massive strength and size to do some major damage. Of all the new enemy types, though, the Banshee stands supreme as the most terrifying, especially once you discover their horrific origins. As their name implies these tall, thin beings emit a high-pitched sound which you’ll quickly come to associate wetting your pants. They’re able to use Biotics to teleport around the battlefield and attack you with as well as soak up a massive amount of punishment.

Thrown into the mix is the return of weapon upgrades, albeit in a far more substantial form than before. You can either find upgrades in the shops on the Citadel or strewn around the various levels in the game, giving you a good reason to comb the environment. Each weapon can take up to two upgrades, such as extended barrels for more damage, scopes, increased clip size and even bayonets for shotguns, bringing a nice sense of customisation to your armory. Sure, it ain’t going to rival some of the big name shooters but it does open up a few more options for combat. Along with your guns you can also customise the armor you wear, allowing you to swap out your helmet, chest piece, shoulder pads, gauntlets and leg armor for whatever you choosing. Each different piece of armor, as you would expect, grants you different bonuses such as extra health, more ammo capacity, higher power damage, extra headshot damage and more. Again, like the weapon customisation it opens up a few more ways to tailor your Shepard to your playing style. And of course you can even play around with your armor color so that you can storm the battlefield wearing some fetching lime green and pink attire, like the true galactic hero you are.

One of the biggest, and most valid, complaints levelled at Mass Effect 2 by both critics and fans alike was the “streamlining” of the abilities and powers that you could upgrade, leading  many to make the accusation that the series was wandering away from its RPG roots and straying too far into the territories of straight shooters. Happily, then, Bioware have listened to those complaints and responded by giving Mass Effect 3 an upgrade system that blends together the best of both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 into what I’m going to boldly proclaim is the best levelling system of the series to date. Your Commander Shepard has a total of eight abilities to play around with, as well as one extra ability that you can swap at will, giving you a small opportunity to utilise skills that your class doesn’t normally get to touch. As per usual you gain experience points for completing missions and generally just proving how damn awesome you are, which in turn levels you up and grants you beautiful points to spend on abilities. The idea of “evolving”  your powers from Mass Effect 2 has also made a welcome return but in a far better realised fashion: as you put points into each skill you’ll be given three opportunities per power to “evolve” that ability or power in one of two different ways, allowing you to customise it further to your play style. For example the fourth rank of a power will ask you to choose between either a damage increase or a faster recharge time, and then the fifth rank will ask you to choose between a longer duration for the power or a larger impact radius.  Choosing which ways to evolve my powers soon became an even tougher decision that some of the massive moral dilemmas the game’s story threw at, making me carefully think about my chosen class and what evolutions would suit me the most. It is, quite simply put, a brilliant system that should keep all but the most hardcore fans happy. I say should, but there’s always someone who isn’t happy. Always.

Bioware have also made the decision to toss classes being limited to certain weapons out of the window in favour of a brand new system which decreases the recharge time of your powers based on how much your weapons weigh, or possibly how fat you are. For example, if you’re just running around with a pistol, which incidentally is actually a viable choice as pistols kick ass, then your powers will actually get a boost to how quickly they recharge, allowing you to fling  around singularities like there’s no tomorrow, which, should you get cocky, there might not be. But if you load up with too much gear your powers will take considerably longer to recharge meaning that you’re going to have to decide between sheer firepower and using abilities more often. It’s a clever way of balancing out the classes without actually forcing players to compromise if they don’t want to, so an Adept, who for new players is like a Jedi without the lightsaber, can still load up with five guns if he or she wants to.

As I come to the end of the singleplayer portion of the game for this review there’s one thing that I still need to quickly touch upon: the ending. Now, usually I don’t ever talk about a games ending in a review and for good reason, but in a trilogy like Mass Effect where the lore is so complex, the story so rich and the characters so believable the ending is incredibly important. Don’t worry, though, there won’t be any spoilers here. You’ve doubtless already seen the controversy surrounding the ending all across the net – it’s pretty damn hard to miss, after all. The simple truth is that I didn’t hate the ending like many fans seem to, it won’t stop me from playing through the game again, but the final ten minutes of the game left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s a shame that Mass Effect 3’s story, which serves as 29-hours and 50-minutes of fantastic ending to the series, is let down by just the final 10-minutes. There’s are certainly aspects of the ending that I enjoyed, and the concept was certainly an interesting one, but it suffers from quite a few major problems, with my biggest two gripes being a lack of closure to both the characters and your final choice, and that the ending had quite a few major plot-holes. And that’s all I’m going to say on the ending. Perhaps I’ll do an article down the line about it where I can have some real fun ripping it to pieces and analysing every shred of it.

And now we come to the multiplayer aspect of Mass Effect 3, a topic which generated considerable controversy when it was first announced, sparking angry comments from a considerable chunk of the fan base who, and I’ll be blunt here, made massive assumptions based on very little evidence. Of course there was nothing wrong with being sceptical about the inclusion of multiplayer in the final game of a trilogy, after all was certainly a strange time to decide to include it, but after having spent a stupid amount of time playing Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer I can happily declare is as addictive, fun and a fine, if late, addition to the series.

In case you didn’t already know Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode is actually  Bioware’s take on the standard Horde mode that’s so popular in gaming today, challenging you and up to three other friends to take on waves of increasingly difficult enemies. To help try to differentiate itself from the faceless masses, Mass Effect 3’s co-op mode throws objectives into the mix ever few waves, tasking you and your team with doing certain things to advance, such as taking out high-priority targets or uploading data at certain points around the map. The objectives themselves are pretty simply and it does feel like more could have been done with the concept, but it  forces you and your to actually move around the map and go on the offensive rather than just stay hunkered down in a single spot for the entire game, which is a problem  horde-style modes in other games suffers from. If you do manage to make it to the final wave in the match (there’s eleven per match) then the objective is always the same: defend the LZ at all costs until the ship comes to extract you. Enemies charge you with a renewed vigour and with extra numbers, turning the final wave of every game into a desperate last stand against the enemy that never failed to have me grinning from ear to ear. Let’s be honest, dramatic last stands are a bit cliché, but that doesn’t stop them from being entirely awesome, especially when you make a valiant run through the encroaching enemy to revive a teammate at the last second before diving back into the pick-up zone so your team can get the full extraction bonus.

Just like the singleplayer game you’ve got a selection of different classes available to play as in the multiplayer with each of them having the same levelling up system as Commander Shepard, albeit without quite so many abilities to choose from so as to help keep everything balanced. Bringing the RPG elements of the singleplayer into the co-op mode was a smart move as it brings a nice sense of progression. Start off with a new character, for example, and playing above the Bronze difficulty level will be very challenging, but play a few games at that difficulty and level up your character a bit and you’ll be able to venture into Silver games and be an asset to your team rather than a hindrance. Continue to play Silver for a bit and your character will be ready to take into Gold games for the ultimate challenge. The only disappointment is that due to the lower amount of powers to choose from your characters are capped at level 20, which won’t take you that long to get to at all, but at least there’s six classes to get through.  Unlike the singleplayer, however, you’re not just relegated to playing as a human, instead there’s unlockable alien races for each class such as Krogans and Turians, each of whom have slightly different skillsets than their human counterparts, helping to bring a bit of variety to the proceedings.

Perhaps the best and most fun aspect of co-op is working in tandem with your team and combining powers to take down enemies, such one player freezing enemies in place with a Stasis Bubble while another takes them out with a sniper rifle. It brings a real sense of teamwork into the game that’s often lacking in other titles like Call of Duty and Gears of War, where it feels like even your own team are against you. Reinforcing the concept of teamwork is the XP system which awards each and every player with the same amount of experience to upgrade their characters with and credits to spend in the store, so if the team does well then you do well. It’s a clever way to encourage people to work together, although you’re still going to get those players raised on a competitive diet who will accuse  you of kill stealing.

Weapon upgrading and customisation also makes the transition from singleplayer and is joined by a variety of equipment, such as rockets and medi-gel, that can be taken along on missions. The way to actually get extra weapons, equipment and even extra characters is where Mass Effect 3 tries something a little bit different. Once you’ve earned some shiny credits by generally either A) kicking the enemies ass, or b) getting your ass kicked by the enemy (you can still earn some credits provided you make it wave 3) you can head into the store where there is small selection of packs to choose from. Rather than buying the exact items you want, these packs each contain a few pieces of equipment and then the final two items are randomly selected from a list of weapons, characters and parts. More expensive packs have a better chance of snaffling a rare item, while lower value packs are generally quite good for getting your characters off the ground with some weapon parts and gear. Doubtless this method will gain as many haters as fans, since it can be frustrating to by pack after pack and still not get what you actually want, but buying this packs is addictive and actually quite fun: getting an incredibly rare character or weapon and then immediately using it in the next game to show off to your mates is just an awesome feeling. It reminds me of when I used to collect Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, always getting a little excited about what could be in the latest booster pack I had purchased, even if it was inevitably bloody useless.

Still, it’s not a perfect experience as there are a good number of glitches that I encountered in my time with the multiplayer , such as randomly floating into the air, unable to move, invincible enemies and the occasional foe who would get trapped in parts of the environment resulting my team having to stumble around the map looking for him, the cheeky bugger. These glitches don’t happen too often, however, so it’s not too big of a deal. It is also a shame that the game doesn’t auto-balance the amount of enemies based on how many players there are in the game, which is a real shame because the game does actually allow you to play the multiplayer on your own, but with the same amount of enemies running around the place it’s certainly….challenging.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the co-op is Bioware’s decision to link it in with the singleplayer in what is both an ingenious move and a completely bloody stupid one. On the one hand actually linking the co-op sections in with the singleplayer is, on paper, is a stellar idea, except that it’s not done in the way that you might assume from a series as story driven as this, which is to say that the co-op doesn’t have any story to it  at all. And yet there is a hint that it all ties in, because the characters you’re playing as are holding of waves of enemies on the same maps you encounter in the singleplayer, giving the impression that you’re playing as teams sent to hold these zones that you captured in the singleplayer, or something like that, anyway. Instead the multiplayer ties in with the story by directly effecting the War Assets you collect in the singleplayer. Let me explain: every time you play a match in multiplayer it increases your “Galactic Readiness:” by a certain percentage. This Galactic Readiness acts as modifier for the value of your War Assets, increasing their worth every time you play a match and therefore effecting which of the games “endings” you get when you enter the final conflict. This, of course, has sparked a massive controversy on whether it’s actually possible to achieve the “best” ending without playing the multiplayer. This is a subject I won’t be touching on in this review, except to say that there’s really no “best” ending in a true sense of the word It’s certainly an interesting concept, but one that the game itself doesn’t do a very good job of explaining, and one that I was left feeling mostly neutral about, neither really loving it or hating it.

In any case, if you can’t tell  I was very impressed by the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3. Sure, it’s not the most unique take on a mode that’s practically everywhere, but it’s damn good fun to play, especially if you’ve got a team of good friends who’re willing to work together, and throws in enough of its own ideas in the powers, objectives and lucky-dip pack system to make it worth playing, even if you are a die-hard singleplayer only person.

So, here I am at the end of this rather long review where I have to try to sum up my feelings about Mass Effect 3 into just a few words so that everyone who can’t be arsed reading a massive wall of text, and who can blame you, can simply skip to the end and get the gist of it all. So let me keep this simple: I loved Mass Effect 3. Sure, the final ten minutes left me feeling let-down, and the game has flaws just like any other title, , but the simple truth that I still loved every other minute of the 29-hours and 50-minutes that I spent playing it. It’s a stunning journey from start to finish, creating a tale of war and death that somehow still manages to cram in quiet moments of peace and joy that shine like beacons against the backdrop of destruction. Mass Effect has come to an end, and with it a little part of my soul died in the knowledge that the story is over, that the journey has come to a close, that it’s….finished. *sniff* 

Until the DLC, anyway.

The Good:
+ Seeing old friends!
+ Garrus! He’s just a badass.
+ Saving the galaxy! Because that’s how I roll.

The Bad:
– Damn you, final ten minutes.
– Why did he/she get such a small part?
– More linear.

The Score:

Graphics: 8.5
The environments have taken a step forward and there’s some really stunning moments, but the facial animations at times feel like they’ve gone backwards. Still a fine looking game, though.

Sound: 9.5
As always the voice acting is superb and the music flows from rousing to spine-tingling throughout. Even the weapons sound nice and meaty!

Story: 9
Forget the final ten minutes, because the rest of it is absolutely amazing, as we’ve come to expect from the series. There are a few bits where it falters a little, though, but then it picks right back up again!

Gameplay: 8.5
The cover system still isn’t up to the standards of the big boys, but the combat has still been improved and his highly enjoyable. The stat-based RPG mechanics are satisfying and meaty.

Lifespan: 9
Around 30-hours was what I clocked in after doing absolutely everything I could, though one or two missions may have slipped the net somewhere, which isn’t the biggest by RPG standards, but Multiplayer should keep you going a while as well.

The Verdict: 9
Scoring Mass Effect 3 was tough, and for a while I thought about awarding it a further .5, but in the end there were a few things in the game that left me a little disapointed, and so I believe the final score to be fair. But let me put this in simple words: Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic, beautiful ending to one of the greatest trilogies in gaming, even with its flaws. It is a fitting ending to the series that only truly fails in its closing minutes, leaving behind a slightly tarnished, but still amazing legacy.

Categories: Reviews

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7 replies »

  1. Spoiler Alert ……..Spoiler Alert………..Spoiler Alert……..Spoiler Alert

    Ive gone into more detail on BSN and elsewheres so Ill keep it simple

    Condensing all three games worth of choices, allies, and assets into a quick flotilla cameo is unacceptable. As a long time BW/EA customer it was almost as disheartening as Shepards forced tricolored suicide choice. Replay value on the trilogy is destroyed for me. Why unite the galaxy when they wont even have a noticeable effect in the final battle?

    It was also to bleak and defeatist for my tastes.Shepard never would have been talked down by Starchilds flawed logic, “I created synthetics to kill you and prevent you from creating synthetics that will kill you” Hopefully in April the dlc will win back my trust in Bioware/EA. Until then my Collectors Edition collects dust on the shelf.

    • It’s a shame that the ending of Mass Effect 3 has almost completely ruined the series for you, good sir, but understandable.

      Personally, as my review says, I didn’t actually hate the ending, I was just left disapointed by it. It won’t stop me playing it through again, though 🙂

      As for the DLC, well it’ll certainly be interesting to see what they come out with. I’m thinking it’ll be an epilogue.

  2. Sorry man but i was wondering could you get in contact with me by email would really appreciate your input and some pointers on reviewing, Thanks in advance.

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