Parent Talk: The Mass Effect trilogy has been rated M, not for gore or blood, but partial nudity and adult themes. The mature subject matter has also been the cause of controversy over the years. All this is to say children shouldn’t play this game.
Plays Like: Any BioWare RPG since Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic (KOTOR).
Review Basis: Completed the Xbox 360 version on Insanity difficulty; invested about a dozen hours in the multiplayer.
I purposely waited about a week after completing Mass Effect 3 to present our review. The reason: the ending. I’ll discuss it later, but know that what you’ve heard is basically true; ME3’s ending is disappointing. However, I wanted to let the controversy sink in and see what I thought after stepping back a bit. Now, I’m still playing. It’s the culmination of a series that redefined gaming. How is it? Well, read on to find out.
Everything. It’s hard to pinpoint one aspect that surpasses all others, but I’ll choose the world BioWare created here. Everything since Mass Effect is linked, making this truly feel like your Shepard’s story. You really believe that you’re shaping what happens, and likely different than your friends. Amazing, no?
Mass Effect 3 concentrates on all the different race conflicts. There are so many wonderful chapters that it’s tough not to spoil anything. The Krogan has always been my favorite alien race because of its underdog status. Everybody hates them because they’re fearless warriors. That’s why the Salarians created the Genophage: to forcefully eliminate Krogan reproduction. A great example of the deep story is that you can cure the Genophage. That decision is yours, and depends on your choices from the previous games. You might feel differently about the Krogan. There are countless other examples where in the end you must recount your decisions to determine how things finish.
When I thought it couldn’t be better than the Genophage chapters, ME3 re-introduces the Geth-Quarian conflict. Wow! Now we understand what that was about in Mass Effect. That’s all I will say. I can’t stress enough; everything you’ve done before playing ME3 impacts the final adventure. No other developer has supported this kind of endeavor. It’s an incredible achievement.
+ Remove the plot and BioWare magic, and Mass Effect is still a blast. If you like shooters, this is a top-notch cover-based one that adds a multitude of powers to the mix. Like action games? Pump up the difficulty to Insanity for one heck of a thrill ride. What about RPGs? You’re covered. And now, there’s a lot more customization as you earn experience accomplishing tasks. (Mass Effect 2 leveled you up after every mission.) You can then spend money and experience on upgrades and different weapons. Mass Effect 3 is for gamers, period.
+ The Paragon/Renegade system. I hate when I’m asked whether I played Paragon or Renegade. I don’t understand that. ME isn’t meant to be played like that, but with your heart and mind. If you play making only Paragon or Renegade decisions, you’ve missed the point. Mass Effect is about personality and creating your own adventure. It’s like politics; you can’t please everyone. There’s not always a right or wrong option, and I think ME3 captures this perfectly. I thought that trying to be perfect wouldn’t make me the Shepard I needed to be in order to be a strong leader and save the galaxy. I also really like the different choices. There’s a General at one point who’s fixed on killing some Geth, though I was still on the ship. I was angry about that and wanted to punch him out. Lo and behold, that option comes. If you play as though you were truly Shepard, much fun will be had.
+ Multiplayer. It being co-op and not competitive sold me. I’ve invested well over a dozen hours just in the multiplayer. I didn’t expect much, and only started it once I finished the campaign. It’s basically Gears of War’s Horde mode. With three others, you must survive waves of enemies. It’s fun because of the different classes and leveling up, which proves Mass Effect’s core formula. A varied team is also important for the harder missions. Biotic powers are a must, along with heavy firepower. Worst-case, you don’t have to play this. The solo portion doesn’t suffer at all. Those who get into though enjoy significant value.
+/- Romance options. I went for Miranda in Mass Effect 2, and got screwed in 3. I won’t spoil, but say you get the short end of the stick with some characters.
– An annoying bug. It’s not frequent, but frustrating. Basically, an enemy becomes frozen in time and invincible. When that happens, you must restart from a previous save. It’s worse in multiplayer, as you’re forced to quit the match and forfeit all your experience.
– The ending. It almost made me cry. It’s sad that this is how one of the greatest gaming franchises ends. The promises about different and unique endings weren’t fulfilled. Is that horrible? No, it depends on your passion for the series. Some have told me they thought the ending was fantastic. Most of those people are casual fans. There’s hope however, thanks to logical theories out there that I won’t speak of due to spoil risk. I think future DLC will add more closure and possibly redeem BioWare’s damaged reputation. Those that don’t want to spend more money, or don’t have internet access, will have to deal with the ending they experience. Everything is awesome until the last 15 minutes. Did someone outside BioWare write the endings?
Fifteen minutes of essentially a 130-hour adventure (the trilogy) doesn’t ruin the franchise. Sure, I want a better ending, as it still hurts. But, everything else is incredible. As a gamer and a person, I’ve grown with BioWare since KOTOR and Jade Empire. It’s something about how far they pushed this genre. If you game, there’s no other way to look at it. Mass Effect should be experienced by all, and my very first perfect score goes to the whole series, not just 3. Heck, this is the first time that I’m excited for DLC! Now that’s scary.
Final Score: 10/10
(But seriously, the ending blows…)