Our story takes place roughly six months after the end of Mass Effect 2 and The Reapers have invaded our galaxy and Earth has born the blunt of the invasion. Playing once again as Commander Shepard, it’s up to you to unite the races of the galaxy against the Reapers and construct an ancient weapon known as The Crucible that may be able to destroy the Reapers once. And I have to say, this story was damn near flawless that managed to fully invest you in what was going on.
It has an all-around great setup, with the feeling of impending doom always over your head. Earth bearing the blunt of the invasion gives the player a whole perspective on the galaxy and really makes the events of this game hit home for the first time. The cut scenes are brilliantly directed and help add to this atmosphere and the developers knew just how to let the atmosphere sink in. The situations that you are put in to gather the races together are nothing short of fantastic as they really make you question where your loyalty lies and you’ll often be put into situations where you may have to choose between your friends, the races you’re helping and gaining the support of other races and creates many moral dilemmas that don’t always have a happy ending option.
There is only one real problem with the plot and that of course it the ending. Everyone knows about it and everyone hates it so talking about it would be redundant. But for those of you who don’t know, the ending is one that feels like a complete betrayal of what the franchise is. If you want more details or don’t entirely get why so many people hate it just check out this link to an Angry Joe video because he can explain it a lot better than I can but let’s just say it completely poisons an otherwise flawless story.
All around, this story was damn near flawless up until the final ten minutes of the game and is a prime example of where the journey is better than the destination. Hopefully BioWare will listen to the fans and change this ending but for now it remains an issue. However, the rest of the story is nothing short of fantastic and renewed my belief that video games are the next great storytelling medium. I just wish the ending could have complemented this.
Now, gameplay has never been BioWare’s strongest point and this game is a bit of a mixed bag in this department. Some areas are great while others are…a little too limited. Let’s start off with the good. The game uses a combat design and engine is more or less the same as Mass Effect 2. Only this time, they have perfected it. Combat is now seamless and lacks the stiffness the previous two games had. Paragon and Renegade actions have also made a seamless transition. Where as in the previous game there was a noticeable delay if you used these actions, here it flows seamlessly into the game. The only real downside to this is that there are fewer of these actions.
The graphics have also been vastly improved upon with everything looking more realistic and gritty than ever before. As I mentioned before, the cut scenes in this game are incredibly well directed, and gives the game a lot of atmospheric moments that you don’t get very often in video games or even films nowadays for that matter. The missions have been made more militaristic in manner and are really well written and well-paced. However, while these missions are good they do leave you wanting a few more of the missions you had in ME2 that required a bit more the combat skills.
The gathering of war assets is something that I actually really like, as it gives you a general idea of what you going into battle with and it’s really satisfying to see that bar slowly fill. Unfortunately, the payoff a little lackluster as it doesn’t really affect the cut scenes or outcome of the final battle at all and is one of the many reasons people hated the ending. The N7 missions are also a bit of a mixed bag. Again they are great combat missions and pissing off The Illusive Man is always satisfying but it again leaves you wanting a bit more then what you got in terms of side missions.
The limited multiplayer they add is a bit of a mixed bag as well. It doesn’t really amount to much more then horde mode and the way whole galaxy readiness thing doesn’t seem to have any real effect on the game’s outcome and felt like a cheap tack on. On the other hand it does offer you the chance to play as other races and see how they play. It’s a mode that I personally like but quite frankly, you’re an idiot if you were looking for great multiplayer in an RPG.
But then we go into the things that are straight up bad. The most apparent problem with this game is, unlike the first two, is that it lacks any kind of innovation and cuts out a lot of what I loved about the first two games. Again, the story missions are made up of combat missions for the most part and it makes me miss the more subtle and less trigger happy ones of the first two games. Again you don’t Mako to drive around on alien planets nor is there much of an exploration factor and the side missions just don’t seem as important or as interesting this time around. While you can scan various solar systems to look for war assets they don’t really make you work for these assets which just seems like wasted potential. You just scan the planet and object is yours and I would have preferred to have something that would have made it more interesting, be it a combat mission or something else. The quest system is completely useless and doesn’t track you progress in said quests at all and is beyond annoying.
Finally, the way you can customize your weapons and armor is a bit of a joke and just wasn’t what was promised at all. The options are way too limited and leave you wanting more. And this is a bit of a nitpick but I liked the Normandy of Mass Effect 2 better. When I saw this new Normandy my first thought was “What the fuck did the Alliance do to my ship?!” Again, a nitpick but I had to say something.In the end, gameplay wise the combat and actions may be the most seamless and the combat missions are the best but in this category it’s the all-around weakest of the three. That’s not to say that it isn’t good but I just couldn’t help but feel that there could have been more. It gets the job done and delivers where it needs to, but it is an area where they should have taken ideas from the first two and done a bit more innovation.
Good God! Talk about getting character interaction right and making the player care them in ways that no other game has before. For me this was the BioWare game that perfected character interaction and I could literally write a book on everything they got right here. Granted there are a few annoying and pointless characters and questionable design choices but on the whole it is fantastic in this department.
For starters you have Shepard. Now for me personally, up until this point Shepard had been one of the most overrated protagonist of any video game and the all-around presentation of the character just seemed really bland to me. This game however, really changed that. While the voice actors are still a little bland, there is a lot more passion in their voices and this time around they actually have facial expressions which seemed to be lacking in previous games. You also see that the war is affecting Shepard mentally, as he/she has these disturbing nightmares about the people lost in the war and really added a whole new level of depth to the character, (and no I don’t believe in the Indoctrination Theory. I think that’s just fanboys seeing what they want to see).
This time around Garrus is not only badass but a fleshed out character and I couldn’t be happier about this. The same can be said for Liara. While I didn’t think that she was a terrible character in earlier games, I didn’t really think she was necessarily good either. This time around, she really is her own character and is very fleshed out and has a lot of great interactions with Shepard and all the other crew members and I think one could argue that she may be the most developed character in the entire game. Other characters are, for the most part as good as they were or better than they were in previous games. Tali is still a very likeable character and the new rendition of EDI is interesting as well and some of the conversations you have with her are all at once hilarious, disturbing and deep and is something that you have to see for yourself. Ashley and Kaidan are about the same as they were in previous games, not much has changed with them but they still deliver.
But what really made this game for me were their interactions on the Normandy. Hearing Garrus and James tell each other stories about past missions is extremely entertaining, hearing how he almost admires their strategy, Tali getting drunk, or the interactions between Liara and Joker just give these characters so much more depth and reminds me why I loved BioWare’s games in the first place.
While many of the companions from Mass Effect 2 don’t return to your crew they are at least given a cameo and awesome ones at that be it Grunt fighting off a heard of Rachni, or, my personal favorite, seeing Thane fight off a Cerberus assassin and does prove to be satisfying. Joker is still as entertaining as he was in the last two games and the most new crew members like Samantha and Cortez are interesting as well, (especially the former). Keith David again does a great job as Anderson and they seemed to have developed the character further in better ways. It’s the first time that we’ve really seen Admiral Hackett and he’s a good character as well. Martin Sheen is fantastic as The Illusive Man and makes for one of the best antagonists I’ve seen in any video game.
It’s also one of the few games I’ve played where characters die and I openly cried. I mean their deaths are some of the saddest moments I’ve ever seen in any fictional medium and further grinds in the grittiness the game is trying to portray.
There are a few weak ends however. The character of James is just boring and makes me question why they just didn’t bring in another character from the first two games instead of adding this guy to the roster. The character of James Vega was really, really boring and makes me question why they just didn’t bring in another character from the first two games instead of adding this guy to the roster. There is also this reporter character named Diana Allers voiced by IGN host Jessica Chobot and is completely useless in this game and made me scratch my head and wonder just why she was here. There was also a little too much fan service in this game. In Mass Effect 2, they had bit of it but they also made fun of it. Here, it’s so apparent that it’s extremely distracting in a negative way. And because you get so invested in these characters it makes the ending all the more frustrating.Despite a few gripes I had with them, this was, without a doubt, the best and most entertaining cast of character I have ever seen in any video game. They were entertaining, likeable, fleshed out and the conversations you had with them felt like real conversations. And again, it makes the ending all the more infuriating.
Ok, before I go any further with this, let me just say it now; the ending poisons the game. There is no beating around that bush. It completely and utterly taints what was, up until the last ten minutes the best game I had played in nearly four years. That is the scale of destruction the ending has wrought. It is that infuriating and the fanboys have not exaggerated it at all. But despite all of that, this is still an all-around great game. Granted I wish the gameplay elements could have been a bit more innovative and less combat heavy what they did with the gameplay was still great. The combat gameplay was fantastic and the missions you played through were incredibly well done. The cut scenes were excellent, the graphics were fantastic and they did a great job at making the game a seamless experience. The plot was nothing short of incredible and the characters were probably the best I’ve seen in any video game. If only it hadn’t been for that ending as it taints the entire game.
There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel for that however. Many of BioWare’s developers, producers and spoke persons have been hinting at a new ending and are genuinely shocked at fans reaction to it and promise some kind of fix to this. And hopefully they will, because then I can official change my rating for the game.
Again, it’s a great game all around, but the lack of innovations and the ending is what drags it down. If you haven’t already bought a copy of this game, I would recommend to wait a little longer and see if BioWare will address this ending issue. If they do, then I say wait for this new ending. But if you already own the game and haven’t finished it, then I say finish it and see what all the fuss is about. But despite the ending, there is a reason most of the reviewers gave it a 9 or better because it is an all-around fantastic game and up until those last few minutes I loved every minute of it.