Mass Effect 3 Review
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll save the galaxy.
We all knew this day would come eventually, the day we’d have to say goodbye to some old friends, the day it all went to hell, the day we saved the day. Whether you’ve been with Mass Effect since the beginning, like me, or you joined the fight somewhere along the way, you’re here to experience the end of the current trilogy. While I’m not sure what’s going to happen to your Shepard, as it may not be what happened to mine, but I do know you’re going to love Bioware’s third act in the Mass Effect series.
The Mass Effect series has changed a lot since the first game, which was more of a pure RPG, to the second which was closer to being a really long third person shooter. Now that Mass Effect 3 has rolled around we are getting a product that has elements of both but can be customized, and played, in a way that makes the game play out quite differently that you may have expected.
You are presented with a choice, when starting the game, of playing in RPG, Action or Story mode. RPG mode will offer a standard RPG experience with you making all of the decisions while Action causes the conversations to play out automatically, as if they are cut-scenes in any other game. Finally, Story mode offers the same experience but with a lower combat difficulty for those who just want to experience the story. I’m a big fan of every element the Mass Effect series has to offer so I chose RPG mode for the review playthrough.
Mass Effect 3 picks up a short time after the events of Mass Effect 2 and we find Shepard on Earth just in time for the Reapers to launch a full-scale assault. Shepard narrowly escapes and is tasked with assembling a force to re-take Earth, save the resistance and drive the Reapers from the galaxy. I won’t go into any further detail as the story will be your own to experience based on the choices you’ve made in the first two games and the new choices you will make. I will tell you that this story is much more emotional than the previous entries and is fantastically woven in a way that will keep you guessing, invested and interested until the very end.
Throughout Mass Effect 3’s missions your main goal will be to raise the Galactic Readiness meter. This gauge keeps track of the forces you’ve gathered together in preparation to take back the galaxy. Every mission, conversation, decision and interaction has the potential to affect the readiness meter. Major missions can be undertaken to secure the help of larger assets like the fleets of the galaxy’s races, but adding to your readiness can be as simple as settling an argument between two soldiers you pass in the hallway of the Citadel.
This formula serves to make it feel like you’re really the one in charge, where Mass Effect 2 boiled down to simply assembling a team person by person. The missions in Mass Effect 3 don’t have such clear goals. Speaking with everyone is important and pursuing every lead is essential as you never know what sort of aid to your cause could be waiting around the corner.
While moving around the battlefield is generally smoother this time around, it isn’t without issues. The cover system has improved greatly but sometimes when trying to move your view from side to side it will jerk wildly, too far in the direction you’re trying to point. Activating objects is also very touchy and often you have to be positioned just right when you hit A to activate a terminal or risk sending Shepard rolling away. The same plus and minus situation is seen in the slower moments of the game as this is the best looking Mass Effect game yet, but the camera gets confused sometimes. Even during cut-scenes the camera will sometimes lag behind where it’s supposed to be, or it will momentarily teleport outside of the environment only to jerk back in when it realizes its mistake.
The addition of Kinect voice commands brings another fresh element to Mass Effect 3. Voice commands are completely optional, but I did find myself using them for the more cumbersome actions like switching weapons and telling teammates to use powers. If you can get used to them, the voice commands really help keep the battle moving and the Kinect microphone picked up my voice without any trouble while other games haven’t fared so well.
Minor technical issues aside, the campaign in Mass Effect 3 was highly enjoyable. Tweaks to the weapon and power systems put you in greater control of your character customization, the story is engaging and the missions are intense. Whether you’re a long time fan or a newcomer, Mass Effect 3 should be part of everyone’s library.
If you were surprised when you heard that Mass Effect 3 would have online co-op you wouldn’t have been alone. Bioware is offering a series of four-player, co-op, firefight/survival missions that are quite separate from the single player story. You start by choosing your race and class, and powers and weapons can be customized along the way, as well as your visual appearance. While this is a neat addition, being able to play Mass Effect with your friends, it was a little dull. You simply kill wave after wave of enemies, then escape to the extraction shuttle. There isn’t much else that happens, aside from very simple bonus objectives.
I do see why Bioware decided to add this mode though since you can come here to raise your Galactic Readiness meter in the Single Player campaign. For those who wanted to run and gun through the campaign, and skip all that talking, you can come here for some more running and gunning and still complete the game with a satisfactory rating. Mass Effect 3’s co-op isn’t bad, I’ve just played it in a number of other games already.
Looking past some technical issues, and co-op that is just OK, Mass Effect 3 delivers where it’s supposed to. Shepard’s last hurrah delivers an action packed story that is filled with sadness, triumph and a ton of old friends. The story unfolds in unexpected ways and never lets you down. Mass Effect 3 does plenty of fan service without alienating new fans or being as predictable as it has in the past. I don’t think the co-op will hold my attention very long, but I am going to start a new single player campaign right now.