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Mass Effect 3 – Game Review

Mass Effect 3 Xbox 360

Release Date: March 6, 2012
Developed by: Bioware
Published by: EA
Rating: Mature
Genre: Third Person Shooter/RPG.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

First off…I must say that I am heavily conflicted over Mass Effect 3. The highly anticipated finale to the powerhouse franchise is a finely crafted narrative masterpiece, but it just doesn’t fully deliver. The almost-perfect meat of the game gets bogged-down with a clumsy beginning and an absolutely awful end.

Mass Effect 3 begins with an ancient race of intergalactic baddies known as Reapers destroying Earth. Every 50,000 years or so, the Reapers swoop in and destroy all advanced sapient life. This time around, Commander Shepard and his Scooby Gang are hell-bent on defeating the Reapers. Along the way, Shepard will have to end centuries-old conflicts, right ancient wrongs, and unite the galaxy to build the largest armada ever seen.

[ad#longpost]As is expected in Bioware games, the narrative here is brilliant. The dialogue is believable and fluid and the character interaction is wonderful. Shepard’s teammates and companions are all fully fleshed-out and three dimensional, and they interact with the player (and each other) in highly entertaining ways. The action set-pieces are breathtaking spectacles, using the massive form of the Reapers to create truly gigantic conflicts. There are moments of genuine sadness and despair, and I can admit I almost came to tears multiple times. The camaraderie between Shepard and his/her team is heartwarming, and the jokes and teases between characters can cheer the player up after the more bleak moments in the game.

While most of the game’s narrative is well-paced and original, the beginning stumbles and falters. The initial Reaper attack on Earth is about as emotionally subtle as a wrecking ball, and the attempts to tug on the player’s heartstrings are so transparent, they end up being comedic. Early dialogue is clichéd and predictable and the pacing constantly shifts from a slow burn to a frantic sprint. More than once I had to ask; “Who the hell is this guy?!” “Why the hell are we doing this?!” and “How the hell did I get here?!” In the first three hours of the game, I felt punished for not having encyclopedic knowledge of the Mass Effect universe, even though I played through the first and second games multiple times.

The gameplay is your standard cover-based third-person shooter fare, and I’m glad to say that Mass Effect 3‘s combat is not as “Gears of War” as the trailers made it seem. The shooting is polished and fun, and giving commands to companions is still easy to do. Like in Mass Effect 2, each character class still specializes in different weapon loadouts, but this time around, all classes can use all weapon types (Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Snipers, etc.) but at the cost of slower ability cooldowns.

Space travel in 3 hasn’t changed much from 2, but the resource gathering has been paired down and simplified. You can scan Reaper-controlled star systems for artifacts and survivors…but if you scan too much, the Reapers show up and, like old men, chase you off their metaphorical lawn. Searching the galaxy yields War Assets: items and soldiers that improve your chances to defeat the Reapers in the final battle. The war asset system feels well-fleshed out, and it is nowhere near as boring as the planet-scanning mineral gathering from 2.

Mass Effect 3 is the first in the series to implement multiplayer, but sadly it isn’t original or very fun. The multiplayer mode is just co-op horde mode; players team up to fight wave after wave of enemies, and the waves get increasingly difficult as they progress. Every few rounds there is an objective wave that, while breaking the monotony of fighting endless streams of enemies, gets repetitive just as quickly. There are three forms of objectives: Kill these four specific dudes in a set amount of time; Turn off four computer consoles in a set amount of time; or stand within a circle long enough to “hack” a computer terminal…in a set amount of time. All of these are fun and pulse-pounding the first few times you do them, but soon you just hope they will go by as fast as possible. The reward for participating in multiplayer is the improvement of your “Galactic Readiness Rating,” a mechanic that dictates how useful the war assets in single player are. I don’t like the idea of multiplayer interfering with single player, but I found that a low Galactic Readiness Rating didn’t hinder me that much.

Now my friends, I come to my biggest problem with Mass Effect 3: the putrescent mole on the comely face of the entire experience. The Ending. In the interest of spoilers, I won’t say too much, but the game’s ending not only manages to not answer any questions, it also destroys every choice the player has made since the beginning of the series. Not in a bittersweet “all-for-naught” sort of way, but in a “We’re lazy so we’ll just do this so we won’t have to explain the effects of the player’s actions” sort of way. The final cut scene is the same for all options the player has at the end of the game, just palette-swapped. There is no description about how your choices changed the galaxy, or even what happened to the Humans, Reapers, or any other race. The biggest letdown of the ending is that the climax leading up to it was so well done, so gripping. It squandered the emotional investment of the player. It is infuriatingly stupid.

My Advice? While Mass Effect 3 is a terrible end to a series, it is still a very solid game. I suggest that if you are new to the Mass Effect universe, start with the first game and work your way up.


  • Solid review, though I disagree pretty strongly with both the multiplayer and endings assessment, but I’ve already accepted I’m at odds with the Internet Rage Machine re: the ending. I think the various ending options are of uneven quality, but don’t really have any issues with the “green” version (aka the middle path), and depending on prior choices, the red version might not be a problem for a given player at all.

    On top of all that, the past few months even prior to release has showed me that, were I a developer, I wouldn’t have Bioware’s more vocal fanbase for love or money. The ones making all the noise are some of the most toxic people in the hobby, as far as I’m concerned, and in part I hope the endings are left as is just to spite them (and because I have serious issues with “readers” of a story telling the authors they “did it wrong” and should change the story to suit them after the fact). Even if they hadn’t already been calling various Bioware employees “cancers on the gaming industry” before the game came out, the “fan” reaction to the endings has made me somewhat ashamed to identify as a gamer.

  • Yes, it seems like Bioware games seems to bring out the worst in gamers. Their games either get over-critical bashing, or blind adulation.
    The entitlement I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is staggering. And, while I thought the ending was bad, I don’t want them to change it. Mass Effect has ended. It’s time to move on.

    And I really tried to get into the multiplayer. I really did. I even got my soldier to level 20. But I just didn’t “get it.” (It should be noted that I didn’t like Horde mode in “Gears” either) So I may just be in the minority for that style of game type. But I would love to hear your opinions on the multiplayer.

  • I actually enjoyed the multiplayer much more than I thought I would, and I never play multiplayer on anything and don’t play shooters at all. I’m not sure if that was because of the mechanics or just because I love Mass Effect enough to make me like things I wouldn’t ordinarily like.

    I thought the endgame was phenomenal but the very end was mediocre at best. It doesn’t fill me with rage but it doesn’t move me either, and lots of it didn’t really seem to make sense. I found it disappointing but I can cope because the rest of the game is so good.