This review is entirely spoiler free – story review is coming soon
Mass Effect 1 Launch: Hilary’s great coverage of the Mass Effect 3 launch in L.A. got me thinking about my own very first Mass Effect launch. Flash back to the year 2007 (queue wavy lines) … It was a drizzly night outside of my local Gamestop, but that didn’t stop people from lining up droves to get their hands on the mysteriously titled “Mass Effect.” The typical midnight release crowd was there, middle aged men sat in folding chairs peacefully reading while a bunch of 20-somethings swapped video game war stories. In all my years as a gamer, I had never seen so many people excited for a new game. Sure, some of the maniacs waiting in line at 12 am were there to pick up GTA IV (yes, they launched on the same day), but most of the folks I met were there to see what the heck this “Mass Effect” was all about. Years later, after spending more time with the Mass Effect franchise than I care to admit, the trilogy is over, but does the final act truly deliver? Would the 2007 version of myself be happy? Hell yes.
Friends and Family: Mass Effect 3 has some of the best characters and writing that I’ve ever experienced in a video game. The franchise is so good in fact that I’d like to see it nominated for awards that aren’t video game related (Oscars?.. why the hell not). From Garrus to Liara, each crew member is distinct and memorable (great acting + great writing). After spending hundreds of hours with the crew of the Normandy, I found myself shocked at how close I’d grown to these characters. There are moments in Mass Effect 3 that will no doubt make players cheer out loud when old “friends” live and die, and there sure is a whole lot of death. What I realized is that even though the Mass Effect franchise is all about Commander Shepard saving the galaxy, the real meat of the story lies in the friendships he/she (you) forged along the way. By the time the credits roll, the crew of the Normandy SR2 are indeed one big multi-species family unit, and it’s always hard to say goodbye to family.
The Choice: Bioware is known for excellent storytelling, and Mass Effect 3 does NOT disappoint. At it’s core the Mass Effect trilogy is all about heroism, family, and adventure. While other RPGs have made the promise of a “branching story line” based on player decision, none have come close to the level of complexity that the the Mass Effect franchise actually achieves. By now you’ve heard how it works, as the player progresses through the narrative he/she is forced to make a number of difficult game-changing decisions. I would venture to say that almost everyone that has played Mass Effect has had a slightly different experience, and that’s just incredible. After making so many decisions in ME1 and ME2, it was just awesome to see the choices that I’d made along the way impact my OWN Mass Effect 3 story. Mass Effect 3 really is a whole new level of interactive storytelling, and the 2007 version of myself would have probably made a mess in my 2007 pants. We’ve come a long way.
The Gameplay: Borrowing heavily from other third person cover based shooters (see: Gears of War), ME 3’s combat is fast and addictive. Combining sound gun play with dozens of different special abilities makes for a incredibly satisfying shooting experience. The weapons “feel” great and pack a hell of a punch, and that’s really hard to pull off. The new cover system now allows the player to move fluidly throughout the battlefield while directing their squad mates to take cover and use their own abilities… It’s like a directing a symphony of biotic death. The streamlined controls make the game much less frustrating than its predecessors, and I’m happy to say I didn’t have a single rage-quit moment throughout my adventure. Quite possibly the biggest addition to the game that hasn’t been addressed all that much is weapon weight. While weight is something most RPG fans hate, weapon weight in ME3 allows characters of all classes to use the weapon of their choice. The heavier the weapons brought into combat, the slower the recharge rate of one’s abilities and biotics. Yes, that means your dream of a Widow wielding adept with a Claymore sidearm can now come true. Players now have the ability to tweak and customize their powers more than ever before which really adds a lot of depth and personalization. Cool eh?
Multiplayer: While you can check out my full write up on Mass Effect: multiplayer experience (Here), I do have to have a bit more to add now that I’ve played it for hours and hours on end… It’s damn good. If you had any apprehension about whether or not Bioware could pull off a solid multiplayer shooter, let me put your fears to rest. Mass Effect 3 multiplayer borrows the best elements from modern shooters and combines them for a near perfect multiplayer experience where communication is key. Having a balanced squad working together is necessary for success on higher difficulty settings like silver and gold. As I stated in my MP write up, It was as if the developers got together and analyzed what cooperative games were the most fun, and added a collection of those features to the Mass Effect MP experience. Since release, players of all sorts have created their own themed Reaper killing death squads, like the formitable ladies of Team Vanguard (check it) who even have their own T-shirt.
The End: I won’t lie, this review is a bit bias. At some point along my own personal journey with this franchise I became indoctrinated (like many of you). Since the launch of Nerd Appropriate in 2010 I’ve written dozens of articles about the Mass Effect franchise, have attended Mass Effect themed events, have mentioned the game in no less than 53 podcasts, and have even managed to make friends with other super-fans like myself (hi guys). That being said, despite what you may have heard about the ending, Mass Effect 3 was an incredible journey filled with action, love, and sacrifice. With such an incredible universe forged by player decision, I’m eager to see what Bioware decides to do with this franchise now that Shepard’s mission is complete… Or is it? (spoiler link).
that last video makes my head hurt.
Its amazing to think that games have come so far that they can very closely approximate relationships with actual, in the flesh, living beings (or synthetic beings, as it were). I definitely played through this game with more emotion than I have any other game in recent memory.
I remember playing the first ME on PC before I had an Xbox on the basis of “oh… a sci-fi space game from BioWare? count me in.” Even through my struggle with the tone and feel of ME2 it’s been a great journey. I’m excited to see what is next for this IP.
And, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been a Vanguard since day 1 (you know, back on Akuze). In ME2 I thought Biotic Charge was the most ridiculous ability, putting yourself out in the open, but I’ve come to love and master it. I think I need to ask nicely if I can acquire one of those shirts. Seriously.
And, multiplayer? I ragged on it from day 1, until I got to play it, and I’m hooked. Cooperative over competitive any day. What a blast. I never really had interested in other classes until this, making me want to go back through the entire trilogy as an Engineer… because you never fight alone when you have a combat drone… hey that kinda rhymes, good times. Oh, there, I did it again.
Thanks Scott. I agree that Multiplayer came as a sweet surprise and I hope people are playing it for months to come. I’m sure we can get you one of those Team Vanguard shirts if we ask nicely enough.
Good review chief, i personally found the ending to be fine and think the people who complain about it…are welcome to their opinion, but the people who think it was OMG HORRIBLE TRAVESTY are morons.
Thanks Cereb! We plan on addressing the ending on our next podcast. I understand people’s frustration, but I don’t think a lot of folks remember what games were like 15 years ago.
ME3 was 95% magnificent, 5% “are you shitting me?” Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend that they buy a future BioWare product for full price on launch day? Newp.
Caleb, thanks for reading! I’m hoping that a lot of the problems people have with the ending of Mass 3 are addressed by Bioware in the near future. I know they’re listening.
No opinions on kinect integration?
Justin, I actually play with a headset most of the time which doesn’t work very well with Kinect. I did try it out during the demo and thought it was a lot of fun. I would totally use it (especially for grenades) if the Kinect had some sort of headset support.
I used it, or should I say my kinect was on while I played the game. It worked well enough, but working against it was:
1.) the fact that I’ve played enough ME to be accustomed to playing without it, and
2.) the game dialogue from my speakers got picked up in the Kinect, so from time to time my companions would say something close enough to the command for my character to switch weapons, or activate a power without my say so
Honestly, I’d say it was alright, I noticed a slight delay in getting it to trigger, plus I like to play with the volume up, so the Kinect would sometimes not hear me anyhow. In the heat of battle though, I can’t rely on “maybe the Kinect heard me” and just stuck with the traditional controls in the end.
Come to think of it, I used Kinect for the dialogue wheel from time to time during lengthy conversations to give my hands / wrists a rest, but skill kept the controller close enough in case a quick time Paragon / Renegade even occurred. Hope that helps.
Thanks Ash and Scott. I’ve experienced similar issues, but I did get bored with it after awhile. I wonder if Microsoft is trying to hard to push the Kinect on gaming companies to include it in the experience.
Great review Ash. I don’t want to express my feelings because of spoilers. But, I wish it ended differently.
You’re not alone in your thoughts Micah. I just wanted a happy ending with Shepard skipping off into the sunset. I’m naive.
The issue with the ending is not happiness, it is coherence. And the issue with the game, especially the first few hours, is how much Shepard’s reactions are predetermined and out of your hands, much more so than in ME1 and 2, due to the autodialogue and forced emotional moments. I felt very disconnected from Shep for till after the first visit to the citadel, it sure as hell wasn’t my Shep from the first two games.
Don’t get me wrong, I think ME3 is a great game, but it also has some great flaws.
As for Multiplayer, it is required to get the certain spoiler you linked to, it is not possible to get the 5K points required to see that little bit without doing something other than SP. The MP may be wonderful, but I did not buy the last part of a SP trilogy to be forced to do something other than SP to get the actual “best” ending.
I have been unimpressed, overall, by reviewers of this game, as I was of reviewers of DA2, who somehow managed to miss the flaws. Unlike DA2, this is a great game, but it is not wihtout serious flaws.