Review – Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 has been mired in controversy these past few weeks. User reviews on Metacritic are extremely polarized, and it’s hard to tell where the line between “honest criticism” and “outright trolling” is. You’ve doubtless already read plenty of reviews on the matter, and most of you have probably played the game and formed your own opinion on the issues at hand. add more stuffz
Mass Effect 3 promises to deliver what longtime fans of the series have hoped for since the beginning: an epic war against the Reapers, and on that front, it certainly delivers. Right off the bat you gain firsthand experience of just how much of an obstacle you have to overcome, and just how bad this war is going to be. Lots of people die, and you have to leave Earth behind to get additional support in order to do what the ads say: Take Earth back. This forms the goal of the game: Recruit enough War Assets to have a chance to win this thing, in the form of various races, governments, independant organizations, and more. How much support you get will determine how well you do in the war, and thus what kind of ending you end up with. You do have some “mandatory” allies you have to recruit, mostly the major races such as the Turians and Krogan, but how strong they are will be very dependant on the choices you make during your missions. Make good ones, and you’ll gain strong allies. Make bad ones, and you’ll get substantially weaker ones or lose the potential ally altogether.
Right off the bat you also experience one of the major sources of complaint surrounding the game: iffy facial animations, or so the detractors claim. For my own personal experience, the most egrigious problem I noticed wasn’t that the animations were bad, but they were out of sync with the voices in several key areas. It was not constant, but when you saw it, it was noticable. The animations themselves were perfectly fine, but BioWare should have spent a little more time getting those more lined up.
Gameplay does not differ that much from the second title, but further refinements have been introduced, including combat rolling and a new Melee system incorporating the now-famous “Omni-blade”. It’s still primarily a cover based third-person shooter with the addition of powers, you can still pause the battle to issue orders to your squadmates and take stock of the situation, and the familiar controls to move your squad around the battle are still in place. If you played the second game at all, you’ll feel right at home and ready to pick up the new mechanics to add to your repetoire.
The game’s storyline is, for the most part, extremely well done, and very satisfying. Shepard must run around the galaxy and attempt the unite them into a single force against the Reapers, and thus many of the outstanding storylines will be resolved as the player attempts to do just that. Many of the past decisions made during the past two games have lasting reprecussions, possibly even restricting some of the storyline options available to you. It’s a good incentive to go back into the previous titles, play them differently, and see what might have changed in the third game (or at the very least, download a save file where someone had already done that). Nearly every leftover plot thread will be explored and resolved in some fashion. The Morality system has been revised as well. Instead of seperate Paragon and Renegade scores, Shepard now has a single “Reputation” meter, which both Paragon and Renegade scores feed into. There are also “neutral points” simply called Reputation. These points do not affect Shepard’s Paragon or Renegade scores, but merely represent his increasing reknown in the Galaxy at large. They are usually awarded after completing missions, but can also be awarded through some dialogue choices that don’t necessarily warrant either a Paragon or Renegade response.
All of this comes to a head in perhaps the game’s biggest controversy: the ending. Unless you haven’t really paid attention to any news surrounding the game, you’re likely aware of the huge outcry from fans surrounding this. BioWare has even responded claiming that a new ending is in the works, resulting in even more outcry from people who felt the ending was fine or that this sets a bad precedent for artistry of all sorts: If fans don’t like a work, they should complain loudly enough and force the artist to change it. Whether that is true or not is not for this review to decide, what is for us to say is what we felt about the ending. This reviewer’s opinion is that it is bad, very bad, for a lot of reasons, most of which cannot be gone into without spoiling everything. Ultimately, this can be said: It’s an extremely unsatisfying way to end a series that has given us so many amazing moments, be they exciting, heartfelt, or just awesome in general. Think about all the incredible things you’ve done in this game. The ending should live up to all of them, and it does not. Your choices do make a difference, but only in the most vague way possible. In the first two games, your choices had a direct effect on what happened to you in the game’s end. That is not the case here. Hopefully, BioWare will give Mass Effect 3 the send-off it truly deserves.
One of Mass Effect 3’s most touted features is it’s new Multiplayer. This, of course, is yet another source of controversy from fans, who claim BioWare has turned their favorite Space RPG series into another Call of Duty-fest. This isn’t entirely fair, though parts of the complaint do have merit. For one thing, there is no “Deathmatch” mode in this multiplayer. The only game mode preset is akin to Halo’s Firefight. You team up with up to three other players to survive waves of enemies that assault you. Survive 10 waves plus a final extraction wave, and you win the match. Three of the 10 waves will be objective based, requiring you to complete the assigned objective in a certain timeframe in addition to surviving. This mode ties into the single player by increasing your “Galactic Readiness” rating every time you win a match, which serves as a multiplier to your War Assets to determine which of the endings you get to choose from. Shepard will also see every one of the multiplayer maps in the single player game as well, and after completing the side mission there, it will be mentioned that further teams will be sent in to the locations to keep them secure, giving you an storyline reason for your multiplayer games. This is a particularly neat little addition that not many games bother with, and I liked seeing it.
You’ll earn credits for each game that you complete, be it a success or failure, and those credits can be spent for “packs” in the multiplayer store (you can also spend BioWare points for them as well). These packs include supplies for your missions, new weapons to use, or new race/class combinations to use, which brings us to my main issue with the multiplayer. You start out being able to play any of the game’s classes, but only as humans. To unlock any of the alien races, you have to buy the packs through the store, and frankly, hope you get lucky. The classes aren’t identical to their single player counterparts either. Each one only has three active powers, plus the passive “Class training” power and Fitness. Each race has a different set of active powers as well. Human Adepts, for example, come with Warp, Singularity, and Shockwave. The Asari Adept can use Warp, Stasis, and Throw. There’s no option for retraining them, either. Once you make your choice, you’re stuck with it until you level the character to 20 (allowing you the chance to “promote” them, which resets them back to level 1 but grants you a War Asset in the Singleplayer), or that you get lucky and get a Retraining item from one of your item packs. I personally find the class system to be a little too restricting, and would prefer if all of the alien races were available right from the start, and a more reliable method for retraining a character, such as spending credits directly to do so. This would give players more freedom to experiment with various builds rather than feeling stuck. Still, it’s a very fun system to play in, and I’m glad they didn’t go the traditional “Deathmatch” route, which in my experience leads to far too many instances of bad player behavior. Sticking to a cooperative setting encourages players to help each other out and work together. I do wish they’d given us a wider variety of objectives to fulfill or perhaps some other cooperative game modes, because after a while, you do find yourself longing for a bit of variety. It’s likely we’ll get some new modes or maps in the future as DLC, but the question remains as to when and how much we’ll be expected to pay for it.
And that brings us to that elephant in the room that BioWare is oh-so-well known for (and in many cases, reviled for), DLC. Mass Effect 3 was released on Day 1 with available DLC content, which primarily includes a new character that many consider essential to the storyline. Detractors are using this as clear evidence, on top of BioWare’s longstanding practice on DLC, that all they are interested in is money, and will compromise the integrity of their titles to extort more cash out of players to getting the “full” game experience. Frankly, I have to admit, it’s a pretty shady decision on their part. The new character isn’t “essential” to the game’s story as you might expect, but you DO miss on a lot of really interesting story elements by not having him around, and it’s clear this content was developed alongside the game, because he has many interactions with other main characters, which was not the case in ME2, where the DLC characters never interacted with anyone but Shepard. It really does not speak highly of BioWare as a company to do this, but I don’t consider it gamebreaking to not have this DL, so I can’t give BioWare as much of a negative for this as some might want. The true test of BioWare as a company will be whether or not they charge players for this new ending they’re developing, or they will make it a free download to all.
All in all, Mass Effect 3 is not a bad game. The journey up until the ending was an incredible experience, well written and acted, with only a bad ending to ruin it, something that BioWare has already promised to correct. The multiplayer, despite the restrictions, is still fun to partake in. But it isn’t near as free of problems as its predecessor. BioWare made some bad calls with this game, and it hurts the final rating. If you’re a long time Mass Effect fan, you should pick this up and see where it goes, and if you’re not, well, you should definitely at least pick up the second game and play through it before grabbing this one.
At a glance
A truly epic conclusion to the Mass Effect series with great gameplay improvements over the second title and a brilliantly crafted storyline which is ruined by a shoddy ending that will hopefully be a thing of the past soon. The multiplayer experience is a lot of fun, if a bit restricting on class choice, but suffers from repetition after a time. Finally, because of BioWare’s shady DLC practice, expect to continue to invest in Mass Effect 3 if you want to enjoy the whole experience.