drac96's Mass Effect 3 (PlayStation 3) review

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The Conclusion of the Mass Effect Trilogy

Mass Effect 3 is the final game in a critically acclaimed sci-fi series, which means that it has impossibly high expectations to live up to. Bioware had the deck stacked against them from the beginning, but they still managed to produce a mostly great product. It’s a little rough in spots, but the issues can’t stop Mass Effect 3 from being a truly memorable game.

The reapers have finally begun their assault on the galaxy and Earth is their central target. It just so happens that Commander Shepard is on earth and he’s one of the few people in the galaxy who knows how to fight a reaper. Due to his knowledge and experience against the reapers he is chosen to try and unite the galaxy against the looming threat. Much like recruiting squad members for the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2 Shepard must now recruit all the races in the galaxy for a war against the reapers. He’ll need to talk, explore, and shoot his way to galactic readiness.

Mass Effect 3 takes after Mass Effect 2 in the ways of combat. It’s heavy on its third person shooter elements, but they’ve been tweaked to maximize performance. It’s hard to see at first, but Mass Effect 3 feels much tighter and controls better than its predecessor. Aiming and shooting feels a lot smoother, along with Shepard’s overall movement. He can now dodge roll, which is a very welcome addition.

Many fans of the series were upset that Mass Effect 2 removed a lot of the RPG elements from the series. Bioware clearly took that to heart, because Mass Effect 3 tries its best to put some of that RPG feel back into the series. Once again Shepard will be gaining experience as he fights. When he levels he gains skill points, which he can spend to get a variety of skills. The skills in this game branch a little more than they do in the previous installment, but they’re largely unchanged. The level cap has been changed back to 60 like it was in the original Mass Effect, which leaves Shepard with more skill points than you know what to do with.

Look at all those skills!

What Mass Effect adds in the way of character customization deals mostly with the guns. Now every gun you acquire will have a level 1-10. Levels 1-5 can only be acquired on your first play through, while 6-10 become available on your second. All guns start at level 1, but as time goes on their upgrades will show up for purchase. On top of that each gun has two slots for mods to be equipped. Throughout your travels in the universe you will find various mods that offer specific stat boosts to certain types of guns. Stability, damage, ammo capacity, and more can all be tweaked to your play style. These mods are also leveled 1-10, but they tend to be found while you’re out on missions. These improvements to character customization and gameplay make the combat of Mass Effect 3 much easier to handle than it’s predecessors’, but shooting isn’t all you’ll be doing in your fight against the reapers. Talking is just as important, if not more so.

Once again Shepard will form a crew that can help him accomplish his mission. New and old faces appear on Shepard’s crew. You’ll see many friendly faces who don’t join your crew as well. The new characters like super marine James Vega are all fairly interesting, but they’re not nearly as fleshed out as the rest of the cast. It’s understandable, because a lot of the older characters have been given much more screen time. The squad is noticeably smaller than it was in Mass Effect 2, but there are still plenty of opportunities to chat it up with everyone.

Character interaction and choice have always been a centerpiece of the Mass Effect series and this entry is no different. In the previous games your crew would reside in their designated spot on the Normandy waiting for you to come talk with them. While that still happens in this game, they also move around the ship and even go to the Citadel, which is much larger this time around. This allows for the people of the Normandy to interact with one another, which can make for some pretty interesting situations. After every mission I found myself talking with every person on the ship, because I never wanted to miss anything.

Dialogue wheels are still a major part of the Mass Effect universe, but they have noticeably less choices. In most conversations there will only be two options. One will give you paragon points, while the other will give you renegade. Sometimes there will be a third option in the middle, which allows for Shepard to inquire about the previous statement. Certain situations have more options to choose from, but they rarely occur. Paragon and renegade interrupts still show up as well. What’s even more noticeable is that during dialogue the wheel pops up a lot less often. Shepard seems to have a lot more to say without the player’s input than he did before. This should be annoying in a game that’s all about choice, but it’s done very well. There were very few times that Shepard said anything I wouldn’t have said. It’s almost as if the game was reaching back into my save in order to see what I would choose.

Two options are standard fare for most Mass Effect 3 conversations.

I felt that my save was influencing things throughout most of the game. A lot of the things I had done in the previous games came back in some way for Mass Effect 3. Some of the references are done very well, while others like the reunions with Mass Effect 2 crew members seem a little random. Some are done better than others, but I couldn’t help but get excited every time I saw someone who used to be on my crew. These references and character interactions are enjoyable. It’s clear that Bioware tried to make all of the previous choices count so that the player would feel like their actions from previous games mattered. The same care and effort did not go into the games many side quests.

The side missions in Mass Effect 2 were generally well conceived, but the same can’t exactly be said for all of the missions in Mass Effect 3. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few great side missions, but there are also quite a few that aren’t so great. The worst side missions come from the citadel and in order to get them you don’t even need to talk to anyone. Instead Shepard will overhear someone saying they need something, which will update your quest log. It’s not always clear what they’re looking for, which can be kind of annoying. When you find whatever they were looking for Shepard will hand it over to them for a reward. It all makes Shepard seem like a creepy stalker. Obviously the citizens of the galaxy need all the help they can get, but this seems to be taking it a bit far.

Aside from stalker-like fetch quests Shepard will have to do some shooting in his side missions as well. Some of them are meaningful and deal with character interaction and those can be pretty good. On the other end of the spectrum some missions are repurposed multiplayer maps, which involve you standing in certain areas to deactivate terminals, or defending a certain area. They’re perfectly fine to play, but it would have been nice if they had a little more thought put into them, because they tend to be a bit heavy on combat.

Almost everything you do in Mass Effect 3 goes towards what is known as effective military strength. How ready is the galaxy to take on the reapers? The answer to that question depends on how much you do. Completing certain tasks will net Shepard war assets. Each war asset adds a set number to your total military strength. There is a terminal on the Normandy where you can check this number whenever you like. The screen you access has a handy bar that tells you how ready you are to fight the reapers. When it’s full you’ll know you’ve done enough to get the “good” ending.

Almost everything you do in Mass Effect 3 adds to fight against the reapers.

This is how the multiplayer feeds into the single player. The game starts off with the galactic readiness at 50%. This means that only half of your total military strength is counting towards the progress bar. In order to get the galactic readiness up you’re going to have to play multiplayer. If you do everything you can in the game you should still fill up the bar quite a while before you reach the final mission.

When it was initially announced that Mass Effect 3 would have multiplayer there was an uproar from the community. Combat isn’t what most people come to Mass Effect for, but that didn’t stop Bioware from putting it in. It’s not essential to the game in any way, but it’s there for those who care to give it a try. It’s just a Gears of War like horde mode with some occasional objectives. Four players get together to fight off eleven waves of enemies.

It’s nowhere near as egregious as everyone (including me) thought it would be. You play as any of the classes available in the main game, however you can also be the various races of the Mass Effect universe. Humans, Drell, Salarians, Turians, Asari, and Krogan are all available for play. Apparently a few Volus have even been spotted as well.

All the races you've always wanted to be are now available in multiplayer.

Just like the single player you’ll be leveling up and allocating points to the skills you want to have. Unlike the single player, the level cap in multiplayer is only level 20, which when reached allows the character to be promoted to the single player as a war asset. Sadly there aren’t enough skill points to fully upgrade everything. To further customize your character it’s necessary to finish multiplayer matches so you can get credits as well as experience. With the credits you can buy packs of cards, which throw out random guns, mods, new characters, and one time boosts. All of the items you’ll acquire in multiplayer come from these random packs, which can be frustrating when you keep getting items you don’t want. If you’re the impatient type you can just spend real money on the packs instead of completing matches for the credits. Overall the multiplayer is fun, but it’s easy to ignore completely if you don’t care for it.

Bioware put in the multiplayer and did a lot of things with the game to try and bring in new fans. They were really trying to say that Mass Effect 3 is the perfect place for new players to jump in, which I think is far from the truth. The moments I enjoyed most in Mass Effect 3 had to do with characters I had come to know over the course of the previous games in the series. If I didn’t have a stake in the universe it would have been much harder to understand what was going on.

I loved a vast majority of Mass Effect 3. There were a ton of well done emotional scenes. Although there were a few that fell flat, I’ve come to expect that from Mass Effect. Mass Effect 3 truly does wrap up many of the big questions left in the Mass Effect universe. You might hear people saying that the ending isn’t any good and I tend to agree with them. However, that’s no reason to condemn the rest of the game. The majority of Mass Effect 3 is great, so if you’re at all invested in the Mass Effect universe I can’t recommend this game highly enough.

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