Bioware has delivered something Valve can’t – the final game in a trilogy, Mass Effect 3. I’ve reached the end of Shephard’s journey and although in my opinion, the ending left a lot to be desired, the ride was one of the most thrilling I’ve ever had in a game. If you plan on getting this game, I recommend getting the Prothean DLC. Whilst not a story changer in any way, if you really care about the Mass Effect universe, then the Prothean is a good addition.
One of the reasons to buy this game is for it’s story, so in writing this review I’ll assume you’ve played the first two, but if you haven’t, you really should. I think it’s essential to really appreciating the story and how far the gameplay has come since the first game. On top of that, your saves carry over from the previous games. This continuity is rare in games and I don’t think I’ve ever seen another game do this, as in, continuing a story as well as remembering all the choices the player made in the previous game. There are three different ways the game allows you to play, which I personally don’t think should have been included, but I guess they were trying to appeal to a more broader range of gamers.
The first is combat – the story choices are pretty much made for you and you focus on the gameplay and fighting. I hate, hate, hate this option because the choices and the story are what make this game stand out and there are few other games like this. Alternatively there’s the story mode, where the combat is made easy and you get to focus on the story more, as the name suggests. Whilst this is better than combat mode in my opinion, you still don’t get the full experience. For the real ME experience, I recommend RPG mode, which is a blend of both combat and story mode.
The gameplay in the third has once again improved. In the previous game, in between missions, you went from planet to planet mining, which was incredibly dull. Now you have a scanner attached to your ship, where you go into various zones and scan for artifacts. These help boost your “galactic readiness level”, which goes up to 100%. I’m still unsure what this actually does, but mine was 100% when I played through because I played a lot of the multiplayer when I played. In fact, multiplayer is just one way to boost your readiness, the other way is doing various side missions that gets certain people on your side to fight against the Reapers. Some can be small, such as allowing a news reporter to interview you (and not punching them in the face -_-), and some big, like getting the Batarian fleet on your side. There appears to be a minimum level in the game, which can easily be achieved by playing the game, so it’s not a burden. Besides, it’s an RPG, don’t you want to do the side missions?
The gameplay in ME 3 remains mostly the same, but I feel it’s even more streamlined. One example is the use of the spacebar key… This key is used for pretty much everything and whilst that seems like it would be simple, it is, but it’s also incredibly annoying. I have a beef with this because it’s the fault of console gamers. The game had to be designed so it was easy to play with a gamepad, which I understand, but I wish developers would consider that PC gamers have more buttons to work with than a gamepad. One example where this is aggravating is in multiplayer. The spacebar is used to get behind cover, but it’s also used to heal fallen team mates. What can end up happening, and it happens all too often, is that you run over to a fallen comrade getting there in the nick of time, only to find that when you press space, instead of reviving him/her, you get behind cover. This issue would be solved if they had a use key. I recommend ‘F’, since it really isn’t used for anything. Throwing grenades and using certain powers could be done better too. The Z and C keys aren’t used for anything either and it would make the game a whole lot smoother if these keys were assigned something like grenades and powers. The number keys are fine for certain things, but sometimes in the heat of battle, stretching your finger over to the C key is a lot easier than using the number 6 for throwing grenades. There is one improvement that I like however, and that’s the in game map. It’s so much easier to find important characters now as when you pull up the map, they are listed to be in certain areas, so there’s no time wasted hunting them down.
Besides the controls my other big complaint was the endings. To be honest, this is a difficult task – I’m a huge fan of Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and I enjoyed the previous two ME games. What these games have in common is that the story and character and the world around you is shaped by player choices. However, with the exception of the first two ME games, all those choices simply funnel you into one of three endings, where none of them are any good. Human Revolution especially, because all you did was walk into a room and press one of three buttons. There was a fourth button that made you do something but not much more than pressing more buttons. The same is in ME 3. I won’t spoil what those endings are, but you essentially walk into whatever platform you want for whichever ending you want. And to be honest, none of them bring that much closure. Without spoiling the endings, all three are very similar and none of them really are a good, evil or neutral ending, which is baffling to me since you work hard during the whole game series to make your character either renegade (evil, or really just rude) or paragon (goodie two shoes).
However the good thing is, if you really play the game to it’s fullest it should take you at least a week to finish. There are lots of hours to be had with the singleplayer alone and is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a while, despite it’s control flaws. Eventually you notice there are three different types of enemies – Cerberus, Geth and Reaper. Each has their own types of minions and big bad powerful mobs, and each requires a different tactic for taking down different enemies. Eventually you figure out what works best with the character class you’ve chosen, of which there are the same six classes from the previous games (Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator and Vanguard). Each class has it’s strength and weakness. In general I’m mostly an FPS gamer, so I went for the soldier class, however the others are fun to play with too and I recommend experimenting in multiplayer.
The multiplayer contributes to your galaxy readiness rating, the more games you complete the higher it gets until it reaches 100%. You can still continue playing after it reaches 100% of course. Each class has different races within them. It seems you can have as many characters as you like and once one reaches the maximum level of 20, you can promote them to the singleplayer, which resets the class rank , adds 10 points to your N7 rank (some pointless leaderboard thing) and adds to your singleplayer galaxy readiness… Something I still don’t even know what it does.
The multiplayer is simple really, it’s just survival. On round 3, 6 and 9, there are some objectives to complete, such as killing a target enemy, holding a particular area while some data downloads or downloading data of a somewhat randomly placed computer. It makes it a little varied but in the end, it’s still predictable. Again the three enemy types reappear, Cerberus, Geth and Reaper, and again you have to use the strengths of you and your team to defeat them. There are also not that many levels and although they vary in theme, their designs aren’t really too different and you get used to them really quickly. Despite all that, the multiplayer is a challenge. There are three difficulty levels – bronze, silver and gold. Bronze is fairly easy once you get used to the game but silver is pretty challenging. I have yet to win a gold challenge too. Again, it’s simplicity doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, after all, the most popular online shooter ever has only two game modes (Counter Strike – bomb defusal and hostage rescue… Unless you want to count VIP mode -_-). This simplicity paired with the class variations makes the multiplayer quite addicting and in all honesty, I think they may of added it as an afterthought, but it’s turned out to be a nice addition to an already great game.
In conclusion, despite the script writing for the last 15 minutes of the game, the game itself is brilliant. It has all of the solid gameplay you’d expect from a Mass Effect game despite a few control flaws and the multiplayer is a surprisingly good addition to the game. Upon completing the game you get a message inferring that there is more DLC to come. Perhaps this DLC might explain the endings a bit more, but beyond that, who knows. The game by itself is worth your money. It’s early in the year, but I think this is definitely going to be one of the best singleplayer games this year and it’s going to be hard to beat.