The Pile: Mass Effect 3

Giant Bomb relaunch EXTENDED CUT: Because of the launch downtime, I got to sit on this blog for an extra couple days. In this spirit of this blog being a well, pile of thoughts, I didn't edit anything, but I felt that I should add a few things. First, I redid the ending to get a "proper" one, chose Destroy. I still stand by my thought that the ending is "irrelevant" as far as my feelings toward the series. Second, multiplayer is still pretty fun. I got my Quarian Infiltrator to level 20 and I'm probably going to buy the PS3 version of ME3 just to play with my brother and sister, it's quick fun. Third, I feel this game (series, dammit, have to stop grouping all three of them as one game) is special. It's on the level of Gitaroo Man, TWEWY, and Heavy Rain as far as "games (series) that mean a lot to me." I thought that I would have to wait for a few weeks/months for that distinction, but...I don't think I have to. I wish more games (series) could make me feel the way Mass Effect did, and I'm glad the first blog I do on the new Giant Bomb is a big sappy tribute to the third game. Now, on to your regularly scheduled blog, I wrote the rest of this on Sunday afternoon, so apologies in advance if it gets a bit weird.

I wasn’t going to write about Mass Effect 3 this week. I finished Persona earlier this week, and I had planned to write about that. Something weird happened though. After I finished Persona, I realized that I could finally get back to Mass Effect 3, and ended up putting a couple hours in each night. Saturday morning, I woke up at around 9am, and I decided I was going to give the day to Mass Effect 3, get as far as I could. I probably started playing at around 10:30am and didn’t stop until I finished the game at 4:30am Sunday morning. Now I mean I took breaks now and then to get food, get some fresh air, and catch up on the daily news, but yeah, for a good portion of 18 hours I played through the entire last arc of Mass Effect 3. I wanted to write this now while my playthrough was still fresh in my head, before I went and looked at all of the different ways things could have played out. Warning: This will have full spoilers from the whole Mass Effect Trilogy.

My dreams have dialogue wheels, and I don't care!

I should preface this. I played the first two games with all of the available DLC from the start, did the same with three. Leviathan, Extended Cut, Rise From the Ashes, all included. So already, I am playing a different game than a lot of people did when it first came out. To add to this, I am playing the game differently than a lot of you did. I started Mass Effect right before New Years Eve. I finished Mass Effect 3 approximately six weeks later. No two year grace period between each game, no anticipation building. Just a long 120 journey through three different games. I don’t think that takes anything away from the series, I’ll have to give it some time, but I think this will stay with me as one of my favorite trilogies. I was just lucky to play it all in one concentrated burst.

That being said, let’s get this out of the way. The ending is irrelevant to me. The game ended when I shot the Illusive Man and opened the Citadel. I didn’t avoid any spoilers on the Bombcast, so I knew full well about the four choices. A funny parallel to Mass Effect, I knew about the Ashley/Kaidan choice from the beginning, didn’t make it any easier. Same deal with the ending. Knowing everything didn’t make it any less dumbfounding. I wasn’t waiting years for it, so it wasn’t as disappointing as MGS4’s ending (specifically the post-credits scene), but still, to go out on that note is a shame. Enough has been said about it, and to dwell on the ending would be a huge disservice to the rest of this game. For the record: Rejection. I told the Crucible to shove it, failing to end the cycle. Which I had a hard time accepting last night, I wanted to redo it. But in the end, Shepard was losing his grip, so for him to not be able to end the cycle works for my story.

I'll forgive a lot about the ending because the encounter with the Illusive Man is great.

I didn’t even know there was a post-credits scene for that. The first time I watched it, got the ending, watched the credits, then a black screen. The game bugged out, and I thought it was just a Final Fantasy-style end, where you had to reset. That was another fitting part of my story. I don’t like to dwell on technical issues, but Mass Effect 3 just felt cheaply put together at times. The list is long, but things like combining the Codex and the missions so you can put a giant controller diagram on one of the options? Stupid. Combining all of your missions? Stupid, especially given the amount of random missions they give you. They couldn’t even be bothered to put objectives for a lot of those fetch missions. While having 15 or so active, it would be nice to know which of them you could turn in.

To add to the technical nightmares. My game froze three times, and it would hang quite a bit at times where I thought it was freezing again. I appreciate what they did in the Citadel, trying to make it a busier place,but it was very rough at times. Even in the Normandy, there was this specific spot on the ship where I would always freeze in place while the game loaded. That along with the frame rate drops on a lot of the big set pieces, those were the most tragic of all. I remember the game stuttering quite a bit when the thresher maw attacked the reaper on Tuchanka.

Dodging the reaper on Tuchanka was one thing, facing one down and painting a target on it was on another level.

It’s a shame too, because there are some gorgeous moments in the game. Seeing the reapers in the sky on Palaven, watching the invasion on Earth, and horrible framerate aside, the thresher maw destroying the reaper. Some of those moments were just jaw-dropping. My personal favorite would probably be the escape from Rannoch after the reaper rises up. Even if the game had trouble keeping it smooth, those moments were amazing.

The story, like in Mass Effect 2, took awhile for me to get hooked. Wasn’t really into the whole “I should be on Earth!” mindset at the start of the game, and don’t get me started on the kid. Shepard didn’t need that extra push, for him to feel bad about that one kid more than everything else (RIP Legion and Normandy crew from ME2) was bad. If you pull an MGS 3 and have the ghosts of everyone who died haunt you, fine. I don’t count the voices. The rest of the story was actually alright, I enjoyed a lot of the story beats. The Tuchanka arc is fantastic, and so is the Quarian/Geth arc. Shepard as galactic fix-it man is fine. Even if those fetch quests are dumb.

How Cerberus got involved was also done well. While the reapers were a terrifying enough force as it was, fighting them for the whole game would have gotten old, so it’s good that Cerberus was there being Cerberus. And by that I mean even worse than the goddamn reapers. Even Kai Lang, who is straight out of Metal Gear Rising, fit in quite well. It’s only natural that the Illusive Man would have his right hand assassin after all. It’s good to have Cerberus back as the radical force on the outside of this war. So satisfying to shoot the Illusive Man in the end too, I enjoyed that quite a bit.

The Legion replacement constantly reminding me that "(They) are not Legion" was a nice, yet knife-wrenching touch.

Now then, let’s really talk about Mass Effect 3, and by that I mean the characters. In Mass Effect 2, one of my favorite moments was accessing the Shadow Broker’s terminal, and reading about your crew. I couldn’t handle it the first time, it was just so damn awesome. It was like a teenage girl seeing her favorite boy band live, couldn’t handle it, just too awesome. There were multiple moments like that in Mass Effect 3, and not even because main people showed up. Honestly, it was mostly obvious most of the time when people were going to show up. But the certain callbacks and things they said, those were the moments where I would lose it. Garrus showing up was great and all, but when he joked about calibrating the guns on the ship, that pushed it over the edge. Seeing Jack was great, but one of her students yelling “I will destroy you!” like she did in 2 just made that moment so much better. So many little things.

Another reason why that works so well is the ship is alive this time. I’ll admit, I was bummed out at first that they changed the characters to be more like Zaeed and Kasumi in ME2, where they would just say “We’ll talk later” most of the time, but the random interactions throughout the game more than made up for it. The random conversations you walk into are great, and even better is the special ones where people will end up in random places on the ship such as Kaidan and James playing cards and Garrus on the bridge. Talking with people is still the best part of Mass Effect, but listening is great too. Same goes with the Citadel, I mentioned earlier how it’s more alive with the citizens and refugees, but the character moments are some really great moments too.

Now, about Tali. If you’ve been following along with my various adventures in Mass Effect land, you may remember that Tali is my favorite character, and oh man, Mass Effect 3 did not disappoint. I romanced Tali in Mass Effect 2, and I was surprised how much they run with that in Mass Effect 3. I was expecting a scene here and there, a couple of lines too, but they go all out with it, it’s actually really cool. Lots of warm and fuzzy feelings during the conversation about building a house on Rannoch. Her picture was also a really nice touch, I honestly didn’t expect they would show her face (I know, stock picture, but they tried). Oh right, I almost forgot, drunk Tali. The conversation after the Horizion mission is easily my favorite part of that game, every bit about that conversation is great, from Tali saying Shepard sounded like a vorcha to the emerrrrgency induction port, to the relationship tie in, it was the best. Also, the conversation between her (still drunk) and Javik afterwards, amazing. Yeah, Tali will always be my favorite. Maybe one of my favorite characters of all time.

"If you cannot fight, do not let them capture you. Death is abetter outcome." Never meet your heroes.

Speaking of Javik, a really great character. I have to tip my hat to Bioware, the new characters they added were great. Mainly Javik, James, and Traynor. I brought Javik on pretty much every important mission mainly because of the responses, again, the small moments being the most memorable. Kirrahe thinking he was genetically engineered was funny, and the hanar losing his mind over meeting an enkindler was also great. I was wary about James at first, but he turned out to be a decent character, which looking back, is actually quite amazing. Last but not least, Traynor, who takes over Kelly’s spot if she meets an unfortunate end in ME2. I wasn’t expecting her to be as fleshed-out as she was. To be perfectly honest, I liked her so much, I would let Kelly die again in ME2 just to make sure she would be on my ship in Mass Effect 3 (I know, Traynor’s still on the ship either way). I almost forgot about Cortez, he was a great character with his story arc too. Amazing for them to add so many new characters to a series where you’re already attached to people. To have them fit in as well, it’s great. Also, good on Bioware to have the option for a same sex relationship and having it seem as natural as the other relationships.

It was neat in Mass Effect 2 to get emails from side characters in the first game. But three steps it up and has you running into side characters quite a bit. As I mentioned earlier, running into Mr. “Hold the line” Kirrhae was a pleasant surprise. Another shock was running into Balak, the batarian leader from Bring Down the Sky. I left him for dead and did not expect him at all, I did get him to join the cause, which was another victory by itself. I feel bad about Zaeed though, because his mission leads up to you running into Din Korlack, the Volus ambassador. I think I mentioned it in the Mass Effect one, but I enjoyed talking to the side characters and the game won me over when I ended up wandering into the Volus/Elcor embassy and ended up talking to Din and the Elcor ambassador. It was great seeing him again. Too many side characters to mention, and yeah, I remembered 99 percent of them. Little to no downtime between games helped quite a bit.

Now then, it is a war, and death happens, but a couple hit hard. Thane’s disease already cut his life short, so I thought he was going to just live his life happily on the presidium. Then the attack happened, he gets stabbed, etc. Now, the part that made me get all choked up was when Thane tried to say the prayer but couldn’t get through it, so his son (and Shepard) finished it. After he died, the line where Kolyat says the prayer wasn’t for him, it was for you, yeah...that got me.

This picture of Mordin collecting seashells makes me extremely happy and bummed out at the same time.

Mordin’s whole arc was on a completely different level of crushing you, with him getting back to help cure the genophage. The elevator scene, jeez. I stopped Maelon’s research, and sided with Mordin every step of the way regarding the genophage, and if he was willing to cure it, I would help him. The line about him studying seashells was...bad. And that was allowing him to cure it! I couldn’t even imagine how it would work the other way. It really caught me off guard. After Grunt survived the rachni attack, I thought that they wouldn’t kill anyone off, that there was a specific math to it like the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2. I remembered the words to his song, when the explosion happened, completely took me by surprised, and I was waiting for him to come back. He didn’t. A fitting yet horribly tragic ending for that character. Someone else might’ve gotten it wrong after all.

Yep, still terrifying.

The gameplay is fine, I’m glad they had more weapon types and abilities. Not why I come to Mass Effect, but it was fine. Except in the case of Omega, which was pretty much ALL combat. Same with the beginning of the last act and the swarms of reaper enemies. Speaking of those reaper enemies, fantastic. Seeing the horrifying reaper versions of the enemies for the first time was always an event. The banshees though, jeez, legitimately terrifying every time they showed up. Hell, even the couple of hours I put into the multiplayer was fine. The collection system is evil, yet I can see myself becoming hooked onto it. As I said, the combat is fine, but yeah, nothing compares to the story, dialogue, and events of Mass Effect. No matter how good the combat gets, it will always be second fiddle.

I probably played about 120 hours of Mass Effect over 6 weeks, averaging about 20 hours a week. I just don’t do that anymore. I’m 25, I have a full time job. I don’t dive into games like that. Haven’t done it in such a long time, probably 7 or 8 years. That is the power of Mass Effect’s story and characters. Honestly, I didn’t think I could get drawn into a world like I did here. I loved every bit of it. I’m sad that it’s all over now. At the end of Mass Effect, I thought “I can’t wait to play this over again and do everything differently.” Now...I don’t know. The playthrough of all three games was just so magical. Replaying it as Femshep seemed like something I could do at the end of the first game, not anymore. Replaying it as a paragon seemed like something I could still do at the end of Mass Effect 2. Not anymore. If by some chance I end up playing this again, I’ll be John Shepard, Sole Survivor. Renegade to everyone in the galaxy, except for my crew, friends. I might do a few things differently, but I just couldn’t imagine playing it any other way.

2 Comments Refresh
Posted by boj4ngles


Well you like it (ME3) a whole lot more than I did. You also had a very different gaming experience with it that very few players had. You played through all three games in two months, I'm assuming without breaks. You also had the endings completely spoiled in advance. I don't think you can understand the disappointment that long time fans of the series had when we realized just how terrible the endings were. In comparison to the rest of the series which was written thoughtfully with attention to consistency, quality and coherence, the endings to ME3 were a total and bewildering departure. To long time fans that had played the games for years and probably had multiple playthroughs, it felt like a betrayal. It was like they had brought in a stranger, unfamiliar with the previous games or even that game and told them to write the ending. I can see how it is less of a big deal if you know it's coming but trust me, if you don't know it's coming than it is a huge deal.

You say that liked Javik and Vega? I thought those guys sucked. Javik looked flat out stupid and I got very tired of his humorless "everyone is a weakling" routine. He was by far the least fleshed-out companion character in the series and I am counting Zaeed and Kasumi. Vega kind of grew on me but I couldn't help but wish I could replace him with Grunt, Jack, Miranda or any other character which was better written.

To me, the real contradiction of ME3 is that in so many ways it was one step forward and two steps back. My own opinion towards video game sequels has always been that they successful formula is more, better, and more. More guns, better graphics, better levels, more classes, more enemies, more bosses, more stories. ME3 has halfway embraced this with its expanded armory and customization options for the player. We got more, and better gameplay and we got better graphics and better environments. Even though there were comparatively less enemies than in ME2, they had better AI.

The problem was that we got less party companions (5 compared to ME2's 12) and they tried to compensate this with predictable cameos. We got less ability to influence the outcome of stories. We got writing of poorer quality, and less emphasis on character development. The tone of the story was inconsistent and inexplicable. Why are they emphasizing the urgency of an emergency on one planet when they want me to go investigate a mysterious signal? Why the hell is there a stupid ghost kid? If the Reapers are unstoppable and vastly overpowering of their opponents then why is it that simply by showing up and giving a motivational speech, Shepard is able to turn the tide? I know they tried to explain this stuff but they did a very poor job. ME1 and ME2 were outlandish sci fi but they had an internal consistency. They made sense. ME3 didn't.

I reviewed this game right after I finished it when it came out and gave it 3&1/2 stars. If I could go back I'd reduce that to three because all these deficiencies are even more obvious on a second playthrough. But the real disappointment comes when you consider how ME2 is a better game on a second playthrough and you realize all the opportunity that was lost with ME3.

Edited by Roger778

That was a wonderfully written blog on the Mass Effect series. You described stuff that in all of my playthroughs of the three games I hadn't experienced yet, such as Mordin collecting sea shells, and Grunt dying after the Rachni attack for example. Since I joined X-Box Live last year, I have been slowly downloading Downloadable content for the games. I first started off with the extended cut, which I thought, greatly improved the ending. On my new playthrough as a Male Shepard last year, I downloaded Kasumi, and Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2, and I thought both of them were fantastic. Yesterday, I downloaded Overlord. I have yet to download Arrival, From Ashes, because I want to meet Javik, and also Leviathan. I'm pretty sure I will finally have a new and complete experience once I finish getting all of that extra content for the three games.

For me, Mass Effect has become the standard for epic, cinematic role-playing games. I can't stop playing them, and I'm pretty sure I will continue to do so at the start of every year in the near future.