MASS EFFECT FRANCHISE: PART 3 – MASS EFFECT 3

coverTitle: Mass Effect 3
ASIN: B004T8C20U
Release Date: 9th March 2012
Language: English
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: PC DVD
Type: Game, Single Player, Multiplayer
Genre: Action, TPS, RPG

Synopsis:

Go weapons-hot in a fully immersive sci-fi epic that reacts to every decision you make.

Not everyone will survive. An ancient alien race, known only as “Reapers”, has launched an all-out invasion leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction. You are Commander Shepard, a character that you can forge in your own image. You determine how events will play out, which planets to explore, and whom to form alliances with as you rally a force to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all. How you wage this war is completely up to you: go into combat with guns blazing or use cover to plan a more tactical assault. Utilize your squad to full effect or take a lone wolf approach. Rain death from a distance or go toe–to-toe with enemies using devastating melee attacks. Mass Effect 3 will react to each decision you make as you play through a truly unique experience of your own creation.

Features:

  • A rich, branching storyline: Experience a sci-fi epic with multiple endings determined by your choices and actions throughout the game.
  • Massive in scope: Battle on many worlds across the galaxy as you unite the ultimate force to take back the Earth before it’s too late.
  • Large-scale and intelligent enemies: Battle enormous enemies and take on a smarter type of foe that will consistently challenge your best combat tactics and put you on the edge of your seat.
  • Unlock a customizable arsenal: Tailor each weapon with devastating upgrades including scopes, grips, barrels and dozens of other unique attachments. Each weapon boasts its own powerful impact and visual flair.
  • Unleash death from afar or go toe-to-toe: Customize your soldier and squad to engage the enemy on your terms. A huge variety of weapons, abilities and equipment allow you to combat the enemy in your preferred style of play.

Well, i return to this after a long break caused by getting my consoles, and then the computer dying. I’m writing this after completing a marathon session and completed the entire game, so I’m on a little bit of what i call a gamers high Open-mouthed smile

This game is the most controversial of the games, and not for the reasons you’re thinking of! I’ll try and keep things on track here by splitting this into three sections, graphics and music, story and gameplay, that ending and the conclusion. However before we get started I’ll be upfront and honest and say I’m one of those few people who seem to lover the game.

Also before i start i will make this known from the outset. This is an Origin only game, you can’t get it on steam or anywhere else. Origin for me has always worked flawlessly (and frankly more stable than steam). I do however understand that for some people Origin is a problem. since i personally have no issue and hand none installing the game, i wont mention it anywhere else in my post. However i wanted to make you all aware before we start that this is Origin only.

Graphics and Music

It took them over  two years to get from ME2 to this the third and final game. Given the amount of time that had passed you’d expect some amazing graphic changes, and for the most part you’d be right.

Graphically this game does look bloody awesome….at 720p. Sadly this game, like a lot of others, suffers heavily from being consolised. Graphically up to 720p it’s looks really awesome, however once you crank it up to 1080p the graphics loose all of their crispness. I also noticed a LOT of missing textures, we’re talking black blobs which would usually be covered it textures. Some of the worst offenders were the guns on the ‘cars’. But there were other times it was ground.

These were minor, but annoying, though not as annoying as things just appearing in the middle of a cut scene. For example in one i was talking with the Asari ambassador out on a balcony, when out of no where a car just appears in the background. Talk about immersion breaking. Then there was other textures that were just plain old terrible. On a console i can understand this, but on PC where the sky is the limit, there’s no excuses.

Yet, despite this you can’t say that ME3 is an ugly game, it’s simply not true. The game has some scene of stunning beauty to look at at, and the characters have more ‘life’ in them than ever before. Which really does just show off the ‘sexy’ ladies in the game.

You spend most of the time in armour that would make a medieval knight swoon in jealousy. But the women, they run around in form hugging gear that tries to make them look as sexy as possible. They even did this with EDI, which i have to admit i found a little odd. But then this is a Bioware game, so no really surprises there Open-mouthed smile

Music is where this game kicks it up several notches. Very few games I’ve played have had the music so in tune with what’s going on around you. The first bit of the game when you escape earth, which is a pretty generic start for a game, is made significantly more powerful by the music. It draws out the emotions of the scene perfectly and frankly left me with a lump in my throat.

Throughout the game the music flows perfectly and carries you along on it’s waves of awesomeness. One minute lulling you into a sense of calm, the next crashing over you as the enemies storm around you. This is also one of the few games where i love the fact i got the OST with the game as i get to listen to it while driving or chilling in the bath!

Story and Gameplay

The core story of ME3 is just breath-taking, and frankly blows ME1&2 out the water. The character interactions are just mind blowing and perfectly in synch. There’s only a few games i rate highly for their story, and NONE of them are third person shooters, they’re all RPGs.

The game has a rather fast paced feel to it due to how well the story is scripted and put together. Each mission you complete leads fluidly into the next, and you can complete the entire game without doing any of the side missions without it feeling like you’ve missed something.

The side missions are well implemented, and feel a part of the grand scheme. All though these missions are of ‘little’ importance when you look at the whole war against the reapers, each side mission is a skirmish against Cerberus or the reapers, this works really well IMO.

Also while all of this is going on you have the character interactions, which are both touching interesting. Though as always with a Bioware game the ‘relationship’ aspect is a bit on the shallow side. Follows the usual, “i love you, really i love you to, okay lets jump into bed”, which i both love and hate. On the one hand i understand the argument critics raise about this style of relationship, and it’s lack of work. It’s a case of ticking boxes to make the girl (or guy) jump your bones. However on this occasion i do think it works, to a degree, though i would love to see  games move away from relationships = sex, to actual relationship building.

I loved the arguments people would have in the world as well. You’d come across 2 people arguing, and you’d be given the choice to support one or the other. Some of the arguments were stupid, but some of them were really well thought out and done. Such as Daniel’s and Chakwas arguing in the mess over whether synthetic life was really ‘life’ and not just programing.

One part of the story that was seriously bad though, was the secondary conversations. Walking around the Citadel you’d come across various conversations that take place between the races. These convo’s are really amazing and some of them are heart wrenching. However they all suffer from the same problem, repetition, just imagine you’ve gone through a really amazing story and then the next time your back that way it restarts. Case in point, you’ve got a human woman trying to send her daughter to Thessia (Asari home world) where her spouses family is. you get a well scripted and rather heart warming story, and then the next time you go back the exact same story replays. Sadly this happens to almost ALL of them.

I did like the little additions they added to the game though, such as the trooper needing transfer so as not to kill her brother, or the nutty asari huntress wanting a gun.

However, through out the entire franchise there has been one fact that i despised. And that that Shepard is a SPECTRE, one of the super elite. They’re above the law, can do whatever they like, including killing people, civilians, so long as it’s for the good of the mission. They’re considered the ultimate best of the best, the ultimate black ops team that the council has ultimate faith in.

Yet throughout the entire series Shepard is never shown as this. In the first game it could be argued that they made Shepard a SPECTRE as a offer to the human council, and so while he was ‘technically’ a SPECTRE they didn’t really see him as such. Which given the circumstances of his promotion it does make sense. However, if you do as i do and save the council at the end of ME1, that changes. They’re very respectful to you, and actually ask you to recommend a councillor for the humans, and then accept his recommendation.

The same could be said for the second game, while he’d earned their respect coming back from the dead and working for Cerberus would have been a huge blow, yet throughout it all he’s always struggling.

For me however the biggest problem was in this the third game, everything he’d been saying from ME1 has come true, the universe is on the brink of death, and they’re still messing him around. This doesn’t make much sense, other than to artificially drag on the game in an easy way. They could have achieved the same with better story writing, it was a great shame to me.

Another aspect i loved is that none of you’re party are safe. this last play through i was taken by surprise when two people who I’ve always had survive to the end were killed off in quick succession. The first time this had happened despite multiple play throughs. This is one of the key elements of the game that always makes me happy, despite all of your planning and preparation, you’re never 100% sure of who survives!

Mechanically there’s not much changes since the second game. Its just become slicker and more refined, but that’s not all for the good of the game. For example they once again went with the limited customisations

MassEffect3DemoMulti03

And once again we get no armour customisations, rather you pick and choose a piece, which gives you a boost in a certain area.

550599-mass-effect-3-windows-screenshot-armour-and-appearance-customization

For me this is a huge let down as it once again takes choice out of the hands of the player. You can’t have an armour set based on how it looks, because it probably won’t have the boosts that will help you out. For example i built a suit i liked the looks of, but noticed it gave boosts to powers, which sucked as i was a Soldier. What’s more the way you get the bits of armour is damn annoying, you’re finding them on missions all the way up to the final battle with Cerberus. What this means is that you get to wear the full suit, and weapon, you like for the last 10minutes of the game.

I was not impressed with this and very disappointed; though not unsurprised. This is once again the consolisation of the game.

This is also once again reflected in the skills menu, which is once again BAD, linear, and frankly uninspired.

Mass-Effect-3-reputation-system

All you’re getting is incremental damage increases, it’s bland, boring, and frankly not worth upgrading. I put it to the test and tried to do a play through without using ANY skill upgrades, and it’s entirely possible. Sure it took a bit more thought on my part as grenades now become a limited resource (since you only get to carry more by spending skill points), but it’s entirely possible to do the game without skills. In fact, on my main play through, at the end (lvl54) my character had a base damage increase of a lack lustre 25%. Sure at the start of the game that would be awesome, but by the time you get to where you need that high damage you’ve gotten some of the bigger better weapons that do that damage anyway.

All told on my play through without skills i didn’t have any major problems, i died 3 times through out the game (2 of them against Kai Leng, i hate that bastard!!), which for me says all there is to say about the game.

They also brought the galaxy surveying back, and this time it actually has a proper meaning behind it.

Mass_Effect_3_Galaxy_Map

Once again you go into a system and scan it looking for ‘stuff’, this time though you’re finding things which either directly impact the war readiness, such as ships and crew members. Or items that aid in other ways, such as Prothean data, lost relics that boost moral, or returning lost heritage. There is a second set of secondary missions you can pick up from overheard conversations around the citadel that lead you to exploring the galaxy and recovering these things. And i actually found them to be enjoyable (unlike in ME2). However i hated the mechanic of having the reapers come in when you scan and chase you off. You then couldn’t return to that sector until you’d gone to another ‘docking’ whether it was a mission or returning to the Citadel. Again this is just artificially extending the gameplay, and while i can understand it happening occasionally, and would have liked that, the fact it happens all the damned time got old damn fast. In the end i gave up and went and used a mod to stop them arriving.

Also introduced in this game was a new multiplayer aspect, which i personally have no interest in. however EA/Bioware in all their wisdom decided to force the multiplayer. They did this by altering the game mechanics so as not to allow you to get the highest war readiness unless you did multiplayer. So you had no choice other than doing it, which i personally find offensive. Mass Effect to me has always been a single player experience, and should have remained so. Sure the multiplayer aspect could have had a place, but make it optional. Hell i wouldn’t even have minded if people who did multiplayer got some perks in the single player, different weapons and armour skins for example.

The problem with tying the multiplayer to the war readiness is the situation we have now, where the multiplayer is dead so it’s impossible to get the war readiness up. Why is that important? Because to get the ‘good’ ending you need a high war readiness. EA finally realised this and patched it out when the multiplayer started to die, but i feel it’s something that shouldn’t have been there at all.

That ending and Conclusion

On it’s original release the game created a storm of controversy over the ending, for various things. One of the biggest comments though seems to have been that the ending invalidated everything Shepard had done previously, all the choices you’d made getting there, which were supposed to have an impact, didn’t account for anything.

I personally don’t agree with that. Very early on (and we’re talking Mass Effect 1 here), i had the impression that Shepard was going to end up sacrificing himself to get the job done. It was so blatant from early on that i personally wasn’t surprised by this when it actually happened.

The way i see it was that everything Shepard was doing was about uniting the races, all of the races, bringing them together and getting them to stand united. Then getting everything put in place for that last push. For me i really considered Shepard’s role to be finished once he’d completed that. He did what everyone thought was impossible, forged the Krogan into a united force with Wrex at the lead, cured the genophage, and got them working with the Turians. Ended the Geth – Quarian war, and got them united on a single planet.

The fact that everything came down to a choice he has to make at the end, doesn’t invalidate everything he’d done before it. Rather it brought everything into clarity. I do think the original ending was very brief and a bit of a let down, but Bioware fixed that with a free DLC.

Then of course we have all the conspiracy theories over what the true ending really is. People were arguing back and forth about this, and frankly i LOVE it. When a game ends, but leaves you questioning what’s happening it leaves it up to the player to decide what happened. I love games like this. However i didn’t like the fact that it screws you on your save point, you can’t go back and watch all 3 ends without a lot of rerunning.

Personally, I’ve loved my time with Mass Effect 3 and, the Mass Effect franchise as a whole. It’s been one of a handful of games i always play through to the end, and one of the even fewer that constantly surprises me on different play throughs.

If you’re reading this, and my other posts and wondering on weather it’s worth investing the time in this series of games, in a word: Absolutely. This is no 8 hour game though, between the 3 games I’ve now got over 600 hours invested in the games, and i don’t regret a moment of it!!

I just wish EA would package all the DLC together and sell it directly, and with a discount, rather than gouging the fans by making them buy Bioware Points.

My final post, on the future of the franchise and my thoughts on it, will be up either later today or tomorrow. In the meantime here’s links to the other two parts:

  1. Mass Effect 1
  2. Mass Effect 2

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