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Mass Effect 3 Review - Don't Fear the Reapers

Updated Fri, Mar 09, 2012 by Stow

A word of forewarning—I will spoil the first two games in the course of this review.  While this is probably a retarded thing to worry about when it comes to a story-based series finale, I figure there’s some soul out there who is just looking for another third person shooter.  Mass Effect 3 WILL scratch that itch.

Apparently saving the world from a rogue spectre isn’t enough.  Apparently some ridiculous genocide-loving race loves you, Commander Shepard.  So you’ve been to hell and back and hell again and back…. It matters not. Assemble your crew once more for this final leg of the journey, the finale to BioWare’s trilogy, which started almost 5 years ago.

BioWare actually thought ahead with this one though, and gives new and old players three ways to play the game:

  • Action-based, where all conversations play as cut scenes with no dialogue choices. Shepard is an ass-kicking machine and this mode is all about getting to more of that.
  • Traditional, which has no changes from previous games. Customize your Shepard and control his or her dialogue to save the galaxy once more.
  • Story-lovers, which has all of the customization and pretty much makes the combat a joke. For those who don’t have the time they used to have, but really want to see things through, this will enable them to blitz through the combat to get to the plot points.

Pretty cool stuff. But right off the bat, I see a horribly missed opportunity. Why is there no recap of the first two games?  Even if these first two games have a lot of development to sum up, the PS3 version of the game shipped with a motion comic that both summarized and enabled the player to make their respective choices since they had no opportunity to import their first game’s character.  Even a game with more cutscenes than gameplay in the series, Xenosaga III, launched with a gigantic in-game encyclopedia that summarized every major event and faction in the series thus far. A codex does exist in game, but it doesn’t go into detail of the major events.

It sounds petty, but you could say Mass Effect 3 duplicates this immediate experience upon hitting new game throughout its narrative—satisfying all parties, but never really pushing the envelope as much as the final game in a series should.

Cautions

Mass Effect 3 is rated M for Mature. There's options for romance, blood, and a whole lot of violence. Depending on who you talk to, they might use some flowery language as well.

Gameplay

75Pretty Good

If you’ve played Mass Effect 2 and loved it, rest assured that only a few slight changes have been made to your tried and true gameplay.

Without spoiling too much, it’s up to Shepard to unite the races of the universe in one final stand in this last chapter.  Embarking on the Normandy, you’ll travel to planets new and old, meet a few new allies along the way, and see a lot of familiar faces—given they actually survived the suicide mission at the end of the last game.

Conversations follow the same wheel mechanic, and you’ll still be going Paragon or Renegade from relative scratch. Apparently being a complete asshole the last 3 years of your career has no effect on your standing when shit hits the fan, but whatever.  We have to develop Shepard further one way or another. The actual Paragon and Renegade conversation interruptions are far more dramatic though, and a welcome change to the series. I still see NO downside to always using the Paragon or Renegade answers though, which strikes me as being silly and makes me wonder whether BioWare has learned nothing these last few years. What the hell is the point of conversational options when one is always the clear cut best option, both in dialogue and result?


Just as you have the ability to melee, so does the enemy. Brutes like these tend to instant kill you when they go for a hug.


Combat has been cranked up, and while the classes remain the same, a lot of the functionality has changed. Vanguard in particular is absolutely crazy, sporting an invulnerable, shield-regenerating charge that bowls over whoever he hits. All abilities now have branching upgrades that offer a choice between one or other, typically damage vs. utility. It’s nice to finally see some potential variety in builds, especially in the multiplayer scenarios.

The new characters are fairly one dimensional, but the returning characters shine very brightly.  However, they don’t play nearly as much of a role in the story as they should—a total waste of potential in my opinion. Why the heck does the multiplayer component play a role in the story while a legend who helped stop a madman from the first game gets nothing but a brief cutscene? I have some bad news, most of your favorites will NOT be joining you for this last mission.

But in some good news, I feel like the atmosphere of Mass Effect 3 is much closer to the original than to the second one. The first game had a much stronger setting, and the second game felt like you were playing a shooter with forced dialogue. The third game achieves both glorious combat and a strong presentation, and I have to thank BioWare for that wholeheartedly.

This improvement would be good if only the game had something amazing to present. Yes, the scope of the game has gotten out of control both in terms of characters and plot, but holy crap, I miss the original’s fairly generic plot compared to what was penned here. If you are playing this game for the story, you have to suffer and finish it. I know your pain. So while the plot of the game has you putting the proverbial band back together to save earth, you, Commander Shepard, get missions to go on side quests to save students at an academy.

Saving a few biotic students. While Earth burns. Am I the only one who laughs at this?

Graphics

87Very Good

The engine seems to be showing its age, but ME3 still has some of the finest facial animations and details in the industry. Sprinting animations in particular show great improvements from prior games, and the overall visual effects during the mini-cutscenes of gameplay are beautiful to behold. Some of the multiplayer environments are a bit bland, but the single player campaign setting is rife with detail.

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

There’s one big exception. Holy crap, Captain Anderson from the intro—your running animation is terrible!

Sound

95OutstandingAll of the voices you’re used to hearing return to reprise their roles. But in a big improvement from ME2, the soundtrack is top notch this time around, with emotional tracks playing during big cutscenes and resounding battle music. Enemies give off great audio cues now, which is critical during multiplayer since death can come instantly to those not paying attention. The cry of a banshee is enough to make anyone panic!

So, I've completed the game twice now, and completely agree with this review. It's not a *bad* 3/10 game, but it doesn't deserve more than 77/100. I would have said a bit less actually.

The character design is really shallow, new squadmates are just meaningless compared to those from the previous games, and it's mostly because we already know them. I don't know if I would have appreciated any of them if I didn't knew them from 1 and 2, except garrus. Secondary characters have been dumbed down as well, like the quarian admirals.

There are many plot holes, one or two obvious contradictions, and a few important ones. It isn't clear how in a galaxy armed with antimatter bombs the reapers would actually take so much time to exterminate organics intead of either winning or being annhilated in a few years at most, but I can accept that. Evend if today we already know how to make whole planets unlivable. It isn't clear why they would need to use groud troops of any kind if sovereign's indoctrination was influencing everyone on horizon, even a few kilometers away. But I can accept these facts, they still make kind of sense, are easy to handwave and most importantly the reapers war could make for an interesting story, but to top it all the ending opens more questions and answer a few, and you regret those few answers. The explanation behind the reaper invasion is the most stupid thing I've seen in a videogame since years, ever maybe. And don't get me started on the starchild. Even disregarding these problems, the ending ignores every choice the player ever made in the game, it simply checks how far you managed to fill a green bar.

SPOILER ALERT.Having some extra cruisers is just as useful as a team of scientists to allow you to control the reapers. Why would it matter anyway, there's just some AI we don't know anything about who gives you three choices in an incredibly dumb conversation. This is bad writing, no excuses.

I guess fanboys really can't accept critics to their beloved videogames, but some things are really obvious.

Terrible and laughably biased review. 65 for value? Srsly? Here's a 40 hr game which is more or less a rarity in today's market and with a high replay value and you give it a 65...and I doubt you'd know what is bad writing if it stared you in the face...oh wait

Actually the "choose your favourite color for your explosion" ending kinda spoils all replay value, and beside many smaller plotholes and shallow writing, this game either opens more questions or gives incredibly stupid answers, like the reason why the reapers are invading the galaxy.

At least it's not a 10+ paid review ... and srsly finished it in 35h on max difficulty, watched all the crap endings on you-tube, already uninstalled it. Multiplayer adds some ~hours of fun ... but not much. Forgettable dime a dozen shooter.

The first honest review I've seen. I didn't read ten ton hammer before, but I will now.

seconded ! THE FIRST honest review i have seen for ME3 !

Mass Effect was one of the first games I ever played myself. [Side note: I'd watched my husband play for stories I liked many times, but i had to take the reigns myself for kotor 2. See, Kotor made my jaw drop and Bioware made a fan. Kotor 2 was made by obsidian, and lacked the power of the first one. But it started teaching me how to play games, and that was because of Bioware's first one. I loved Dragon Age: Origins and appreciated the fun (if lack of something) in Dragon Age 2.] But I LOVED Mass Effect. Friends online made fun of me because I spent so much time playing it. Then Mass Effct 2 came along. I really loved the story and team building, but was concerned to all of a sudden be playing a TPS. After venting my frustrations to him, my husband instructed me on how just wrong I was. Apparently TPSs are all picking up RPG traits, so Bioware wasn't compromising by catering to TPS fans. I got over it because I LOVED Mass Effect and its universe.

Now on to Mass Effect 3. I loved the game. I felt like my decisions had mattered. Even if things kind of got tunneled along the way, the things I had done affected the tunnel to some degree. I felt like my Shepard was an amazing human being who made it happen from sheer will alone when nothing else would work. I felt like RPG at least took an equal seat with TPS. I laughed so hard and cried. I didn't want to finish because I thought they were going to kill Shepard. But I understood why that would be poignant. Finally I picked up the nerve to go to earth and blast those reapers into another galaxy. I REALLY wish I could go back and stop myself from going any further, just quitting the game when the platform started to rise.

That last 15 minutes ruined everything. I can't play the game again. I can't play the first game again. And it was my favorite game ever. I can't stand my N7 jacket, and it was probably my favorite article of clothing I owned. Bioware may be proud to have me talking, but I don't think it's the kind of dialogue I'd really want over my art. I'm not discussing validity or what it all means. I'm discussion apathy with the whole series now. (but not giving spoilers.)

At least I have Assassins Creed. Maybe I can play xbox again by then.

If you have not played Mass Effect before, you will love this game. Get it. Play it. Then buy 1 & 2 from Origin download if you can not find it on the shelf.

On the other hand, if you have been following the series from the start you may (will) get a feeling of disassociation from your previous experiences. The only feeling of accomplishment I had was at the end of Tali's story where you can resolve the Geth/Qunari war IF (and that is a HUGE if) you have taken the time to grind out reputation from the planet scan side missions.

There is a lot of grinding for ME3. Grinding reputation in a way that will make you long for the good old days of resource scanning. And grinding that ever so important Readiness percentage. While Bioware claims you do not have to play the multi-player to reach the 5000+ effect force I just don't see it happening. Unless, of course, he is thinking about grinding the readiness via the handheld game. You certainly will not get it with the Mass Effect 3 single player campaign alone. Oh, and do not forget that the readiness rating declines with time so be prepared to grind multi-player missions daily if you want to keep it up.

The ending is bleak. OK, I do not have a problem with that. But the ending is virtually the same whether you never played the previous games, have played every quest in every game, made all paragon choices, made all renegade choices, never bothered with any reputation choices or even did a single mission outside of those required to move the story along. Will it be door number 1 where a few miscellaneous characters live, door number 2 which has the same outcome as door number 1 but worded differently, or supper secret "perfect game" door number 3 which also mimics door number one but everyone gets glowy eyes. It is not the harsh ending for me. It is the anticlimactic everything is shoehorned into the same ending. Between that and the above mentioned grinding it just does not have the replay value found in the earlier titles.

All in all, it is a good game and worth playing. It can be very emotional at times and the cameo appearances from previous squad members have their moments.

Let me clarify something here.

You DO NOT need multiplayer to get the best ending, Multiplayer effect Galactic Readiness which only reducess the required amount of Effective Military strength you need to get the best ending.

In short as long as you have your 'Effective Military Strength' full you will get the best endings regardless of the galactic readiness.

That's not actually true. I did every single quest in the game, and I finished at 3600 military strenght, at 50% readiness (so I actually had more than 7000). That score locked me out of the 2 best endings. So yeah, another lie. I had to play some crappy ass MP to get the other endings. Here's a tip to tell when EAWare is lying to you: They say something.

Not having enough Military Strength locked you out of the "best ending" not the Galactic Readiness multiplier.

It's completely possible to get the "ideal" ending without touching multiplayer, and having your GR stay at 50%

Feel free to post here with the decisions you've made, and I'm sure we can tell you what you did wrong.

There are MORE War Assets than you would NEED to collect ingame, you've just not done enough or made some poor choices throughout your career that has prohibited you from saving life, the universe and everything.

In the forums, I'm seeing everyone comenting they also got ~3700 max on their playthroughs, and everyone who got more only did it because of the MP component. I imported my save which was a ME1 import itself, saved everything possible in both cases. So I'm calling BS on that. Also I used IGN walkthrough to make sure I got absolutelly everything done to get the maximum amount of assets in ME3.

So you're going to post your decisions like I asked, right?

How could you "save everything possible" ?

You lose some assets regardless of choices because in many cases you're picking one or the other (Destiny Ascension vs Alliance Military Ships) hence why I'm asking for specific choices so I can help you out.

I started this game thinking "what the hell is going on?" there were alot of opening plot holes, however they have been filled in as I have gone along. There are something you need to do to understand why this and that is happening (Listening to the main codex entries is one of them).

One of my main concerns was 'how do I have the time to go around the galaxy building an army when the reapers have decimated the earths defences, and this has been put as a Con more or less in the review.

You just have to pay attention, do every little side quest, realize the galaxy is a big place, there is a point in the game when Liara estimates the reapers will wipe out civilization in about 100 years which puts things in perspective a bit more. The more I play the more I love this game, there arnt as many choices as 2 but alot more of the choices are on a grander scale than the other two games, being decisions that can decide the near extinction of races.

I have started playing two days ago so I am just at the beginning but what I've seen so far is disappointing me. The game has become from a really complex and complete role playing to a 90% shooter. I hope to be proved wrong but if this is what I'll get until the end then this game, despite its excellent technical aspects, is a lot worse than 1 and 2.

Play more than a couple hours before making this kind of judgement.

Here is the problem I have with this review... I feel like you came into this game with a set definition of what you wanted and when you didn't get it you just threw your hands up and walked away... figuratively speaking. I mean ... I did the side quests because it meant helping the overall prepareness and such of the fleet against the reapers and also because I spent 60 freaking dollars on this game and I intend to reap that. However, I enjoyed those quests because I had to pay attention or risk missing something vitally important. Which meant every upgrade or asset or missiob marker I got was an accomplishmet. Also I happen to be an achievement junkie.

While I would have liked to see more of my teammates I also ended up happier to have them safely on the sidelines. I mean I haven't even finished playing yet and I'm down four members already - Mordin, Thane, Tali and Legion. I'm scared to have these guys around because I already know they're liable to die. And it will be my fault. Those last two in particular : Tali and Legion are on my head.

Which brings to the point of why I like this game - it matters. The decisions I made/make matter. Save the Rachini and I lose an asset (aka a bunch of people), help the geth and lose a race to extinction nevermind your friends. It feels big and real and awesome which is why this Shepherd seems to be caught in a dialogue quirmire.

Not does that mean ME3 is perfect? Hell no. I hated the reaper showdown where I had to target that sonofasuch over and over again. I hate that things are so overwhelmingly glitched even if it can give some desperately needed humor to the situation. I don't have broadband internet so I won't be getting the best ending (and I hate multiplayer anyway). So yeah it has many a miss, but overall the things that made the series great are present in this game and so overall I'm giving it a personal 80 if only for replay value.

Cue someone going on about BioWare fanboys (I'm a girl) crying in 3...2...1..

"I never thought I’d be writing a section on the multiplayer aspect of a BioWare game."
Baldur's Gate had 6 player co-op. For the entire mindbogglingly massive campaign.

The game was weaker than 1, better than 2 in my opinion. Well maybe not better, but certainly bigger in scope. 2 has you running to assemble a team the entire game just to take out a starbase, 3 has you assembling entire armies to take out the entire threat.

The ending though... bleah. Requiring multiplayer to get the "best" ending is a dick move, as I play this game for the SP part only and couldn't care less about the multiplayer. Oh well.

This review makes me wonder if you actually played through and payed attention to the game at all.

I played through the game, I WAS a Bioware fanboy. I fished out for the Collectors Edition. The game suck. There is 10x more dialogue and 10x less decisions. The whole game pretty much plays as a cutscene, what the hell is up with that Bioware? The combat has gone down the TPS path and the RPG side of it seems all but gone. Your decisions are re-written so you can finish the game like Bioware wants, (most annoyingly the Rachni extermination, I killed them and they came back anyway). Some other annoying things, can't explore the galaxy as much, speech and writing is lack luster, can't put your gun away to get a bigger view on the environment.

In addition to the above post, I still hate how Udina ended up as Council member instead of Anderson. I chose Anderson back in ME1 and talked to him in ME2 and he was in the Council. Now, in ME3 Udina magically becomes the new human council only to betray everything to Cerberus? And Bioware dared to say my decisions from previous games would matter?

This game was poorly made having only its bright colors and big explosion, but with no soul. The RPG element is gone, and it was replaced by a lacking TPS like game. If I wanted to play a Moderon Warfare like game, I would go play MW3, not ME3. Apart of the plot holes and poor RPG, the game was also set on a railoroad, where I had little to no choice on where it was heading (and had I know beforehand I would have quit the game before ever playing it), and even the paragon/renegade choices had little difference from each other, most of the time accomplishing the same outcome.

I have been a Bioware fan since Baldur's gate, and played every single game Bioware has ever released, but no more. I remember when Bioware's name meant respectability and great RPG, but now it is just another company that instead of using the elements that made it successful one day, decided to be just a money maker.

Cue BioWare fanboys crying because BioWare couldn't possibly make a sub-par game in 3...2...1...

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