Saying that Mass Effect 3 had a lot of hype pre-release is an understatement. With the success of the previous two games in the series, BioWare created one of the deepest and most interesting universes gaming has ever seen. Hundreds of pages of codex information, countless discussions with various individuals, and galaxy-spanning quests have all built up to a game that attempts the almost impossible task of bringing it all together. The task is further complicated by the fact that the Mass Effect trilogy is heavily based on choice. BioWare has claimed that it made this a game newcomers could jump into, but countless subtle nods and huge connections will be missed by anyone who hasnít played Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. But for those who have a character they can import, does Mass Effect 3 live up to the hype? For the most part yes, but itís not a question that can be summed up in just one word.
Fear the Reapers
Mass Effect 3 puts Shepard, and the galaxy as a whole, in its most dire situation yet. When the game starts, Shepard is on Earth as the first signs of the Reaper invasion come in. Within minutes the planet is under assault with Reapers landing everywhere and crumbling everything in sight. The spectacle is certainly impressive, but I felt as though it could have benefited from a bit more exposition. When ďThe ArrivalĒ DLC was released last year for Mass Effect 2 BioWare promised that the events in it would directly lead into Mass Effect 3. Technically they didnít lie, but I was left wanting. In the DLC, Shepard sacrifices around 300,00 Batarians for the greater good of the galaxy, something I surely expected him to justify. In Mass Effect 3 I expected some sort of trial where my speaking ability would be tested with the outcome having a big impact on how quickly and easily certain other races would trust me throughout the game. Instead, the human powers that be basically just said ďWell, weíre mad but thereís Reapers coming so donít worry about it.Ē After the opening sequence it becomes clear that Shepard must tour the galaxy to gain the support of anyone he can in order to organize a multi-species united defense against the Reapers.
There has been some fan backlash concerning the ending of the game. Claims range from ďI wish more of my decisions would have impacted the final momentsĒ to ďI will never touch this franchise againĒ but these claims are generally a huge overreaction. Itís true that the very end doesn't put every single decision youíve ever made into one moment, but how could it? Youíre decisions are what got you to the end in the first place, and I think the events and choices in the last minutes of the game are valid ones. It may not be as involved as the ending to Mass Effect 2ís suicide mission, nor does it perfectly tie up every loose end. What it does do is provide a unique ending that I didnít exactly see coming, and after all, isnít trying something new and being a bit different what this entire franchise was built on?
The overall sense of urgency to succeed before itís too late both helps and hurts the game overall. The constant threat of impending doom makes each mission seem incredibly important. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, afraid that if I failed there would be no time to reconcile. I found myself running, not walking, from destination whether it be on the hectic battlefields of Tuchanka or the relative calm of the Citadel. I also found the pace effecting my actions outside of combat and transport. Throughout the previous two games in the franchise my Shepard has been fairly a fairly consistent paragon choosing respect and logic over hostility, because thatís how I try to act in real life. However in Mass Effect 3 I found myself following the renegade path more and more as my temper grew short with people worried about petty disagreements or monetary disputes in the face of the end of the galaxy. The fact that the gameís premise impacted my real-world mental attitude and had me acting differently is a testament to how powerful and personal of a story BioWare has crafted.
On the other hand, the consistent threat and dire circumstance do hurt to game too. While assaulting bases or rescuing important people is definitely made better with the hurried pace, other side missions sometimes seem just silly. In Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 when time was more relaxed I could stretch my imagination to accept that my squad would help a civilian on the citadel with a menial task or two. But, with the galaxy on the line, it just doesnít make sense that I, the most important person alive, would take the time to do something like taking pictures around the Citadel for a documentary filmmaker or check on the love life of a hanar. I realize that these small side quests add filler to the game, but they sometimes seem strangely out of place.
On the topic of side missions, itís notable that how they work has changed from titles past in two important ways. First, many side quests are picked up by simply walking past people and overhearing their conversation instead of talking to them. Iím personally not a fan of this system. Itís common to be walking through areas with more than just one or two people around when a mission pops up to find some medical supply or schematic. Since Iím in a crowd, and often times moving quickly, I have no idea whom the quest is for or what the larger context of needing it done is. Once completed, a NavPoint will direct you where to bring it so there arenít any problems with finishing, but the lack of knowledge makes things less personal and therefore less important.
Engaging story, great combat, succeeds in bringing almost all plot threads to a close.
Multiplayer still seems unnecessary; some may want a truer PRG.