The space opera of our time finally comes to a close
Wow, it’s only been just over 4 years, and yet Mass Effect has come to define the current generation of games somewhat, combining Bioware’s classic storytelling with some interesting combat and a touch of the Deep Space Nines. And yet, it’s evolved a hell of a lot too – from humble RPG beginnings to a sweeping action-heavy tale of intergalactic war, Mass Effect’s story has some incredibly human elements for a game featuring so many other species. And here’s the end of it – the final haul in the three-part tale of one human’s attempt to save the entire sentient galaxy from destruction. So, quick recap – due to a series of events, humanity has claimed its place on the intergalactic council and earned it’s right to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the universe. However, this has happened right as an ancient force has risen to wipe all life from the known universe, and through a combination of politics, historical support and some good old-fashioned arse kicking, one man has to get races to put aside their ancient grievances to fight together to stand any chance of surviving. Building on the previous two titles, Mass Effect 3 starts with attempted genocide and devolves into a game of healing wounds in the name of fighting a near-impossible set of odds. To be honest, if you are reading this, you know the drill – it’s a third person shooter, with added power skills, and a wide array of choices that affect the game throughout. Except, in this case, it doesn’t. Bombshell alert – Mass Effect 3 is easily the weakest game of the three, and relies so heavily on the goodwill of the previous titles that it would crumble if not for two 30+ hour gamesworth of exposition and setup. For a start, it looks alright – not groundbreaking, but still pretty solid, and the original game engine obviously has a few tweaks to improve it. The dialogue is excellent, however, with hours of well acted lines really breathing life into all the characters, as expected of both Bioware, and the series itself. The combat, however, is a bit ropey – its solid third-person stuff, to be sure, but nothing really that exciting. You’ll early-on work out a few patterns of attack that work for you and your companions, and after that it’s a simple rinse-repeat for almost anything you face. Sure, you can challenge yourself to try different attack patterns, but when the enemies are practically exactly the same all game, with exactly the same rush/attack patterns for every mission, it soon becomes a bit futile when the real gaming meat is between fights. So, onto the story, which is bloody good. No, really, thanks to the setup of games 1 and 2, Mass Effect 3 already has the groundwork laid out and instead becomes a bit of a clear sprint-to-the-finish, allowing several twists and turns. Shame then, that Bioware has made 2 huge mistakes – removing all semblance of choice and decision, and using the goodwill of previous games to drag every last no-mark character of the previous titles in at every opportunity. So, point 1 – for a game with RPG roots, there’s no RPG left. Aside from choosing when to carry out sidequests (onto those in a bit), Mass Effect 3 is nearly as linear as Gears of War. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that you have invested so much in the characters until now, I’m willing to bet many people would be lobbing controllers in disgust – you do get choices, but they feel so nearly inconsequential as to be moot. I actually tried several quests as both Paragon and Renegade, and can happily report that aside from the names of the bonuses gained, you get exactly the same for finishing a quest one way or another. And point 2 – if you are looking for atmosphere, there is nothing worse than shoehorning in a character from a previous title into every single quest. I’m not kidding either, every damn one has a face from the past who happens to have turned up in the latest bit of conflict. And then, harking back to point one, the game gives you no opportunity to affect an outcome for them – for a series built on choice and freedom, ME3 has taken the whole damn lot away. At times, someone will die, and you’ll be acutely aware you were given no opportunity to do a thing to help. It’s total, total arse. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some real highlights – for example, a hectic boss battle on Tuchanka felt tense (despite the designers lazily dropping in a horde of brutes as opposed to an interesting boss itself), and the odd main mission can really ramp up the feeling of desperation. Shame the same can’t be said for the side quests, which are either simple fetch quests in your ship, or small skirmishes in single areas. Or buying the thing you missed in a main story quest for a few credits, which kinda misses the point of doing the damn quest.
I’ve felt Bioware have painted themselves into a corner for some time, and this title supports my theory
I’m sure our guys will come up with a more optimistic review, and I’m sure many people will disagree with my review as shown here, but the level of stripping back here is shameful at times, and going back to play the original is like playing a different series. The third person combat is crap when compared to titles such as Vanquish, or the control of something like Rainbow 6; the story only holds up because of the amount of time invested previously by the gamer, and again is shown up by the likes of Witcher 2, or even Dead Space 2; and overall, it feels like a reunion of characters from your favourite tv drama, but without the original chemistry. There’s multiplayer too, but all I’m going to say is, it’s slow, unnecessary, and clunky. No one will be leaving the likes of TF2 for this. But, annoyingly, overall Mass Effect 3 stays just the right side of being a good game – stay well clear if you haven’t played the first two, but if you have, you’ll have to see the resolution of the reaper invasion. I am amazed so many websites and magazines are calling it this years masterpiece, because, frankly, it isn’t. In six months time, it’s going to be another game in a sea of revolutionary titles with a lot more to say for themselves. I’ve felt Bioware have painted themselves into a corner for some time, and this title supports my theory – Bioware just haven’t moved their games forwar
d since KOTOR. Perhaps, though, this being the final part is for the best – it’s still a good game, and thank god such a promising start for a series didn’t fizzle out into something truly terrible. So I leave you with this – I’ve fought with myself, and raised the 7 I want to give it to an 8 , as the history and goodwill of the series just drags this into good game territory. However, I can’t help but feel once the inital fanboy hype settles down, many will be marking it a little lower. For something so truly grand, this really is a wasted opportunity. Sod it, I’m going for the 7. The ending was crap too.
The Bad: Weakest of the three games; RPG elements totally obliterated; least amount of choice in any Bioware game; poor, poor sidequests; feels like an extended curtain call for the whole cast; divisive ending; no real point in playing unless you have played 1 and 2