Since 2007, we have followed Commander Shepard as (s)he fought the Collectors, fought Saren, the Reapers, the Illusive Man, all in an attempt to end the Reapers plot to destroy all organic life. Five years later, Mass Effect 3 brings the Reapers to Earth to duke it out. Well, less duke it out, more slaughter anyone that gets in their way. We’ve assembled a team, gotten three different versions of the Normandy, and even changed FemShep some in the middle of the series. People have carried their saves and their decisions through into this year, the fifth year of Mass Effect’s existence, and now Bioware is letting us finish the fight. Does it cap off one of the best trilogies of this generation well? Read more to find out!
To say that this has been a long journey is a slight understatement. There are trilogies that have taken longer, and have had just as good a world to suck you into, but none have done it like the Mass Effect trilogy. The choice to customize your Shepard, combined with all the choices you made from Mass Effect forward, has sucked in everyone who has played the games. Everyone’s storyline has a slight difference from one, and a world of difference from someone else’s, making the Mass Effect trilogy you experience unique, and your own. Mass Effect 2 added to that with a wonderful story, even more amazing characters, and improved gameplay. Mass Effect 3 has a lot to live up to, and if you’ve been wandering around on the internet since the game released a week and a half ago and we were working on a review, you’ve probably noticed that the climax of this series has gotten a very mixed reaction from many gamers.
The game starts off well, setting the tone right away and letting you know how big this is. The Reapers, responsible for ending all organic life in the galaxy, has arrived. After one or two emotional hits in the first twenty minutes, you realize how big this is. This isn’t someone trying to take over the world, it’s not someone trying to destroy the world, the whole galaxy whole galaxy is at risk. Not just humans, but all life in the galaxy. From that moment on, you’re dead set on saving everyone, because you’re the god damn Shepard, and that’s what you do. As you start to go down the list of things you need to do, the momentum lessens in a way that many felt with Skyrim. The Reapers are attacking all races, but you’re still in this open world, flying around, doing whatever you wish, which is fine if you’re concentrating on just having fun, but in the context of the story, it can break the experience a little.
Unlike Mass Effect 1 and 2, there is no building a team. Well, there is, but coming off of Mass Effect 2, six potential teammates is quite a step down. It certainly eliminates a couple characters that I know many used in one or two of their previous games. The good thing about this is that it lets you concentrate on, you know, the end-of-all-organic-life thing going on. The core of the gameplay has always been combat, despite Mass Effect’s niche being dialogue wheels, and it’s at its best here. As long as you’re using all the different abilities that you and your teammates can use, sitting in a room with knee high walls, shooting robots, Cerberus, and Reapers can be quite a bit of fun. The enemies can vary quite a bit too, making one encounter not necessarily the same throughout a mission, and you’ll have to employ different strategies to get through each room. It shows how developed the combat has become in their multiplayer mode, which is basically a ten-round horde mode. You can create a few different characters with different classes assigned to them, so you don’t lose your progress if you’re leveling up a Vanguard and would like to try being a Sentinel. The leveling system works just like the leveling system in the campaign, so long time players will feel right at home using it. However, while it’s certainly fun, the multiplayer feels a little light. It’s just the one mode, in which you complete different objectives, such as taking out specific targets or defending an area. It would be like Killzone 2 and 3 multiplayer, except the only multiplayer mode would be the one that randomly shifts from deathmatch to capturing points, to detonating bombs. It’s my favorite mode, but there’s no diversity. Some people just want to play deathmatch. Some people just want to play capture the flag. If more time was put into expanding the multiplayer more, I’d be sucked in deep, possibly about as deep as I was with Halo 3. But alas, there’s only the one mode, and while I will continue with that mode for a while because it’s really fun now, I will grow bored of it soon enough and, with no alternatives, go play another game to satisfy my multiplayer needs.
But Mass Effect isn’t about the multiplayer at all! It’s about the campaign, but that kind of bothers me too. What if they didn’t make that one-mode multiplayer, and put that time, money, and manpower towards a little more of that single player? Because, while I had a fun time with Mass Effect 3 overall, there were certainly moments where I looked around and thought “this could’ve been expanded more”. There are many side quests that are put in place for what I assume to be boosts to your Paragon or Renegade points. In the context of the story, it seems silly to walk by someone having a conversation, and then your quest log automatically adds the problem they were talking about, like I’m an errand boy (or girl if you’re FemShep). It clutters everything up, while I’m trying to figure out what I need to do that’s actually important to the game, and it’s a little annoying. Solving these problems isn’t any easier, because you have no idea if you’ve picked up whatever item they were looking for during your travels. If you pick up an item you think goes to a side quest, you don’t know which one, and believe me, you’ll have multiple side quests because everyone’s talking there at the Citadel. I also wish more time was spent integrating all those characters you loved into the story more. There are certain characters who don’t get much more than a mission, and then you can talk to them a little on the side, but you can’t make them part of your team, and that can be a real bummer for some people. But these seem nitpicky compared to the biggest issue BioWare has had to address with their fans.
(This will be spoiler-free! Rejoice!)
The conclusion to this 5-year trilogy, one that has gotten many gamers to carry their Shepards and their decisions through this fascinating world, certainly irked a few fans. The best I could describe my feelings for it was that it was fine, but I didn’t like it. Taking a step back from how involved you are in the story, it’s a fine ending. Not amazing, not bad, but just fine. I finished the game a few days ago, but I still feel something in my stomach, and I don’t like it one bit. People are asking questions, specifically concerning the fact that their choices across all games had little to no impact on the ending. While I understand where the players are coming from, the trilogy suffers very little from a solid ending. But the biggest thing that is bugging me is that the trilogy seemed to be building up all this tension, and I was waiting for the payoff, and there really wasn’t any. Things were resolved, but I was still left there wondering what I had really done.
The game gets down right emotional. I remember after one particular visit to a planet, I had a hard time sleeping, and it’s absolutely amazing that a game can do that! It’s the greatest part of Mass Effect and it’s why Mass Effect is one of the best franchises of this generation: it digs deep into your gut. The world around you is so realized, and feels so real, despite all the gamey qualities we are used to seeing, that you believe in its existence. The atmosphere, the lighting, the sounds and the music (especially in this game) scream Mass Effect, and it brings out the exact emotion that’s required for each area. You love the characters, fall in love with a couple of them, travel the galaxy and read up on all the planets around you. And it becomes most prevalent in Mass Effect 3, when real shit goes down. At the end, you’re left a little confused, and I guess it depends on your interpretation of the ending. I know from the way I interpreted it, I was super bummed. I sat in bed looking up, looking back in my memory for a glimmer of hope from what I had just seen that could change the whole context of what I just saw. Turns out I need to know a little more about the Mass Effect universe to answer that question. A lot of people seem to be angry because the decision you make at the end does little to affect the actual ending. I actually found that to be a tiny bit silly, instead preferring that there be a solid ending to the trilogy. There certainly are parts of the ending that many aren’t happy about that are valid in some ways, but that’s not for this review. What I personally ended up with was this emotion that I did not want to be feeling at the end of it all. There’s no reason why they couldn’t end it that way, there are plenty of movies that do it all the time, but for some reason it didn’t feel right.
Despite all that internet upheaval, the best answer here is that you play it for yourself. If you are invested in the Mass Effect trilogy in any way at all, you should definitely play Mass Effect 3. The gameplay is better than ever before, and the heavy emotions you go through can be something to experience in a world of games in which killing is a fundamental thing and can be brushed off easily. The game is somewhere around the 28-35 hour mark, depending on whether you’re going for the 100% completion or not, which is plenty of time to sit down and fight against the Reapers. Whether you like the ending or not, the experience of playing Mass Effect 3 is one that many will be reflecting on when this year is over.
Final Score: 9.0/10