Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/PC
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1 (Online: 1-4)
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence)
It. Is. Finished. For the past month I have strategically avoided every ounce of Mass Effect news I possibly could so as not to besmirch my experience with someone else’s. This is the point of Mass Effect – to play your story, and your story only. I have completed mine, and looking back, it’s like I’ve completed a chapter of my life.
Mass Effect will do that to you.
This will be tough, as I refuse to allow myself to publish any spoilers, but I press onward anyway. Additionally, it’s very easy to talk about what’s wrong with a game, but talking about what went right is a completely different beast. When it’s right, it’s right, and that’s all there is to it sometimes.
I’ll start with technical stuff. On standard HDTVs, this game looks great – especially at the end when we get a glimpse at some pre-rendered material. On the highest quality TVs out there you’ll start to see it slow down, but overall, I can’t complain. It’s a good looking game, especially when it comes to futuristic set pieces. Mass relay stations are gorgeous and fleets of ships are awe-inspiring. This game is like watching a film.
Combat is superb – I’m ready to label it the best I’ve ever utilized. Mass Effect 2 was easy to use, and 3 has retained that while adding some great stuff. The heavy melee attacks are very useful and well-implemented while new dashing and dodging makes getting around and avoiding enemy fire that much easier. Each weapon type serves a purpose, and no one weapon is overall superior – to each his own in this way. Additionally, most firefights provide plenty of cover for a tactical fight instead of “fire and hope for the best”.
A lot of people were nervous about the multiplayer and afraid it would take away from the main game. Bioware has come up with a fresh and engrossing system, however, that I couldn’t be happier with. A multiplayer match is a team of four facing 10 waves of progressively more difficult enemies with a couple of objective rounds tossed in. The balance is very fine for these – three people essentially guarantees failure. Credits and experience are earned. A player can level up several different characters from multiple species. These characters are unlocked through randomly populated packs a player purchases with credits – much like trading cards. Packs contain characters, weapons and equipment for battle. This does a good job of leveling the playing field for veterans and newcomers to the multiplayer scene, as one might unlock a powerful weapon early on where someone else who has logged a lot of hours still may have not. The character system helps this along as well. Levels are maxed out at 20 making the draw to start another at level 1 very appealing and keeping the stratification low.
Additionally, the multiplayer can influence the game itself – each session increases your “Galaxy at War” rating, which acts as a multiplier to war assets in the main game. It has been designed in such a way, however, that the game can be completed “successfully” without having played the multiplayer.
That said, the multiplayer is awesome. The best I’ve ever played. It’s about time someone revolutionized the online multiplayer experience, and Bioware has done it. However, it does bring to light some multiplayer etiquette issues. If you’re adjusting equipment or deciding which character to use, get out of the lobby. Some of us are ready to play and waiting on you. Additionally, don’t drop out in the middle of a match, especially in this game where each person is vital. If you aren’t going to be able to finish, don’t start.
The soundtrack is fantastic as well. I got the Collector’s Edition and a free download of it and I love it. Speaking of the Collector’s Edition, however, shame on Bioware and EA for this day-1 DLC business. I got it free, but for everyone else, it’s a real shame, because it’s very cool. I didn’t even realize I was playing it until I unlocked a trophy for it.
Unavoidably, it’s time to address the plot and story. Something I really enjoy about Mass Effect is that the intimate moments are just as powerful as the big ones. Where other games throw around big explosions, small conversations can be the most memorable in Mass Effect, especially considering the impact the player has on them.
And let’s talk about that elephant in the room. Everyone has been up in arms about the ending to the Mass Effect story arc – one person even went so far as to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Most of the complaints seemed to stem from a convergence of endings regardless of decisions made.
I’ll drop a score here and for those of you interested, you can scroll down to read some more about the endings with minor spoilers. All in all, I loved this game. Every aspect is fantastic and I wish I felt I had the time to tackle higher difficulties and make different choices, but one is so invested having gone through one or two titles beforehand – titles that are vital to manipulating the ending. It truly feels like I completed this journey myself and my decisions continue to weigh on me as I reminisce on the memories.
Bottom Line: 10/10
I promise this will be relatively light. There is truth in that the game converges on three endings, though depending on your readiness related to Galaxy at War and war assets, not all may be available. The Illusive Man must also be dealt with, and how that goes can depend on your previous interactions with him. While it doesn’t offer a lot of variation, it is some.
That said, the ramifications of the three options are a bit vague. Shepard may survive or he may not, and the battle between synthetics and organics can be decided or compromised. It all boils down to a cutscene where the Normandy scrambles away and crashes with various characters emerging, also based on your readiness.
What happens after this is left to the imagination. Many years later, a stargazer and a young child stand among trees staring into space. The stargazer, voiced by Buzz Aldrin, tells stories about “The Shepard” to the child who dreams of some day making it to the stars. It’s touching and may be the best moment of the game at putting the story in perspective – really driving home the magnitude of the events.
Many of the complaints are ticky-tack things that can easily be overlooked. Some inconsistencies are pointed out, and while some of these are true, they are based on facts largely brushed over in previous titles that the average player may not be aware of. Enjoy the ending for what it is.