Mass Effect 3 - Review


The Mass Effect franchise today is regarded as one of the pinacles of modern gaming. Bioware managed to mix excellent action RPG-gameplay together with a strong narrative and a believable universe, almost at the same level of complexity and fascination as the Star Wars universe.
With "Mass Effect 2" being one of the best games i have ever played (and most certainly that's also the opinion of many others), the hype is incredibly big. But with that much hype for the final showdown with the Reapers, there is also a lot of expectations.
Through "Mass Effect 3", Bioware is incredibly close to having created one of the most perfect game trilogies of all time...well, did they succeed?




Story

ME3 picks up right after the events of ME2 and its DLC expansion "Arrival" and follows Commander Shepard as he tries to save the galaxy from the Reapers by rallying civilizations of the galaxy together, while also having to deal with Cerberus, who have decided to turn against him.

ME3's story mainly is not about fighting the Reapers on Earth but really about doing a dozen quests for each of the alien races to come together as one big force for the Reaper-counter attack. There's krogans only willing to help you if you do THAT specific thing, and then there's another alien race that wants you to do another. Every alien race is affraid of their own planet to get wiped out.

Through every mission the presence of Cerberus and the Reapers is constant. Almost every planet very effectively shows heavy destruction and desperation all around you. It really feels like the end of the world has finally come, and that there's nothing to be done to prevent it. Also the conversations with the characters have always a very sad and depressive tone, making the games atmosphere as a whole very gloomy.

Following the main theme of rallying allies together for the final showdown, you will meet almost every character you ever met in the previous Mass Effect games again. With that said, the structure of the storyline has many parallels with ME2, in which you ALSO have to rally old friends and crewmembers together for the battle with the Collectors.
With that said, one might say that ME3 feels kind of repetetive. But still you always get the feel that your actions have a big effect on the final encounter. Epic story and character moments are all around in ME3.
Unfortunately though, there's much less influential choices to make than in ME2. Only about four times i had the feel that i had to make a choice that would drastically change something. Considering that ME3 should be all about cutting losses and making choices, it falls a bit flat in that regard.
Choices from past games are often referrenced though and give you the feel of the other games having an effect on this third part.

Overall, the main storyline and the different missions in ME3 are almost at the same level of excitement as the ones from ME2. If the decisions would have had bigger impact and if the feel of repetetivness would have been toned down, it could have been even better.

The final fight with the Reapers on earth was one of the bigger disappointments for me. Earth's horrible condition is referrenced constantly throughout the game making you anticipate it more and more. And when you finally arrive, the fight on earth is laughably short, meaning that you fight through some areas with bad guys and that's it.
With all the characters constantly being worried about whether they survive this battle or not, you could have wished that it was way more epic and way longer and harder (the Collector showdown in ME2 was way more epic than this).

The ending....well, as it is commonly known, the ending of ME3 is very controversial. As from my personal opinion, the ending is not the worst i have ever seen and it's barely okay but it could have been handled way better. It feels like the developers put far not as much effort into the story's ending as it deserved. All the choices you made throughout the three games, finally influence shockingly little and all boils down to a final decision that feels kind of dull and uninspired (kind of dull like the ending of Deus Ex: HR).
"Yeah well, it is the big Mass Effect trilogy and that's the ending they came up with?" that is most probably the thought of most gamers. But to be fair, the choices throughout the games have much more impact on the journey itself rather than the final outcome.

Let's just say: If you've seen the ending, you can understand the fans' anger.


Gameplay

The good news is that ME3 practically perfected the ME-gameplay. For the most part it works exactly like ME2, for which reason i won't describe the ME2-gameplay in detail here but instead focus on the changes.

Again, you are the commander of the Normandy and travel through space doing severeal missions and sidequests along the way, rallying the different alien forces together for the final strike on the Reapers.
The galaxy map basically works the same way as in ME2 with the Mass Relays that transport you from cluster to cluster.
However, some of those clusters are Reaper-infested, which leads us to the new "harvesting mechanic". While in ME2 you were forced to harvest minerals from different planets by firing probes at them, this mechanic has been removed and replaced: Now you have to fly through a cluster and repeatedly send out a signal that shows you if something has been detected on a planet. Then you simply scan the planet for that specific item and there you go. But be warned! If you send out to many signals, Reaper-ships will notice and come chasing you, forcing you to leave the cluster. But that's just a minor annoyance because the Reapers will vanish after you did a missions and even IF they manage to destroy your ship, the game checkpoints at EVERY CLUSTER (making the Reaper-threat basically useless there).
Some might say that this new harvesting-mechanic dumbs down the game, but me personally, think it's a big improvement over the incredibly annoying mineral-harvesting-mechanic from ME2. I have so much better things to do than to sit around for two hours and do nothing else then probe planets all the time -.-
Removing the necessity of minerals to upgrade ships and weapons is probably the best improvement in ME3.
Finding war assets, upgrades and artifacts by scanning planets still isn't really fun but way better than the mineral version. But at least each recovered war asset adds points to your overall military strength that will have an influence on the games ending.

Combat also got several changes and has been improved. Now, you are given several weapon modules that you can use to customize your weapons on a weapon bench. You can for example put barrels on your guns to increase the damage etc.. It makes experimenting with the various combinations incredibly fun. And as i already mentioned, mineral necessity has been completely removed. Therefore, you can buy upgrades for your weapons which immediately take effect on your weapons.
Another plus is the fact that, every shop you visited on a planet, is also available at your ship. Now you don't have to travel through the entire galaxy to search for a specific item you want.

A very big minus however is the fact that your roster of squadmates to choose from is extremely limited compared to ME2. In ME3 i only had the choice between 4 characters. Are you fucking kidding me? With all the different friends and allies you gained from the past games, Bioware really thought that it would be a great decision to limit the big roster of ME2 to FOUR selectable characters....i don't know what dumbass at Bioware thought in this final installment of the franchise this would be legit.
With that said, the limited squadmates also show in the atmosphere on the Normandy itself. In ME2 you felt how lively the Normandy was with every squadmember having his own cabin and you being able to talk to them whenever you wanted. In ME3 most of the cabins of the Normandy are just empty with no one inside. It's just sad and makes you remember the awesome old squad from the past game. ME3's small squadmate roster is the worst aspect about this game for me (yes, even worse than the ending).

Another slightly smaller negative point is the fact that you aren't allowed to land on that many planets. Actually your only constantly available landing point is the Citadel. Other planets like the krogan homeworld aren't available. Whereas in ME2 your were able to land on so many planets with so many shops, it would make your head spin. But to be fair, it's understandable. In ME3 most planets are at war with the Reapers, therefore yeah....i kind of get it....still it's a pity that they took that much freedom from you.

The rest of the gameplay is pretty much the same from ME2 but maybe with a little bigger focus on gunplay. But well, why fix what ain't broken. And as a third-person-shooter, ME3 is just as satisfying as its predecessors (if not even more).


Multiplayer

Another very controversial addition to ME3 is its new multiplayer.
The multiplayer of ME3 is called "galaxy at war". It's mainly straight forward squad co-op with a total of 4 players, that fight through waves and waves of enemies. This is basically the only mode that is given in multiplayer. Sometimes at specific waves, the goals change. Like having to kill a specific enemy in a short amount of time or activating a series of panels. With each kill you gain points that help you get new weapons and other stuff.

It's really nothing great or innovative in any way. But to be honest it's quite fun thanks to ME3's fun gameplay itself. Also you are able to play as other alien races after a certain amount of points.

A big negative though, is that the multiplayer only features six different maps which get old very fast. After a short time you will know every corner in the map and can practically where which wave of enemies is going to spawn next.

Also, i am not a big fan of the fact that your progress in multiplayer can influence your military readiness in the single player campaign. As you can imagine, even the multiplayer is supposed to be able to affect the ending of the game. In my opinion, multiplayer and single player should never be mixed and should remain seperate parts of a game. But well, that's more of a personal opinion.


Graphics

ME3's graphics are a mixed bag. The design and art of the Mass Effect universe as a whole are fantastic, but considering the graphical appearance of the game, it shows how old the Unreal Engine 3 got nowadays. While hair has been improved, facial animation is great as always and the worlds and scale of battles look great, you can't deny that the game often looks pretty rough around the edges compared to graphical heavy-weights like "Uncharted 3" or "Crysis 2".
Furthermore, ME3 suffers from strong framerate-issues, mostly during cutscenes with much happening (at least that's the case on the PS3). Also, there is a fairly big amount of bugs in the game, but which luckily are mostly present in the form of characters snapping into positions during cutscenes. The gameplay itself is pretty straight forward without any of the mentioned shortcomings.

Just like with "Skyrim", ME3 is such a fun and immersive game, that you simply don't care and ignore the bugs and outdated graphics.


Sound

ME3 continues the great work of Bioware with excellent voice performances from stars like Martin Sheen and with an incredibly epic and distinctive score to boot. It's sound big, great and futuristic. It's one of those scores that when it plays, you immediately know it's from Mass Effect.
Of course the sound design during gameplay is excellent as well. Every gun, character and enemy sounds different and just awesome. Best of the best in the sound department. Nothing more to say here.


The Verdict

Considering the ridiculous hype over this final game in the Mass Effect trilogy, ME3 holds up fairly well. While there are no giant changes in the overall gameplay, the changes that have been made, for the most part, only improved the already great gameplay from ME2. Only the small roster of selectable squadmates turned out to be a thorn in my side. Gameplaywise, ME3 is even more perfect than ME2. But on the other hand, storywise ME2 was stronger. Regarding the fact that this big final showdown with the Reapers has been forseen and anticipated back from ME1, this final battle turns out to be pretty underwhelming, short and with an ending that pretty much defies being influenced by any of your previous decisions you've made thus far.

Some fans of the franchise even go so far to say that the ending destroyed the trilogy for them. The ending is by far not the worst out there. It's just the fact that the ending is lazy, unsatisfying and easily the lowpoint of the entire franchise. But did you play any of the Mass Effect games for the ending or for the journey itself?
With that said, Shepard's journey in ME3 does any of its predecessors justice. Although being not that fresh as in the previous games, it's still a blast and just plain fun to play through the missions and diving into this great universe again.

"Mass Effect 3" is without a doubt not the highpoint of the franchise that fans hoped for, but it's another great game in the franchise that simply shouldn't be missed and which is by far not as disappointing as most fans say.


Final Verdict: 8 out of 10

Status: Great!

 

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