Mass Effect 3 is a science fiction RPG/third person shooter from BioWare, and the final game in the Mass Effect trilogy. The game is set ~2186 CE, and follows the events of Commander Shepard and his crew as they help fight off a major galactic threat, and lead a war campaign against the threat that has arrived in the Milky Way.
The story of Mass Effect 3 was both captivating yet lacking at the same time. While this may seem to be a contradiction, I'm sure that my assertion will become much more clear as I explain the plot in more depth.
To those of you haven't played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2, the general plot involves figuring out the nature of an ancient galactic menace that will threaten all civilization in the Milky Way Galaxy and dive much deeper into the mysteries surrounding this galactic menace. Throughout the course of these games, you are able to make different moral decisions whenever dealing with situations that alter the story of the game to a degree, as well as impact the endings of the two games and how they connect with the third game, provided you import your saved character of course.
In Mass Effect 3, the story continues and it's up to Shepard to get the galaxy ready for the conclusion that the series has been building to since the first. The story, the character development, and the relationship dynamics are all beautifully done. BioWare really does an excellent job of making the decisions made in the previous games, as well as the relationships that are cultivated carry over into Mass Effect 3 by having the world and the characters in it actually effected by the choices you've made in the past two games in addition to the choices made in this game. Based on this aspect I would call the story one of the strongest that I've witnessed in any recent video games titles, and would probably call it perfect, if not for the few weaknesses, that you've probably guessed if you've either played this game or read other reviews.
The endings were incredibly flawed. Now, I must state a disclaimer that I didn't play the revised endings in the free DLC, but I must say that there isn't really a good reason why a game would be released in what seems to be an unfinished/rushed ending other than trying to push the game out as quickly as possible. The reason I say the endings, as do many others, were weak is due to the fact that the entire series was all about making choices, developing relationships with other characters, and the impact they had on the story. Whenever you got down to the final decisions in this game, there were only 4 choices (one of which was a hidden bonus, which doesn't get any credit since that choice was the worst of them all) which basically all lead to a similar outcome, with a small, and pretty cryptic cut scene that didn't explain much as it was only 3 minutes max, and only showed a generic conclusion for the main characters as a whole, not even individually. To me, after all the storytelling, relationship building, and everything that the series was building towards since the very first game, having an ending like this, which I don't recall there being even much, if any, dialog in, left me with the horrible realization that I had spent years on a what I wonderful series only for it to not bring closure to any of the main plot elements in addition to making the numerous choices made and actions made previously, completely pointless.
No matter how you decided to play your character, or what “thousands of decisions” (that Bioware boasts) that you've made in the previous games, it all comes to a conclusion that is basically the same with slight variations. This is an absolute insult to any of the people who have played through these games, as I did, expecting the climactic conclusion that the series deserved.
Another serious flaw with this Mass Effect is that there are major plot points and unanswered questions released as DLC only. Now, I understand that companies often want to release DLC and that there are varying opinions on this matter withing the gaming community, however, major plot points relevant to the main story should never cost extra money. This, even more so than the failed ending, hurts my overall opinion of the story in Mass Effect 3.
Despite the preceding two paragraphs about the flaws in Mass Effect 3, the only reason that so much could be written about them is because of how innovative, deep, and inspiring the story is. The flaws are more noticeable because the story of Mass Effect 3, while continuing with the overall plot mentioned earlier in the review, is full of so many twists and turns that it makes the universe really come to life. The numerous characters you meet all play a small part in the story and are 3 dimensional, personality wise. They are presented with real to life motivations and act as unique and individual much like actually people do in the real world. Also, there is a lot of emphasis on forming close relationships . At no point do you find them as fodder become they become much more than video game characters, love them or hate them, they become your friends. In addition to forming relationships with your crew, they are with you through thick and thin, and this game truly captures what it's like to spend time with others and go through major event and bonds together. Also, there are many many ethical dilemmas that you have to deal with in Mass Effect 3, even more so than the previous games. In the fact, an action that could be considered renegade, isn't often treated as a bad decision while some paragon options are. It really muddles the ethical lines of battle, and I love the game for that. It asks questions like; Does the end justify the means? Would you sacrifice the few to save the many? Is all life equally sacred? To me, having a game bring these into play whenever dealing with a war situation, is the ultimate experience to truly engross you in the world that the developers created.
Ultimately, despite the flawed ending and the unacceptable practice of releasing major plot points in DLC, Mass Effect easily has the strongest story of the games that I've played this year. So, I would rate the story as Outstanding, falling just short of Perfect due to the two major flaws.
Disclaimer: Again, this is based on the core game since I haven't played the revised endings, so my opinion may change once I get the chance to try them out. Also, I must give kudos to BioWare and fans of the game for speaking out against the endings (the latter) and actually changing the endings (the former)
The gameplay of Mass Effect 3 is pretty fun and serves it's purpose really well. The shooting mechanic, as well as the use of duck and cover, are pretty standard for a third person shooter. However, finding codex information about everything in the game, as well as the leveling system and class choices are all excellent for the RPG aspect and serves really well in giving the tradition RPG experience to those that seek that style of gameplay while still being playable to those who aren't quite as much into RPG games as the science fiction, third person shooter genre.
First, let's talk about the third person shooter elements. The mechanics of the third person shooter is the standard of what you'd expect, with the standard duck and cover system that many games, such as Gears of War, uses. Also, unlike standard shooters, there are special abilities for those who choose to have a character with biotic powers that can act either be used to enhance your shooting, such as having an enemies float through the air unarmed, or can be used to outright attack in order to damage the enemies. I like this variation in gameplay style, which leads to the second aspect of the gameplay, the Role playing.
As strictly a Role-playing game, of course it's definitely more simplified than most RPG buffs would be accustom to, but this is only because of the need to incorporate shooter elements into the game. In this case, the role-playing elements, such as the class system, merge beautifully with the shooter aspect in order to create a fulfilling gameplay experience that gives hours of entertainment. This hybrid works wonderfully because you get to level up while using a class system which can be suited to almost any game style. As with any great RPG, the leveling system is actually useful in this game because of the different abilities and benefits that you can acquire. The classes in the game are adept (biotic powers) which is like the mage class, soldiers (the warrior or tank class), infiltrators (the thief class) and vanguards (battlemage class). All of those classes play exactly as you would expect in an RPG, and there are also custom builds as you level, that feel right at home. Perks and benefits are all part of the upgrading experience in order to tell your story and play as the commander Shepard that you chose.
All in all, I would say the gameplay is Excellent. I wouldn't say there is anything really Outstanding about the mechanics, but they serve their purpose and are very fun without ever becoming a burden or getting repetitive.
I feel the mulitplayer needs to mentioned because it's rather unique compared to many other shooters I've played. It's very similar to the firefight setup found in other shooters, with enemies coming in waves. However, a key difference is that there are certain objectives that you must complete during each wave in order to progress towards an actual end goal. This is unlike other games with this type of multilayer, in that you can actually beat this game mode outright. In fact, it's encouraged that you do beat it. The multiplayer, I found to be really fun, and the third person shooter aspect is greatly improved upon compared to the shooting mechanics in single player. Also, like in single player, you can pick from the same classes, but they're much more powerful and fast paced in multiplayer mode, which works for this match style. I must give kudos to BioWare for proving my doubts about multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 being any fun.
Now, another flaw in the game, and a major one at that, is also found in the multiplayer, but not in the gameplay mechanics. Rather, it's the effect on the game overall that the multiplayer has. There is part of the main story called galactic readiness, which is where you gain resources and see how prepared you are for the final battle, in order to get the best outcome. However, in game, you will notice this never goes above 50% readiness unless you play, and win might I add, multiplayer matches. If this isn't a disgusting enough ploy for BioWare to force Xbox players to get live and have to play matches, there is also the fact that every so many days you don't play a match, you galactic readiness in the story starts to decrease daily until it's back at 50%. So, unless you frequently play multiplayer, you can't use half of the resources that you spend most of the game trying to acquire, both in main and side quests. To me, this is just an absolute rip off and we, as gamers, need to speak out against this nonsense now and not contribute to the greed.
For the above reason and that reason alone, I have to rank the Multiplayer as Fair. I would feel deceptive to call it Poor since it's so fun to play, but making it a requirement in order to use my collected resources in story mode makes it to where I couldn't, in good faith, give it a higher rating. Because of this, I recommend not playing the mulitplayer unless BioWare realizes that this is a good way, not to make money from a gimmick, but rather isolate their fans.
I feel that Mass Effect was a very fun game, and easily one the best I've played this year. My final verdict is that I would definitely recommend anyone interested in RPGs to play this game, but if you haven't played the first two games, definitely play them first in order to make the experience much much more meaningful. While BioWare did seem to lose their way a little by giving into cheap gimmicks and rushing out their products, they still know how to make a spectacular RPG worth playing. Well done Mass Effect 3, it was nice playing you, and I'm sure you will go down in gaming history along with the best RPGs.
My Rating system:
*Note I don't give overall ratings to a game, but rather a rating to each category (story, gameplay, etc..). Also, I will expand on why it gets this rating in my summary at the end of each section.
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