by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on X360
Side Missions (cntd)
The other difference in Mass Effect 3ís side quests is that they expire. On the Normandyís galaxy map icons appear above each galaxy as reapers arrive there. Once they do, you have a finite time to complete the tasks there or they will be lost forever. I actually think this a cool mechanic that forces the player to prioritize and make tough decisions about which objective is the most important to get to first, but the problem is that the game never explains this system (at least not that I ever saw). Instead, I had to learn the hard way of losing a few quests. I missed out on meeting certain characters and experiencing things that I definitely would have made sure to get to if there would have been a simple ďHey, by the way, these things expire nowĒ message somewhere.
In Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 players were exposed to deep racial conflicts and threats. One of the best things about the third entry in the trilogy is that you finally get to stop hearing about them, and take an active role in resolving (or not resolving) them however you see fit. Tired of Krogans and Salarians yelling at each other? Do something about it. Think the Quarians had the Geth revolt coming? Tell them so. With the stakes so high thereís no more time for beating around the bush, and it feels great.
Of course other peopleís problems arenít the only thing carrying over from previous games. With Mass Effect 1 BioWare promised that all of the playerís own choices and relationships would mean something not only internally in each game, but in the overarching trilogy as a whole. Iím happy to say that almost every decision I made in my previous adventures, from saving the Rachni in Mass Effect 1 to preserving the Reaper tech in Mass Effect 2 and everything in between had some impact in Mass Effect 3. Some choices lead to huge impacts or alterations, and some are simply referenced, but theyíre all there. I never thought it would all come together back in 2007, but having seen it all play out Iíd call it a huge success and something I hope is implemented in future games.
Apples and Oranges
Mass Effect 3 is clearly a hybrid shooter/RPG, but is it an RPG with action, or a shooter with light RPG elements? Itís certainly possible to ignore most of the RPG elements and just blast through the game, but those who want to enjoy everything else the game has to offer will find a lot to keep themselves busy. I personally spend almost as much time just walking around talking to people, customizing my guns, and carefully building the skill trees of my squad-mates as I did shooting. Itís true that this is much less of an RPG than the original Mass Effect, but I donít think that itís fair to downgrade the game for wanting it to be something that the developers have repeatedly stated that it isnít. You canít go to the store, buy an orange, and be angry when it doesnít taste like an apple.
Since Mass Effect 3 is more combat-oriented than other RPGs, it needs to have a better combat system than they do, and it absolutely does. I find combat to be just as satisfying here as in shooters such as Gears or Vanquish. Controls are tight, each weapon has strategic pros and cons, and the various powers yield the potential to develop new strategies on the fly. For the most part your squad-mates will function on their own fairly effectively without much input by the player, but strategy become key to get through some of the harder sections of the game. Targeting specific enemies for teammates to attack yields a damage bonus on that enemy, and using gun force, biotic abilities, and tech powers in coordination can be the difference between repeated death and glorious victory.
The most controversial aspect of Mass Effect 3, at least pre-launch, was the inclusion of multiplayer. Many people, including myself, were nervous that any multiplayer would simply detract from a game that was based around personal decision and actions. Having played a good amount of multiplayer I can say that skeptics were only partially right. On one hand, itís actually pretty fun. Competitive modes like Team Deathmatch or CTF are nowhere to be found, replaces instead by a Horde Mode-esque wave survival mode. By playing you unlock points that can unlock packs of armor, weapons, and other bonuses. I donít see the mode becoming a go-to multiplayer title, but there is fun to be had. One the other hand, I never felt like the mode ever truly melded with the single-player. I realize that separate people were assigned to creating multiplayer so no time was taken away from campaign, but surely the money could have been used in some way to add a few more missions or a bit more polish somewhere in the single-player game.
All in all, Mass Effect 3 is a one-of-a-kind experience that brings together the journey of an entire franchise into one title. Saying goodbye to the characters Iíve come to know over hours and hours in the past few years was hard in a way that it really hasnít ever been for me in a game before. I remember the moment the game asked me if I was sure I was ready for the final mission. The question rose above the game. This wasnít just the last mission in a game, this was the last time Iíd ever sit down with my digital brothers and sisters and I wasnít sure I was ready to leave them yet. The game certainly isnít perfect. Some of the side missions are uninspired, the ending isnít quite what as amazing as people may have expected it to be, and the multiplayer is still largely unnecessary, but the tight combat, incredibly deep world, and connections I made that all came together in Mass Effect 3 make this a journey I wonít soon forget.
Engaging story, great combat, succeeds in bringing almost all plot threads to a close.
Multiplayer still seems unnecessary; some may want a truer PRG.