The entire gaming community is up in arms thanks to BioWare’s Mass Effect 3. And after taking my own journey as Commander Shepard, through nearly 100% of the game’s content, I find myself torn between the haters and, well, that seemingly soft-spoken group of fans who really enjoyed the game. So let’s get a few complaints out of the way, shall we?
1. Yes, the ending sequence is not only simplified to the point of insulting long-time fans of the series, it is also completely riddled with plot-holes and unresolved story arcs.
2. The customization is slimmed down even more than in ME2, effectively streamlining a complicated process which many fans enjoyed about the series.
3. Ditto #2 with exploration methods, as there are no more quests for minerals or side-missions to be stumbled upon completely via exploration.
The dominant issue here is that we’re no longer working with the BioWare gamers once trusted, a company dedicated to branching storylines and loads of side-content. Instead, we’re treated with a rushed ending, clunky EA servers, and what amounts to a dumbed down version of one of the best franchises in gaming history. And this problem alone is tough to get through, even if you factor in the difficulty of creating a twenty-plus hour quest without having some bumps along the way. But if you can see through these (admittedly major) problems, there’s still an engaging and exciting Mass Effect game behind it all.
If anything, BioWare is known for its high-quality production value and attention to detail, and in Mass Effect 3 you get all of that and more. Fights can range from controlled scenarios to chaotic, hyper-intense battles. Improving upon the last games, no area is re-used (outside of multiplayer) and the landscapes are as variable as they are stunning. Sounds and sights are re-hashed if necessary, reprising certain environments and tunes to establish continuity. Implemented as well are new worlds and soundtracks, always matching up with the level of danger and mystique surrounding Commander Shepard and his crew.
You may also find that it’s always easy to step back into Shepard’s role. His interactions with all races throughout the galaxy are as enthralling and provocative as usual, in most cases outdoing the previous installments. Multiple storylines are wrapped up, many times with remarkable emotion from Shepard and his talented supporting cast. The ending may be a disappointment, but almost every encounter leading up to it has true Mass Effect style and the uniqueness of BioWare’s writing staff. Fans will also love seeing friendly faces and making choices alongside some franchise favorites.
Forget the ending for a minute though, and let’s get to what really matters if you’re going to be playing this game for thirty hours or so, multiplayer included: gameplay. Mass Effect 3 is hard to fault in almost any piece of its core gameplay, smoothly taking all the great parts of ME2 and refining most every facet. Sure, using one button to do most everything means that Shepard will undoubtedly roll when you want him to revive someone or get behind cover, but in terms of third-person shooters this is probably the most well-engineered based on its level of complexity. Controlling your squad-mates is easy and fun to play around with, even if it makes no sense that Shepard has a highly trained team yet for every mission he only brings two people.
The rest of Mass Effect 3 is pretty much standard, and by that I mean these parts can no longer be thought of as above-average. For the series began with many available options for weapon and power customization, as well as a high level of exploration. But ME3 is about fighting the Reapers, and because of that it seems efficiency has out-weighed a breadth of content. The “weight” system for your weapons is the only addition with some real impact on your fight, every other part a less intricate version of what was done before. These simplifications keep the game from getting monotonous, as all roads lead to the ending, but there’s something hollow about having a galaxy map in front of you and less to do than in the game from five years ago.
Fans of the series though shouldn’t hold off on playing Mass Effect 3, waiting for some miracle DLC to right all the wrongs EA and BioWare concocted. It’s still the impressive, innately fun experience the series has always stood for. Sure the ending is nothing to rave about, but in terms of failing an entire franchise it belongs more in the Battlestar Galactica realm than of the colossal mistake that was the final season of LOST. It’s still one of the most original, complex stories presented to the gaming crowd, and it wraps up a great series that was just about to show its wear. You just might not feel as much like playing it over and over again as when the credits to Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2 started scrolling.