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