The long awaited finale to the Mass Effect trilogy is finally on the shelves, but can it compete with the first two installments of the award-winning series?
There’s a lot to like in ME3, but I can’t say I agree with the reviewers who are gushing over the latest installment in the adventures of Commander Shepard. I give it 8/10, if I’m pressed for a score.
The core gameplay is relatively unchanged from ME1 and ME2. You spend your time in tech-fueled shoot-outs with Cerberus, Reapers and the Geth. Squad mates, abilities, weapons everything works well.
Galactic exploration is a bit more meaningful this time around as well. You still fly around systems searching for resources (in the guise of war assets), but you have to be careful not to attract the attention of Reapers.
Unlike ME2, all of your squad mates from ME1 return to the Normandy with the exception of Wrex (your ME2 import also affects this as well). Depending on their outcome in ME2, all of those squad mates will return in various forms as well, though none of them rejoin your team.
It goes beyond squad mates, as well. Pretty much anyone who has survived ME1 or ME2 shows up in some capacity either in a cut-scene, an email, or some sort of ambient conversation.
There’s no shortage of good-byes. In fact, some characters say good-bye multiple times.
What doesn’t work
If you haven’t played ME1 or ME2, I can’t imagine you would be emotionally invested in the story. Your interaction with squad members is limited to a handful of dialogue scenes. There are no loyalty missions, and even the new romance possibilities feel tacked on. It seems that you are required to bring your own depth to ME3.
For fans of the series there are also story issues. Unfortunately, there are so many characters returning that several of the major ones are marginalized. Miranda, Jack, Jacob, Grunt, Mordin, Samara and the others all return, but none rejoin your squad.
That’s quite disappointing if you chose to romance a ME2 character. You get a token scene or two, but nothing more.
The story feels pretty linear. Priority missions advance the story. N7 missions are basically souped up kill boxes. And then you have the Fed Ex quests.
A large chunk of your quests will be gained by eavesdropping on people as you run around the Citadel. These missions involve flying the Normandy out to a solar system and scanning a planet for an item. Then you return and creep out the quest giver by explaining that you risked your crews’ lives to grab a book for them on the other end of the galaxy.
I can’t help but think that everything is a bit TOO streamlined. Sure it’s nice to not miss quests and to not spend an afternoon running around the Citadel, but those are also environments that help with world building. Bioware gets dangerously close to losing the sense of scale that makes the series work.
ME3 also commits the cardinal sin of game design… unskippable cut-scenes.
The horrible, horrible ending
I’ll try to address this without spoiling anything. But when it comes to endings Bioware clearly decided to be a-holes with ME3.
First, there’s the action. If you played ME2, you remember how everything you built in the game came full circle at the end. You had to make tough decision with your entire crew. Not everybody made it the first time through. In mE3, you select two and play it just like any other level. Simple run-and-gun. Very underwhelming.
Second, after the action you get a few extended sequences where everything moves very slowly. It’s like they’re doing it on purpose just so you want reload and try a different ending. You can’t skip the final extended scene of dialogue either. It’s fine the first time, but it gets very frustrating.
Finally, there are the endings.
My main complaint centers around what is required to get the complete ending. On your ship you have a readiness meter which tells you how ready the galaxy is for the final conflict. Unfortunately, filling that meter isn’t enough. Mine was full around the 3500 point mark, but you actually need 5000 to get the best ending.
The content of those endings has divided the ME3 community some what. At issue, your paragon and renegade ratings don’t seem to matter much. What really matters is your point total and final decision. The possible endings range from brutally bleak to meh.I doubt any of the endings will truely satisfy anyone who’s played all three games.
Strangely, it’s not the content though. ME2 had plenty of bad things that could happen at the end, yet if ME2 had been the final installment, I would have been satisfied. That’s because it could stand on its own as a story.
What ME3 reminded me of is the series finale of a TV show. There’s emotional content for fans, but it’s not really a very good episode either. There’s a reason you don’t see those episodes in syndication very often. Viewed objectively, they’re not very good.
Really it’s the same reason you don’t sit around reading your yearbook. And ME3 is a lot more of a yearbook than a novel.
DLC may change some of that, but I doubt it. Fans want more closure after three games, and the devs spent the entire game trying to give that closure but failing at the very end.