Ah, trilogies. There’s something about a three game series that will almost always guarantee that the third game will throw out all the stops. Refinements are at all time highs; what doesn’t work has been figured out. And it allows a developer to end their story and leave their gamers with a sense of satisfaction. Does BioWare give us all of that with Mass Effect 3? Well, let’s see.
What Is It?
Mass Effect 3 sees the final stance in the ongoing war against the Reapers, a collective alien force that periodically destroys the universe’s dominating species to make way for a new power. In the first Mass Effect, the Reaper Sovereign allowed the Reapers to enter the Milky Way Galaxy to begin their destruction, which focuses on organic life. In Mass Effect 2, Shepard had to stop the Collectors from aiding the Reaper cause, which increasingly focused on human life. Come Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard needs to rally the entire universe to put up any sort of resistance to impending annihilation.
This iteration of Mass Effect continues with the changes seen in Mass Effect 2. The gameplay remains a great mixture of heavy action with a RPG soul. However, you’ll have the option to play through three types of mods: Action (automatic replies/cutscenes), Story (dialogue choices/minimal difficulty) or RPG (standard ME gameplay). Throughout, you’ll be able to upgrade your powers in branches and use spoken Kinect commands to issue commands and engage in conversation. You’ll also have a multiplayer mode that ties into your single player experience.
Recruiting continues to play a key role, carrying over from Mass Effect 2. After fleeing the Reaper’s invasion of Earth, Shepard works on recruiting every possible asset in the universe to put up a fighting chance. You’ll bounce around the galaxy and earn assets through relationships and side missions, all of which will benefit you going into the final fight.
Why Should I Care?
If you’ve been playing Mass Effect to any degree, you’ll want to continue the story and it’s a mostly great one. There have been solid improvements with how it plays and looks, along with some added intrigue with its multiplayer.
Mass Effect 3 has the grandest scale of the series and the darkest story. The conversations you’ll overhear are dreary; the Citadel is full of refugees and the last remnants of obliterated species. You’ll need to use your renegade/paragon level even more, because you’ll have to be a lot more convincing amidst the distrust. The tension creates a great atmosphere of intense fighting, political squabbling and deeper connections with your crew. Most of your side missions will be of greater interest too. Some can involve scanning planets (thankfully, not for minerals). It’ll be for artifacts, survivors and fuel- with fun Reaper involvement, so you better be ready to fly fast.
Reaper preparation is twofold: your assets and galactic readiness. Priority missions, side missions and planet scans will increase the assets you’ll take into your final fight. Multiplayer will have you fight waves of Cerberus, Reapers or Geth in various systems to increase your percentage-based galactic readiness. That readiness will determine what percentage of your assets get taken into the final fight. It’s an interesting concept that works fairly well- until you’ll invested so much time into single player that you’re guilted into playing hours of multiplayer just to use all of your assets. It’ll decrease 1% every 4-5 hours, but will never go below 50%. You would be well served not to become overly consumed with the single player.
Multiplayer works decently well. While it's typical “hoard mode”, you’ll be able to upgrade various types of characters, powers and weapons in a four-member team. However, you’ll always be maxed at 10.5 rounds of action, mixing small objectives with standard defeat-all-enemies rounds. The main reason to spend time in multiplayer is to help your single player game; beyond that, there’s just so many rounds you may be able to stand. Still, it’s enjoyable enough because all players I was matched up with seemed to care and have your back, and involving various classes among your team gives you a much better shot at getting through to the extraction round.
And with that comes the game’s ending. For as engaging and well-detailed the series has been, Mass Effect 3’s ending acts as a complete disconnect. The final mission will be some of the most intense fighting ever experienced in the series. It’s incredibly consuming and the difficulty only makes it more worthwhile. But the last 10 minutes of the game slowly begin to take control away from you. Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll quickly be escorted through some slightly-related cutscenes before reaching the credits. The situation won’t entirely undo the game, but it’s likely to lead to a sense of bewilderment rather than satisfaction. Details are sparse and you won’t necessarily know how things came to be. Admittedly, it’s hard to get into more details without spoiling anything. Even so, the feeling of “what?” will likely make you say it aloud.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
There’s no doubt that Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic game. The writing is great, the fighting is intense and it looks beautiful. Technically, it plays out well- save for the face import system which will force custom-Shepard users to not have their usual Shep (for the time being). Up until the last 10 minutes of the game, you’re going to have an incredible game to be playing through. It’s just a little hard to expect yourself to come back to this game for another round or two because of the lack of closure. However, you will be getting 60+ hours of a good time, and a must-have if you’ve been playing this series.