Mass Effect 3: Where Your Choices Have Led
Few times in one’s life does one get the opportunity to see a truly great piece of art come together. I was unlucky enough to miss the original Star Wars trilogy and instead got stuck with the prequels. I experienced the Lord of the Rings trilogy somewhat but still came in late to the party and never got the full experience of reading the books. But then Mass Effect came around and I finally got to experience one of the greatest trilogies of all time, in real time. Now the bitter sweet arrival of Mass Effect 3 has come and the pain of such a great story coming to an end is worth every second to see this epic conclusion.
First of all, as can be expected, the graphics have been upgraded. The environments are vibrant and detailed while holding a level of realism that doesn’t require a Call of Duty style grey to brown color scheme. They’ve upgraded the conversation cinematics in both facial and body motion making talking to people more organic. Usually they’re simple tricks like having people fiddle with an omnitool or run their hand across a holographic screen every now and again. These work fine and are nothing to complain about but sometimes they have some more interesting conversational set pieces. But most obviously improved are the cut scenes, each of which are stunningly beautiful and generally convey an appropriate metric ton of emotion.
However, in a game, just as important to how it looks is how it plays. Thankfully the combat in Mass Effect 3 is great. Unlike the last two installments, Mass Effect 3′s combat feels much more organic. The freedom of movement grants you the ability to jump over most cover, roll between cover and even dodge roll out of harm’s way.
One of the most recognizable and newly iconic aspects of the combat system is the omni blade (seen above being brandished quite awesomely by Commander Shepard). The omniblade is a short blade-like weapon that extends from the omnitool on your character’s wrist. It comes in different forms depending on what class or race you’re playing and differs from stabbing to swinging as well. Some even have added attributes such as fire and electricity. Though the ability to melee your opponents was present in the previous games it has never been as effective or as satisfying as stabbing an orange holographic knife through your enemies midsection.
In both single player and multiplayer you have the ability to customize your skills. The first three levels are straight forward with only one choice available but the last three each give two options to choose from. Each are very different and effect your play style accordingly. With this your chosen class no longer defines you. If you want to be an in your face, melee heavy adept, Mass Effect 3 has given you that option with the availability of several varied skills.
But you need some guns too, right? The gun system is now steeped in customization. You can now not only choose which guns you want regardless of class but how many to carry and if you want them to have attachments such as scopes or ammo packs. Guns also now have weight. You might think this would affect running speed but instead the more weight your carrying the slower your abilities will recharge. This makes the choice between two guns or three much more important to game play. I personally prefer playing as an infiltrator with only a sniper rifle running around the battle field spamming my cloaking ability while slapping people in the back with my fire charged omni blade. But, to each their own.
In multiplayer you can choose from many different races and classes. Male and female humans are available in every class and are unlocked from the get go. Other races are generally split into two classes each (Asari adept and vanguard, Turian soldier and sentinel, etc.) and must be unlocked through packs. Much like booster packs in card games these packs give a set number of items or characters with a certain chance of getting something rare. These packs also come in different levels, each one increasing the chance of rare finds and can be bought with points earned in multiplayer matches or through funds in a PSN or Xbox live account. This system keeps players from simply buying the best things and gives them a reason to keep playing. Unfortunately, this comes with some frustration due to the randomness of the packs. I spent the better half of a week trying to acquire a specific character with no more luck than a decent pistol.
The dodge rolls mentioned earlier are most prevalent in multiplayer. That is, unless you’re a Krogan or Turian, neither of which have the ability to dodge. Small changes like this between classes and races make enough of a distinction for the feel to be different without alienating the player from trying new characters. These differences also help to subtly push the player towards the roles those characters are best at. Whether it’s the tackle style melee and heavy defense of the Krogan Soldier making him great for front line fights or the side stepping, slow melee Salarian Infiltrator being much better suited for long range or sneak attacks. That being said, the game is made to be played any way you see fit.
Multiplayer can be played with up to four people on either bronze, silver, or gold difficulty. There are several maps in which to fight waves of enemies with your friends. Each match lasts for eleven waves, increasing in difficulty as you go and ending with an extraction wave.
Bioware never wanted to make a multiplayer option just for the hell of it. They had considered adding multiplayer into past Mass Effects but found it didn’t fit being as the story revolved around Shepard and his crew. But now that the entire galaxy is at war the idea of multiplayer fell into place much more organically. And in true Bioware fashion the main story is integrated into multiplayer as well. Not only does each map have an individual single player mission but the more you play multiplayer the more it helps your single player campaign. Your multiplayer progress can be tracked on the “galaxy at war” map both in multiplayer and single player. In addition, if you level up a class enough you can promote that character. That character will then become an asset to the fight against the reapers in single player. Unfortunately, it will also reset the character to level one so be aware.
Anyone who has played the previous games knows that story is the key component in the Mass Effect series. You play as Commander Shepard, commander of the SSV Normandy, the first human spectre and savior of the galaxy twice over. Mass Effect 2 begins with your own death. If you thought Bioware couldn’t top that you spoke too soon. Mass Effect 3 begins with the full on invasion of planet Earth by the Reapers, the sentient synthetic life forms who have come to wipe out all advanced life in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s now up to you to abandon your home world and attempt to rally the people of the galaxy to fight back the reaper forces. But between political disagreements, selfish leaders and age old grudges this isn’t the easiest of tasks.
Throughout the game you will need to increase your readiness in order to better survive the reaper threat. This can be accomplished with everything from finding a few scattered resources on an abandoned planet to gaining the allegiance of an entire alien race. Your war assets (including the multiplayer “galaxy at war” map) can be tracked in the war room, one of the newly added areas of the Normandy. From there you can also speak with potential political and military allies and keep tabs on the carnage befalling the galaxy.
Compared to Mass Effect 2 there are very few new characters. Instead the focus is on the already built relationships of the reoccurring characters. The effect this has on the few new characters you meet is a heavier sense of emotional connection. Combined with the desperate state of affairs in the galaxy this makes for an emotional torrent of happy reunions and sad departures.
As in previous installments, Mass Effect 3 imports your save data from the previous games, including all the choices you never thought would catch up with you. Though you are able to play the game without having played the previous two it’s highly recommended that you play through the entire trilogy. Without the experience of Mass Effect 1 and 2 under your belt the emotional depth of Mass Effect 3 is, to a great degree, lost. On top of that, quite a bit of content is lost. This content is not critical to the game and mainly includes small side characters and missions, though certain major choices from the previous games are made for you. But absences like these prevent the player from experiencing the game in its entirety as well as limiting their options in certain situations.
In Regards to the Ending
I personally was not upset with the ending of Mass Effect 3 but I could see why so many people were upset. There were also plenty of good points made that I agree should probably be addressed. However, the uproar of concerned fans has, to a certain degree, overshadowed the quality of the game. I won’t go into any detail on the ending itself for spoilers sake but I do have a short message regarding the issue. Mass Effect 3 is the ending. The ending to an amazing trilogy.
- If you’re interested in the issues that people have been having with the ending, watch this video.
Jeremy Jahns goes into detail on many of the issues fans had, albeit from a rather heated
point of view.
- If you haven’t heard of it, the “Indoctrination Theory” is an interesting take that many fans have had on
Mass Effects ending. Check out this expertly made video by ACOVYOS outlining the theory.
- If you’re interested in multiplayer there are two free dlc packs out already which unlock new maps,
characters, and weapons. Bioware has already announced more dlc like this coming in the
future, including the dlc which will edit the ending of Mass Effect 3′s single player.