(Certain characters in my review, might not be in your game. Just FYI if you're new to Mass Effect)
Well it's finished. The story that started back in 2007 has been completed. Mass Effect is a rare franchise that features incredible game play, insanely detailed characters and a galaxy just as fleshed out as the inhabitants inside these endless walls of space. Throughout the story I've played as Commander Shepard and unlike other games he was entirely developed how I saw fit. Every decision made by him was actually my choice. I can't think of another game that grants me this level of ownership. I truly am connected with my Shepard and feel the pain he feels whenever a plan or strategy doesn't go right and there are plenty of those chances. If a decision I make doesn't go according to plan, it means people die. There were true consequences for any and all actions I made throughout my time in the Commander's N7 boots.
I will admit that I ignored the idea somewhat when Mass Effect 3 started. However I was also playing alongside a close friend. We've got our own perspectives, ideas and theories over the span of these three games and it was hearing how different things were developing in his story than mine. I did the same mission...why didn't I get the same result? How was his paragon options able to make a positive difference and mine still ended in the death of not one, but two admired characters? So my mind was greatly opened to how these character have evolved over the years and a greater level of attachment came from it. While I started with a “starting all over” mentality that changed as I played more. Hearing how the same characters in both of our games developed in different ways. Listening to how characters who died in my storyline were doing in his storyline.
There is this nice little list of the major developments in ME2 including the people who died. Once the opening cinematic started playing and I was viewing the Earth landscape I began thinking about the lives lost from the past games. Kaidan Alenko, Urdnot Wrex and Jack had all sacrificed their lives for the cause of stopping the Reapers from wrecking havoc on the Milky Way galaxy. Every one of us knew it was going to be nearly impossible to stop the Collector base. Taking the fight to the Collector's so we could halt the Reaper's advance for as long as possible. While the rest of my squad barely made it out of that battle. The Collector base blowing up behind us in route to the Normandy. A vessel full of the people I gathered to take on this “suicide mission”...people I brought into this war.
A few months take place between the end of two and the beginning of three. So the remains of my team was now scattered across the galaxy. Everyone doing their own thing while the Reapers are doing whatever they please wherever they go. It was a difficult thing to take in at first. The connections I made just gone, the feeling of not knowing whether I will rejoin them, but I didn't have much time to think about that however. Since the human council was requesting my presence.
|New character in the final game of a trilogy? Hmm.|
New face James Vega comes into my “holding room” to inform me I was being summoned to the conference hall. Shortly after walking out of my room I see a familiar face through the bustling crowd of Alliance officers and higher ranked officials. Closing in on Admiral Anderson who was coming to talk with me on the way to the council meeting. Trying to quick discuss what had transpired over these past few months and catch up on none other than the Reaper's galactic invasion. Simply put...Earth is screwed.
As we're going to the meeting hall Ashley Williams (promoted to Lieutenant Commander) briefs Anderson on what the council wants and spends a couple minutes getting re-acquainted with my Shepard. This is cut short with Anderson pressing me forward. As I enter the hall I see a room filled with people who clearly are scared for the future of humankind or desperately chasing guidance on what to do next. (The same people who didn't think twice about stripping me of my commander position, taking the Normandy SR2 away from me and upholding the demotion from human Spectre) They want my opinion on the upcoming battle with the monstrous Reapers. I plainly put it “Every last one of us must stand together and fight if we're going to have any hope of survival. This isn't a matter of strategy. This is about surviving. I don't need to tell you what's coming.”
Mere seconds tick off the clock when a distress call from the Luna base comes in...it's time. The Reapers are here...
As Earth falls into chaos with the invading monsters I get whisked back up in a war that we had attempted to prevent. All these emotions actually started welling up inside of me. All the politics that got in the way of preparing for this very moment, the people who died to keep Earth safe and the savage massacres on countless worlds that I only got to see under fire. Seeing Earth falling under the same swift attacks that have ended so many lived across the galaxy. It's a terrible feeling to say the least. So, I didn't think twice about accepting Admiral Anderson's offer of reinstating my Commander status and getting the Normandy back under my control. Getting back into the fight and making these bastards pay for everything they've done to our developed civilizations
The attack on Earth is just the beginning of a winding road that stays fairly bleak throughout the game. Only a couple of times did I legitimately feel happy after something major happened. More people die, planets get assaulted and sorrow grows more and more as each hour goes by.
Once again Bioware has created something that is refined to the point I can't imagine not having it. The controls feel so much better than in the previous games. Strafing was fluid and they even added rolling to my repertoire. Forward, backwards and to the sides this single-handily made me feel more like a bad ass playing. Rolling in and out of cover with ease. Peppering enemies with my assault rifle like a high tech ninja. One thing I found myself doing more of was not just using my powers more, but also my squad's abilities. Just the fluidity of gun play and movement I guess triggered a feeling that I could do more. Whereas in Mass Effect 1 I hardly ever used my powers (much less my squad's powers) and that was due in large part to the fact it was incredibly sluggish. I know powers played more of a role in my gaming with Mass Effect 2, but I still didn't use them to the degree I did in Mass Effect 3.
Better gun controls were complemented by an actual rpg system. Leveling up my characters was a no brainer, but I could modify and upgrade my weapons as well. Each weapon has two slots that allowed me to make some fundamental changes to the performance of the guns. For example, making the ammo do more damage, allowing ammo fired to pierce through light armor, higher ammo capacity, adding scopes, etc. This was layered on top of upgrading the overall level of the weapon which would grant more damage dealt, more ammo per clip, etc.
With the powers being used more often I quickly found some great combinations to dominate my enemies. Commander Shepard can also learn any power that other members have. You unlock them by simply talking with the character while on the Normandy. Discussing whatever they are thinking about and supporting them is the quickest way to getting access to these abilities. However you can only equip so many at a time. This led to me spending money over and over and over because I thought I was upgrading the skill I just purchased since it kept appearing (everywhere else the item vanishes once the purchase is made).
The biggest addition for Mass Effect is Galaxy at War otherwise known as multiplayer. Now before you get up in arms over another single player focused game adding online gaming to it don't worry. This isn't the typical tacked on multiplayer fare. It's entirely co-op and you survive waves of increasingly more difficult enemies. Geth, Cerberus and Reaper are the factions you fight against (not all at the same time though, you just deal with one faction over ten waves). Online is broken up into three separate parts Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each one ramps up the difficulty, the amount of enemies and just how rapid the objectives change. Bronze challenges average about 20 minutes to complete while Gold averages about 40 minutes (haven't seen too many Gold matches to the end so I'm not sure how long they actually go on average)
The work you put into Galaxy at War rewards you in War Assets in the single player campaign. While it's not needed to get the good ending it does make things much easier to get the “Perfect” ending. I finished the game with a 6223 in Total Military Strength once the assembled fleet was put into action. My biggest complaint was when my system was turned on and I was playing offline, the game dropped my complete 100%'s down to 50% since it couldn't detect an Internet source. So I had to put an additional 10 hours or so into building that back up. Something I would have really liked to see was some more options on customizing the modes. Since they are survival type modes there should be a way to change things up. Since there isn't an option like this Galaxy at War gets bland and boring fairly quickly.
All in all I've been very pleased with the game. Bioware once again shows they can make some truly fantastic experiences. I feel very connected to each character that joined me in on the journey of saving the galaxy from the Reaper threat. While Mass Effect 3 has its flaws this is one of Bioware's best efforts to date. I had a huge amount of expectations going into this chapter. I'm happy my hopes were crushed under a bad game. For the sake of not spoiling anything for anyone I won't say much else. I finished what I set out to stop when Saren went rogue on the original council all those years ago. The sacrifices made will still be felt for awhile, but the galaxy once again knows piece.