Mass Effect 3
Reviewer: Javier Ivan Vargas
Genre: Role Playing
Release Date: 2012-03-06
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Sun 11 Mar 12
This is it. The moment fans have been waiting for years. We’ve been hearing the word “Reapers” in the previous two Mass Effect games and now we finally get the chance to take the fight to the machines. After creating or importing your Shepard, Mass Effect 3 continues a few months after Mass Effect 2 where you return as the heroic Commander Shepard in his/her mission to wipe out the Reapers, a sentient race of machines bent on destroying the galaxy with no remorse. The future of the galaxy hinges on Shepard and his decisions that were made along the way. After a brief sequence of Earth being attacked, Shepard is forced to leave his old friend Admiral Anderson due to being completely overwhelmed and outnumbered by Reaper forces. After a depressing and emotional opening, it is up to you to rally up all the races in the galaxy and take earth back. Bioware (with the help of EA) had a lot to live up to after Mass Effect 2, now it’s time to figure out if the wait was worth it.
The Mass Effect story has always been a focus for the franchise and this game is no exception. What really puts Mass Effect over so many other games is the writing and character development. This is one of the very few games where we actually care about the characters in the story. Mass Effect 3’s writing takes the character growth up a notch with an enormous amount of dialogue that feels the most natural it’s ever been in the series. You’ll find yourself laughing hysterically and maybe even shedding a few tears like I did at some touching moments. Whatever the case may be, this game will move you, and that is the magic of Mass Effect.
Since this is Mass Effect and there are RPG elements, conversations are just as important as firefights. Luckily, there is a deeper leveling and upgrading system with an improved “reputation” system as well. Reputation is the combined amount of Paragon (good) and Renegade (harsh) choices and increases regardless of which side you choose. The more reputation, the more likely you’ll be able to persuade certain individuals on making your mission easier or getting you out of sticky situations. Completing missions and side quests will net you credits to spend on weapons and upgrades, as well as XP for you to level up. With the level cap at 60, you are given a more flexible approach to strengthening Shepard in different upgrade paths to take. Would you rather have your grenades do more damage or have a bigger explosion radius? The choice is yours.
To stand a chance against the Reapers, there is a new gameplay concept called “War assets”. War Assets are forces for your final battle and are rewarded for advancing the story, completing many of the games’ short side missions, and planet scanning which has improved since previous games. These assets can include certain characters, fleets, armies, etc. What I found most interesting is that each of these assets build on a scale with a certain amount that determines your EMS, Effective Military Strength, and will determine your final outcome in the endgame.
The combat has improved vastly in this game with more refinements to the controls and more combat options. Getting in and out of cover is less of a chore and you even get a nifty heavy melee that is unique to each class. Classes are a big choice at the start of your adventure and you can choose from one of six in total: Soldier, Vanguard, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Engineer. Each class has their own specialties and powers, as well as a unique way of kicking ass. Every class has been tweaked and balanced to make sure they are all deadly in their own different circumstances. While it feels a lot like Mass Efect 2, the game feels faster and more visceral than its predecessors. There are also some nice set pieces in the story that change up the gameplay a bit. The A.I. is worth mentioning as they are some of the most cunning enemies you will ever face. They will throw well-placed grenades, they actually know how to flank, and they WILL charge you when your shields are down. The upgraded intelligent A.I. and enemy variety helps make the game even more of a challenge while keeping the combat fresh.
If you read any of my previous reviews you’ll know that one of my favorite parts of a game is the art direction, and ME 3 delivers on all fronts. The atmosphere and environments are absolutely gorgeous and the game has some of the best lighting I’ve seen such as the flashlight sequences. The graphics made yet another step up from ME 2 with more detail and fluid animations. As a result, conversations feel realistic and flow better. You are also treated to many beautiful landscapes and settings to really give you the idea that you really are in a galactic war.
The sound design is probably one of the most important aspects in Mass Effect 3 considering that you will be talking with many characters. You’ll be glad to hear that voice acting is still top-notch and guns sound even more vicious thanks to DICE from EA. There is just something about Reaper horns that are just plain scary, especially when it’s looking right at you. The soundtrack has changed composers but still maintains the tone and theme of the trilogy really well.
Multiplayer is new to the franchise and also wasn’t really welcomed by fans when it was announced (me being one of those fans). Thankfully, the concerns are unfounded and it’s a welcome addition to the franchise. The multiplayer is based around 4-players that has you fighting hordes of enemies in waves on different maps. It also allows you to be one of many races including Krogan, Drell, Quarians, and my favorite, Turians. Upon completion, you will earn XP from kills and credits from completing special objectives on certain waves. XP can be used to upgrade you characters and credits can be used to buy “packs” similar to baseball trading card packs. These packs unlock the many features in Multiplayer.
As much as I love Bioware and, with me being a hardcore Mass Effect fan, I’m not going to be biased and ignore the fact that this product feels, well, somewhat rushed. Some animations feel weird (such as talking to someone invisible) and there are many awkward bugs. Side quests are tedious fetch quests thanks to the fact that the Journal is very unspecific with them such as not being able to set a waypoint or checking the progress of the current objective. There is a lot of lip syncing problems with dialogue and fans will be disappointed to know that there are substantially less dialogue wheels rendering the game to be less interactive. You can go up to 2 minutes in a conversation with an NPC with a dialogue wheel and an hour with an “Investigate”. This eliminates further detail of your missions and lore as well as the characters you want to learn more about.
Let me make this blunt: the ending is a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with not getting a sunshine and bunnies ending, but when you bring up new story elements out of nowhere (not even in the novels or comics) and don’t even expand on them, the fact that you are forced to make a giant decision in the end and your outcome gives you no closure or solace regardless of the hard work you made all these years in all 3 games, then we have a right to be upset. It just doesn’t make sense and slaps the entire community in the face for supporting the franchise. What really confuses me is why the game ended the way it did especially when it was trying to appeal to a greater audience. It just doesn’t add up and hopefully Bioware fixes this with DLC much similar to Fallout 3’s Broken Steel.
While Mass Effect 3 isn’t as good as I’d hoped and certainly isn’t better than 2, it has still given me some of the best videogame moments in my life with fantastic and natural dialogue with my favorite characters. The writing is great for the most part and the graphics have improved as well as the sound. Gameplay is fast-paced and is up there with other Third-Person shooters such as Gears of War (especially with the Horde-style multiplayer).There were a lot of corners cut, plenty of weird bugs, the game is very short (20+ hours to do everything), boring side quests, and a confusing letdown of an ending. However, the journey from Mass Effect 1 to 3 is more important than the end, and the journey is an emotional roller-coaster ride from start to finish. A journey I will never forget for years to come.
GameTestLab was not provided with a copy of this game for review purposes nor were we compensated for the review