ultraspank35's Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) review

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Mass Effect 3 is the final entry in Bioware’s epic sci-fi trilogy. If you’ve played and enjoyed the series, you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a fitting end to the saga and a reunion of sorts of the characters you’ve come to know along the way. It’s a satisfying, albeit foreseeable ending. You’ll battle around in a bunch of different environments with Earth being the final stronghold. It’s up to Shepherd to round up the troops and lead the final assault against the Reapers.

Mass Effect’s draw is its story. Let’s face it… It’s why you’re playing the game. The game does not let down in this sense. The story follows Shepherd, reassigned to duty, and tasked with saving the galaxy from a catastrophic Reaper attack. He deals with uncovering the mystery behind the Reaper threat and uniting the galaxy to fight against it. He meets up with familiar figures he’s met along the way throughout. Although the story is rather predictable and proceeds in a fairly straightforward manner, it’s generally interesting and packed with genuine emotion. The bonds formed between characters and their selfless acts of sacrifice come off as legitimate and moving.

The game does a nice job of showing the motives of the different races of the galaxy. Each race has its own agenda; only willing to help after a little greasing up. No one works for free here. The player needs to complete a favor in order to gain the person’s allegiance, guaranteeing the backing of the respective race. These sorts of tasks form the basic mission structure of most of the game. During these missions, there are options to choose which race to side with. These choices are morally grey and feel like they actually carry some weight.

It becomes Shepherd's goal to unite the races of the galaxy against the Reaper threat. Getting these groups to aid the cause makes for a stronger final fleet to bring forth against the Reapers. This fleet strength is represented by a numeric meter which constitutes your overall chance at success for the final battle. Finding artifacts, recruiting different factions, and playing multiplayer all contribute to raising this percentage

The planet scanning from the second game is back and redesigned. Rather than meticulously scanning planets for resources, players are now tasked with exploring star systems and finding different artifacts, space stations, fuel depots, and planets. Scanning these areas raises the threat of a reaper invasion. The Reapers eventually break out and pursue the player forcing them to escape the system. It’s not incredibly interesting but it’s certainly an improvement over the last game’s version.

Mass Effect 3 plays as you’d expect it to. It carries over the successfully updated 3rd person combat mechanics from the 2nd game. Although, it feels a little stiff with the amount of action the game asks of the player at times. Adding to that stiffness is this awkward jump mechanic where you need to hop over meaningless gaps with no risk of falling. It’s an odd addition that’s been shoehorned in and serves no purpose. I wish there was a bit more exploration or loot in the game also. The game primarily consists of walking down linear pathways between story beats. Initially, I found myself combing environments for loot only to find dead ends and unsearchable receptacles.

In this entry, like the last, more emphasis is placed on action than RPG. However, it seems like they didn’t spend a lot of time polishing the action part. The 3rd person mechanics are functional but just don’t have the ease of use and flow that other games have. The jump from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 was so sensational in terms of combat improvement that this entry kind of falls flat in that sense. I just wish the team did something to move the combat forward instead of completely recycling what was established in the previous game. It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the combat – I did. I just feel with the frequency of combat, the developers could have spent some more time bolstering it up. But who cares? It’s all about storyline and epic space shit right? It’s Mass Effect!

The environments and music in this game are amazing. It’s what really wins me over in the Mass Effect series. The epic strings over grumbley bass and occasional spacey synth pokes get my inner nerd all sorts of moist. There’s some sort of enchanted space wizardry going on in these games that just clicks for me. The game is littered with environments from snowy space stations to Asian inspired grottos. I don’t think it reaches the environmental variety of the 2nd game but it’s still hugely successful. Perhaps least exciting is Earth. It’s just kind of a dark, crumbly, war-ridden mess. Not much to look at there. Fortunately most of the game takes place elsewhere.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about the game for me is the multiplayer. It’s a wave based multiplayer mode in which you fend off ten waves of increasingly more difficult enemies. There are three different difficulty settings: bronze, silver and gold - the latter being the most difficult and granting the most experience and XP. The map variation is nice and they sprinkle in various objectives for players to complete during the match. These objectives include: capturing and holding areas, activating a set of four nodes, claiming and delivering a set of two items, and killing a specified group of four marked enemies. These don’t seem like super interesting tasks but they break up the action of killing endless enemies and give the player a sense of objective. Players can pick any class from the single-player game and upgrade them accordingly. Upon finishing a match, players earn XP and currency to spend on talent points and random loot chests. These loot chests are tiered in a way that the more expensive loot cases have a guaranteed chance to drop rare weapons and characters. At the end of each match, you earn galactic readiness that funnels into your single player total. Initially, this is what motivated me to start playing the multiplayer. Then I discovered the multiplayer is actually, well, fun. The way in which these pieces fit together forms a multiplayer experience that is familiar yet uniquely fun for some inexplicable reason.

Mass Effect 3 is more Mass Effect. It’s a quality game about space stuff. The series as a whole feels very consistent. It delivers a well written story etched upon fantastical space environments woven into a social alien hot-zone. The way the game meshes these elements together make for something special. Although the game mechanics feel trite and stiff at times, they never really get in the way of enjoying the experience. The biggest success in terms of new content is the multiplayer. The way in which players can team up and combine their powers to take out enemies is enough of a twist on the wave-based formula to feel unique and satisfying. The game really feels like a complete package. You know what Mass Effect 3 is and you if you’ll like it - I liked it

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