Mass Effect 3

Posted March 18, 2012 by in Xbox 360
If you were even slightly invested in the universe or the characters of the previous games then you absolutely owe it to yourself to witness the resolution of the trilogy.



It’s no understatement to say that there’s a lot going on in Mass Effect 3.



4/ 5

by James Day
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It’s no understatement to say that there’s a lot going on in Mass Effect 3.

Story-wise the galaxy is on the brink of destruction. The fabled machine race known as the Reapers are laying waste to all organic life in the Milky Way. Commander Shepard is tasked with the oh-so-simple goal of uniting every major race in the galaxy in order for the fightback to stand any sort of chance. As if that wasn’t enough, Cerberus, the shadowy corporation who Shepard had to work with in the previous game, has become actively aggressive at the worst possible time.

In terms of the game itself, developer Bioware had to wrap up three games (more if you count the mobile phone spin-off titles) and multiple novels worth of lore, character arcs and relationships. This in itself is no easy feat but when you factor in all the potential decisions that players have been asked to make over the course of the trilogy it’s an achievement that Mass Effect 3 isn’t a complete mess.

Kudos to Bioware for finally using FemShep in the marketing for the game

However, this intricate web of choices does end up hamstringing the experience in a few areas. The narrative, particularly in relation to the resolution of the plot and character arcs (particularly in regards to Mass Effect 2′s expendable cast), feels brief and ambiguous in spots which is an obvious side effect of trying to account for every possible combination of player decisions.

Certain decisions (or lack thereof) in the previous two games also have the potential to seriously change the outcome of certain missions in ME 3. While this helps add weight to the events of the game in some cases it also allows you to pre-emptively screw yourself over. I was more than a little pissed off to discover that because I had missed one small scene in ME 2 I could not access an arbitrary dialogue option at a critical moment in 3. While I can’t say much more on this without dropping massive spoilers it’s safe to say that this led to serious plot and game play repercussions for me.

Speaking of repercussions, the way Bioware ultimately brings together all your past decisions is through the Galaxy at War system. The majority of quests and actions undertaken in the game will bolster (and sometimes detract from) your forces and war assets for the Reaper counter offensive. Your past choices will either inform the outcomes of certain quests or determine if they are available at all. This is a surprisingly elegant system though it could have been explained a little better during the course of the game.

In terms of moment to moment game play, ME 3 is very much a tweaked version ME 2. Combat is largely the same save for a new roll manoeuvre and a heavy melee attack. Mission structure operates in exactly the same manner as before only now your Galaxy at War status determines when you can successfully attempt the final set of missions.

There has been enough fan outcry about a particular part of the game to generate a fan petition against Bioware. Personally, I think they're overreacting.

A few elements from Mass Effect 2 have been stripped back or removed entirely. The planetary resource gathering is replaced by the simplistic sector scanning whilst the Hammerhead vehicle sections from previous downloadable content doesn’t make a reappearance in any form.

Completely new to the series is multiplayer which comes in the form of a co-operative wave based mode very similar to Gears of War’s Horde. Players have a bit more freedom here being able to choose from any of Mass Effect’s classes at will. This also marks the first time in the main games that people have been able to play as other races and assume a role other than Commander Shepard.

Sadly, you can’t create and customise your own soldiers from scratch. Each class has several characters who are a preset species with preset abilities. You can determine how you want to level up these abilities and specify their weapons and one-time use items. Aesthetically all you can change is the colouring of their armour.

Though the multiplayer is fun isn’t particularly remarkable save for the way that it can feed into your single player campaign. The more you play and win in certain areas of the galaxy (defined by which maps you play on) the more you improve the Galactic Readiness score, one of several metrics the feeds into the Galaxy at War system.

Fortunately, you don’t have to play any multiplayer in order to bolster your forces enough to achieve the best campaign ending. However, if you intend to conduct multiple playthroughs of the story it is wise to have a good Galactic Readiness score since it carries through all of your different campaigns.

If you were even slightly invested in the universe or the characters of the previous games then you absolutely owe it to yourself to witness the resolution of the trilogy.

That covers pretty much all the bases of Mass Effect 3… except for what is arguably the game’s biggest sticking point. Sadly, I can’t discuss it here as it would involve major spoilers and potentially colouring player expectations. That will have to wait until some future post-mortem piece.

Even with that point in mind, in my opinion Mass Effect 3 is a good end to the trilogy. Sure, it doesn’t make as big an impact as the previous two games and a few elements come of a little bit muddled and disappointing at times. But given how much Bioware had to juggle in terms of delivering on player decisions and resolving the overarching Reaper threat, it’s hard to hold it against them.

James Day

About the Author

James Day

James likes video games and writing. He currently works at Microsoft so his opinions are worth even less these days.