Mass Effect 3 Review
The Mass Effect series is probably the single best original sci-fi IP released in the last decade and is the best work Bioware has ever produced. Bioware fanboys are going to start frothing at the mouth and point out Dragon Age – which, to be fair, was very well done and a ton of fun. But that said, Mass Effect is a breathing, vibrant universe with a whole history behind it begging to be explored, whereas Dragon Age is a fairly standard fantasy setting which can easily be compared to a slew of other fantasy settings out there.
Mass Effect 3 was to be the penultimate conclusion to the series, taking everything Bioware had learned from the previous two games and distilling it down to pure, perfect gameplay and story. The developers were going to do everything they could to make ME3 a flawless gameplay experience. And the really scary thing?
They got it right.
Now, this isn't the game that’s going to withstand the test of time and be the game that all other games are measured against – that honor is held by Thief II: The Metal Age. Hell, when stacking up to the original Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, there are comparisons to be made where ME3 actually mucked it up a little. But none of these mattered when actually in game, playing – hours poured off the clock, my wrists went numb, and my eyes became scratchy and dry from intentionally not blinking in order to drink in the environment in front of me.
Graphically, it wasn’t a huge improvement over ME2. It was still well done, with well-developed environments and numerous little touches that made it stand out in a subtle way. The soundtrack is beautiful and haunting and adds to the emotional impact of a literal do-or-die situation in a perfectly understated manner. Gameplay is similar to ME2 with combat mechanics changing only slightly – your health is fragmented and only recovers to a specific point with cover, forcing players to be a bit wiser when running and gunning. Moreover, the inventory system has been overhauled again. Instead of the clusterfuck that was ME1’s inventory, and the barren wasteland which was ME2’s, ME3 seems to have finally gotten the hint – we’re given numerous choices on what to equip based on a number of different factors. Moreover, you’re not going to wind up with 12 copies of a downgraded weapon or weapon mod because once you have that weapon or mod, you don’t find another – you just upgrade it to the next level.
Click the image to view game screenshots
In terms of new characters, there weren’t many, and that’s unfortunate. On the one hand, it makes a degree of sense – Shepard is running around the galaxy, attempting to build an army to fight off doomsday, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for background checks and interviews. (“What do you think you can bring to the Normandy crew? You know, in the two weeks before the Reapers kill everything?”) But that said, the few crew members you get are well-written and well-acted. Even the walking, talking curse that is Freddie Prinze Jr. couldn’t screw up bad enough to take away from this – James Vega was actually kind of fun to have around, and Kaiden and Ashley were rewritten to be more interesting and less hateful to keep around than in their ME1 debut. Liara is still terrible, but that’s really only because her voice actress either can’t act or has no idea how to take direction. Or maybe it’s someone else’s fault – maybe she wanted to make Liara better, but whoever was directing the voice actors kept screaming, “Blander! Less interesting! Vanilla ice cream boring!” But given that Liara has been a terrible, boring character that Bioware keeps forcing down our throats since ME1, I wasn’t really upset by the fact that she’s remained terrible and boring.
The only truly disappointing part of ME3 was the fact that none of the crew members introduced in ME2 can join your party – and no, EDI doesn’t count. Garrus comes back, as does Tali, but they were introduced in ME1, so they don’t count either. Sure, everybody shows up somewhere else in the game as parts of cut scenes or quest characters (provided, of course, you didn’t get them killed in ME2), but that’s not really the same thing. Bioware said the reason it cut down the number of characters available to you was to tell a more intimate story. That might be true, but then – why EDI? Why not Jack, or Thane, or Legion – hell, Grunt just woke up, and you left him on his own? If it was just to get some T&A in the game, why not Miranda, Samara, or Morinth? Don’t get me wrong, everyone hated Miranda, but it would have been less tactless than giving us the Normandy’s brain in a walking, talking metal shell.
There’s a very small section of the fanbase upset with the endings for ME3. And I mean small. They’re currently about 50,000 members strong, which seems really impressive … until you do the math. ME3 sold 890,000 copies on its first day and is currently sitting at 2.4 million copies sold worldwide, putting these naysayers at just about 2 percent of players worldwide.
The problem with this 2 percent is they’re incredibly loud and feel an undeserved sense of entitlement to have everything their way. They’re demanding that the ending be changed to suit their wants and needs (although, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what exactly it is they want). If not for their hullabaloo, I would have been able to release a well-rounded review without finishing everything. Instead, due to all the hoopla, I needed to see what all the fuss was about so I could deliver a well-informed and thoughtful review, taking into account everyone’s thoughts and feelings on the ending. So, with that in mind, I ask this question…
Why are these people upset?
I felt the ending was a beautiful way to finish Shepard’s story. And don’t misunderstand, this was Shepard’s story. Not Garrus’. Not Tali’s. Not Hackett’s or the Normandy’s or the story of the human race. This was Shepard’s story, and it comes to its conclusion in an artful and emotional climax. I’m not saying anyone has to like it (although, personally, I loved it). But to take the work the developers did and throw it back in their faces and say, “Do it again!” is incredibly childish and disrespectful. We, the players, were given hours of entertainment and an ending that’s both stunning and poignant – everything was amazing and these 2 percent weren't happy. Movements like these and the people behind them make me genuinely ashamed to be a member of the gaming community.
For those willing to brave a conclusion that isn’t spoon fed to them by idiots, Mass Effect 3 is a breathtaking, gorgeous piece of software. Its few quibbles aren’t enough to detract from the monumental achievement in storytelling that Bioware has released.
Let’s just hope they don’t cheapen it with an MMO.