Mass Effect 3 is a Bioware title that needs no introduction to RPG gamers — it is one of the biggest blockbuster games to come out in 2012.
It is the capstone to a stunningly envisioned sci-fi universe, and has legions of hardcore fans who love the lore and stories of the Mass Effect universe.
I consider myself one of them, having completed Mass Effect 1, 2 and now 3, spending in excess of 120+ hours finishing the main storylines and selected DLCs. This was an unmissable game for me.
However, it was with trepidation when I bought it in the release week at the beginning of March. Even though it was very well critically reviewed, it was savaged by fans on Metacritic.
It reminded me very much of the hoopla around Dragon Age 2, which was an unfinished and unworthy game befitting Bioware’s pedigree.
I’m glad I bought Mass Effect 3, because I loved the superb middle portion of the game. It doesn’t deserve it’s low score by users on Metacritic – I would rate it closer to a 7.5.
But I entirely understand the frustration of fellow fans, because parts of Mass Effect 3 suck, especially in the introduction and the ending. And as a long-time fan, Mass Effect 3 could be so much more.
Still, I would unequivocally say this: If you love the Mass Effect games, and especially if you kept your Mass Effect 2 saves, you have to play this game.
The Ugly: Mass Effect 3’s bad endings
If you survive the Final Fantasy-like 30 min cutscene-diarrhea introduction, and finally make it to the Citadel, I promise you will fall in love with the franchise all over again.
You won’t throw a shoe at the computer screen till the final 15 mins of the game, which has such a WTF set of endings that it has riled fans all over.
In fact, there was even a petition campaign by fans to Bioware to change the official endings, and they raised US$80,000 to US charity Child’s Play to prove their point. And Bioware seems to have listened.
(Note: Do not click on the following links and videos if you do not want spoilers on ME3’s endings)
In short, unless Bioware really threw us for a loop, the writing for the last 15 mins is inept.
The Angryjoe Show has one of the best video summations on why fans hate the mass effect 3 endings:
Look, maybe Mass Effect fans are spoilt and we have high expectations of ME3 because ME1 and ME2 were good.
But seriously, it feels like the endings (and to some extent the introduction) was written by a writing team of interns. And we wouldn’t really care, Bioware, unless we really loved your games.
The Ugly: Day 1 DLC
I have two words to sum this up: Corporate greed. Way to go, EA, as this is a new low in the industry.
What makes you think that getting fans to fork out more money, on day one(!), to unlock content already available and burned into the installation disks is not going to draw a backlash of some sort?
Especially for EA, who is perceived by many gamers (like myself) for being relentlessly evil greedy corporates that foist crap DRM on their games.
I’ll tolerate your Origin DRM (barely) that you foist on everybody so I can play the games I want to try. But if I had a choice, and I’m ambivalent about a game, your DRM policies will tip me in the other direction.
The Sublime: Mass Effect 3’s music
The music in this game, by composer Clint Mansell, is gorgeous. I can listen to some of the scores for hours on end.
A particular standout is the main theme “Escape from Earth”, which is a beautifully sad tune that you hear recurring in the game.
The Good: Smoother combat, branching tech-trees, smarter AI
Mass Effect 3’s core combat gameplay has improved as a shooter-RPG hybrid.
The action flows smoother than in previous games. Controls are responsive, and Shepard ducks, weaves and rolls from cover to cover sniping enemies fluidly once you get the hang of it.
The branching tech-trees are well laid out and explained, and I like the fact that each tech can be customized to what you want.
Lastly, and most importantly, the AI has been upgraded, both for the enemies and your squadmates. Enemies now throw grenades to flush you out of cover, unlike in ME2 where you could stay behind cover forever.
And your squaddies are actually decent in a firefight, even though micro-management is still probably necessary in tough fights (esp. on hardcore and insanity levels).
The Good: Evocative storytelling (excluding the introduction and crap endings)
The bulk of Mass Effect 3’s storytelling is excellent.
Especially if you imported a Mass Effect 2 Shepard, the story is full of poignant moments: Every major character and squadmate you interacted with in ME2 that is alive makes an appearance in this game.
Some play minor parts that flesh out the story, but others leave deep lasting impressions as they participate in this grand space opera.
You will face and resolve some of the most difficult political issues in the galaxy as you amass an army of coalition forces to fight against the reapers. And the best thing is that these issues were alluded to as early as Mass Effect 1.
If not for the last Earth mission of Mass Effect 3 — which falls far short of the brilliantly written finale segments of the final suicide mission in ME2 — I would easily give this game a 9.
In summary, if you loved the Mass Effect series, you will enjoy Mass Effect 3.
Just grit your teeth and make it past the introduction, and you’ll be loving the game till near the end, when you want to tear your hair out at the rubbish endings.
If you’ve never played a Mass Effect game before, I would not recommend starting fresh from ME3 from a story standpoint. I feel that the story will be less poignant for the new player who has yet to steep in the lore and background tapestry of characters and races of the Mass Effect universe.
It is not a bad thing that the game has far richer emotional payoffs when you have played ME2 and ME1 — it is a testament to how well-written the series generally is.
I would suggest that new players consider starting with ME1 (or at least in ME2) as the trilogy is best consumed as a whole.
Despite its flaws, Mass Effect is one of the best sci-fi RPG series I’ve played throughout the years. Which is why I’m disappointed with the final endings — fix it Bioware!