With Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 widely considered as some of the greatest games ever made, Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to the massive open world and uniquely personalized life of Commander Shepard, had some big shoes to fill as it comes to the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. After discovering the secrets of Reapers–millennia old sentient machines intent on destroying all advanced life every 50,000 years or so–Commander Shepard and his or her group of squad mates have spent the last few years trying to garner support and resources to fight the machines. Unfortunately, hardly anyone took them seriously, and now it’s too late. The Reapers have arrived and in the words of Commander Shepard: We fight or we die.
If you haven’t played the two preceding games, it is highly recommended to so before picking Mass Effect 3. Because on top of the exciting, calculating battles that blend high powered weaponry with tech and biotics, Mass Effect 3 is the conclusion to a deep and compelling story that is sure to last with you for years to come.
Mass Effect 3 opens with Commander Shepard serving a sentence for blowing up a mass relay, and subsequently a populated planet. She did it to keep the Reapers at bay, but as usual no one listened. Now, stranded without her ship and her crew, the Reapers attack. At first glance, the game is bright and vibrant and open, a stark difference from Mass Effect 2 which focused more on eerie shadows and closed corners. As Shepard frantically runs around the city trying to find some way to get to her beloved ship, it’s hard not to stop and pan around the beautiful creation of a futuristic Vancouver in awe, despite the giant machines currently blowing it up. Mass Effect 3 definitely stepped it up in the art department, and that talent is pervasive throughout the entire game.
Combat is relatively similar to Mass Effect 2. A third person shooter with a variety of unique and upgradeable weapons although a new grabbing ability and hidden sword make the combat more up close and personal. The game also includes new ability combos of tech and biotics (think genetic telekinesis for those unfamiliar) that explode when combined. But the combat has always been secondary to the story and the characters, and the response is varied and sometimes rushed. New character and squad mate James Vega might have been interesting if introduced earlier in the series, but to bring him on now as just another meat head who hides his issues with humor seems pointless and all too familiar. However, whatever James Vega may lack the other squadmates provide with the kind of humor, friendship, and empathy that can only come from saving the galaxy together.
Some choices you made in ME1 or ME2 that may not have fit in with Mass Effect 3 are fixed lazily with one line of dialogue. Alternatively, there are also some choices made in the past that you may come to regret if it means the death of a squad mate or an entire species. But that doesn’t mean that the new choices still don’t hit home. Whether it’s deciding to put teenagers on the front the line or exterminating an entire species, the game makes every choice matter. And unlike the previous games, Mass Effect 3 actually shows you the consequences of your actions via personal meetings or emails about updates of your choices. As another new addition to the game, completed missions and choices, along with items found during planet scans contribute to your “galactic readiness,” a chart that monitors your success against the Reapers based on who and what you can gather. The game’s highly anticipated multiplayer, new to the series, can also contribute to this readiness and the varying situations given from each choice guarantee multiple playthroughs.
Some parts of the game feel rushed and less thought out than others. For example, very early on in the game, we’re asked to change from disc 1 to disc 2 for a mission. Immediately after that mission, we’re asked to change back to disc 1. While this doesn’t actually effect the game, it does effect the level at which we can immerse ourselves in the games by constantly breaking it up. And it makes one wonder early on if the creators didn’t pay attention to the disc change, what else have they left out?
The answer to that question is the ending. It doesn’t take a die-hard fan or a know-it-all of the games to see that there’s something strange about the ending. Suffice it to say that whether or not people liked it, they can probably all admit that they didn’t see it coming.
The key word is almost. Despite the ending and a bit of carelessness, Mass Effect 3 still has what we all have loved about the series. It has the strategic combat, the in depth characters, thought provoking storyline, the choices, and Commander Shepard. As Bioware has confirmed that this is the last game featuring Shepard and Co. you can bet that this a game to be played thoroughly and over and over as we say goodbye to the one and only Commander Shepard. Mass Effect 3 is a bittersweet goodbye to the series, but one that fans have been preparing for and one that, whether good or bad, will probably stick with them for times to come.