I finished Mass Effect 3! The first video game I’ve ever finished! … Or, at least, for a long time.
Shall we talk about it?
Mass Effect 3 is (ostensibly, we know how sequels work these days) the conclusion to the story of one Commander Shepard, a human of exceptional skill, whose whole history is determined by the player. Shepard has journeyed long and hard to make people aware of the threat posed by the Reapers, synthetics bent on annihilating all organic life. From what I’ve seen, Mass Effect 3 is receiving decidedly mixed reviews. I think most of the negativity is oriented toward the ending, and we’ll talk about that later, but I’m going to start with a list of things that are ‘to like’ about this game. Even though if you have even the slightest interest in the franchise, you’ve already bought it.
Mass Effect 3 improves on the gameplay of Mass Effect 2.
Let that statement hang in the air for a moment. Why? Because I already thought Mass Effect 2’s gameplay was incredible; the game’s best feature, aside from its variety of characters and character interactions.
It still pads its play time by giving you lots of relatively minor quests, and forcing you to scan systems for ‘War Assets’ which involve running from Reaper forces and wasting a bunch of time. This is nothing new. After all, we drove the Mako around identically featureless planets in ME1, and we scanned for resources in ME2. The difference to me is that while we’re running around the Citadel recovering missions in ME3, we’re also subjected to background conversations between the inhabitants of that great space station. Their lives are affected by the war, and overhearing snippets of conversation lets us understand how so. It drew me into the setting of a (seemingly) hopeless war more than any activity aboard the Normandy. After all, Commander Shepard runs a stealth vessel with the most deadly folks around aboard. We don’t have any reason to fear the Reaper forces for the most part, because we’re better than they are. But on the Citadel, the Everyman is on the run. The Everyman fears that they will never see loved ones again.
In a holding area for Refugees, there’s a teenage girl waiting for her parents who has a variety of conversations with a C-Sec officer about her parents, and their transport, and when it’s going to arrive. It’s kind of heartwrenching. But also extremely appropriate.
In the field I suspect players will find much to like. The variety of enemy types is vastly improved over Mass Effect 2, as you combat the forces of the Reapers (now with more than just Husks and minibosses!), the forces of Cerberus (who are varied and deadly, very appropriate) and the traditional Geth opponents as well. I often felt that ME2’s opposition was pretty vanilla, but the unique properties of the enemies in ME3 make them feel much more varied even if (as I suspect) the actual number of “different” enemy types is not much different. The variety of powers IS improved, and now re-implements the use of grenades (an odd omission from ME2!) while keeping the basic gameplay mechanics of the second game intact. The most tangible difference is that you can now see Shepard’s hit points reflected in a bar with five segments. Once a segment is totally depleted, it only replenishes with the use of Medi-Gel. This is a significant feature of the game, especially on the harder difficulties.
Weapon upgrades are back with a vengeance. They operate like they did in the original Mass Effect, only +1. Now, you can acquire more advanced versions of weapons, and install increasingly powerful upgrades, to customize weapons to fit your playstyle. All classes now wield any weapon you like, with the newly devised penalty of heavier weapons slowing the recharge time of your special powers. So, a Biotic Adept is fully free to carry a sniper rifle and assault rifle, but it may mean that their Singularity cools down three times slower. Is that trade-off worth it? The answer is no, but it’s still definitively up to the player.
I was favourably impressed with the character moments and interactions in this game. Your own mileage will vary based on choices in previous games (and yes, while I have heard complaints that your choices don’t have a significant enough impact on the ending, they certainly have a significant impact on the game at large) but I was treated to a number of unexpectedly poignant and emotional character moments from both new and old faces. To me, this is the best work BioWare has done yet in terms of the characters involved… perhaps even exceeding Dragon Age II (although that entire game is so character-based, it’s a tough comparison). Some may be disappointed that many of the discussions no longer involve choosing options on the conversation wheel, but rather just talking it out after the fashion of conversations with companions Zaeed Massani and Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2.
I hesitate to say more, because it’s a story game, and I won’t be the one to spoil things for those who haven’t completed it.
Yes, there is now a multiplayer mode. It feeds the single player in that you can use any multiplayer character of level 20 as a War Asset, and in that it improves your Galactic Readiness score. For anyone who is wondering why your Galactic Readiness sits at a mediocre 50%, this is why! The multiplayer mode is a horde-styled mode where you fight against any of the three enemy forces (Geth, Cerberus, or Reaper) on one of several small maps, over the course of 10 waves, and then a “bonus” wave in which your squad waits for extraction. Three difficulty levels are available, which mirror normal, hardcore, and insanity level enemies, and thereby force different tactics to be used by the players.
I’d heard rumours that the single player was also supposed to support the multiplyer, but I’ve seen no evidence of that.
If you’re into Horde modes, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the multi-player here. Just be aware that you’ll have to work your way through a lot of matches to earn weapons and characters if you want the full experience, and getting a character to level 20, while not hard per se, can be time consuming. If you’re only looking to supplement your single player experience, your mileage will vary with the multiplayer mode.
And that’s where I’ll stop. I’d be happy to answer any specific questions, but I certainly don’t want to spoil the game for you. Just know that it’s a good game, and I hope you like it.