After spending 40+ hours, almost constantly, playing Mass Effect 3, I saw everything in one playthrough.
I was a Vanguard, on Insanity, I had saved everyone from Mass Effect 2, and I was ready to exhaust the world of every piece of information and narrative the universe could throw at me. From the very start, I was underwhelmed. The Reaper attack on Earth didn't seem 'epic' at all. I don't know why, but it just seemed off, did anyone else feel this? I guess the start to ME2 had **** me, but nonetheless, I carried on and got to the part with the little boy getting on the shuttle. My mouth dropped and I was shocked to see it get tore apart. This struck my chords, and was the only part of the game to have that much impact.
Anyway, as I was lovingly put back into the roll of commander of my ship, it all felt natural going forward. Gameplay took a few steps forward, with powers seeming a lot more powerful, and thus more enjoyable. I barely used my gun the whole game, and that, to me, is an exciting idea. The squad AI was a bit hit and miss though, never really getting to grips with my team stumbling towards the enemy and the lacking cover mechanics which got me killed a bunch of times.
The story structure was fantastic the whole way through, a lot of cheese sprinkled on top, but who doesn't love cheese? People say their most enjoyable moments of the series are dialog wheels and story decisions, like Jeff, whereas I am on the other side of the fence and love the development of the characters and races around me. My biggest enjoyment of the whole series so far, was after every mission in ME2, going around and talking to all my squad, going as far as getting my favourite members first, so I could have more conversations with them throughout the game. My three stand-outs were Thane, Tali and Legion.
Thane was my favourite character by far, learning about his race, his heritage and his life as an assassin absorbed me. His way of retaining all his memories, and then reciting them to me, specifically about his love interest was fascinating. All of this, with the knowledge of his illness and his relationship with his son made him a complete character to me. This is what Bioware does so well, and it is why I love Mass Effect. Tali and Legion were two sides of a coin, of my favourite story within the game. Learning of both sides of the war and delving into the mindset of the Geth was nothing other other than cool.
Sadly, this doesn't hold up nearly as well here. After every mission, and assignment, I would go through all 5 levels of my vessel, to find that nobody had anything of note to say. I think I had about 2 conversations with James, one of which was in Purgatory, the other in a fist fight. Liara was upset with me not wanting a relationship with her again, and I felt as though she wasn't interested in talking to me after that. Garrus constantly telling me 'another time' in a disgruntled tone, drove me to avoiding him. I felt as though everyone had distanced themselves from me, making me feel alone. Tali not showing me her face in-game irked me, why have her take of her mask twice, and not once showing me anything? This is something Bioware knew we wanted, not just a picture on my bedside table.
Being disappointed with my interactions, I hoped to find my enjoyment from the story itself, and I loved every minute of it. Probably my biggest annoyance was the change in the character of The Illusive Man. He was perceived to be a bad guy, but throughout, you could see he was good at heart and really was doing it for the best interest in the human race. I struggled with his notion of saving the collector base, I trusted him that much, although I did blow it up. From the offset, he is full on villain. Nothing he is doing seems reasonable, maybe remotely, but everything was just going too far - maybe this is where the indoctrination comes in, who knows...
When it came to the end, I was confused as to what came of the dream sequences. Who was the boy, and what was his significance? At first I thought he was just upset with not being able to save the child, and thus his fear of him not being able to do what everyone is expecting of him, but why is there a part where he is acting like it's his son? I only roughly remember this exact scene, so someone can probably clear that up. I also had ideas that the boy didn't exist, and was just using him to encapsulate the entire human race; afraid and helpless. Was he also the boy who is the Child God? If so, that makes little sense. How did he know of him before seeing him in the Crucible and if it was, why doesn't he even acknowledge this, even briefly as they meet?
The ending as a whole was what drove me to write this in the first place, so here are my thoughts. I found the idea of the Reapers being created to eradicate life a nice change, I certainly didn't expect the reasoning, although it did kind of diminish the conception of them being the ultimate villain. That one explanation tarnishes the brutal nature of them from Sovereign's speech - the best speech in any media, mind you. This then begs the question of who are the people that created them? Are they the species that are in Sovereign? A nice thought if it was.
At the end, I chose synthesis. I felt as though this is the choice my character had being building up to, he wasn't a ruthless killer, he spared everyone and everything. If there was a chance at peace, he took it. He wasn't happy with the idea of controlling others, so with the choice of basically indoctrinating the Reapers, it just seemed out of character again. Sparing everyone and making the Galaxy a better place overall with the combination of synthetic and biotic genetics seemed like the way forward. Sure the mass relays are destroyed, but now the races finally have a chance to evolve on their own, getting past the expectancy of the 50,000 year cycle. They can build anew, build better, and with the help of synthetic DNA, we may be able to live longer, not have to rely on food to survive, etc. The possibilities are endless. That's all up to our own interpretation, and I like my own very much.
Just to hopefully clear up some things I've heard people get aggravated about... A lot of you think it's a contradiction that the Reapers were already a organic-synthetic being, but doesn't that actually justify everything? They are synthesising the Galaxy, but on a much slower time scale. Using the Conduit stops the murder billions and speeds up the process instantaneously.
Okay, I'm going to stop writing now. I just want to say that I enjoyed the game immensely, was disappointed with the lack of character development, not fully understanding who this Child God is, or who his race are, and finally I would like to ask why the Protheans look like they do, and do not resemble the statues of them on Ilos and that museum on Kasumi's loyalty mission?!
Thanks for reading, please reply with comments. :)