Monday, April 9, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Review

Mass Effect 3 is the final chapter of a trilogy of science fiction video games by BioWare. In this game, you finish the saga of Shepard and the invading Reapers, sentient machines whose goal is to destroy organic life. Again, you take the role of Shepard where you can play as male or female. The action takes place six months after Shepard had returned from his successful mission in stopping the Collectors who were abducting humans.


The Mass Effect series are action-RPG video games. The action is similar to a third person shooter. Any targeting problems from Mass Effect 1 have been resolved. It's much like Mass Effect 2 where shooting guns are fun. Even better, all classes can use any weapon. The only down side is that the weight of the weapons affects the speed of regenerating your ability to use biotic powers which resemble the Force but are cooler. You can not only throw enemies around but the wide variety of powers range from enveloping an enemy in an energy field to using mini-combat drones.

The game is harder than Mass Effect 2. That's because some of the enemies like the Brute dish out big time damage. You also are not allowed to take a heavy weapon. So if there is a particular boss bad guy, look around and you may find a specific heavy weapon to use once. Now harder does not mean less fun. The challenge to the difficulty makes it fun. I just don't know I'm going to play this game on insanity.

New to Mass Effect is the Galaxy at War concept and Multiplayer. They are intertwined and can affect the single player game. The Galaxy at War concept requires you to find War Assets such as alien fleets by scanning planets. The amount of War Assets is multiplied by military readiness of five sections of the galaxy. Readiness is increased by completing muliplayer missions. The final number is called Effective Military Strength. (EMS) The higher number affects the ending of the story and game. All this keeps you interested in finding the assets and even trying some multiplayer. Though you can get all three endings without playing multiplayer. It just makes it harder to ger the twist at the end of one of the endings. But when you see your allies ride into the big battle, you will feel goose bumps. It's a true federation of planets.

As for the boring mining of Mass Effect 2, BioWare listened and changed it completely. Now you scan a solar system. Orbit a planet, scan it. Launch a probe. That's it. The rub is that if you use too many scans, you may alert the Reapers who will chase you all over the system until you escape or get caught and are destroyed. This mini-game is a welcome improvement over the dull mining of Mass Effect 2.

Other improvements include simplified weapons upgrade. And there is one stop shopping at the Citadel or on your ship. But if you still want to agonize over improvements to your weapons, you can mess around with weapons mods.

Not all of the game works. The dialogue choices don't necessarily reflect what you want. During one part of the game, I wanted the Quarian fleet to back down from attacking the Geth. The closest was the "Charm" response which said, "Rally the fleet." Doesn't sound like cease fire does it? Still, it's minor if you fellow the branches and what they usually mean. Left upper are usually the good guy responses. Lower left or especially lower right are the ruthless responses. And sometimes climbing ladders is hard since you must hit the right spot. But these quirks are few.

Graphics and Sound.

The graphics are detailed and beautiful. Colors are rich. Now be warned. The Reapers are wrecking havoc so you will see a lot of rubble. But when you look across the valley at Thessia, you see a lovely skyline. There are even Star Trek like lens flares.

Unfortunately, if you have a SDTV, you will have the same trouble that you did when you played Mass Effect 2. Much of text is illegible because it's too small. You can still get through the game.

The sound effects are thrilling. The Reapers make the sound that the alien invaders did in War of the Worlds. When Banshees hit the field, their screams will send chills up your spine.

The Final Chapter.

By now you've heard that some gamers were protesting the ending. While the end of the game needs more exposition, I hope BioWare stands by the excellent writing of Mac Walters and not make major changes to the end. Video games are art. Respect the artistic integrity.

That being said this last chapter is serious business. The Reapers are romping all over the galaxy. There will be losses. You will feel sadness when a cherished character dies. You will feel the pain when civilizations fall. The game does try to inject some humor, but the dread of the Reapers will hang over everything. That makes the game similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. It's a fight for survival. One that you will find compelling.

Mass Effect 3 is a fine conclusion to one of the most epic science fiction stories of our time. It is exciting, emotional and thought provoking. The grade is A.

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