When the universe is in trouble and civilizations are being eradicated, who will be there in the fight to save themselves? Will all bets be off with anarchy running rampant, or will alliances be formed to save the world? These questions are answered in Mass Effect 3, BioWare’s end to a trilogy of compelling space dramas that combined shooter with RPG in a fantastic way. As always, it will be up to Commander Shepard to unite everyone against a common threat.
Mass Effect 3 doesn’t waste any time throwing players into the heart of the action, with the beginning of the game being filled with it. Players have a choice between importing their hand crafted character from a Mass Effect 2 save or making a whole new one out of scratch. The character creation system can also be used if you have an imported character in the case that you just want a change. There seemed to be fewer options for shaping individual body parts in this game’s system, but more color options were available for hair and eyes.
This game doesn’t waste any time pulling at your heart strings. The beginning of the game has you trying to help a little boy along with other survivors as Earth is attacked and the end result is a conclusion that this Reaper invasion will have many casualties. Mass Effect 3 has a recurring theme of facing war head on and coping with the struggles that a soldier must face.
The Reapers have elevated their attack from the last game and Shepard is asked to help. There is a lingering “I told you so” feeling when playing, especially if players have played the first two games. Shepard must unite the different civilizations in order to succeed in this war which is difficult because some of them simply do not like each other. This game has two separate enemies which fight as hard as they can to thwart anything Shepard and his team tries to do.
Team mates, old and new, will be found and recruited, with some simply just making an appearance in the game with no combat value. To those who have played both of the previous games, Mass Effect 3 wouldn’t be complete without telling their stories. It’s difficult to talk about these characters without giving anything away.
Conversations are a big part of Mass Effect 3, as they always have been in the series. Most dialogue gives you options to be either friendly (Paragon) or a jerk (Renegade). There is also sometimes a middle option which is usually neutral. The only problem with this system is that sometimes potential love interests can take friendliness the wrong way. If you are friendly with them because you do not want to be rude, the dialogue could turn into a flirty situation even if your intent was to just be nice. This system is clearly flawed as there should be some sort of middle (friend zone) option.
[Okay, I get it, this was a test. Touché BioWare]
Speaking of love interests, there are still a decent amount of them in this game. Those who romanced characters in each of the other games will have that reflected in dialogue with the character as with other events in those games. With all characters, this only applies if those characters survived until this game.
Speaking with everyone is crucial because another part of succeeding in this war is obtaining “war assets” through various means. One of the ways is simply talking to people or overhearing conversations (which can also net you side missions). Another way is through scanning planets which have been downgraded from Mass Effect 2. A lot of people hated the in-depth planet scanning in the last game, but personally, I enjoyed it. Well much to my dismay, it has been removed and replaced with a simplified method. One needs only to scan an area and then the radar will tell you if there is need to scan the planet. It would have been nice to have been able to at least have the option to hardcore planet scan. Oddly enough there is a menu option to auto reply to all dialogue in the game so you can skip it. It’s interesting that BioWare chose to give shooter fans more options than RPG fans. Scanning too much in one sitting will attract the attention of the Reapers and you will need to return to that system later to finish searching for assets.
Combat is the other big part of Mass Effect 3, and with a lot of different forces against your efforts, you’ll be fighting a lot. There are a few different difficulties for players to choose from, the worst being “insanity” which is the mode this was played on (and review based on) for the sake of the challenge. Expect to die a lot on this difficulty and be screaming at every piece of gaming equipment you are using at the time. With different classes to choose from, like in all of the other games, there are always a lot of different battle combinations to choose from with respect to biotic powers and weapons.
The biggest downfall of Mass Effect 3‘s combat is the shoddy cover mechanics. Just getting into cover can sometimes be glitchy and things won’t always work out the first time you press the button. It is extremely crucial to be able to get behind cover immediately; especially when playing on a high difficulty. Sometimes death would happen in seconds because of a simple malfunction.
Weapons are a combination of those already in the series and some new ones as well. Remember that weapon customization from the first game that everyone loved and BioWare foolishly removed? It’s not quite back, but it looks like it has changed yet again. A weapon customization screen pops up every time you obtain a new weapon (even in the middle of the battlefield), so you can immediately reap the benefits of the weapon you just got. Up to two weapon customizations can be added per gun type such as an extended barrel, scopes and increased magazine capacity are able to be on a gun at a time. This seemed too limited and the absence of being able to choose between ammo types was missed.
The most notable addition to your and the enemy’s arsenal are grenades. These annoying little pieces of equipment destroy the concept of taking shelter behind something to avoid being shot; because now, enemies can just blow you the hell up. On the insane difficulty, it is usually run or die. On lower difficult levels, these grenades will injure you quite a bit. Frag grenades are the run of the mill everyday grenades, but there are also smoke grenades and lift grenades. In my arsenal were lift ones, which could be timed correctly to knock enemies off of the playing field. Certain enemies also have shields which block powers and gunfire but having a lift grenade knocks the shield right off of them.
The newest addition to the game is the multiplayer, and although it is decent, it feels like BioWare was just trying to keep up with a world were multiplayer is king. The flawed cover system really prevents players from doing anything but running and gunning. Multiplayer is styled in a “horde mode” fashion, meaning players will face waves of enemies (eleven to be exact) with a few other players. Enemies can be any assortment from the single player game, and the battlefields also vary. There are three difficulties for the multiplayer and playing on a higher difficulty will net more credits to spend in the store.
While Mass Effect 3 is a worthy end to a wonderful trilogy, they still removed way too much from the first couple of games and this new addition felt more like just a shooter than ever. They should have brought back the in-depth armor and weapon customization from the first game and kept the planet scanning (or at least given players an option to keep it) from the second one. As far as story goes though, it’s satisfying and will keep players hooked for hours at a time.