Blue Reviews: Mass Effect 3

by: Larry Asberry, Jr.

Developer: Bioware
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 6, 2012 US
Platforms: PS3, Reviewed on Xbox 360

At this point you probably already have an opinion on Mass Effect 3 but just in case you don’t here’s mine.  Mass Effect 3 is the final triplet in a trio of games involving a universal war, an ancient race of sentient machines, Keith David and you.

You play as Commander Shepherd.  You have determined his or her looks, origins, and ethical predisposition based on the decisions you made (or failed to) in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.  Mass Effect 3 takes place a few months after the events of Mass Effect 2. Essentially, synthetic beings called Reapers purge the galaxy of all life every 50,000 years and the cycle is starting up again.  Shepherd, after already dying once fighting this threat, doesn’t like the idea of that.

Shepherd spent two whole years trying to convince the galaxy that the boogie man was coming.  Now, it’s too late for anyone to listen.  Every pocket of civilization in the Galaxy is under attack from the Reapers and war on a galactic scale has never been so bittersweet. But there is no time to gloat, Shepherd has a galaxy to save…again.

The four universal ingredients of Bioware’s great game soup are all present; character, combat, customization, and story. However, more than any other game or game series this generation, character, customization and story are intertwined to give many people a different experience. The story you experience is customized contingent upon the decisions you made with your character.  Conversations and events unfold in various ways and that is the beauty of this series.  So, Mass Effect 3 references those choices and materializes consequences/rewards based on those choices.  This really is a revolutionary design philosophy and that makes Mass Effect 3 like no other game on the market.

As with all Bioware games, your character levels up as you gain experience points. You can increase the frequency, intensity, or duration of your powers with each level boost.  You can also change your squadmates’ power but I find it easier to use Auto-level and allow the computer to do that for you.  You have a galaxy to save. You don’t have time to worry about the half-second decrease in recharge time on Liara’s singularity.

As usual, Shepherd can carry any two of his closest buddies into battle.  The ability to map skills to the Dpad helps make combat flow seemlessly.  As usual, Mass Effect combat is one of rhythm and flow.  The use of Kinect is a boon to your destructive force and Better with Kinect is more than just a slogan. That being said, calling out powers is not only embarrassing but if you have any appreciate surround sound, it can be ineffective.  However, when used in a quiet environment, Kinect responds admirably.

Admiral Anderson keeps Earth as safe as possible while Shepherd gallivants across the galaxy to get help. In this politically-driven sci-fi future, politics are more important than ever.  You can’t get Shepherd’s back scratched without scratching three other backs.  So, a mission to acquire Turian support turns into a much bigger mission that you were expecting. However, when you do foster a Turian alliance, your galactic readiness rating increases.  This number is an indicator that gives Shepherd a numberical representation of the level of success civilization attains in this war against the reapers.  Side quests, main quests, and multiplayer all contribute to this reading.  So, regardless what you play of Mass Effect 3, you will boost this number.  Thankfully, playing the game is a worthwhile experience.

Bioware heeded its fans calls and reintroduced weapon modifications.  I can now increase the accuracy, damage, or clip size of any weapon I, or my teammates, choose to shoot. Incendiary, Cryo, Disruptor, and Warp armor are crucial ammo types that really add to your battle strategy.  Grenades return with explosive reception and are always spot on.  Combat still requires timed power usage and third-person shooting. It’s a brilliant combination that only appears to have improved.  I played on Hardcore to make combat a more challenging and I recommend all Mass Effect veterans do the same.  Carnage is a skill that you absolutely must use.

Every, rock texture, ammo indicator and relaod sound is technically pristine.  The soundtrack is very reminiscent of Mass Effect one and. free to all those lucky consumers of the Collector’s Edition.  While Bioware managed to remove the film grain, you would really miss all the hard work that went into ME3.  Ashley has never looked better and Wrex is a sight for sore eyes.  This is the best looking Bioware game I have ever seen and it notches just below Gears of War 3 for visuals on an Xbox 360.  Mass Effect 3 is not without its issues.

Several times in my playthrough, my Shepherd model would not load in during cinematic conversations.  It is very jarring to have someone talking to the wall behind me.  My new- since-Black Friday Xbox 360 froze 6 times during my playthrough.  I installed both discs and had to switch 4 times in one day.  It seems the side missions were structured in any chronological way.  Combined together, it just made Mass Effect 3 feel rushed.

Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer experience is very similar to Gears of War 3’s Horde mode.  It features a group of four players.  Each player can choose from one of six class to pick.  Within each class, different races are available to use with a different skill set in each class.  It’s very rewarding watching an Asari glide as she dodges a rocket.

As mentioned in my Mass Effect 3 demo preview here, multiplayer characters mirror the leveling path that Shepherd takes in the main game.  When your Soldier reaches level 20, you can promote him or her to your single-player conflict to boost your galactic readiness score.  It’s a very novel implementation and is very rewarding.  The Silver-level challenges are tough but still fun enough to enjoy for many months to come.

The ending to the series has been discussed at length.  I will not spoil it but I will express my disappointment in it.  Many elements I expected, even predicted, would occur but I think the execution faltered down the stretch.  However, I do respect Bioware’s right to make whatever ending they want.  It is not Bioware’s fault Mass Effect 3 did not meet my expectations, it was mine.

That aside, Mass Effect 3 is truly about the journey and not the destination.  At no point in this generation will you care more about a universe or group of characters as you will with this game. For this reason alone, I not only recommend the game, I implore you to play it.

GetIt Rating:  5/5