Product Type: Electronic Arts PS3 games
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And so it ends
Mass Effect 3 (PS3)
Member Name: Danscomp
Mass Effect 3 (PS3)
Advantages: Fabulous graphics, great ending to many stories, wondeful sounds & music, general design
Disadvantages: Ending a little ho-hum.
Mass effect was a fun game with a fair amount of repetition, that felt like repetition. It also had some dodgy graphics (on the PC) and some poor design choices in terms of levelling and gameplay. All this, set off by a good, solid script.
Mass effect 2 came along awhile later, and blew us all away. It was, in many ways, the perfect CRPG. The levelling was smart. There was a good variety of classes and powers. The weaponry was satisfying. Your companions were extremely detailed, thought out people. They had loyalty quests which were not only worth doing, but scripted as beautifully as the main game itself.
The voice acting was superb, the music great. The game's length was legendary and the graphics, oh gods in heaven, the graphics were to die for. Often repeatedly. Best of all, it had (and still has) the best start and end of any space faring CRPG ever.
Therefore, Mass effect 3 which was to be the conclusion of the Shepherd storyline had stratospheric expectations. The best I could have reasonably hoped for was that it would be as good as its predecessor. It is not. But by the same token, it is definitely worth buying and playing. Warts and all.
We come in peace, shoot to kill
One of the truly great things about Mass effect 3 is how it will take a huge number of variables from your Mass effect 2 saved game. You may not have realised it at the time, but choices made back then will have consequences now, some of them high. I love this aspect, and would like to see competing serials use a similar method.
Importing a game will also import the facial likeness, updating it slightly. You do have the option to change not just your face but also your class if you wish it. Whatever class you choose, you start at a reasonable level and so will be able to allocate points immediately.
Having been sidelined for several years by an embarrassed council due to destroying a mass relay (and a solar system in the bargain) to delay the inevitable Reaper invasion, the final enemy has arrived. A hundred Reaper vessels of varying size, but each bearing immense power have descended upon your galaxy, invading the homeworlds of all major species, including Earth.
Forced to leave a burning planet to assemble an armada powerful enough to stand the slimmest of chances against the Reaper threat, you will run across old friends and see the ending of many a storyline. Including your own.
Mass effect 2 had a power upgrade system that only branched at the end. Mass effect 3 diverges power upgrades far earlier in the cycle, giving you more options in how you upgrade your powers. Some choices will also have effects on other powers. Not content to stop there, Mass effect 3 has a greater range of weapons, and each weapon can be separately upgraded. Greater ammo capacities, longer barrels for more damage, armour piercing bullets or rounds that are more effective against shields. All of which adds a little richness to how you want your configs to be.
The AI of your enemies has notably increased. They now act more as squads than individuals, covering each other, using grenades to flush you out of entrenched positions, planting turrets etc. You still have the facility to take two companions with you into any mission, and here's where we run into one of Mass effect 3's two greatest flaws.
One of the best aspects of Mass effect 2 was the large number of companions, or squad mates that you could select from, and their wonderful back stories. The back stories are still here, after a fashion, but the number of companions you have has dropped dramatically. The developers claim this is to have deeper relationships, but I'm afraid that this explanation is complete cack.
So what squad mate choices are there? Ashley Williams or Kaiden return, dependant on who survived the events of the original mass effect. EDI, the ship's AI now has a mobile form that she can use. Garrus, Tali and Liara are all back if they survived the events of Mass effect 2.
The one new character is James Vega, or as I like to call him, El macho burrito. This walking stereotype (introduced probably because of the US's rising Hispanic population) is incredibly, incredibly irritating. If I was chicano, odds are I'd find it insulting as well. Whoever was responsible for this should be banished at once to the ice world Frigia.
If you are worried what happened to all the other companions you came to care about in Mass Effect 2, don't be. They are here, if they survived, but as NPCs. Your choices then and now can determine if they live or die. And there are some wonderfully poignant moments to be had, particularly with Morden Solus, Thane Krios and Legion standing out from all the others. There are some continued romance options (and love triangles), but it doesn't feel quite as involved in this as its predecessor.
The already impressive graphics are turned up a notch, with more spot effects than before and a greater level of facial detail. There are new, deadlier enemies to face. Particularly with the addition of heavy units like the Atlas, Brute and Banshee. Mass effect 3 also has some impressive setpieces, the Krogan world of Tchuncka providing one of the absolute bests.
Space trekking, across the universe
As mentioned previously, one of your main objectives is to build an armada. This is difficult, with the major races desperately fighting to save their own home worlds, the Quarian fighting the Geth, and the minor (but still useful) races refugees at the citadel or scattered across the quadrant.
You can raise your military strength by recruiting ships and powerful individuals to your cause. This works well, making you feel as if you really are assembling the last, best hope for survival. What doesn't work quite so well is the need to do a fair amount of this through planet scanning, one step ahead of Reapers homing in on your position. The first time you do this, it is genuinely exciting. The thirtieth time, not so much. You can win the game without it, but for the most positive endings you need to put in the legwork.
Speaking of the citadel, this has become a safe haven for refugees clamouring to get in while their universe disintegrates behind them. There are a number of side missions throughout the citadel, and an attempt is made to try and build the last-stand atmosphere, but none of it really feels as well crafted as the missions you go on, out in the black.
Why The Face?
While the main storyline is excellent, with some great cameos from previous squad mates, the final end-game is a strange one, and one that raised much controversy. At a crucial moment, the game's graphics suddenly change completely. That's jarring enough, but there's worse to come.
Anderson, a minor character at best from the first two Mass effect games is suddenly your best bud in the universe. The game's head writers, who allegedly cut everyone else in the team out of this stage, are determined to create an awkward bromance that just does not work. It takes the sting out of what's supposed to be a powerful scene.
Mass effect concludes with an ending that many found tacked-on and unsatisfying. It is unquestionably inferior to the ending of Mass Effect 3 and definitely not what I'd hoped it could have been. Shepherd's story, even where he survives, ends not with a bang but with a whimper. No, that's not quite right. It ends with a very small bang. A party popper, perhaps. And in doing so, the head writers have ultimately sabotaged themselves.
While this is a missed opportunity, for me, Mass effect 3 is less about the destination and more about the journey. As is, this would be a begrudging 4 star review. But it is saved by the excellent multiplayer.
I can't praise this element highly enough. Up to 4 players can play from a bewildering array of characters (once unlocked) on a large variety of gaming levels and degrees of difficulty. Unlocks are a large part of playing, earned through points from killing or damaging things and achieving mission objectives within levels, or literally paying for it.
This is genius. While you can pay for content, you don't have to. And the sheer fun from multiplayer is such that you never feel pressured into doing so. Bioware has brought out a number of free expansion packs and have continued to develop multiplayer by adding achievements, banners and weekend challenges. I've spent hours on multiplayer alone. This, for me, turns this into a five star review.
Summary: End of what became a legendary gaming trilogy
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