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Mass Effect 3 Review

/ May 20th, 2012 No Comments

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 Review
At its core, Mass Effect 3 represents Commander Shepard’s final battle against the galaxy-consuming Reapers that began five years ago with the original Mass Effect. More importantly is how you, the player, and all your past decisions you’ve made with your own unique Shepard will make the story unfold and whether or not the galaxy will be saved or destroyed.

Mass Effect 3’s story focuses on Commander Shepard trying to unite a divided galaxy and preparing for the final conflict with the Reapers — a race of machines that destroy all organic life in cycles of 50,000 years. The game starts with a bang as the Reapers invade Earth in full force wiping out everything in their path. Before the title sequence even starts, the battle takes a heavy emotional toll on Shepard. This is the first time we as the player have been to Earth in the trilogy and the opening is a great set piece and incentive to put an end to the chaos.

Mass Effect 3 Review

Mass Effect 3 Review

One of the biggest appeals of Mass Effect is its rich universe. The characters, the alien races, the planets, and all the lore have been added to and expanded upon over the course of three games (and through detailed codices) to the point where you feel like you are Shepard; you care about this world and everything in it and you want to decide its fate. Herein lays the game’s greatest strength and appeal: storytelling and customization. Since the beginning of the series you have been allowed to choose. Will you be male or female? Will you be the just and heroic paragon or the tough and violent renegade? Will you doom one species to please another? Based on your actions you can choose who lives and dies and the story and game will change based on those decisions. Mass Effect 3 takes all those choices from your previous two games and crafts the final act on those decisions.

You will encounter many familiar faces and squad mates (barring they didn’t die in a previous play through) while exploring new and old environments. Some decisions have a bigger impact on the story than others and sometimes it feels like the game is affected by the volume of how many choices you have made over the course of so many games. Some decisions have weight while others merely alter a few statistics in your preparation for the endgame. Only rarely are you left feeling like something you did in a previous game doesn’t matter and Bioware should be commending on creating such a strong and diverse script. The game is full of emotional moments that especially hit hard when the fate of one of your current or previous squad members rests in the balance of life or death.

While newcomers to the series can certainly pick up Mass Effect 3 and have a great time they will be missing out on not only a great story (there is no background filling comic here) but the evolution and refining of a great game engine. Tweaks have been made to the combat system where shooting and using powers feels perfected. The cover system is primarily the same but it feels more fluid here. You can now jump over objects and dodge in and out of cover and it makes all the difference when the fighting gets tough. Fans of Mass Effect 2’s weapon upgrade system will be pleased to find a whole slew of new tools of destruction. Weapons are still in the same class (shotguns, sniper rifles, and so on) but this time around can be upgraded to improve not only their stats but modified with enhancements such as improved damage or rate of fire. There’s even a new shooting range where you can test out weapon configurations before trying them in battle. In fact, Shepard can use every type of weapon this time around but each weapon has a weight and giving Shepard too many weapons can increase the time it takes for powers to cool down and be used again. The system is very balanced and it’s always fun seeing what combinations work with each player build.

Mass Effect 3 retains the same classes from previous games and expands on them by allowing some powers and skills to be enhanced in different ways. One of my favorite parts upon starting up the game was seeing that my character class and level carried over from a previous save allowing me to get right into combat without feeling like I had to relearn anything. More experienced players will feel a little overpowered at first but as new enemies appear more strategy is needed to tackle your foes. After a point in the game, however, it does feel like you rely on the same few powers and weapons because you are used to them. Changing up your squad not only helps to add variety to battles but to see what different members might say in conversations.

Commander Shepard

Commander Shepard

Planet scanning was one of the more divisive features of Mass Effect 2 and returns in a much simpler form. While you can still read the histories of planets (and kudos to the writing team at Bioware for making them scientific and interested reads) the player will now travel to a planet system and scan for War Assets. War Assets are collected to build up your forces to raise your Galactic Readiness which determines how well you do in the final battle. Scan a system too much and Reapers will come and you have to leave the system until you finish a mission. While a simple mechanic it’s a nice element for any RPG completionist.

It is hard not to be a fan of the gameplay here. Even though it does suffer from a few stale moments, combat is so refined and the shooting mechanics work so well it doesn’t affect your overall enjoyment. Set pieces on some battles are so grandiose they make you feel the gravity of the threat you are fighting; you constantly have to be on the move and changing your strategy. In some places (especially near the end) the difficulty does have a tendency to spike as wave after wave of difficult enemies are thrown at you. This becomes more apparent on harder difficulties but the sense of accomplishment for victory is greater. Only once during a particularly annoying “boss” fight did I really feel that the game was being cheap and got frustrated.

Conversations are still handled the same way they have been in other games. Players are given dialogue choices and select them in the conversation wheel. While the dialogue itself was exceptional I did find myself disappointed in the lack of paragon/renegade specific dialogue and interrupts considering Mass Effect 2 was stuffed with them. I wasn’t sure if it was the specific character I had created but it was a missed opportunity.

Mass Effect 3 on PS3

Mass Effect 3 on PS3

Graphically the game looks better than it ever has. Character models are more detailed and look especially great when close up in conversations. While some humans can still look like stiff cavemen the detail into the alien life still makes them more realistic and, in turn, more believable. Some of the environments and set pieces in this game are incredible. It is hard not to pause the action just to stare at the environments and watch the action unfolding in the background. Some of the standouts are Earth, the Turian moon Menae, and the Salarian homeworld. At times the game can get a bit buggy; cut scenes might have some slow down, screen tearing and texture pop in will occur but it is never truly detrimental to the overall experience. Mass Effect 3 makes space look beautiful even when it’s riddled with explosions and debris.

Of course the game sounds great as well. Clint Mansell’s score is subtle when it needs to be and powerful and emotional when the game calls for it. My favorite moments were when the menu music from Mass Effect 1 made a few appearances at key moments; it’s a nostalgic punch and brings another element of the game full circle. As for the voice acting, well, the main cast kills it. Some of these actors have been these characters for years now and have hit their stride to help deliver the already fantastic script home. Sometimes, however, the audio didn’t sync up during cut scenes or there would be long pauses before anyone would start talking, distracting from the scene and dialog overall.

Special note should be given to the multiplayer aspect of Mass Effect 3. What could have been a completely unnecessary element actually turned out to be very enjoyable. The multiplayer doesn’t attempt to be anything except an extension of the fantastic gameplay elements in the single player except you get to play it online. Matches consist of four players tossed into environments from the game fighting waves of enemies. Players choose a class and weapon loud out and fight to complete objectives. The difficulty and intensity increase with each wave while always remaining fun. Experience points and money are awarded to upgrade your character. Powers and weapons from the single player carry over into the online portion so you never feel like there is a significant learning curve except for the battle to raise your character level. The more you play and win online will help you in the single player by raising your overall Galactic Readiness (which in turn measures how successful the final battle against the Reapers will be). While you can still achieve the best ending without playing online, it only adds to the experience. Bioware adds support and enjoyment to the multiplayer by releasing new classes and bonus XP weekends all for free (which is a rare thing these days).

In more ways than one Mass Effect 3 fulfills all the promises set forth back in 2007 with the first game. It is a satisfying conclusion to one of the greatest sci-fi stories in recent memory. Mass Effect 3 begs to be replayed again and again because you will want to create new characters to experience all the series has to offer. While there are some missed opportunities with plot and character choices I was never left feeling cheated. The sheer amount of story and depth that Bioware put into the game is a testament to the company and the strength of the Mass Effect universe. While the lore of the game begs for multiple spin offs and retellings, the story of Commander Shepard has come to a thrilling and emotional close—one that should be experienced repeatedly.

Overall Ratings – Mass Effect 3

Gameplay:

9/10

Graphics:

9/10

Sound:

9/10

Multiplayer:

9/10

Replay Value:

10/10

OVERALL SCORE:

92%

Ben Sheene

Ben Sheene

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ben is from Kentucky where he originally began playing games (an activity he still continues to this day). With a love for writing he graduated from Centre College with a BA in English. He recently moved to California to pursue whatever future endeavors were there. A passion for music, gaming, blogging, and existing keeps him up at night and crafts him into the person he is today.
Ben Sheene

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