A trilogy that gripped the galaxy is coming to an end
I am not afraid to admit it, when I started up Mass Effect 3, I was nervous. Not that I thought the game wouldn’t deliver, or that it would somehow disappoint, but because it marked the culmination of four and a half years of game-playing. This was the final installment in the Shepard story, one that I had become so involved with that I am not sure I wanted it to end. So I was nervous, and then I started playing, and the nervousness turned to joy.
The story begins on Earth. After a brief stint with Cerberus, Commander Shepard has been brought home by the Alliance. Things seem okay, until communication buoys start going down. That is when dread sets in. The Reapers have launched an all-out offensive on the Universe, just like Shepard said they would, and their primary target is Earth.
The opening sequence is presented very well. It gives you a very subtle overview of the controls, if you are new to the game, but doesn’t hit you over the head with it, so veteran players can easily ignore. It also sets the stage for the direness of the situation. The Reapers are here, they are more powerful than we imagined, and we need Shepard to stop them.
This is where the power of Mass Effect 3 is: emotion. I have never played a game that has conjured such a wide range of feelings in me. There is sadness, joy, frustration, doom and even some truly funny points. All of this is wrapped in the weight of the situation. The universe is at stake and at no point does BioWare let you forget it. The best part is that you can really see all of this playing out with Shepard. While I feel like I knew Shepard before, in Mass Effect 3 you really start to see how this journey has taken its toll. Shepard looks tired at points and even has some very intimate moments, questioning whether he or she is the right person for the job. It humanizes Shepard in a way that the previous games never did.
The supporting cast also helps create the sense that you are truly fighting for the existence of everyone. All the races are looking to you for leadership and resolution. It’s frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. There were numerous times where I was yelling at the screen when certain races were being short-sighted. It was an experience that cannot be understated. I really felt like I was part of the struggle to save the universe.
Another addition to the various relationship elements is the characters themselves have a lot of interaction with each other. In previous games, most of your crew members communicated with you and not each other, but now you will find them referencing each other. It helps develop the sense of team, not just the player putting together a group of loyal followers. I found that some of these interactions were some of the most entertaining in the game.
Graphically, Mass Effect 3 is what we have become used to for the series. It looks amazing, the environments are varied and exciting. For the most part conversations and character animations are done very well. It really adds to the story and the sense of immersion. Where the game struggles a bit is from a technical aspect. There can be some texture pop in, some long load times, and some frame rate drops.
One major issue that I experienced was freezing. It was a constant problem throughout the game. It happened as soon as my first 15 minutes with the game and as late as halfway through the final mission. It happened so often that I took a very rudimentary poll on Twitter to see if it was just me. I found that many people were experiencing freezes and glitches, although not as frequently as me. It didn’t ruin the experience, it was just very annoying.
Gameplay has been tweaked a little from Mass Effect 2. For the most part combat remains the same, unless you are using the new Kinect features, which allow you to execute certain commands by talking to your 360. I was skeptical at first, but after a few minutes using these voice commands, I can’t imagine playing without them. The voice commands put everything at your immediate disposal. No longer are you restricted to using the two mapped shoulder buttons and the power/weapon wheels. I literally abandoned the wheels for the most part. I discovered that the best way for me to play was to map my two most used powers to the shoulder buttons and then just shout for the rest. It was fantastic and fun.
The major gameplay changes come in the form of the weapon upgrade and equipment system. Each weapons adds to your character’s weight, the more weight you have, the longer it takes for powers to cool down. So it benefits heavy power users to carry fewer weapons. You can add up to two modifications to each weapon which can be purchased from stores or found in the environment. It’s a simple system that is implemented well.
BioWare has also decided to get into the multiplayer area. It’s basic, but it’s executed extremely well. You and three of your friends choose a class and race. Each class/race combination has a set of three powers that you can level up. They can carry two weapons, which can be modified similar to the single player. Each mission is carried out over a series of waves. Most of these waves merely involve eliminating all enemies, but there are a few waves that have specific tasks to complete. You gain experience and money with these mission to level up your characters and purchase packs of random equipment, bonuses, and characters.
The real hook of the multiplayer is that completing missions/waves also increases your Galactic Readiness in the single-player campaign. Also, when your character reaches level 20, you can promote them to fight in the single-player war. Again, it’s simple, but it creates a desire to play the multiplayer. It’s very fun and extremely rewarding.
Mass Effect is a benchmark series for gaming and Mass Effect 3 is its crowning jewel. Some technical hiccups aside, it’s delivers an experience unlike any other game or series today. There is an investment by the player in the stories and characters of the universe. Even the little tidbits delivered in email, or the old characters from the first games that you run into really add value to the game. The impact might not be as heavy if this is your first trip into the Mass Effect universe, but it’s still a brilliant story, told very well and wrapped in a fun experience. It’s everything you could ask for from a game.
Tested on 360
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