MASS EFFECT 3
And so we reach the end of another trilogy in gaming. We ended quite a few of them last year, like Gears of War and Resistance, and while there probably will still be games in those franchises, we can rest easy knowing that the stories they wanted to tell are done. Mass Effect 3 is here to wrap up the story of Commander Shepard and the franchise's lingering questions, a franchise that has been spanning most of this generation in gaming. The stakes are high and it seems Bioware decided they wanted to make everything as perfect like a mirror sheen, and the fans certainly would like them to do that too, and the fans expressed this opinion constantly by threatening not to actually buy the game after every little thing that was said about the game. Being someone who doesn't despise Bioware (probably because I never played Dragon Age II), I now want to give Mass Effect and Bioware the chance it deserves.
"Put down my romance option you damn dirty Cerberus!"
Mass Effect 3 continues where the previous Mass Effect left off with Commander Shepard still trying to convince everyone that the apocalyptic machine race called the Reapers are indeed coming to kill everyone, and just as the higher ups on Earth are about to send off his invitation to the local loony bin, the Reaper invasion begins and Earth is being destroyed. Shepard must now assemble the other races, who are also in a jam with the Reapers, to achieve victory by any means necessary. Along the way, Shepard meets practically everyone memorable from the previous two games (Or one game, if you're like me and played this on the PS3) and even enlists them to aid him in his quest. This is the game where your actions from the previous game really start to show, with characters referring throughout to what you did previously, and quite a few key events happen based on what you did last time, however it must be said that some of your choices feel like they really counted for bugger all and that the events for both of them would play out the same no matter your choice and they'll just come up with a different explanation for why it's all happening, which undermines some of the choices and the impact you felt they had a bit.
Now the gameplay is where the game shines in ways outside of Bioware's standard great writing. They seem to have taken an approach to combine the smoothness and easiness of Mass Effect 2's combat while adding in the RPG parts and complexities that the original game had. While you can have any weapon you want in Mass Effect 3, you are limited by a new weight meter, which increases your power recharge time any time your weapons exceed this weight, which is a brilliant mechanic that makes you think of the preparation of your battles just as much as the battles themselves. There's also weapon mods and upgrades to apply, powers to sort and armour to arrange, so making tweaks and improvements before missions is certainly something people should do. In combat little is changed; you have grenades now, like you did in the original but didn't in the sequel, for whatever reason, and you can now dodge, a feature which is very useful in a frantic firefight and would be even more useful if it wasn't mapped to the same button as cover/sprint/use, making the controls occasionally feel a bit confusing why Shepard decided to roll at that wall rather than take cover by it. This is a minor issue though, and the controls are still tight and intuitive enough to keep you on your toes.
I feel that something needs to be said about the sounds and graphics here as the game seems to be kind of varied in this field. The game is beautifully sounding, even if it is confusing why the moments in space are the loudest moments in the game like when you hop through a Mass Relay, but all in all it is probably one of the games with the best sound design I have heard in a very long time, with explosions and bangs heard wonderfully with Dolby Digital HD sound. While that's all well and good, the graphics seem to be a bit inconsistent. Most of the time they are incredible looking, with great detail and assisting the aesthetics of a truly ruined world when you step onto the war zone. Other times however, the game presents you with long texture pop in times, with a blurry mess a character pointing to only becoming clear when it's no longer in view. The graphics designer also seemed to have taken inspiration from JJ Abrams' Star Trek, as Lens Flare is everywhere, from every light, which can get distracting down some hallways in the game.
The one, true enemy in the game, as shown, is the blinding lens flare.
Coming back to the texture pop ins, I think the problem may be that the game isn't ideally optimised for Playstation 3, much like most AAA titles nowadays. Frame rate stutters during quite a few dialogue cutscenes, controls occasionally don't respond and perhaps worse of all is the crashing. The amount I've had the game crash on me is in double digits, must it seems that all but one of those crashes happened on the Citadel, the area you'll spend the most time on. It seems to have an issue with you going between come of the floors, so I recommend you hit "select" to quicksave when you can in that area so you don't lose all your progress in the area. While I have all these problems on my launch day, 60GB model PS3 (Back when PS2 backwards compatibility was standard), a friend with a newer model said he has no such problems, so if you have an old PS3, it's worth trying to turn a blind eye to these optimisation issues.
There's also the multi-player, which I must say, much to my surprise, it is fantastic. While co-operative multi-player with only horde mode across multiple maps might be nothing new or interesting to hear about, the game knows to keep things interesting with objectives added like killing certain enemies, capturing points or defending one, all under a time limit make the matches seem much more enjoyable. Plus the classes, with each one being very much alike their single player self. It's also good that this is completely optional in every way. You don't need to play this if you don't want to, not even for achievements, as you can earn them in single player if you don't fancy earning them in multi-player. All in all, it's another game of survival, but with the lovely Mass Effect twist on it, which is really all I could have asked for.
While I have talked about the good and bad of this game extensively, I must say that the game is fantastic and pretty much sublime if you discount the stability issues and the slight nitpicks I've made, and I would call this the greatest game I have played from Bioware. I say I would, but I'm now going to address the elephant in the room; The ending. Oh my word, the ending. I am not going to spoil anything in this review about it, but I can see why fans are signing petitions about it. It's not because it's a bit of a downer ending, it's that it's so unsubstantial. It feels there is nothing to it, to real impact of what you're doing. Not only that, but there are quite a few plot holes in what it shows you, and not little ones like "Oh, but this wouldn't have happened here because of this science mumbo jumbo", but big plot holes like physical impossibilities of what happens with characters, and motivations that don't make any sense in the context of who the character is. This is not the writing I have come to expect of Bioware, and it has tainted by view on the entire series. Everything I did felt like it barely counted towards anything when I am faced with an ending like that. There's a rumours and theories about this ending, but all in all, it is a very disappointing ending, and if Bioware releases a "True" ending I may be very angry, unless it's just as good as End of Evangelion.
Looking at Mass Effect 3 as a whole we have a game that appears to be the most expertly baked cake in the world, but during that last mouthful you find a dead mouse was baked in and you just tried to it's it's rotting, furry corpse. The ending is bad, but I don't think it's right to ignore this game. If the rumours are true about a true ending, and it turns out to be brilliant (and better yet, free, since I paid top dollar for a game that wrapped up the series, something that this most certainly did not), then I'll happily recommend it to all. A game that really falls apart at the end is nothing new, especially one that is pure gold up until then, but I don't think they were ever as bad as this ending. Enjoy it while it lasts, then feel free to vent about the ending to me, because I too understand.