MASS EFFECT 3 Review: A Perfect End to an Emotional Journey

MASS EFFECT 3 Review: A Perfect End

 

Mass Effect 3

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Let's get this out of the way, Mass Effect 3 is not a perfect game, but it is getting a perfect score, and there's a reason for that. There are some glitches, there are far too many times where you have to change between the two discs in the Xbox 360 version of the game, and some of the fetch/scan quests get a little tedious. But the core of the Mass Effect world has always been about the tale of Commander Shepard, and that, the story and the central play experience, earns this third chapter its 10 out of 10.

I came into this game with a high level of anticipation. Nine full playthroughs of Mass Effect 2, with multiple other partial plays to try out other character classes will do that. After reading the novels and comics (some multiple times as well) and finally going back last summer to try out Mass Effect and get the full effect of the story, I was so immersed in the world that March 6th became the date of my personal salvation. Playing demos, both public and private with EA, only made it worse. So how could this game, this event possibly live up to my expectations?

The cornerstone of the Mass Effect universe is the idea of telling epic stories with a personal central focus and touch. Here, the story is bigger than ever, as Shepard goes from beyond fighting individual foes and instead looks to unite a galaxy full of disparate races and take down a technological race of sentient starships older than any living organic race. However, the story also brings you back in touch with every major character you interacted with throughout the course of the first two games, plus some guests from the comics and novels to round things out.

The gameplay has been refined as well. With an increased focus on role-playing elements like weapon customization and varying power trees, RPG fans see a return to style from the first game after the action-focused second one. Those who love the action don't have to fret, though, with all those weapons and powers the experience is crazier than ever, and the Reapers have expanded the roster of enemies into insane-looking (and vicious) creations spawned of the races you've fought alongside. Combat is quick and a lot of fun, and while the Kinect voice-command isn't perfect, it can definitely get you out of a pinch in the heat of battle, keeping the game's pace up while using powers and abilities that aren't mapped to any face buttons. There is something just plain satisfying bout announcing "Liara, Warp" and having it happen on screen, as well, even if it only successfully happens once every four or five times.

Back to the story, it was amazing how the writers juggled characters from across such a wide, varying world, and managed to make every one of them have their moment in the spotlight. Some become party members, some give you missions and fight alongside you only briefly, but they're all there – if they survived your first two games, you'll see them again in some capacity. All this leads to some major deaths and emotional goodbyes, plus a reveal that only happens under certain circumstances (BroShep only, romance a specific party member). The deaths are very organic and don't feel thrown in at all- but damn do they feel painful. After spending literally hundreds of hours with this cast, the kind of connection you get from ten years of a television program (but you are also the star) is a real one, and the emotional substance is clear here. If you've been a fan, don't play this campaign in front of anyone you don't feel comfortable shedding a few tears around. Newbies can get in the action too, with just enough exposition to tell you why you should feel emotionally connected to these folks popping in and out of your life, and an innate connection 35-40 hours later that makes even the most basic friendship a heart-wrenching one. As for the ending, it is ambiguous and left up for debate – just the way a good ending, especially one of a story that has been so focused on player involvement and choice, should be. The story has pulled you in so deeply, so completely, that it all comes down to your personal thoughts, your personal choice, and in the end, well, you'll be left wondering if you could possibly make the right one.

Wanting to play more Mass Effect 3 will likely be as common a problem as ME2 was, and luckily a strong multiplayer component eases that pain significantly. Teamed with three other players, random or privately, you assume the role of a front line soldier in the battles against Reapers, Geth, and Cerberus. With a wide variety of villains, ten waves of increasingly difficult enemies come at you until the final countdown for survival. There's more customization in multiplayer than in single player, and this mode gives players a great chance to try out some of the character classes they might not normally use, all without having to play a new full story. Multiplayer is also a veritable bonanza of achievements and trophies, making this game one of the easier ways to rack up a crazy gamerscore. It also directly affects your military strength in the main game, so make sure you play some MP before trying to face down the final battle with the Reapers.

What could Mass Effect 3 have done better? Well, the Citadel fetch quests get a little old sometimes, and honestly, online guides for that component are probably the way to go. The problem there is that they feel like a real interruption of the story instead of an organic part of it. The disc changes are incredibly annoying early on. If you don't choose your missions in the exact order intended, you'll be changing disks 5 or 6 times, easily, in the first 10 hours of gameplay alone. PC and PS3 gamers don't have to worry about that aspect, of course, but the Xbox gamers do get the Kinect voice commands to compensate. That part's a mixed bag as well – it's a lot of fun with a middling success rate. If it could be tweaked just slightly to make it stronger, there is real potential for a whole new way to play a game there.

Overall, Mass Effect 3 did what it needed to do. The game brought the tightest gameplay, the strongest level of customization, a riveting, emotional story, and a fun multiplayer component to boot. Following up on a game of the year can be tough and intimidating, but BioWare didn't falter with this one. Now the only question is… what's next for the franchise? I will miss Shepard and her crew, but I'm excited to find out where this talented team takes us next.

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