The Mass Effect series holds a special place in gamer’s hearts. Since previous save files are once again exportable, some gamers have put hundreds of hours into Shepard’s tale. Newcomers to the franchise simply don’t have that same connection. As a result, expectations couldn’t be higher. Bioware has confirmed that Mass Effect 3 will conclude the trilogy, and doing so carries its own benefits and demerits. With that in mind, was Shepard’s final outing his/her best?
Mass Effect 3 aims to take down its predecessors by being the biggest and best Mass Effect, and arguably achieves its goal. Finally, humanity is faced with the threat of the Reapers. In order to survive, Shepard has to ally the humans with other species. While Shepard complains about playing an intergalactic politician, the places you’ll visit are worth another ride in the Normandy.
Mass Effect 3 opens up in Vancouver during the Reaper invasion. Shepard has been off-duty for some time, as explained in Mass Effect 2’s DLC, and is finally reinstated. This opening sequence is over-the-top and practically on-rails, a testament to the cinematic and linear nature of the past two games. Within this first half-hour of the game, Bioware develops its emotional link; the small child hiding in the vents. As the game progresses, Shepard is constantly reminded of this moment, which carries fans into the ‘Indoctrination Theory’ debate. Rarely does the events in a video game’s campaign stir up such compelling theories and debates. Unfortunately, the mystery and debate of the game’s meaning is overshadowed by the backlash and criticism of the questionable ending. But more on that later.
Mass Effect 2 effectively altered the combat mechanics to improve upon the original, and Mass Effect 3 continues to tweak the franchise’s gameplay. Some of these tweaks serve a great purpose, while others spoil the interface and standards set by Mass Effect 2’s clean and intelligent UI. One notable example of a welcomed addition would be the way squadmates react in firefights. As a cover-based shooter, both you and your two squadmates will need to take cover often. In Mass Effect 3, allies will move if you run to an occupied piece of cover. This is unfortunately balanced by a cluttered journal and smaller ability icons.
Easily the biggest addition this time around is the game’s multiplayer. Instead of competitive play, which is one of the latest and greatest trends in our industry, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is cooperative and wave-based. Think of Halo: Reach’s ‘Firefight’ mode with added objectives and a wave-cap. Since Mass Effect is known for its single-player experience, Bioware has taken the emphasis off of the multiplayer by giving it an effect on the overall story. Basically, one must play the multiplayer daily to raise and maintain a high “Galactic Readiness” percentage. This percentage can greatly aid Shepard in the final moments of the war. While this is an innovative concept, it brings up some concerns. What if one does not have a steady internet connection or Xbox Live? They will not be able to get the ideal ending. What about when EA eventually shuts down the game’s servers? The ideal ending will be forever locked away in the past.
Speaking of the distant future, it is unfortunate that Mass Effect 3 will be remembered by its supposedly “terribly ending”, rather than for it being the incredible game that it is. Truthfully, the ending of the game has some minor plotholes. Even so, Mass Effect 3’s concluding hour is epic sci-fi at its best. The game ends with memorable imagery that truly does the franchise justice. Furthermore, the multiple endings are a reflection of each player’s individual player style; from their morality to the time and effort they’ve spent playing. With upcoming story-based DLC, Bioware has a chance to add the closure fans deserve.
Mass Effect 3 never hits the emotional level that Mass Effect 2 carried, but is the only game in the trilogy that gives gamers a reason to return. The flaws are easy to over-look, and few at that. Most importantly, Mass Effect 3 concludes the trilogy. Bioware made sure they paid attention to all the subplots floating throughout the first two games, like the Krogan Genophage and Rachni race, and properly addressed each one. At this point, Mass Effect is expected to be a fun and deep experience. Bioware has crafted much more than that.