Mass Effect 3 Review
Now here’s a game I was unbelievably psyched for. As far as new game franchises go, Mass Effect is easily one of my favourites. My original plan was to review the first two games beforehand, do a bit of a retrospective of the series. Unfortunately, everything that could have gone wrong with that plan did (blame the University work load and xbox malfunctions) This review is going to be written under the impression that the reader has already played the first two games. If you haven’t picked them up, do so and then come back to this page. If you wonder what that games are like…Imagine Star Trek, only much darker storylines and none of the campyness.
Our story begins months after the events of Mass Effect 2. Shepard is being detained by the Alliance as a result of the Arrival DLC in the previous game. The Reapers show up on Earth, and decimate the Alliance’s defences. Shepard and the Normandy’s crew escape to get help from the other races, while Captain Anderson leads the resistance on Earth. Shortly afterward, Shepard meets up with Liara T’Soni in the Mars archives, where they discover plans for a Prothean super-weapon called the “Crucible” that could destroy the Reapers. The catch is that Cerberus is after these plans too, attacking the Mars facility once Shepard arrives. After leaving with the plans, Shepard goes to the citadel to get help from the council but naturally, the council has their own problems and isn’t interested in sending aid to earth. This sets the stage for the game. Shepard must travel the galaxy, solving problems for the other races so they can unite to defeat the Reapers while collecting war assets to help build the Crucible, strengthen your militia and thwart Cerberus along the way.
The game play is about the same as Mass Effect 2, but with many changes and improvements. Shepard is more agile in this game, being able to roll into cover “Gears of War” style. You also have your standard melee attack, as well as a heavy melee with a new weapon called the omni blade. You simply hold the melee button to charge your attack, making you able to insta-kill some enemies.
Your skills also branch out more, instead of following a set path when you apply points. For example, your fitness skill will improve your health and Melee, but as it goes up you can specialize in one or the other depending on how you want to play. (Would you rather kill enemies up close? Focus on melee. Want to run and gun? Improve your shields and weapon damage bonuses.) You still have the option of using tech and biotic skills, and they can be upgraded in the same way (Wide radius for Singularity, or higher damage?)
There are also no weapon restrictions on classes anymore, every class can use any gun. However, the guns now have weight, and the heavier your weapons load is, the longer your powers take to recharge. This can be remedied either by carrying less guns into battle, or buying weapon upgrades. One of my favourite ways to play the soldier class for example is to use the Vindicator or the Mattock rifle, upgrade it as much as I can (maybe the phalanax as a side arm) then I can pretty much spend the whole level using Adrenaline Rush and racking up the headshots. The guns have much more variation than they did in ME 2, all with different stats displayed COD style. (Accuracy, weight, fire rates, magazine sizes, etc.)
Besides paying for gun upgrades, you can use mods that you find in missions or shops to further improve your weapons. Extended barrels to increase damage, armour piercing, Scopes, Recoil Dampers, Extended Magazines, etc. These can also be used with on your squadmate’s guns. You also have customizable armour pieces you can find/buy like in ME 2, but these are a little disappointing since these are all pieces we’ve seen before. However, like in ME 2, the colours are still completely changeable. Overall, the RPG elements feel a lot weaker in this game, despite the options for customization. But as an third person shooter, it’s quite strong. I’d say it’s a mixed blessing but it plays well regardless.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to collect War assets, all of which add to your EMS (Effective Military strength.) You do this by completing missions, and also by finding items/people/artifacts on planets. This is done by scanning them like in Mass Effect 2, only now you don’t have to comb the whole planet for minerals. Just scan while you’re on the galaxy map, and any notable objects within range will be marked. The only downside is scanning can alert reapers to your presence. They will chase you across the galaxy map, forcing you to run to the nearest mass relay or jump to the next system before they kill you. This is a great way to keep you on your toes and as the game progresses, the reapers will control more and more systems. The biggest flaw to this however is the quest journal. It doesn’t update like it did in previous games (Seriously Bioware?) So you aren’t sure if you’ve visited the right planet, found the object you were looking for or exactly who on the citadel you’re supposed to take it too. Normally, this isn’t a problem since you’re going to the citadel all the time anyways, and characters you need to talk to are highlighted on the map. However it’s one of those flaws that should have never been an issue to begin with, especially when it wasn’t in previous games.
Another way to push your EMS up is to improve your galactic readiness, which is done by playing the multiplayer. I have mixed feelings about the multiplayer mode. It plays just like the single player and it’s pretty fun to play as different races like Asari, Drell, Turians, Quarians, Geth, Batarians, etc. (Play as a Krogan, headbutt ALL the things!) There’s different maps (all based on single player missions.) You can choose from different enemies to fight (Reapers, Geth or Cerberus.) You can even upgrade your characters abilities by levelling him/her up. The problem? It’s basically just survival mode, which is really nothing original or new. Would it really have been so bad to add different game modes, like team death match or capture the flag? Even a Co-op campaign would have been nice (hop into your friend’s game and play as Garrus, or another squadmate?)
Unlocking weapons and characters is frustrating. You can use Microsoft points or credits you earn by playing multiplayer, spend them on support packs and pray that pack has the weapon you want. (It’s completely random) Though I’ll admit, it made things all the more satisfying when I finally did get the Mattock and Krogan Soldier. Bioware has been releasing new characters and weapons for free lately, so it’s hard to really complain when you get so much free stuff. While the characters are mostly balanced, there’s one class that’s frustrating to play with: The Human Vanguard. Not because it sucks, but because it’s too good. Anyone who uses this class will spend most of the game spamming Charge and Nova, which effectively destroys mobs of Cerberus troops. The mode is purely co-op, so there’s not really such a thing as kill stealing when points are shared. That being said, I hate just standing in the background while the vanguards do all the work.
Another problem is that your galactic readiness drops over time, so you have to keep playing multiplayer to keep it up. But once you’ve leveled up all of the characters you want and have all of the guns and upgrades you need, there’s little incentive to keep playing because of how repetitive it gets. This would be worse if you weren’t able to simply collect war assets and max your EMS that way.
The Multiplayer maps are good, but it feels like they missed a few opportunities by making it tie into the campaign. Wouldn’t it have been cool to have a collector base map, or fighting mercenary gangs in Omega? If someone from Bioware is reading this, feel free to use it as your next DLC pack. I’d buy it.
Like in previous games, the story is still strong, especially when it’s focussed around your squadmates and other characters. Almost everyone who appeared in the last two games makes a cameo of some kind in this one. All of your old squadmates from Mass Effect 2 make an appearance and if you romanced them, you have the option to continue your relationship even if they don’t join your squad. (I still got the Paramour achievement for hooking up with Miranda on the citadel.) Rekindling relationships from Mass Effect 1 is possible too, though if Shepard was too much of a player throughout the games, brace yourself for some drama. Actors like Seth Green, Martin Sheen and Keith David (Joker, Illusive man and Anderson) reprise their roles and all of the voice acting is very good, as expected.
Jennifer Hale is brilliant like always as the Female Shepard, and Mark Meers (Male Shepard) Has improved over the years. To all the guys out there, I highly recommend playing through as Femshep, just for the voice acting…while you’re at it, have her romance Liara. 😉
Other squad members like Mordin, Legion, Grunt and Thane make cameos, have important/badass scenes or even join you on the Normandy temporarily. Even minor characters like Conrad Verner show up at certain points. Your squad is a lot smaller this time. (Six teammates vs 12 in ME2) Garrus, Tali, Liara and Ashley/Kaiden make their return. EDI even get’s a Robotic body she can control to go on missons. Then there’s James Vega, arguably everyone’s least favourite. I think it’s just because he’s not as interesting as the others, even though he does have a pretty badass backstory (He got to fight collectors. Not bad.) Javik, the Prothean squadmate, is interesting because he offers some insight about what type of people the Protheans were, and how easily the Reapers destroyed them. While not the most upbeat character (I know I’d be just fine and dandy if my entire race was slaughtered!) He’s a useful squadmate. Though it is kind of frustrating that he was day 1 DLC.
The levels are as enjoyable as always and while Shepard still gets lots of Renegade/Paragon dialogue choices, there aren’t a lot of key decisions to be made like their were in previous games. Most of the game plays out as a result of your save file from the previous two games (Which gives you more reason to pick those up first) Some characters can die, some missions might play out differently, even small, subtle things from the first games have big consequences later on, without giving away spoilers. Some levels should be done asap, since they aren’t available later on. This is related to the galaxy map, and how the reapers slowly control more and more systems as the game progresses.
Mass Effect 2 is probably one of my favourite Xbox 360/PS3 games, if not my #1. I really wanted to like ME 3 more, but there’s a problem. The Ending. Now, the internet has been full of ranting about the ending for a couple of months now. Every time Bioware posts something on Facebook or Twitter, half the comment section is a flame war about why the ending sucks. Fans overwhelmingly hate it. I can’t stand the ending either. I’m trying not to kick a dead horse here, but it really is a problem. Without giving any spoilers, let’s just say it makes the previous 2 games and vast majority of the 3rd pointless. It contradicts pre-established themes, contradicts the lore, and just feels completely rushed, like someone couldn’t wait for the game to end. Worse of all, Bioware promised many different endings based on your choices throughout the 3 games. But this ending throws all of that out the window, and does the very thing Bioware promised it wouldn’t. Long story short, if you’re invested in the Mass Effect story, which most people who play the games are, you will hate this ending for one reason or another. Mass Effect 2 made me want to replay the first to see the different outcomes. Mass Effect 3 has the opposite reaction. That being said, it’s still a well made, very enjoyable game. Which is what makes the ending even more frustrating. Bioware has announced an extended ending, free of charge to be released this summer. Time will only tell if it repairs the damage.
RIP Marauder Shields.