So, this is it. After five years, three games and countless news reporters socked in the mouth, the Mass Effect trilogy is at an end, and the stakes could not possibly be any higher. The all-consuming galactic annihilators known as the reapers are terrorizing the galaxy, invading colonies and harvesting entire species in their quest to devour all life in the galaxy. Only one man can create allegiances where it shouldn’t be possible, bring together an army out of nothing and withstand total extinction – the one and only Commander Shepard. Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic culmination 0f a trilogy that has continuously brought excellence to the table since its arrival all those years ago.
The story of Mass Effect has always been the highlight of the series and there would be no reason why it shouldn’t take prominence in the final entrant in the trilogy. As described above, things have never been bleaker in the galaxy and getting from the point of being hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned and powerless to having a gigantic army of ships, fleets and weapons to pummel the reapers with is nothing short of spectacular. One thing I have to commend Mass Effect 3 on is its ability to make you feel like you’re actually in the middle of a war. It’s not just a part of the story to understand and work with, you actually have to forge an army by creating alliances and collecting ‘war assets’ to further your cause. You’re the one who has to undertake this massive task and the game does an excellent job and making you feel like you’re David coming up against Goliath.
Another commendable aspect of Mass Effect 3 is its extraordinary character interactions. People who have been familiar with the series since its birth will already be familiar with how well Bioware integrates its characters into the plot, environment and even your emotions, particularly with the companions who have been with you since the beginning. It gets to a point where sacrificing someone you care about is a monumental task that you won’t want to take lightly. Heck, even choosing which characters to take with you on a mission becomes a debate; do you take this one for nostalgia reasons or leave them out in case something unforgivable happens to them? Usually, with characters in a videogame, they are nothing more than faces on a TV screen but with the Mass Effect games, they become so much more than that. You will want to learn more about them, forge relationships with them and have them by your side when you require it. Without spoiling things, there were two character deaths in Mass Effect 3 were particularly horrible to watch because your familiarity with them extends beyond having them supporting you on missions. A great story needs good, well-developed characters and Mass Effect has that box checked.
As well as the story, Mass Effect 3 benefits from some improvements to the combat, such as rolling out of the way of trouble and an improved cover system that feels a lot like the one in Gears of War. The combat system feels a lot more fluid and engaging than in previous titles whilst retaining aspects that made it good in the first place. Issuing commands to your squad-mates is as simple as ever and this time around, your weapons can be customized with mods that you’ve purchased or picked up on your travels. Also making a new, perhaps controversial, arrival to the series is the choice between three ‘campaign modes’ – story mode, action mode and RPG mode; Action mode gives the player the chance to forgo all dialogue choices and watch conversations as cutscenes and story mode allows the player to make minimal dialogue choices whilst the difficulty is lowered, in order to experience the story with as less of an interruption as possible. RPG mode is more indicative of the Mass Effect experience that players will be familiar with. On a personal note, I see no problem with how the game was beforehand so these added choices seem pointless to me, and perhaps included merely to cater to those who like to plow through a game rather than take time to fully absorb the experience. Why anybody would want to miss out on so much of the lore and ‘personality’ of the Mass Effect universe is a mystery to me, though.
A notable new inclusion in Mass Effect 3 is the multiplayer which although may seem pointless, does serve somewhat of a purpose unlike other titles such as Dead Space 2. There is no competitive multiplayer, fortunately. Instead, four players come together to withstand numerous waves of enemies that gradually get tougher and tougher until your very might will be tested to the extreme. As you continue playing, you’ll unlock more character types, weapons and the ability to upgrade your powers, just as in the single-player. Your continued playing will also increase the ‘galactic readiness’, which will have an impact on your single-player war effort (although it is not necessary if you want to avoid the multiplayer completely). The multiplayer is not terrible by any definition but it’s also not extremely interesting, either. Being able to play as the other races is something the single-player has never offered, but it’s basically a Mass Effect ‘horde mode’. It may be that I’m not particularly good at it or it may be other reasons, but I don’t intend on spending a lot of time on it.
Back to the single-player; it may be a fantastic game on various fronts but it’s also not without its problems. The laborious planet scanning from Mass Effect 2 has been abolished and replaced with something less tiring. You now scan planets for any available war assets, although it feels more like a game of chance than anything else. If you happen to scan the wrong planets in a system, reapers will detect your presence and come after you like a ravenous cat chasing a mouse, and you won’t be able to come back to collect your goods for a good while. I don’t like it, at all, and I wish there was an ability to evade your pursuers instead of having to retreat. Also on the negative front, it can sometimes feel like you’re fighting the same enemies repeatedly, particularly with your cerberus foes. There are only so many times you can face a once-threatening mech before it becomes a chore. A little more variety at more frequent intervals would’ve been much appreciated.
The biggest negative of all may possibly be the ending to some people and I don’t want to weigh in on that too much, but it definitely could’ve been better; It felt a little rushed and devoid of much explanation for a series that is deserving of such. Plus, it seems as though whatever choices you make during the game are meaningless when it comes to the ending as you get pushed down one of three-possible paths, all of which have similar outcomes but with small things changed. Mass Effect has always pushed you into making your own choices and to have them rendered almost useless is counter-active to one of the series’ strongest points. Perhaps it’s just me…
In any regard, Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic end to an utterly engrossing and excellent series. I don’t doubt that we will see a return to the Mass Effect universe at some point in the future and when we do, it’ll have a lot to live up to. Bioware has crafted a wonderful world populated with amazing characters and Mass Effect 3 is a shining conclusion to that. A very big thumbs up!