Second Opinion: Mass Effect 3

Greetings Moar Powah, since I’ve finished reviewing the older sci-fi RPG trilogy, and finished playing this recent one, it’s about time for me to review the game! Anyway, so Mass Effect 3 is the third game in the series, and concludes the story, supposedly. You may have noticed that it was reviewed by another writer earlier. It’s also got some massive fan backlash over a few particular things (I’ll expand on that later). So how does one of this year’s most anticipated games play out?

This cover is kind of funny, given Shepard's track record with atmospheric reentry.

Mass Effect 3 takes place only a short while after the Mass Effect 2 DLC, Arrival, where the consequences of what happened then get interrupted by the Reapers attacking Earth. From there, you have to travel the universe to get enough forces to take back Earth, all the while helping every single entity that could help you out with their problems. Now, this might make the story seem very unfocused (like it was in the second game, where 90% of the story involved you building a team for the final mission), but there actually is a main narrative to follow. On the whole, the story ranged from above average to pretty damned great. Much of it was pretty emotional too, as there are quite a number of tear jerker moments. While parts of the dialogue felt obviously like generic war story one liners, much of the dialogue consists of touching conversations with the people you’ve grown to care about over the course of three games, and I appreciated those moments. The more important missions were handled pretty well, as they have a number of outcomes, and seeing how differently they could have turned out is always an interesting activity. Overall, despite one very glaring flaw, I found myself liking the story, though the quality definitely varied the whole time through.

The characters act more like they were in the first game than they were in the second. Coincidentally, most of your squad mates from the first game reappear, and none of the ones introduced in the second wind up joining your team, for whatever reason they may have (bullshit or otherwise). There’s only two new squad mates in this game (one’s DLC, as well). The overall number of squad mates, as a result, is not nearly as large as it was in the second game. However, one of my complaints of the second game was that the characters didn’t get as much focus as characters did in the first game. Fortunately, I think characters are more developed in this game, and they don’t follow any particular pattern, either (as I’ve noticed with the Mass Effect 2 characters). Additionally, characters now move around the ship and the Citadel on their own accord, and you may often find them in a conversation with other crew members. I thought this was a nice touch, as it allowed the developers to explore more character dynamics than just the Shepard/whoever ones. Speaking of which, I think Shepard was developed more in this game, as he/she feels more human in this game, often having and showing more emotion in this game. It made him/her more relatable. Though that may be a complaint for some, since part of the Mass Effect experience is playing the games the way you want to, and I don’t think some people would want Shepard to be a more emotional person.

Some of the game's best moments are the interactions between characters, and not the big, explosive ones.

Now, you know that glaring flaw I mentioned? Yeah, that would happen to be the ending. It’s really bad from all sorts of angles: gameplay, enjoyment, storytelling, thematic, you name it. I could write an entire article on the endings, but obviously, I don’t have that luxury here, as no matter what I’ll do, I’ll invariably spoil some things. However, I’ll try my best, anyway. The endings are incredibly disappointing, as they fail to take into account choices you’ve made, have quite a number of plot holes, and lack any semblance of closure (and no, they don’t throw you nearly enough of a bone to figure anything out by yourself). Additionally, they do a number of things no ending should do: infodump without answering any of the questions raised, going against the themes presented, and introducing a very jarring shift in storytelling style. Specifically regarding that last point, the entire Mass Effect story has always been rather straightforward (keep in mind that’s not a bad thing). However, in the last ten minutes, this game immediately becomes a lot more “intellectual”, “philosophical”, you name it. One thing’s for sure, though. The ending sequence is incredibly convoluted, and for no good reason, either. Seriously, that’s way too jarring for a coherent story. At any rate, while I won’t say everything about the ending ruined the entire game, the ending’s flaws are prominent enough to noticeably detract from Mass Effect 3’s presentation.

The gameplay in 3 has changed from 2’s, but unlike the jump from 1 to 2, the gameplay isn’t changed all that much. Mass Effect 3, for the new players, is basically a third person shooter with cover mechanics, but what makes Mass Effect 3, and the entire series in general, so interesting is that there are a number of powers you can use, depending on your class. So your playstyle might be straight up shooting, straight up tech/biotic powers, or a weird combination of the three. While the shooting and cover mechanics aren’t nearly as polished as some of the best entries in the genre, mixing in powers makes things a lot of fun. One real flaw that can get really annoying is what’s only known as PRESS A/X/SPACE TO DO EVERYTHING (depending on what system you play it on). The X button, in my case, was used to take cover, leap over cover, dodge roll, sprint, use items in the environment, and revive downed teammates. That’s quite a number of actions, and sadly, you might find yourself wanting to do one action while performing a completely different one. For example: I was playing the multiplayer co-op on gold the other day (gold is basically hard mode), and a teammate of mine was downed near cover. So I get to teammate and try to revive him, but instead, my character decided to dodge roll right into cover. This kept occurring a few more times before I actually started reviving him.

Here's your Mecha Monday moment: if you can kill the pilot before you get the machine destroyed, you get to hijack one of these machines and wreck some serious havoc.

I have to say though, aside from that gripe, multiplayer can be quite fun. It’s essentially like Horde mode, where you have to survive waves of enemies (though there is an end this time, luckily for our characters). You get experience to level up your characters and money to get buy packs to hopefully get the equipment you want. Overall, for what it is, there’s quite a bit of fun to be had. Meanwhile, if you were disappointed to find that Mass Effect 2 removed some RPG elements from the first game, you’ll be surprised to learn that Mass Effect 3 adds a few back in (though not to the level of the first game). Skill trees have a bit more customization to them this time, as the last three levels of any skill have alternative options, not just the last level. Additionally, weapon mods are back, so you can now customize weapons as you see fit. The biggest addition, in this regard, would be the weapon weight system. Now, weapons have weight values to them, and your weapon weight directly affects your power cooldowns. So having just one light pistol will give you the maximum cooldown, while carrying the heaviest sniper rifle and the heaviest assault rifle will give you excessive cooldowns. However, any class can wield any weapon, so there’s a lot more customization in this area. In addition, the probe system of the second game was heavily revamped to search for war assets. Usually, you’ll only find one or two assets per system, and you scan for them while controlling the Normandy. However, scanning alerts the attention of the Reapers, so you should beware of them chasing after you after some time scanning. In my case, however, they usually came after two to three scans of a system, so that definitely limited the amount of scanning I could do.

What really annoyed me, however, was the number of bugs and general issues I found in the PS3 version. My game crashed quite a number of times while loading, forcing me to restart the entire system. Loading times were really long, too. Some specific areas would not load at all unless I got to them in a specific manner (skipping directly to them from the Normandy instead of just wandering there) or hitting the PS button right when it starts loading, then closing the PS overlay as soon as it stops loading, to get past the black screen. Additionally, online can be quite buggy, as you may find yourself glitching out rather frequently. One other small complaint I have is that assignments (though now they’re missions as well) can’t really be tracked, as now you have to remember if you picked up that one item that one volus asked you to get. That, or you can fly back into Reaper controlled territory and find out. It made doing assignments just a bit harder (and that’s not to mention assignments possibly bugging out and not letting you complete them).

Graphics are about the same as the second game’s, though there are some new animations that make things a bit better. The game looks pretty nice at almost all times, but as there must always be a problem, the game doesn’t always run nice on the PS3. While the game should run at a standard 30 fps, you’ll often find the game dipping to 25 or even 20 fps. It makes both cutscenes and combat pretty choppy. Still, the art happens to be pretty great, and most of the time, the game looks great as well.

Like this shot, even though Shepard is posed in the exact same matter as in the last image.

I’m rather not too big a fan of the sound. I didn’t find the OST all too memorable, save for a few standout tracks. I can’t identify why, but in all honesty, most of the soundtrack sounded like the standard orchestral soundtrack you’d find in high budget movies. I was also kind of disappointed in the ending theme, as they brought back Faunts, but the song they used didn’t seem all that great. A minor complaint, I know. The voice acting, fortunately, ranges from okay to great, as well. Many of the actors deliver their lines solidly, and I think Martin Sheen’s performance was excellent. However, though Mark Meer does a good job, I thought Jennifer Hale’s performance was a lot better, on average. That being said, at the same time, a lot of the lines sound pretty hammy and generic. It’s a mixed bag, really: you either get great stuff, or pretty average stuff. Still, I’d say the average lies in the good range, so that’s a plus.

Rating Breakdown
Despite a seriously lackluster ending that arguably invalidates much of the entire trilogy, Mass Effect 3's presentation, whether it be through story or characters, is, at its lowest, still above average, and even winds up being great pretty often.
Though gameplay could be polished more, and despite the variety of glitches and bugs, is still a rather fun take on the cover shooter genre.
Though framerate is not stable at all on the PS3, the graphics still wind up looking pretty great.
Though the soundtrack is ultimately forgettable, the voice acting is, on a whole, pretty solid.
While you can take multiple paths to the end, I don't know if it's worth playing through the game more than once if you're just gonna reach the highly similar and regrettable conclusions.
While I can't find myself agreeing with many of the design decisions, especially the really egregious ones, Mass Effect 3 is still a pretty fun game with great access on story and characters (even if the ending blows).
The following two tabs change content below.
A mad scientist who's so cool!


A mad scientist who's so cool!

Leave a Reply