"A Relatively Memorable End to a Grand Series"
I've been waiting for Mass Effect 3 for a long, long time. I followed every tidbit of news I could get my hands on. I read previews, looked at screenshots, and watched trailers. When the time came to pick up the game, I went to the midnight release for my pre-order. When at last I arrived home, I immediately cracked open the case and started to play. While I do love the game and see myself playing it for quite some time... it's not perfect.
I encountered my first problem with Mass Effect 3 almost immediately after I booted it up: I couldn't import my character's face, since I created my character in the first Mass Effect. A frustrating glitch, to be sure, but not a game breaking one by any stretch. After spending around an hour to get his face as close to the original as I could (be warned - for some reason, the lighting BioWare chose for their character creator makes it difficult to tell what skin color, eye color, and hair color your Shepard actually has), I dove into the game proper.
The first thing I noticed was how… limited the dialogue feels, compared to other entries in the series. Conversations are much more cinematic in ME3, with Shepard automatically responding to the majority of what others say to him, and only a few options being offered to the player. Whereas before you could respond in a plethora of ways to virtually everything anyone ever said to Shepard, now you're limited to a few choices, with paragon and renegade options as you advance through the game, neither of which are limited by alignment, as near as I can tell.
While it does work in most cases, there were a few instances where I was left scratching my head, muttering "my character would never say something that foolish."
As far as the Mass Effect 3 story is concerned, it's pretty much what you'd expect. The Reapers have finally arrived, and everyone has finally admitted that they should have shut the hell up and listened to Shepard in the first place. The whole galaxy is at war, and it's not going well. Naturally, it falls to Shepard to rally the troops, gather his forces, and save the lives of every species in the galaxy.
The likelihood that you'll actually succeed is measured in two ways: Military Strength and a Galactic Readiness Meter. You gain military strength by gathering "assets": old team members show up to lend a hand, armies you've impressed or aided join to fight at your side, old friends lend you their hands, resources go towards keeping your forces supplied… every little bit helps. Galactic Readiness, on the other hand, is increased by playing multiplayer, and increases the worth of your war assets in single player.
In my opinion, the greatest strength of Mass Effect 3 lies in its characters, who are mostly likeable and entertaining. Your team is smaller this time around, and a number of old favorites return to the field in a variety of ways. BioWare's masterfully woven in references to pretty much every choice of note your character made in every other title, and characters you might not even remember will make appearances over the course of the game.
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I'm happy to report that BioWare's made a great many improvements to the gameplay since Mass Effect 2. Combat is a lot more visceral now, and there's a much wider variety of enemies than there were in the second game. Unfortunately, BioWare still hasn't quite gotten the hang of cover; the mechanics around it often feel clumsy and unwieldy, and it's occasionally better to just dodge around like a maniac than bother trying to find a good place to hole up. Melee, too, still feels a little clunky in ME3, though the addition of the omniknife (essentially, a super-heavy melee attack) is a welcome one.
Combat is not the only thing to undergo a bit of an overhaul; the interface has, as well. Inventory management now includes rudimentary weapons customization (you can apply two upgrades to any of your guns), and a new mechanic, "weight", ensures that your adept or engineer can easily walk into combat geared up like a walking weapons platform, but your abilities will take far, far longer to reload as a result.
Speaking of abilities, they're all fun to use, there's more customization involved in leveling them up (though not as deep as in the first Mass Effect, sadly) and the synergy between different classes is particularly well done; this shines brightest in the game's multiplayer, which, I'll admit, is actually very, very fun.
As a vanguard, I loved teleporting across the battlefield with Biotic Charge and smearing my foes all over the walls with Nova, while as a soldier I waded through hordes of enemies, cutting them down with nary a scratch. Every class has its place in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, and every character is useful in their own way.
The maps are reasonably varied, as are the factions you fight: Geth, Cerberus, or Reaper. Each match consists of ten waves of enemies, with several objectives (disabling control points, holding an area, killing specific units) scattered throughout. While fun, it'd be nice to see a bit more variety, depending on what faction you're up against or what map you're on.
There's an elephant in the room for ME3 multiplayer: content packs. For some reason, BioWare decided that it'd be a good idea to structure their unlock system like a trading card game: that is, you pay credits (or Microsoft points) for a box that includes five random items, anything from new characters to new weapons to one-time-use items. So, those of you who wanted to play as a Krogan or Asari? Have fun grinding for credits, or shelling out real cash for the off chance that you might unlock the character you want. Sounds like a roaring good time, right?
Anyway, playing multiplayer increases your "Galactic Readiness Level" for each match you successfully complete; the amount varies depending on the challenge level. For each day you don't play, the level drops by 1 %. It's possible to complete the game without playing multiplayer at all... but it's still a touch difficult.
Music, sound, and voice acting in Mass Effect 3 are all fairly well-done, though there are a few painfully bad lines throughout the title, which are either awkwardly written or poorly delivered. Thankfully, the good outshines the bad in most cases.
While Mass Effect 3 is very fun and very satisfying, it still feels like there's something missing. It feels like it could have been so much more. While it's certainly an excellent way to end the trilogy... from where I'm standing, Commander Shepard deserved a more fantastic send-off.
GameDynamo's Score for Mass Effect 3 (PS3)
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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