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[Review] - Mass Effect 3
The Reapers have finally arrived, and have begun to lay siege to civilization around the entire galaxy. Even after all the warnings Commander Shepard had given, no was prepared, nor could they truly be even if they tried. The stage is set as the Reapers begin their assault on Earth and Shepard is forced to retreat aboard the Normandy. The only hope for Earth now is for Shepard to rally together as many of the other galactic races to stand together against the Reapers as he can for one last stand.
The core game has some awesome moments, good dialog, a stellar soundtrack, and great setpieces. The combat and gameplay mostly just expands upon the system from Mass Effect 2, which is hardly a bad thing, as its improvements over the first game were massive. The Reapers are enormous and really set the tone of helplessness as they ravage cities in the background. But then there's everything else.
For all its flaws, Mass Effect 3 has some very nice graphics and scenery, on a grand scale.
As much as it pains me to say it, Mass Effect 3 felt like a huge step back from the second title. Where Mass Effect 2 portrayed a dark, epic story to follow the mystery of the original, Mass Effect 3 just felt like it didn't accomplish as much. Outside of the main missions everything just felt awkward. Several incredibly awkard moments, particularly in a few of the romance scenes (namely the whole thing with EDI I won't spoil), completely unnecessary sidequests, an equally unnecessary feeling metagame in the galaxy map, and the worst quest log I have ever seen in a game, all start to bring down what otherwise is a fairly great game. The quest log consists of a single vague paragraph for each quest that never updates until the quest fades out after completion. The quests are mostly flying to a system and using the "upgraded" scanner that conveniently attracts Reapers you must fly around to avoid (and never really feel threatened by because you can keep reentering the star system to reset them), or talking to a few people around the Citadel. Often when I finally would figure out what to do in a quest it would just outright break and become unfinishable.
Just keep leaving the system and returning and you can get all of the hidden items by doing fly-by scan/grabs, regardless of the Reaper presence.
A multiplayer mode has been added to the game, which admittedly is good fun when you've unlocked a good class to play with. It is the first time you get to play as any of the other races in the series, after all. It only features one mode, defending against waves with one to four players, but it serves its purpose. You can level up your character similar to the single player leveling system, but in order to get new weapons and gear you have to spend credits you earn and simply hope you are lucky, as the items you get from the packs are random. You can buy them for real money via Bioware points (a dollar for a medium chance at good items, two for better chances), but that option just seems shady. Multiplayer isn't free from the design flaws either. A system known as Galactic Readiness modifies the amount of War Assets you have in game (points gathered by recruiting fleets that amount to how good of a defense force you have against the Reapers in the endgame.) By default it is at 50% and will never drop below that, but through multiplayer you can raise it up to 100%, so for example your 800 War Assets can become 1600. The problem here is that you are essentially forced to play multiplayer in a traditionally single player RPG where multiplayer by all accounts never really needed to be included. Many long time fans of the series may not want to bother with such a strange notion as a cooperative horde mode tacked onto their RPG, but in ignoring it will have a harder time of getting a better endgame result.
Being able to smash everything to death as a Krogan is a fun diversion from playing as Shepard.
Which brings me to my final gripe about the game: the ending. Without going into specifics, I was highly disappointed. In the last moments of Mass Effect 3, it felt like all the decisions I had made in the previous games had meant nothing. Not to say that there aren't (very slightly) different endings, but there isn't even an epilogue. A simple Fallout style narrated slideshow would have done wonders, explaining a little bit about the state of the galaxy in various regions you've affected. Instead, in the famous words of Willy Wonka, you get nothing. As per the description of many bad game endings, you make a choice, some weird stuff happens, then it just ends. With all of the good buildup and drama from the previous games, it was a major disappointment.
In space, no one can hear you scream. But they can hear all those swooshy sounds that spaceships somehow make.
It's such a pity that there were so many irksome things bringing this game down. I loved the first two, and really wanted to enjoy this one just as much. It may be a better game if you could ignore the sidequests entirely, but then you wouldn't get very many War Assets. You could ignore the tacked on multiplayer (which, to be fair, has its moments where it is pretty fun, despite its unnecessary nature), but then you'd have even less. And even after all that, it's hard not to be disappointed with the end result of the game either way. As it stands, Mass Effect 3 felt like it could have benefited greatly from a longer development time. Fix the questlog, spruce up the sidequests with something interesting like Mass Effect 2's, where every major sidequest had its own unique location, and put the effort into making a truly epic epilogue that the fans deserve after investing so many hours into the series as a whole. That the game is receiving perfect review scores from so many major sites is appalling. The underlying game is good, but dragged down by so many things that it just becomes mediocre despite all of the potential to become truly great.