Mass Effect 3 is a game for the ages. (Video review included)
Just how exactly do you conclude one of the most beloved video game series of this generation? After the mammoth success of Bioware's sci-fi role-playing games, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, fans have been anxious to find out if the conclusion to this much beloved franchise lives up to all of the hype it's been garnering over the months, and the answer to that is a resounding yes. Mass Effect 3 is an enthralling, emotional, action-packed and incredibly satisfying experience all-around, and will no doubt wind up being one of the finest games in all of 2012.
Mass Effect 3 sets the tone right off the bat; the oppressive Reapers have breached earth's defenses and are hell-bent on wiping out all sentient life in the galaxy. Just a few minutes into the game, families are torn apart, lives are decimated and the emotional impact of these moments will haunt both you Shepard throughout the entire game. As such, Commander Shepard is forced to amass an enormous army to counter-act the Reaper's assaults, and he intends to do so by way of rallying every conceivable race and battalion to help him out in the battle at hand.
It's a dramatic setup for the tale of love, friendship, death and misery that follows, and it's all rounded-out with a climax that is absolutely unforgettable. If Mass Effect 3's many heartfelt moments won't bring you to tears, it I'll surely make you shiver in awe – nobody is going to sit through the end credits unaffected. But of course, Mass Effect has always handled its characters and dialogues better than exposition, and the cast of characters that accompany you, both old and new, feel startlingly believable and towards the game's closing moments, they'll feel more like actual comrades as opposed to just video-game sidekicks.
And so you explore planets and engage in combat with up to two other squad mates. This time around, the combat mechanics are outstanding, and weapons and powers have a real punch to them. You can now also perform dive rolls and pull off vicious melee attacks that lend a more gritty and action-packed feel to the game.The cover system and AI still aren't perfect, but taken as a whole, the combat found here is the best in the series and pausing the game to queue up attacks before unleashing a hail of biotic and tech powers is as fun as it's ever been. Mass Effect 3 also offers a ton of variety -- in one moment you're fighting Cerberus attack squads while desperately trying to extract a vital war asset, and in another you're commandeering an Atlas mech and gunning down enemies with immense firepower.
But this is a role-playing game, mind you and Bioware hasn't neglected the criticism targeted towards Mass Effect 2. Every power now has multiple upgrade trees and you'll find new weapons, attachments, armor and other types of loot aplenty as you play. You can also explore clusters from the galaxy map and harvest war assets and other upgrades, and the amount of side-missions available to you at any given time is almost overwhelming.
Mass Effect 3 also boasts a multiplayer component that allows you to cooperate with three other players in wave-based defense missions where you have to eliminate enemies and accomplish timed objectives before you're forced to hoof it to an extraction point. The ten waves take roughly 30 minutes to burn through and you get to level up individual characters with new skills, weapons and appearance options. The action found here is actually solid if a bit unremarkable; although progress made in multiplayer will go on to affect your progress in the main game. Meaning, it's worth trying in the very least.
The end of the galaxy has rarely looked this good, and although the game runs on a slightly modified Mass Effect 2 engine, the game still looks incredibly sharp; a few glitches and frame-rate snags, be damned. Sound design is also top-of-the line with stellar voice-acting and a score that features a terrific blend between old and new.
There is a lot to say about Mass Effect 3. Choices made both here and in past games are going to result in vastly different experiences. I can't imagine a single other game that is going to spark more heated conversations this year than this full-blown masterpiece that Bioware has cooked up. Mass Effect 3 will move you in unexpected ways, put you through numerous loops and leave you completely breathless. It's depressing in some ways, that this trilogy is over, but the impact that the Mass Effect series has left on the video game world is going to be felt for many years from now on.
+ Phenomenal, moving story that tugs at your heartstrings
+ Excellent characterization and voice-acting
+ Thrilling, tacticle combat with plenty of variety
+ Great level-design keeps you on the move
+ Art-design and visuals are uniformly excellent.
- A few frame-rate hitches and bugs