Mass Effect 3 Review - Don't Fear the Reapers

Ten Ton Hammer
Ten Ton Hammer Rating

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.


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 - 75 / 100

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 - 87 / 100

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 - 95 / 100

All 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!

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