Review: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect was a game franchise I really got invested in during 2013 (yes, after everyone else) and I was eager to play the controversial third and final chapter in the epic space saga. Thanks to my good friend Jake, I received a copy of Mass Effect 3 right at the end of the year and, having completed it, feel it’s time to bring my review saga to a suitable condition.

Mass Effect 3

Oh, and if you don’t like the review, I’ll add a bit more to it later.

In Mass Effect 3 the stakes were never higher, with Commander Shepard seemingly the only person in the galaxy able to stop the Reapers and save all organic life. From the moment you re-join Shepard there’s a palpable feel of what’s to come – and it doesn’t disappoint.

Once the main story is set out and the mission made clear, you’re left to unite the galaxy for the upcoming Battle Royale. Once past the opening spectacle, it was down to business, Mass Effect style. The seemingly-simple objective soon becomes more and more complex, but there’s plenty of story and character development to come, too. There’s plenty of side missions to add meat to the bones of the universe and it gives a much more intimate feel to the quest beside the large-scale implications; it’s personal too.

However, going through the missions made me question one thing: to what timescale does Mass Effect run to? Did my mission take weeks or months? I felt, when the Reapers invaded, that help was needed like right now; though conversation later on alludes to a Reaper “cleansing” taking upwards of a century. A little clarification would’ve gone a way for me.

Combat in Mass Effect 3 can be dialled up or down depending on a player’s preference. As shooters are not my preferred game type, I initially thought of toning it down but kept it on the default; combat was challenging but not impossible. I definitely felt the benefits of squad powers more in this instalment, winning a few nigh-unwinnable situations with well-placed Singularity.

Going back to the characterisation – it was great to see my fellow comrades from Mass Effect 2 and explore their stories, which in more than one case proved to be the final chapters of which. Mass Effect’s story and character attachment made some of these scenes pretty intense emotionally, as I really was attached to some of these guys. It’s great to be so emotionally involved in game characters; likewise, my squad members made me feel never truly alone, even though they were just AI players underneath.

Mission tracking was further simplified in Mass Effect 3 going on from 2, though this was a failing in my regard. Missions and side quests (previously subcategorised as assignments) were lumped into one journal list, which annoyingly didn’t stay scrolled to the top. Often I found myself reaching for the game guide as there was no collapsible objective tree for each mission as there was in Mass Effect 2 – rather, the vaguest of vague hints as to where to go. It got confusing pretty quickly, especially as some missions were only found to be unachievable for now, due to artificially graduated galaxy map revelations, after expending considerable fuel and load-screen time.

When it came to the controversial endings for Mass Effect 3, I was lucky enough, by virtue of playing the game now and not immediately after release, to have the patched “extended edition” endings available by default. I can however see why people would be cheesed off by these endings – you’re essentially left to pick one of three endings (though unwittingly I unlocked a fourth, which is more a “game over” rather than a storyline conclusion) and your decisions seem to have but peripheral effect on these; they’re all scripted – your collection of “war assets” throughout the game seems to only determine to what degree of “success” the ending you choose has on the galaxy.

Ultimately with Mass Effect 3, the endings left me unsatisfied, especially after I inadvertently triggered and ending that made my efforts to stop the Reapers completely pointless. That said, the journey in Mass Effect is a lot more rewarding than the conclusion.

I’m yet to decide whether that’s a good thing or a damning indictment. Or neither. Or maybe both. You decide (though what you thought coming up to this point is meaningless. Pick one.)

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4 thoughts on “Review: Mass Effect 3

  1. Well written review. I had heard already about the disappointing ending. Do you think the additional ending made up for this? I’m currently around a 1/3 through the game so far and have found it very enjoyable so far. I do like building up my character, money and my reputation.

    1. The “extended cut” ending seems to add just a few additional cutscenes to the endings; it doesn’t rewrite anything material. I don’t think any ending would truly be quite enough for such an epic story. By all means, Mass Effect’s journey is still absolutely stellar! Enjoy the rest of the game! The RPG elements really do make it a unique experience throughout the series depending on how you play!

  2. Nice review! Im a fan of the ME series too, but in my opinion, the ending of Mass Effect 3 wasnt that disappointing. Taking into consideration the long story before the events, the “road” leading there is the key and that is what needs to be enjoyed. And that ending: Shepard has to make the ultimate sacrifice, thats the point. He is the one. His efforts lead to the possibility of stopping the endless cycle of death, no matter which ending you chose (except that one…)

    1. Cheers for commenting! It wasn’t a bad ending as such… I just felt that given the emphasis on character decisions persisiting over an entire series, more could’ve been made of the endings besides (essentially) choosing an explosion colour and which cutscenes play. That said, I was quite taken aback by the quality of the storytelling across all three games which is great – I really felt attached to all the characters and empathised with them. The realisation of them was great. I think any ending would’ve not done complete justice to the journey you make to it. Definitely got a few questions lingering which I’ll try my best to answer on my next playthrough… ;-)

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