The best tales of conflict are emotionally charged. It’s a fact. Think of Band of Brothers, as an example… the plot was tempered by battles in this excellent series, but the real meat and bones of the story came from the strong connection the viewer could establish with the characters, thanks to their inherent humanity. While the emotions they went through certainly were extreme, they were still feeling that the viewer could very solidly identify with. The emotions expressed in the episodes were the thing that created a strong bond between the characters and the viewer.
Well, that’s one thing that Mass Effect 3 does very well. Here is a game that will (particularly if you have played the previous two) tug at the heart strings with stirring tales of sacrifice, loss and camaraderie. Heroic actions see characters set aside their personal goals, making sacrifices for the greater good. It’s the stuff of epics, and BioWare made excellent use of various storytelling techniques to truly suck the player in and make them not only experience the game, but feel it too.
It is this story that will pull the player forward through this rather long and complex game. It starts off with the hero, Shepard, returning to active duty when the nefarious Reapers turn their attention to Earth, as part of their ‘function’ to destroy all organic life in the galaxy every 50 000 years.
With the human home planet in ruins, Shepard must take to the stars aboard the
once more, trying to rally support for a war effort that has been left idle for far too long. Normandy
Anyway, I am pretty sure you can figure out from that that Mass Effect 3 leaves plenty of room for heroics and heartfelt emotional outbursts. The story is, as expected, expertly told. They have had two previous games to refine their tales of galactic intrigue, (both of which told their stories admirably) so it is hardly surprising that Mass Effect 3 manages to weave a strong plot, complete with all the subtleties and gentle twists that one would expect from the series.
What is quite remarkable about this series is the way that the developers allow for decisions made in the very first game to still affect events in the third title. The player’s actions really do span the whole thing, which is really rather impressive.
Because of this, it is better to have played all of the previous games, although you can happily get by just playing this title. It does a lot to fill in the back story, so anyone jumping in here will, at least, be able to piece together what happened before.
Speaking of all those choices and all, it does bear mentioning that the game’s ending is… well, controversial is a fair description. It seems that many of the folks who rushed their reviews out failed to realise that the ending BioWare worked into the game would leave a sour taste in the mouths of many, many gamers. I don’t want to give away any details and, while I actually didn’t mind the ending, I can see where the problems arose. You cannot promise gamers these far reaching options and choices, only to almost completely disregard then in the final moments of the game.
Add to that the fact that it just feels too open, too loose, and you have a finale that is potentially disappointing… particularly after all that hype, and the brilliant conclusions of the previous two games.
Not that a less-than-expected ending is any reason not to play this game. In truth, Mass Effect 3 is well worth the effort, despite how you may feel about its final moments.
It’s a kind-of “journey rather than destination” thing, which makes sense, really. The ending may be weak, in some opinions, but the game that takes you to that point is rocksolid. The experience you have while rushing headlong to the conclusion is really rather sublime.
See, BioWare hit on a good thing when they came up with the whole Mass Effect franchise, and they have had two previous titles to refine the whole thing. While the second part showed improvements over the first in terms of controls and the like, this game shows even more refinement. The developers went with what worked in the previous two games, and left what didn’t out. The long periods of scanning planets for minerals, for example, are a thing of the past, allowing the player to concentrate their efforts on finding objects hidden in the galaxy that aide their war effort. It’s a far more focussed method of finding hidden treasures, which is great; instead of leaving the searching out, BioWare refined it.
Each found object adds to a score that defines the player’s war effort. In addition, finishing main missions and side quests does the same. The player needs a certain degree of force to take on the massive reaper threat, so tooling about the galaxy doing odd jobs and looking for hidden items helps to lengthen the game and improve the player’s chances.
In addition to this rating, the player has a degree of galactic readiness. This percentage divides the number rating of their war effort, so getting a better standard of galactic readiness is, in theory, a great idea. This is done through playing the multiplayer game, which is a first for the series. It reminds one very much of Gears of War’s Horde Mode, just maybe a bit less refined. Players get to take on waves of enemies with a variety of upgradable characters. These characters can be augmented with once off special equipment and more permanent additions.
While it isn’t the meat and bones of the title, it is a welcome addition, and adds even more game time to the Mass Effect 3 experience. And playing it boosts the galactic readiness rating. Play a few games, and your readiness will shift higher, which is great. At least, it is in theory. I must be honest and say that I could not see the impact of this in the single player game. Theoretically, you can finish this game without ever changing that rating. Does improving it make the final battle easier? I doubt it. Does it change the end? Not at all, from what I have seen. That makes the multiplayer fluff, to a degree. But it is still fun.
The addictive, cover-based third person action of the series is back in full force in this game. It is an excellent experience, overall, even though some elements keep it from rising even higher. If you played the first two games, you simply have to experience this one. Ending aside, it really is a great game.
While many may find the ending disappointing, it is getting to that point that makes Mass Effect 3 well worth playing.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Distributor: EA South