Review: Mass Effect 3

mass effect 3 review

Mass Effect is a series that took all of us by storm, drawing us in with its unique, deep sci-fi world and the hook of making your own Commander Shepard with your own story. The first game had a few issues but BioWare kicked Mass Effect 2 into overdrive, giving us a competent shooter/RPG hybrid that garnered numerous Game of the Year awards.

The third game in the series has raised the stakes, bringing the series big bad the Reapers into the galaxy, plunging every race into a war for survival. You’re tasked with bringing together all of the different races under one banner and taking the fight to Earth. Does Mass Effect 3 manage to tie everything together?

The Story

mass effect 3 review

As the culmination of a trilogy where player choice means everything, Mass Effect 3 had a lot to live up to, and for the most part it succeeds. While the game takes a while to get going and stumbles across the finish line, the middle part of the game is all about paying off decisions from the first two titles and there are some really great moments that go with it. The game’s only misstep is the resolution of the rachni problem; for such a huge decision in Mass Effect 1, there’s virtually no payoff either way.

Where the game’s story really shines is right after the mission to the turian home-world (or more accurately its moon) where you have to bring the krogan and the turians together. This is where how you dealt with Wrex in the first game and Maelon’s genophage data in the second pays off and this trend continues through the quarian/geth sections. There are also a lot of side-missions that take you back through the previous squad mates that Shepard’s brought on-board the Normandy and, depending on whether or not they’ve survived the previous games, it’s a great way to show you what’s happened to the people you’ve taken under your wing. It does feel a little “Shepard, this is your life” at times, but given that you were running with such powerful, influential people, having them show up all over the place isn’t really unexpected.

Questing has a taken a turn for the worse in Mass Effect 3; you’re given main missions (called “Priority”) by either Admiral Hackett, the Citadel Council or one of the leaders of the other races and sidequests are gained by walking around the Citadel and listening in on others people’s conversations. It’s an inelegant and sometimes goofy way to give you things to do outside of the main plot. A C-Sec officer needs Cerberus cipher codes that just happen to be on one of my missions? The sidequest system feels rushed and consequently reflects negatively on the game.

The Gameplay

mass effect 3 review

Combat in Mass Effect 3 is tighter and faster, with an emphasis on the improved melee system. All the classes have been tuned so that their powers are flashier and more fun to use and you can combine tech and biotic powers for great effects. The only major downside in ME3 is the horrible quest log which jams main and side-quests together and doesn’t even update when you’ve fulfilled a fetch quest. It’s a good thing that the only hub world beside the Normandy is the Citadel, because you’ll be going there a lot to check if you’ve finished quests without realizing it. Morality is now changed into one meter called “Reputation”, where both your Paragon and Renegade points get pooled. This means that you have access to both types of persuasion choices regardless of you alignment, but for the most part you’ll probably stick to your pre-determined path anyway.

Galactic exploration has been changed again from Mass Effect 2: this time you fly the Normandy through star systems, pinging the area with your scanner waiting for EDI to say that she’s located something. This is usually credits, fuel or a War Assest. Gone are the days of mining for minerals, as all your upgrades are done with credits.

The main way to determine your force’s readiness to fight the Reapers is through the War Asset console in the new War Room aboard the Normandy. Each of the race’s contributions to the war effort is tracked through here along with your Galactic Readiness. What that is is a a percentage value that affects the number of Assets you’ll bring into the final battle. If you have 4000 War Assets and 50% Galactic Readiness, then you’ll only bring 2000 Assets into the final battle. It’s a little arbitrary, but you can raise your Galactic Readiness by playing the multiplayer or by picking up one of the Mass Effect 3 companion iOS apps.

The Multiplayer

mass effect 3 review

For a mode that so many were ready to discount, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer component has really taken hold. With so many class and race combinations to try, there’s something for everyone. The opportunity to finally wreck house as a krogan is a much appreciated one and the three difficulty levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold, offer a challenge for players of all skill levels. There’s really no reason not to try multiplayer unless you hate fun. There are a few issues with the DLC preventing people from connecting to EA Online or cases of high latency in games, but instances of these are few and far between.

The Verdict

Mass Effect 3 has so many great moments in its middle section that it’s easy to overlook the many areas where it doesn’t quite manage to encapsulate the series’ trademark space opera trappings. Things like bugged camera angles (there are a lot of those) drag down the presentation quite a bit and there are some sections where you can tell BioWare cut corners to meet the deadline.

That said, if you’ve been in invested in this universe from the outset then there’s no reason not to pick this game up. Once Mass Effect 3 hits its stride story wise it’s a strong ending to one of the best sci-fi stories of this generation. Multiplayer gives it surprising longevity and there’s the free Extended Cut DLC coming later the summer. Who’s to say whether BioWare has a “Lair of the Shadow Broker” type surprise waiting for us, but I’d hold on to the game for now.

GamerSushi Score:

B

How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

5 thoughts on “Review: Mass Effect 3”

  1. Thanks for the review. I agree with a lot of what you mention, but would have given the game an A based on your grade chart. The emotional investment I had in the game really paid off (even with the ending). I was also very against playing the mutiplayer and only gave it a shot to increase my GR, but found myself completely hooked and loving it. Thanks again, Mitch.

    P.S. Just wondering if you gents plan on doing reviews from multiple authors (as was done for Uncharted 3). I really enjoyed reading mutiple viewpoints at once from the GS crew. Of course, I’m sure it’s a bit of work and timeconsuming.

  2. I just finished my first playthrough of Mass Effect 3 today. My friend lent me it a few days ago and I was excited to finish the series and see for myself if all the trash-talk was necessary.
    Yeah, I’m the guy who was getting angry at Mass Effect 3, and now that I played it, I enjoyed it overall.

    tl;dr I give it an A. Refined combat and customization, Genophage and Quarian-Geth War were satisfying, many of the missions had great moments and firefights, and the character development for Shepard (and Garrus) was improved.

    SPOILERS!

    The majority of the game is excellent, but the ending seemed rushed and poorly thought-out. I loved the game and it had some very high-quality moments, but EA’s bullcrap really did all the damage.
    Charging $10 for Javik, arguably the most important squadmate, was unacceptable. Javik’s knowledge of the Protheans and previous races open the player’s eyes to the true scope of the Reaper’s history. Plus, he’s the only other Biotic than Liara. Luckily I have Youtube, so I can still enjoy Javik’s smexy African accent (it’s fitting).
    The ending is another big problem, not because it doesn’t make sense (I followed it pretty well, even without the Indoctrination Fan Theory), but because the destruction of the Mass Relays, no matter what you do, hinders the continuation of the Mass Effect series. How’s everyone gonna leave Sol if there’s no Mass Relays? This was foolish and unnecessary. I was fine with destroying all Synthetics, including the Geth, to destroy the Reapers. Not every ending needs to be perfect. But if the Mass Relays were still intact, the Mass Effect universe could continue on and the new stories could be about how much havoc and chaos the organics cause and their continued mistrust of the Geth and the Quarians despite Shepard brokering peace. I would have liked to see another trilogy full of interspecies intrigue that makes the player wonder if it was better for the Reapers to have destroyed all organics to save them from themselves.
    I also missed fighting all the different factions like in ME1 and 2. ME3 had only Cerberus and Reapers to fight, and a few missions against the Geth. I missed fighting the Blue Suns & Eclipse & Blood Pack on Omega, the corporations on Illium, and all the countless factions that had stories behind them. It was just about shooting Krogan and Asari instead of humans and husks, it was about fighting factions that had their own personal history and involvement in the story. Cerberus was responsible for all the problems in the galaxy that the Reapers weren’t causing, and they’re used as the generic evil empire kinda enemy. I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to repetition, but please let me shoot something other than Cerberus and Reapers for more than 5% of the game.
    Lastly, I wish the size of your squad was larger. It was nice to see old comrades throughout the series, but nothing beats having the character in your ship. I feel there was room for other characters in terms of gameplay and story, and it was a missed opportunity. It’s odd that none of your squadmates permanently die in Mass Effect 3 despite it being the last in the trilogy. I would have liked to see more missions where you lose a character, either from having to choose or from an inevitable scene. Losing an NPC to a cutscene is one thing, but sending a member of your squad, someone you could fight alongside, to their death is a whole different thing. Still, it was nice to see a lot more dialogue with Garrus. Mass Effect 2 really lacked that; Garrus had just lost his best friend 2 years ago and had spent his time killing criminals on Omega to almost no end. There was a lot of missed opportunity for dialogue and character development, especially since he had stood by you even after you died and worked with Cerberus.

    Now, the praise. Combat was fine-tuned and responsive. I liked the variety of weapons and the skill customization. It felt a lot more rewarding than even Mass Effect 1 since ME1 had a linear path and ME3 had either-or decisions.
    The Genophage and Quarian-Geth War missions were fantastic endings to those conflicts. The sacrifices were heartbreaking, the battles with the Reaper Destroyers intense, and the results satisfying. I think these missions softened my disappointment at the end.
    That said, the final battles were enjoyable. I liked battling massive groups of enemies and I actually had to think and plan in more than one encounter. Very satisfying challenges.
    I just wish the Reapers hadn’t been explained they way were. I would have preferred them to remain these mysterious and malevolent gods. Mortals cannot understand gods, and I wanted to see more interspecies strife at the hands of Reapers pulling the strings of indoctrinated menaces instead of a full-on invasion of squids. It took all of the Citadel fleet to kill one Capital Reaper, and in ME3 you only kill Destroyers, not full Capital Reapers. Having less focus on the Reapers themselves would have made Mass Effect more about the conflicts between species rather than a big war against big squid thingies, and I think Mass Effect’s rich, detailed universe was better suited to something more political rather than giant alien invasion. I still liked the invasion of Earth; it wasn’t corny and I actually cared about fighting off the Reapers.
    The graphics and animation were top-notch, and while I usually don’t let a game get off easy for it, some of the vistas were truly breathtaking. I spent a good five minutes per planet taking in the view. The Reapers on Menae, the cityscape of Thessia, the Illusive Man’s window; it was all masterfully done, and I’m glad they didn’t cut too many corners with the skyboxes (other than Vancouver…).
    Finally, Shepard’s characterization was better than ME1 and 2. Shepard in ME3 was more consistent even when changing between Paragon and Renegade, and I frequently went with the Renegade dialogue options in order to break away from the perfectly-Paragon Shepard I had been cultivating in ME2. By the end of the game, you could tell Shepard was under a lot of stress, and in some cases he wasn’t handling it well, especially when I watched some Renegade videos on Youtube where Shepard kills a bunch of his old buddies. Even though I didn’t play through those scenes, they kinda hit me in the gut.

    I enjoyed Mass Effect 3 and I was overall satisfied with it; yes, even the ending. I look forward to more stories from the Mass Effect universe. I don’t want it to die, and I hope it can recover from that ending (specifically the Mass Relays).
    Oh, and Bioware: GET AWAY FROM EA AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. PLEASE.

  3. [quote comment=”19292″]P.S. Just wondering if you gents plan on doing reviews from multiple authors (as was done for Uncharted 3). I really enjoyed reading mutiple viewpoints at once from the GS crew. Of course, I’m sure it’s a bit of work and timeconsuming.[/quote]

    Mitch and I originally intended to share reviewing duties for this one, but life got in the way and I asked him to go ahead and finish it without me. We’re hoping to do more joint reviews in the future, though.

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