When you’re ending a trilogy arc of a story, there are things you do and things you don’t. You want to provide closure for your characters, tie up loose ends in your story, and maybe leave enough hanging out there where you can pick up the story later if you so choose. For the majority of the game, Mass Effect 3‘s single player campaign follows through on that idea and promise, but then proceeds to introduce new ideas into the mix in the last ten minutes of the game that not only violate the established canon of the previous games, but also its own as well. But can the ending be over-shadowed by the rest of the game to deliver a solid experience coupled with an all new multiplayer segment that ties into the main narrative of the game? Signs point to yes if you’ve been anywhere on the Internet in the last month, but let’s take a real hard look.
The ending is here. The Reapers, the greatest threat our galaxy has ever faced, have not only arrived, but they’ve begun their invasion in earnest. The Batarians have fallen, and now they’ve taken up on Earth to begin their 50,000 year cycle of destruction. Shepard has been disgraced at the start, and while we never truly get real details of what all that entailed after the events of Arrival, Mass Effect 2‘s last DLC, we know that it involved the Alliance seizing the Normandy and retro-fitting it to their standards as well as stripping Shepard’s rank and command. That all changes when the big bads show up and begin wiping the floor with humanity, and everything that Shepard warned them was going to happen comes to fruition. With Admiral Hackett and Admiral Anderson’s help, Shepard gets back on the Normandy and is re-instated and begins the enormous task of not only unifying the races of the galaxy against the Reapers, but building a previously unknown weapon of mass destruction, known only as The Crucible and only hinted at in newly discovered Prothean databases on Mars. We have no idea what exactly it will do, only that there’s a key missing component, The Catalyst, and we have no idea what that’ll do, but it’s our only hope of stopping the Reapers.
While this is fairly ham-fisted, hanging everything on a giant weapon we don’t even know will work, it’s no worse than either of the other games’ plots. In the first one we had to stop Saren and along the way were discovering more about the universe as we went along, and in the second game the whole idea was to stop the Collector’s even though we had no idea how to go about doing that at first. So I don’t have a problem with the overall plot. Unifying the races really adds to it as you go through using contacts you’d established in previous games to unite the Krogans and the Turians, sway the Asari to helping you, forcing the Salarians hand, and providing some kind of end to the Geth and Quarian conflict enough to get them on your side. As it plays out, in a far more linear fashion than either of the previous two Mass Effect titles, it hits all the right notes as a conclusion to a trilogy, giving us key moments with the characters we spent so much time with through each game. Some are longer moments than others, but each one fits with the player’s previous experience with them with an exception or two, and of course the characters we have as squadmates are going to get far more development in this game that any of the others who have more of a guest appearance.
Really though, while being linear isn’t bad, this game pretty much discards the hub world with side quests related to the main quests set-up from the other two games almost entirely. There are a few hub worlds with the side quests, but pretty much the entire game is in a set order, where the previous two games you could pick and choose where you went first. It kind of kills the illusion of choice the other games had going for them in favor of telling a more compelling story, except that the hub worlds themselves, Rannoch, Tuchanka, The Citadel even, feel like they could be plucked out and put pretty much anywhere in the story line, much like you could do in the first two games, but here you’re directed to particular events, and some side quests if you don’t do them before a certain event in the game, will disappear forever. I preferred the set-up in the second game where key beats to the story always happen at a certain moment, propelling you forward, but I could go in and pick and choose which quests between those events that I wanted to do and in what order. It’s a minor nitpick, and it might not stand out right away when you’re playing it. Hell, it took the start of my second playthrough and talking with the other DieHard GameFan guys on the podcast before I really even thought about it.
My other complaint is that Cerberus, a well funded, but from what had been established before, relatively small(comparatively) research and human supremacy organization, have suddenly grown in the six months since the last game, into this giant army that can rival not only the Alliance, but C-Sec forces as well. Cerberus is everywhere, and they end up completely over-shadowing the main Reaper threat by a lot. Granted, I will give you that they may be humanity’s version of indoctrinated or converted forces, much like the Husk’s and converted species you fight, but they still act as a separate faction with their own motivations from the Reapers, and I found myself worrying more about what the Illusive Man and his cronies were up to than how to really stop the big threat, at least until later in the game.
The conclusion to all of this though, is very touching, leading up to the last big run up and the final part of the game. Most of the people I know who’ve played it (not everyone, just making a general statement about people I know and even some of them liked it) as well as myself, are left scratching their heads at the very end. To quote Mark B. “Well, it was an ending.”Â There’s no real closure, the game builds up to a climax and then just seems to end, leaving the player hanging there for some kind of absolution or resolution that’s never going to come, at least not as it stands without DLC, which in theory will be plugging up holes and providing that closure, but it’s not there now and it should have been. Not only that but if you’ve paid any kind of attention in any of the other title’s or even in this one, there’s so much missing from the last sequences that it doesn’t make sense at the very least, or it completely violates the game’s basic lore and the writer’s just didn’t care as they wanted to end the title their way and be done with it.
Can an ending ruin a story? It can if you let it. Is this what the developer promised fans of the game up until a week before release? In some ways yes, in others not so much. What it seems like, is a means of tying up all the possible branches so they have something to leap from for another game set in this universe with the least amount of work possible to start from. It’s not so much an ending but a springboard to a new title, and as such, I think it cheats, not only the player, but Commander Shepard’s last hurrah in the Mass Effect universe. You go out with a bang, but I found myself not caring so much as the plot holes and gaping wounds in the story at the very end leave you speculating as to how much of the galaxy in Mass Effect is actually left and what happened to the characters you’ve come to care about and love. That being said, I think the rest of the story-telling is stellar. It’s what I’d come to expect from BioWare, right up until the end where it doesn’t seem like they really knew what they wanted to end on, in this case it’s a sour note, not a bittersweet one like they were apparently shooting for. I’m hoping the Extended Cut DLC will add on to this and fill in some holes and give a sense of closure at least. I never really wanted it changed, but I was left wondering if I’d just experienced Mass Effect 3 Part One and if we were ever going to get Part Two.
Since I’m covering the Collector’s Edition, I’d be remiss to not include the From Ashes DLC that came with my copy. This nets you another armor set for your squad, the Prothean squad member, Javik, and the Eden Prime mission. The mission itself is abysmally short and feels like a bigger multiplayer map that got recycled instead of Eden Prime from the first game. The extra armor isn’t just cosmetic as each visual look actually provides different bonuses to each member of the squad. Javik himself is by far the most interesting addition to the story of the game, being a Prothean from when the Reapers had already wiped most of the galaxy clean during his cycle. Javik has a lot to say about what’s going on, has a number of touching scenes including one on the Citadel, and even a big blow-up with another member of the squad. He feels far more integrated than Kasumi or Zaed ever did because of this, but at the same time I’m wondering why he was even cut from the game as DLC as his story not only adds to the game, but some of his reactions and input are almost crucial to a new player understanding what has come before and what to expect without having played either Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2. Sure you can read the Codex, but even then you don’t get some key information points, nor the emotional impact of having someone who lived this before tell it like it is. I recommend taking Javik along with you to Thessia. He and Liara have some very interesting things to say to each other about the Asari. It’s a nice bonus for people who got the Collector’s Edition, but without him I’d feel that a crucial component of the story was gutted in favor of day 1, paid for DLC. I do think people have a legitimate gripe with this, but on the other hand, it was advertised as being part of the Collector’s Edition, so I’m glad people who didn’t get this version have a chance to pick it up at least.
As far as Multiplayer goes, it ties into what’s going on in the single player campaign by putting you in squads around the galaxy fighting Cerberus, Reaper forces, and the Geth. You’ve got several different stages this plays out on, and the level cap for multiplayer is 20, which is a far cry from Shepard’s level 60, but as a co-op squad of four, you can get the job done if you work together. While I don’t like some aspects of it, mainly the randomized pack system, leveling up and the actual gameplay inside of multiplayer is solid. I know there are people who like the packs, and more power to them. I still maintain a proper store setting where you could buy unlocks for weapons, character races, and upgrades would be preferable or even better, an option for those of us who’s random luck is absolutely abysmal. It took me over 60 hours and buying lots of high tier packs like crazy to unlock a Krogan or Salarian when several of my friends lucked out and got what they were looking for day one. I did get both of my Asari unlocks within the first week or so and then hit a three week dry spell. I’m lucky if I get enough expendable mission items to use on Silver and Gold matches, if not I have to hope I don’t cause the team to wipe because I don’t have the resources needed.
Leveling up to 20 in multiplayer allows you to promote that character to single player as a War Asset, resetting your character so you have to level them up again. Once you promote them they become a war asset that helps you in your fight against the Reapers. You don’t need this to beat the single player game, however it makes it much easier to raise your EMS setting which gauges which endings you can get. I should note that there are not enough War Assets in the game itself to max out your readiness level without multiplayer. So if you’re just playing single player you will be grinding that out on every side quest in the game to get that rating up before the end. They did mention there’s a way to do this in the game, but getting over 4000 without previous save games or multiplayer is not possible. Trust me, I’ve seen the math, and the points just aren’t there. So do yourself a favor before you run into that last set of missions in the single player game, hit up multiplayer a few times, or if you’re lucky enough to have an iOS device, download the datapad app to help your galactic readiness, but the app is going to take you much longer at first.
Visually, this game is stunning on the PC, for the most part. The Reapers attacking, the visual look of everything, the battle scenes and fights in game, and of course the cut-scenes where all the important dialogue happens in. There are some issues with the animations, as in the run animations don’t all look great, and in some cases look a little ridiculous. Then there’s issues in the actual cut-scenes themselves, you know the usual squad mate not being quite in position so they’re off camera when it cuts to them (including Shepard), or a new one on me where they lock on to something in scene and don’t look away. I’ve had entire conversations between Liara and Shepard where they’re staring at Glyph, her VI, instead of looking at each other. Doctor Chakwas did this bizarre Exorcist thing where she was facing one way and her head turned almost 180 degrees around so she could look at my Shepard while they were talking. Almost had Joker turn us to a Catholic Church to get a priest. For the most part this isn’t the case, but when it does happen it not only kills the scene but the mood as well. Every model has been tweaked a bit from previous games, either with a coat of paint in the form of new textures, or a slight change in the meshes themselves. Female Shepard having her own default face is a big step, and I do have to say she looks much better on the PC than she did on the PS3 or 360 from what I’ve seen, but I think that might be how the shaders work more than anything else. There is an import bug from Mass Effect where the faces don’t quite import into Mass Effect 3 properly. The latest patch fixed some of the issues, but you’ll probably still have to tweak hair and skin color to get it right. The face structure seems to come in properly now for most people, although I had one Shepard who I gave up on and went with the default look even with the patch because it just won’t work on some faces even if they weren’t modded in Mass Effect 2.
One of the original composers for both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 isn’t working on this title at all. The new music more than fits what’s going on in the game and fits with the former themes we’ve had, and you’ll hear a number of themes return in this game from the previous games as well. We’ve got a few new big names as far as voice actor’s go, some grow on you with time, like Freddie Prinze Jr, others make you wonder why they were hired in the first place, like Diana Aller’s voice actor, who’s wooden performance pretty much kills any value the character has in bringing her on board the Normandy in the first place. Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer do a fantastic job as Shepard, and everyone else who returns does the trilogy proud. I’m sad to see that Mordin’s voice actor from Mass Effect 2 couldn’t be in this one, but the guy they have replacing him does an amazing job matching the performance and tones from the second game. My only other complaint is some of the sound effects. The one in particular is when the Normandy hits a Mass Relay and jumps. The rest of the game is at a pretty consistent volume, but during this scene, you may just blow an ear drum if you play with head phones like I do.
During multiplayer is another beef I have an issue with audio. Radio chatter and hearing the enemies is nice, but I’m sorry, a team mate cloaking on the other side of the map where the last bad guy isn’t anywhere near should not be enough for them to trigger off that a “Ëœtarget has cloaked’. I should also not be able to hear the regular people from all the way across some of these maps. Distance issues apply here. The rest of the chatter in multiplayer isn’t too bad, and even the voice chat works pretty good, when you find someone on the PC version that actually uses it. There’s an ongoing issue with one of the Drell class (not sure which one as I’ve yet to unlock Drell in either class) when they use one of their powers where not only does it cycle loudly, but even when it stops working, the sound continues, through the whole match. It’s so bad I actually groan whenever I see a Drell in the list of characters going in and get ready to mute the game.
Once again this go round, the controller is spurned from the control scheme of Mass Effect on the PC, and after my experiences with Skyrim and Jurassic Park, I’m really grateful they just designed the controls on PC for a mouse and keyboard, because they work. The game continues its set-up from Mass Effect 2 while adding a few more options. I’m going to mash up the controls for multiplayer and single player a bit here as their very similar. Personally I think they tied too many things to the spacebar, as now it’s not just interaction/taking cover/sprinting, but also rolling and reviving, which is, to quote Mordin, problematic when you’re near cover and trying to revive someone. I’ve been near enough and cloaked to a downed teammate, hit the spacebar to revive them, and then popped into cover. No big deal you think, just turn towards them and hit the spacebar again. Sure, I reply, that has about a fifty percent chance of working. Half the time you’ll revive them, the other half you’ll pop out of cover. So unless you move away, prompting nearby enemies to slag you further, you’ll run the risk of popping into cover instead of reviving. This is less of an issue in single player as you can throw out a medi-gel to a teammate that’s too far away, but you don’t have the option to use medi-gel on anyone but yourself in multiplayer.
The rolling mechanic is very nice and works well with the cover mechanic to make combat feel even faster and make the classes that can do it, feel even more nimble. Humans and Salarians can roll, Asari do a biotic slide, Krogan and Turians cannot roll at all. The new heavy melee attacks are nice and work well. I’ve only had a few misfires with it, most of them my own fault. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to line up a Krogan for a heavy melee charge some times.
The level cap has been raised to 60 for this game, mirroring the original second playthrough level cap of the first game. You start out at the level of your import, or around level 30 if you’re not importing, taking your stats into account from your Mass Effect 2 import and letting you expand on them. Stats take varying points to level them up, increasing as you go and then branching off where you pick one bonus on the stat or another. The bonuses vary per stat, but as an example, one bonus might be melee damage and the other more help on the same branch, so you’d have to pick which works better for your build. This definitely feels more RPG-like as one Soldier can be set up as a high hit point and shield tank while another is just set for massive damage. Multiplayer has a slightly different set of rules, capping the level at 20 for each class. You start out with just humans in both genders for each class and unlock other races which have access to slightly different skills within the same class. You’ll get enough points to max out all but one stat if you don’t put any points into the unused stat at all in multiplayer, and the branching works about the same as far as putting your points in and leveling up, with a more concentrated set-up than in single player.
One of the neat things they’ve done, instead of limiting classes to certain weapons, you have a weight limit and how much you’re carrying affects how fast your skills with a recharge actually recharge. So if you’re an adept and stat yourself right, you can run with a Black Widow sniper rifle with little cool down, a stasis ability and the means to dominate single and multi player. I prefer Carnifax with an Asari Vanguard and Stasis bubble and a scope though as your skills recharge insanely fast in multiplayer and you’re almost as good as carrying a sniper rifle. You have lots of options with this and it really opens it up. The weapon options are back in the game, only implemented a little differently. In the first game you could choose an ammo type and two weapon upgrades. Ammo type is still tied to class like in Mass Effect 2, however you can use your pack supplies to give your weapons an equipment upgrade for a round of multiplayer now. You can slap two weapon mods on each weapon and there are usually 5 upgrade types per weapon ranging from an extended clip to an extended barrel or scope. Each one gives different bonuses to the weapon and it’s a nice addition to see them actually on the weapon in the game as well.
Weapon mods work mostly like they did in the first game. Weapons range from tier I to tier X, while weapon components range from I to V. These upgrades usually decrease weight and increase damage and accuracy, making them more lethal. My base sniper rifle you start with, for example, at tier X, does more damage than the Black Widow on tier I. The Black Widow has other benefits, but being extremely light and doing more damage does make it a tempting weapon to take otherwise, and depending on class set-ups, the only viable option. During your first play through in single player you can only upgrade to tier V on the weapons, up to X being unlocked your second run through. Multiplayer depends on pulling the weapon multiple times through packs to upgrade it, as well as the weapon attachments. This brings me to another beef I have with the packs. You get some things on repeat so many times it stops being a benefit to you and just takes up a slot for something you could have used. Each character you get on repeat unlocks a new customization option with experience, but if you’ve unlocked all those and are max level, you get nothing from it at all. Same with the same weapons over and over again. It doesn’t account at all for things that are maxed out, and without a means to just spend credits on upgrading particular items, you’re stuck with blind random dumb luck to get what you need. I respect that people like the pack system. Leave it in for those that want it and give the rest of us who roll on the random number generator and get crap results another way to be competitive in multiplayer.
Importing a Mass Effect 3 save into Mass Effect 3 as a New Game Plus works much like it did in the first game as opposed to the second game. You keep weapon and armor unlocks, credits, level, and reputation now. There’s also a kind of hidden scene involving your fish that supposedly you can only get on a new game plus. Speaking of Reputation, gone is the Paragon Renegade system, kind of. Both of your points get funneled into a Reputation meter now that totals both and allows you to make conversation choices. I prefer this a bit more as it lends more flexibility to conversations and really lets you play how you want when you think Shepard wouldn’t be that soft or wouldn’t be that harsh. There is a problem though with the conversations, as there is more dialogue, however your options of directing the conversations are a bit more limited. Gone are the middle of the road options between Paragon and Renegade, and the investigative options to dig deeper are few and far between. Side quests are picked up by eavesdropping on people talking, and most involve fetching an item from a random star system by simply scanning randomly and then avoiding the Reapers when they detect you while you collect the bounty. It’s a neat little mini-game but I miss the random side-quests where you drop down on a planet to lay waste to the opposition there to get your items needed to complete the quest. These were always a nice break from the seriousness of the rest of the main story and added a bit of variety. I miss them.
Last but not least, FemShep, while being far more involved in the advertising and even gracing the box this time, still gets the shaft in the hetero romance department. MShep has options depending on who he left on Virmire and from Mass Effect 2. If you’re playing FemShep, didn’t romance Liara, left Kaidan on Virmire, romanced Jacob in 2 and then are hoping to have a romance in Mass Effect 3 that doesn’t involve another woman, you’re SOL. Garrus is an option, sure, if you romanced him in Mass Effect 2. Same goes for Thane, but his romance has some complications. You see Jacob won’t continue your romance like the other ones that were started in the second game. There’s a reason for it, and I feel sorry for the people who did romance him. But yeah, if you don’t have Kaidan in your game from the start of Mass Effect 3, didn’t have a romance in Mass Effect 2, you will not get a hetero romance in Mass Effect 3. The same doesn’t apply to MShep, and personally it doesn’t bother me all that much, as my Shepard will pretty much sleep with what’s available to be honest, but those looking for a straight romance are screwed depending on your import.
If you can bring yourself to get over the ending, and it’s taken me a few weeks for me to be honest, there’s quite a bit of replayability built into the game, especially with multiplayer added. Hell I’ve put more time into multiplayer than I have into the single player campaigns. Some of that, I admit, might have to do with the pack system and my incessant need to have all the upgrades and everything unlocked, which I’m sure was the goal with the packs. However, most of what I come back to multiplayer for is, well, the co-op. I love it when you have a group of people with the right class mixes and you can just take on wave after wave. Hell even when it’s going bad and I’m frustrated I’m still having fun. Even in single player you have so many choices to choose from, loyalties to weigh in on, races to recruit, that each play through, if you play it differently, can have very different dialogue and result options, especially with the Geth and Qurians and the Salarians and the Krogan. There are so many ways to screw it all up with those two groups and some ways you can make it all right. I’ve got my canon play through all done and I’m working on an MShep run through now who has romanced other options, made slightly different choices, and has a completely different morality and motivation than my FemShep does.
Seeing that I sprung for the Collector’s Edition and all, I figured I’d break down all the little extras you get in that along with the overall price of the game when I talk about its balancing. First I’d like to say that the difficulty settings are very much in effect in multiplayer. Just try taking a level 5 anything into a Gold mission with a group to see how well you do. You’re going to spend most of that mission either unconscious or getting cursed at by your team for being almost useless. So on that end of things I’d say they did a great job. Single player has a few rough moments, but honestly, I think it’s as easy, if not easier than Mass Effect 2, which they’d been saying that part of it was going to be harder. I’m not seeing it. With the weapons mods and layout choices on top of greater customization for your class features and squad you can make a kick ass team that can take on anything, including Insanity settings, you just have to be a little more careful. I’m not saying you won’t die on normal, I did a number of times, but once you know where the choke points are and where the enemies are coming from in any of the maps, things get quite a bit easier in single player.
Game balance aside, the Collector’s Edition gave you a few items outside of the game I want to talk about first. The mini artbook seems like a smaller stripped down version of the one Dark Horse is putting out. There’s some interesting tidbits in there and design looks, but it is only about as big as a DVD case, so there’s only so much they could put into it. The art in it is fantastic and I liked the inside peek at some of the choices that led up to what was actually in game. The lithograph isn’t too bad. Any artwork that has the Normandy SR-2 on it is more than ok in my book. It’s a great ship design and the lithograph showcases it well. The actual metal game case was pretty neat, emphasis on was. I like that both Shepards were featured on it and it seemed tough. Mine took a fall while I was installing the game discs however, and one of the hinges broke entirely. It was a short fall, like maybe 3 feet. So much for metal case durability. I mean it’s not like I’m ever going to open it up again except to install the game, but even then I can do that through Origin if I need to now so no discs needed, but this really makes the cheapness of the case go up in my book, which isn’t a good thing. The fabric patch is ok, but I have nothing to put it on, yet. And the comic is just the first issue of a set of four comics, so the story isn’t really finished, and if you’ve been reading the comics, you already have it.
In game items are kind of interesting. The robot dog, KEI-9 (nice Doctor Who reference), is pretty much worthless. He’s cute, but all he does is wander the shuttle bay. He doesn’t even follow you around the ship. From the video they showed us that’s what it looked like. The only interactions you have with him is to tell him he’s a good dog or a bad dog. Something more here would have been nice. The N7 hoodie is my new favorite casual outfit, even over MShep’s leather jacket. It just fits Shepard trying to chill out with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and really, if Picard and Kirk can get away with the Trek equivalent, why can’t Shepard? I kind of already covered the From Ashes DLC that comes with the Collector’s Edition earlier in the review, but I still honestly think this should not have been DLC as it’s a pretty potent piece of story-telling and really helps sell this one. On top of that, if you were really unlucky in Mass Effect 2, he might be one of 5 total squadmates you have, seeing that at least two of them could be dead which would take you to 4 squadmates without Javik. Having it with this edition though really makes it worth it. The soundtrack is just icing on the cake and personally I think it’s fantastic, even if they seem to be taking almost direct inspiration from Murray Gold and his Doctor Who run for a lot of the themes. If you have Doctor Who Season 5 soundtrack and this, compare “I Am The Doctor” to “Future For The Krogan” and tell me there aren’t some big similarities there. Last but not least is the N7 weapons. They’re ok. They look cool, but for how I play, they get replaced fairly quickly for lighter and better damaging guns. Having them at the start is nice, but after your first play through you may never touch them again, even upgraded. I almost forgot the forum avatars, which if you don’t visit the BSN are pretty much useless as that’s the only place you’ll find them. Overall I think the Collector’s Edition was more than worth the extra $20 I paid for it. If it had been more than that I may have balked a bit, but I like the extras.
As far as originality, I’m going to say they took a hit. While they’ve added in some combat mechanics and fleshed out the previous level up system we had in Mass Effect 2, the role-playing end of things feels very light as compared to the first Mass Effect. Stripping out the appearance of choice and making the game largely linear and cutting out hub worlds also limits this. While it is a change in the game series, it’s not very original. On top of that, aside from the character interactions, the story feels very derivative of other existing works in the genre, including the Matrix trilogy and the original Deus Ex. There had to have been something different that could have been done there. I do like being able to mod my weapons again and the way they went about doing it was at least interesting, but again, it’s just a variation on what we had in the original Mass Effect that got wiped out in the second game, just done a different way.
I have to say this game is very addictive. My wife has basically become a Mass Effect 3 widow over the last month. If I wasn’t reviewing another game I was playing this. It took her two weeks to get me to play Dungeons and Dragons Online with her. I haven’t booted up Star Wars The Old Republic in two weeks. Hell the only reason I launched a few other games was to check the way things were running so I could fine tune Mass Effect 3 a bit more. To say I’m addicted is putting it lightly. While I have some serious issues with the way some things were implemented, the way the story ultimately plays out, and that particular developer promises did not and will not pan out, I love the somewhat flawed product we were given. I’m sure my obsession for the game will mellow out a bit as I play more of my other games again, but I do have to say this one has captured a nice chunk of my non-work time.
They tried to make this title as accessible to as many people as possible, including multiplayer, popping in a squadmate who is as clueless as anyone new to the franchise would be, giving lots of options on how you play the game to even just making it run like any other action game with minimal choices. And let’s face it, the advertising and PR monster behind it has been huge. The only thing holding it back is all the negative PR surrounding the ending of the game, which is a shame really as the rest of it really does shine.
I’ve mentioned a few of the faults, bugs and issues I had with the game earlier on in the review, the conversations with people staring at inanimate objects, possession, not showing up on their mark for a cutscene. There are quite a few more though. There’s the face import bug if you played Mass Effect, imported your save into Mass Effect 2, and then imported it again into Mass Effect 3. If you’re lucky, all goes well and your Shepard looks like they did when you started. If not, you may have to tweak it a bit. If you’re really unlucky, it looks nothing like your Shepard and you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board. Then there’s the ending bug where dead squadmates will get out of a ship after they’re killed when they shouldn’t be showing up at all. In a number of places the shadows absolutely flipped out and went all 2001 A Space Odyssey just on my Shepard, like I was standing under some evil discotheque of doom. Some cutscenes feel like they end way too abruptly. During some cutscenes in your cabin, your fish will sometimes swim outside the tank, floating about in mid air like some kind of magical being. Since they’re supposed to be in water and behind a partition, I don’t think this was intended. The Journal doesn’t update properly, either showing two separate pieces of the same side quest or not even showing that you have the side quest at all so you have to guess where to go. On my one run through Liara conveniently forgot that we’d hooked up during the Shadow Broker DLC. You have to fix that last one with the Gibbed Save Editor for Mass Effect 3 to get the conversation to work right by the way, as the flag apparently doesn’t import properly into the game from the saved file. On the subject of cutscenes, they still haven’t mastered having your characters carrying the weapons you actually equip yourselves with. You still carry around that damned assault rifle if you’ve got nothing but a pistol and sniper rifle equipped, and even when they do use a pistol, it’s not the one you have equipped but the starting one. It doesn’t happen every time, and it can even change in the middle of a scene to what you do have equipped which makes it look even more ridiculous. You’d think after three games they could at least master this part of it. The stuck bug is back from Mass Effect 2. Basically you’re walking along and hit an invisible object on the floor or in the air and either step up on it, or simply get stuck and can’t move. Loading doesn’t fix it, restarting the game doesn’t. You have to go back to a previous save and try to avoid that spot again. The one big issue I have with this is there is a stuck spot on the bridge of the Normandy, right behind Joker. How do you miss that in testing?
Multiplayer is a whole other mixed bag as well as playing offline. You have to have verified your DLC and game at least once to play offline and Origin has to not be running at all to get Mass Effect 3 to run without an internet connection. When you do have one, Mass Effect 3 will verify your DLC every time you start the game, go back to the menu, or move around the menus. It does this at least twice every time and locks up the game while it’s doing it. You have to check every time I move through a menu Origin? Really? That part of it is highly annoying. Now onto my issues with multiplayer. Remember those connection issues I talked about in the demo? The restarting of an entire wave when the leader leaves, and you occasionally not getting shafted by it successfully transferring over to someone else? Yeah those issues are still there, so to the people telling me not to get too worked up, it’s just a demo, you can bite me. The problems are still there, only now it actually matters. Nothing like hitting wave 10 and losing all that work when the leader disconnects and the server doesn’t connect you up again. Then there’s the pack purchasing issues. This happens at least once a night where I go into the store to buy a pack and it’ll act like it’s buying it but it sits on “Please Wait…” and then tells me there was an error. I end up having to go out of the game entirely and restart it to get passed this error as even just exiting multiplayer doesn’t fix it. Sometimes it gives me the pack I was trying to buy at that point, sometimes not. Most of the time when it doesn’t I at least still have my credits to try again. So really, multiplayer’s connection issues are still there in force and it doesn’t look like much is being done about it. Ok, that last comment was unfair. At the very least they haven’t said what’s being done about it, or really even acknowledged the problem other than stickying the thread on the forums for awhile. Good luck with that end of it, as it’s a nightly battle on top of the actual fun ones you could be having.
Story: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Great
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Mass Effect 3 overall is a fantastic title, and for the most part, a worthy end to Shepard’s story arc. If you can get around liking or disliking the endings, it has a lot to offer, and while the single player experience is a bit shorter than the previous two games, the multiplayer experience can more than make up for that. Typing a single player experience to a multiplayer one was a risky move, and while it works for those that like the multiplayer, it leaves those who don’t scrambling to do everything in the game to have a hope at one of the “good” endings. There’s an interesting blend of the role-playing mechanics from the first and second games here, but the side quests are virtually non-existent, tying instead to a scanning mini-game that rewards well, but feels like filler. I recommend it to fans for the most part, and I do have to say if you haven’t played a Mass Effect title before you more than likely won’t be lost with this one and can jump on board.
What Video Game Release for January 2014 are you most excited for?
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