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Mass Effect 3 is the third and final installment of the story of Commander Shephard, a human who is charged with stopping the extinction of all advanced life and ending the reapers on their chaotic path of destroying everything. The game is non stop action from start to finish and it brings a close to the epic storyline, it finishes off the characters stories and gives you some closure surrounding shephards story, If you enjoyed the first two the way I enjoyed them then you will no doubt find trawling the galaxy stealthily trying to find allies without being detected by the reapers a nice feature, piecing together a mighty fleet of starships to 'take back earth' is a nice feature of the game and the storlines of uniting peoples who have been warring for centuries to face the common enemy is a good plot element. The combat is as seamless as it was in ME2, with the addition of an omniblade which allows you to sneak around and instantly kill people assassin style. The horrible planet mining system has been dispensed with and the character development and weapon system have changed slightly although the new systems are an improvement on the already good system in ME2.
One of the good features of this game are the online features which also allow you to bring your online characters into the offline game and the galactic readiness you earn online translates to offline too although it is not required to finish the game.
The Mass Effect series is one that I have a longstanding love and affection for. For all it's faults and foibles, these are the games I always seem to come back to when I tire of my shiny new purchases and just want to lose myself in a game. In this review, the galaxy hangs in the balance and you're the only one who can save it. It's Mass Effect 3.
One thing I will say about Mass Effect 3 is that it doesn't skimp on its story. The arrival of the Reapers has plunged the entire galaxy into a state of panic and fear. Earth is burning, nowhere is safe and so the galaxy turns to Commander (First-name-almost-running-joke-now) Shepard to deliver the galaxy. There are plenty of returning characters from both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, with everyone (and I mean everyone) getting their moment to shine. Nobody feels wasted and everyone has something to bring to the fight, even minor characters you thought you'd seen that back of long ago. All the emotional investment you've put into the previous games Mass Effect 3 delivers on, with scenes that will make you smile, laugh and even maybe shed a tear. Everyone knows what's a stake and the game does a wonderful job of tying together all that you've done leading up to this final fight, making every decision you've made feel appropriately weighted and important. The atmosphere is heavy and you'll feel every victory, and every loss, acutely, the action and drama keeping you pushing towards the final end because you will want to see how it all pans out as you rewrite three games worth of history.
Much as with the story, gameplay in Mass Effect 3 has hit its stride beautifully, at least for the most part. Right out of the starting gate, the game throws everything at you, with every encounter feeling dangerous and challenging. Combat plays out much the same as Mass Effect 2, with a few minor enhancements to improve mobility on the battlefield. Tech and biotic abilities have been improved upon as well, with plenty of new and dangerous enemy types requiring careful use of your squad's powers and weapons to eliminate quickly: a major improvement for power-based classes on Mass Effect 2. The game also dispenses with class-based weapons restrictions for Commander Shepard, allowing you to mix up your play style with some new toys or go in light, reducing the weight of your equipment in order to bring your powers to bear more frequently. Weapon mods are useful but not essential; simply keeping your weapons upgraded will give you all the edge you really need. Regardless of upgrades, however, fighting smart is the key to survival, something you'll be painfully reminded of should you ever decide you can just charge out with guns a-blazing. One major criticism I do have, however, is the general removal of side quests other than 'go-scan-a-plant-for-a-thing' missions. The mining mechanics from Mass Effect 2 were annoying but this is just as bad, if not worse, especially as I'd rather be down on some of these planets (seriously, there are at least three alien homeworlds among these dumb fetch quests) doing an actual mission. It's hardly game-breaking, just irritating.
To some up, Mass Effect 3 feels like an epic conclusion to a story three games in the making, made all the more dramatic by the knowledge that it is your decisions, your triumphs and failures, that have led you to this point. It's emotional, action-packed and one hell of a ride, but it does have one major flaw. In the interest of staying spoiler free, consider this fair warning, but to ignore this would be to ignore what is, in my opinion, the weakest aspect of this game, so read on if you want to know more. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Mass Effect 3 from beginning to end and any fan of the series is sure to enjoy it as well.
++NO, REALLY! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS!++
++OKAY, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!++
Mass Effect 3's original ending is spectacularly underwhelming. All the drama that the series builds up, all the history changing things you have done in order to reach this epic final battle, with the combined strength of the entire galaxy at your back... comes down to a two minute scene that makes no sense, has no context and offers no closure, just pick your endgame superweapon colour and that's it. Now, there is a free (at least at present) DLC - Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut - which fixes a lot of these issues and expands the original ending but, as a fan of the series, I can understand the fan outrage that came from the original ending. It wasn't an ending, just a sudden cut off that left the story without any proper conclusion and, because of that, I was disappointed. That doesn't diminish the fact that most of Mass Effect 3 is awesome, because it really is - but it is something I would feel remiss about if I didn't mention it.
Mass Effect was the first game I bought for my Xbox 360, and I was enthralled. Such a rich, detailed universe with interesting species and characters; it's not hard to see why it's a classic game, but certainly not perfect. Bioware continued this with Mass Effect 2, concentrating more on the characters than the story, streamlining the RPG elements and vastly improving the combat. Things were looking good for Mass Effect 3. An epic battle where Shepard would stop the Reapers, sentient alien ships, from destroying all advanced (i.e. space faring) civilisation in the galaxy.
What should have been Mass Effect's, and Bioware's, shining crown has become their shining turd. And that's not just because of the ending. Yes there is huge furore over the ending, the likes of which gaming has never seen before, but it is this that is distracting from Mass Effect 3's other problems.
The game begins with Commander Shepard (who you decided what he or she looks like and their basic history) on trial on Earth, either for working with Cerberus (an extremist human group) in Mass Effect 2 or for destroying a Batarian colony to slow down the Repear's arrival in Mass Effect 2's Arrival Downloadable Content, depending on whether or not you played this DLC. But the Reapers have arrived and despite Shepard's constant warnings the galaxy isn't ready for this fight. Shepard escapes from Earth to rally the species of the galaxy for one final battle against an unbeatable force.
Unbeatable force... this is where the story hits its first stumble. The Repears have been shown in previous games to, individually, be extremely hard to destroy. And now there is an enormous fleet of them. It's now apparent the writer's had not had enough time to think through this and we end up with a Deus Ex Machina, the Crucible, being introduced to the story. And the plot generally does downhill from here.
There are some standout incredibly written sections and the romances are early all fantastic dialogue, which show just what talent is in the writing team, the overall story for Mass Effect and in particular the ending is very poor. Introducing what should have been a major character five minutes before the end of the game and funnelling the player into three endings, which were all pretty much the same, with little to no explanation of what happens to the galaxy afterwards goes against everything that made Mass Effect great - a universe that goes to great length to explain absolutely everything suddenly leaves that happens at the end of the trilogy down to speculation. And then the writers publicly state they don't know why everyone didn't "speculate" the same thing as they thought the ending meant.
I believe that is down to a combination of the time constraint of getting the game out, and that the game's story had not been thought out once it was seen how much of a success Mass Effect was and that it was going to become the trilogy. It also doesn't help that the lead writer for Mass Effect 1 & 2, Drew Karpyshyn, left production (and moved onto another Bioware project) only leaving a first draft notes, which in the end was completely disregarded.
Away from the ending, and still fitting with story, pretty much any character that survived your play-through of Mass Effect 1& 2, makes an appearance, big or small. And it's the small appearances that have annoyed fans. The characters from Mass Effect 2 play very little part aside from having their own side missions. Which you can complete even if they don't survive. And if you romanced someone from mass Effect 2 then you're out of luck since they are basically ignored (and if you're a really unlucky female Shepard they dump your ass because they couldn't wait a few months for you, turning an almost likeable character into a complete jerk.).
Your team mates, and select returning side characters, are all fantastic, interesting and the voice acting is once again sublime across the board. However, the amount of auto-dialogue that Shepard speaks has skyrocketed, so much so that it no longer feels as though this is my Shepard speaking, just another character in the universe.
We were told that our choices would matter throughout the course of the three games. But in reality, they just don't. I understand how complicated it would be to have the different decision play out different story elements. Even if you killed everyone and thing possible in the previous games, you can still do the side missions that would have them in if they were alive (and in the case of one of the monumental decision of Mass Effect 1, an identical being just takes their place). Even throughout Mass Effect 3, they don't. You collect War Assets through the game, such as Human fleets or Krogan soldiers. Now how cool would it have been to see all these in action against the reaper forces. Sadly, we do not see that. All the War Assets do is influence which ending you can get (which itself makes no sense, how do military outfits affect a scientific endeavour that is the Crucible).
However, the game play (third person shooter RPG) has improved, except for the way Shepard runs - they look like they've soiled their armour and it is kind of funny. The combat is smoother although the difficulty is easier than the previous games. Cover is a necessity unless you want to die quickly of course, popping out of cover to shoot your enemies or use a power (Biotic or Tech). Friendly AI can still sometimes run out of cover for no reason, but it is not as common as in previous games. Enemies aren't as varied as they could be, but there are new kinds of Reaper foot soldiers, and Cerberus is once again the enemy. RPG elements have been beefed up after the slimmed down in Mass Effect 2, although the journal is next to useless, not telling you where you in a quest just that you've started it. Different pieces of armour have different bonuses, boosting speed, shields, ammo capacity etc.
Mass Effect 3 runs on a slightly different, better, engine than Mass Effect 2 but the difference in graphics is not that noticeable - the one place I saw it was in character's hair, which looked at lot better this time, although still not great.
To sum up, there is so much in Mass Effect 3 that makes me want to love it, but the poor storytelling has put me completely off it. (I have spent 100s of hours playing and replaying Mass Effect 1 & 2 over more play throughs than I can count. I have played Mass Effect 3 once which clocked in about 25 hours).
Mass Effect 3 is a stand-alone sequel to the hit BioWare games Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
Having played the other two Mass Effect games and loved them, I was greatly looking forward to this game. Finally fighting the Reapers, continuing character development and finishing my Shepard's story arc.
And I did all of these. All in a very well presented game.
The game has many different features, such as a scanning element where you fly around a solar system and scan for anything from survivors to fuel, while making sure the Reapers don't detect you and give chase. Another major feature are war assests. These can be anything from a squad stranded on a planet to an ancient artifact that can be used to rally and motivate squads of marines. These assests contribute towards the war effort and help to increase your odds of success and survival.
The gameplay is based on a mix of powers (such as Biotic lift, which propels your helpless target into the air) and guns. The game also features a competent cover system which makes shoot-outs more common, which are more fun than normal with the use of hot-keyed powers that can help greatly.
Mass Effect 3 also offers a number of choices throughout the game, which adds an element of variety.
The story of this game follows on from the previous two Mass effect games. If you haven't played these, then the story is basically this :
Humanity has made massive leaps forward in terms of technology thanks to an alien device discovered on Mars. This means humanity has the ability to travel around the Milky Way and interact with all the other races of the galaxy (such as Asari). This has lead to humanity starting to colonise other planets. This is roughly where our Shepard comes in. One of these colonies has gone silent and this needs investigating. This leads to the realisation that a rogue spectre (kind of the CIA agents of Mass Effect) is trying to bring about the destruction of humans and sentient life. The game revolves largely around chasing this agent down and stopping destruction from happening on a galactic scale.
Shepard is back. This time he is working for Cerberus (a human interests group with near unlimited resources) and is trying to stop a mysterious and sinister race known as Collectors who have been attacking human colonies and abducting humans. The second game revolves around gathering a squad for a suicide mission to the Collector's base and making sure your squad is focused on this mission.
If you have not played the previous games, this one is still a good stand alone game and is still very enjoyable. The game goes a ways to explain the war with the Reapers for people new to the franchise.
First the positives:
If you are a fan of either of the previous games (more suited to fans of the story in the first one rather than the high level of customisation in that game) then this is a good finish to the story.
All characters from the previous two games return (provided they survived) and not just for a slight cameo.
The game has a genuine atmosphere of a galaxy at war and gives the feeling of comradery.
More weapons and armour choices than Mass Effect 2.
Garrus Vakarian and Liara T'Soni.
Now, the negatives:
Although it features more customisation than the second one, this largely pales in comparison to the range in the first installment.
The fact that EA released a character as DLC the day of the games release shows EA just want your money and are willing to take things out of the game to get it.
The ending. If you like the game, be prepared to be disgusted at the ending.
This game currently costs £25 on amazon, less than a month after it was released. I'm not sure if this is due to a special offer at amazon, or whether it's due to sales being less robust than expected.
The Mass Effect series is a science fiction role playing game. Humanity in the future has gained entry into the galactic community by uncovering 'mass relays' which allow near-instant travel to other star systems. The 'future history' stuff is all very nicely done, and the first two games in the series saw humanity slowly becoming more integrated with the other species that run the galaxy. But inevitably there is a threat, from the Reapers - ancient, all-powerful machines that swarm through the galaxy every 10,000 years or so and wipe out any organic species that have become too technologically advanced.
By this third game, your character, Commander Shepard, has alerted everyone to the threat of the Reapers, and must now build a galactic coalition of the willing to fight off the imminent invasion.
A lot to live up to
Anticipation for this game has been high. The first two games created a coherent and immensely satisfying game world, and other characters with whom Shepard has interacted - friends, crewmates, antagonists - made for a rare level of emotional engagement for a video game. The character writing is such that friendships built up over the first two games, which between them comprise about 60 hours of play time, are unusually compelling. Fans of the series have been waiting with bated breath to see who would live, who would die, who would get to find love and happiness, and who would be punished for being a jerk. More importantly, choices you make in earlier games carry through into this one and have an effect on what happens.
The problem, perhaps, is that developer Bioware has done its job too well in the earlier games, and that it would inevitably lead to disappointment if the final instalment wasn't blow-your-mind amazing in every way. One problem was that the Reapers were set up as such an immense, unstoppable threat that it was always likely that there would have to be a deus ex machina 'kill switch' type ending if the goodies were to win. And sure enough, right from the start, your side starts building a big cosmic gun that will sort everything out. The other problem, which worried me a bit in Mass Effect 2, was that there was so much going on that it seemed unlikely that 3 would be able to provide a satisfying conclusion to every single storyline. It's not done too badly on that front. It crams an awful lot in, and if you're worried about the Genophage, or the Quarian homeworld, or Miranda's sister, then you'll probably get at least something you want.
But then there's the ending, which has caused an immense backlash from fans of the game, to the extent that Bioware has promised to 'fix' it. My initial reaction to this was that it was like the ending of The Sopranos - so much expectation had been built up that any ending was going to piss off some fans. I also have an inbuilt suspicion of fan rage, which can often be summed up as 'But Aquaman, you cannot marry a woman without gills. You're from two different worlds!' However, having played it, I can understand what everyone is so angry about.
I've only played this game with an imported save from Mass Effect 2. I don't know what it would be like coming to it as a new player, where presumably you would have slightly different choices available. There's so much backstory, though, I'd strongly recommend playing the first two games before you try your hand at this one.
The good things are very good
The game mostly looks very impressive. The worlds and spaceships you visit have a coherent aesthetic style, the alien races look distinctive without being ridiculous, and humans look more or less human (although their hands, frankly, look terrible). The sound effects are all good, the voice acting is terrific, and the incidental music is nice without being earth shaking. In short, the game looks and sounds pretty good. Especially impressive are the terrifying metallic shrieks emitted by the Reapers.
As in previous games, you go on missions which provide you with experience so you can increase the abilities of your character. The missions are a nice mix of straight combat jobs, where you storm into a base and kill a bunch of bad guys; and longer, more involved episodes which usually involve you recruiting a new ally, often resolving centuries-long conflicts in the process. There's just enough variety in these missions to make them work. As well as the Reapers you also have some human troublemakers to deal with in the shape of terrorist organisation Cerberus, so there are different types of battles to play through.
Combat is relatively smooth, and the series has evolved so that it's as much a first person shooter as a role playing game. You get special powers which are integrated into the fights easily enough, and various different weapon types. The main problem with combat is that your controller's A button has too much to do. It is, for instance, used for both 'take cover behind an object' and 'jump over an object' - I'm sure you can understand why doing one when you want to do the other can be potentially fatal in battle.
But it's a tribute to the world building and character writing that combat has always seemed a bit incidental. You can just wander round your ship chatting to your crewmates, or stroll through the Citadel (the galactic capital) listening in on conversations that play out over time. The atmosphere is funereal from the outset, and it drops plenty of hints that things won't end well for everyone. It's actually quite upsetting seeing this wonderfully appealing universe being slowly destroyed by the Reapers, and this is a fairly dark game, with a whole lot of 'war is hell' stuff thrown in.
The characters continue to develop, in ways which are consistent with how they were presented before. I still like some characters over others (Wrex and Garrus and Tali are cool; Ashley, Miranda and Jack are tiresome). In Mass Effect 2 you had something like eleven characters you could take with you on missions; this was a few too many as you had to spend hours trudging round your ship to talk to all of them for their character arcs to play out. 3 has whittled it down to a more user-friendly six (seven with downloadable content), and apart from new boy James, all are old friends. (James, I suspect, is the 'new pair of eyes' included as an identification figure for people coming to the series only with this game).
You can romance certain of your crew, and halfway through the game I callously dumped my blue long-term girlfriend for my lesbian secretary, who has a much sexier voice (I always play as a woman). There is a love scene, but both ladies kept their underwear on throughout, which I found disappointing. On the whole, the game has been commendably even handed about same-sex relationships (there's also a gay male character on board, who you can romance if you play as a man). Equality and tolerance as values are frequently extolled in the game, and most conflict is shown as the opposition of two perfectly reasonable points of view. We know Cerberus are irredeemably evil because there goals are openly racist, although even there the game presents them and their leader, the Illusive Man, as once-admirable idealists corrupted by their own success, like Steve Jobs and Apple.
The plot is a bit too similar to other Bioware games (Dragon Age, most notably, but also Baldur's Gate), but I guess it's a good one and lends itself well to the format. The 'all-powerful ancient evil coming from outside space to eradicate all life' is an idea borrowed from Lovecraft (the Reapers even have tentacles, like big metal Cthulhus), and the threat is evoked incredibly well. There is real desperation, and the feeling that something huge is at stake.
Tugging at the heart strings
It would be difficult to think of a game which gets its players so emotionally invested in the fates of its characters. This gives plenty of forewarning that not everyone will be around at the end, and there are a couple of long-running characters who die long before before the climax. One, especially, is wrenching, but provides a beautiful end to that character's story arc. But there's a lot of horror in this game, and occasionally you learn of the death of an old ally just by chance, by overhearing something as you walk along a corridor.
There's a danger this could all become a bit overwhelming and deadening, but the scene just before the final battle in which Shepard gets to go and have a last chat with each of her friends, who we've come to know over the course of three games, is probably the most beautiful thing I've witnessed in a game like this. I'm not ashamed to say the roar of guns and cannons almost made me cry.
Mass Effect's ability to combine these lovely little character moments with bad-ass space marine battles is a big part of what made it so good.
They've included a multiplayer option, which seems slightly odd for a game like this, but which turns out to be surprisingly fun. It isn't related to the story (although controversially, it does affect it). It's a four-player co-op shooter where you and three others are dropped into an environment from the game and have to defeat up to ten waves of attacking villains. These are nicely judged, starting with a simple wave of base-level baddies and working up to tough boss-fight creatures by the end. It's not earth-shattering, but it is a fun add-on to the game.
The big problem is that playing multiplayer increases your chances of success in your single player campaign. The more multiplayer you do, the better the ending you'll get and it is not possible to get the best ending without multiplayer. Quite aside from this breaking the fourth wall and taking you out of the story, it also costs money, as you need an Xbox Live Gold Membership to play online. Mass Effect 3 has shipped with two days free Gold Membership with every purchase, but this still feels mean and unnecessary.
Which is a good lead-in to talking about what's wrong with the game.
Too much bad stuff
Firstly there are quite a lot of little glitches in the graphics and gameplay. Some conversations were conducted with Shepard's head twisted round unnaturally, like in The Exorcist. The little 'loading' graphic moves around a bit when it clearly isn't meant to, which is just sloppy. One of my crew members seemingly vanished for hours so I couldn't talk to her (it was that self-righteous cow Ashley, though, so no great loss). Frustratingly, some of the little missions you're given can't be done for ages, until you've unlocked the right part of the galactic map. Others become unavailable if you accidentally progress the story too quickly. This is annoying in the extreme, especially for a game which encourages completism.
It has tiresome dream sequences that you have to run around in, in slow motion. I hate stuff like that. The game has been criticised for having too high a ratio of cut-scenes to gameplay, and I'd agree that there's too much watching and not enough playing; but if you must include dream sequences, make them cut-scenes, for goodness sake. Preferably skippable ones.
But the main problem - the big one, the one that has the entire internet up in arms - is the ending. And having played it, I can totally see the problem. It's going to be difficult to talk about without spoilers, but I'll be as careful as possible.
Firstly, and this was a problem with Mass Effect 2 as well, the final mission is too easy. It doesn't seem like it should be the last mission - everything you're told suggests there will be one more big thing to do, but instead you get a hell of a lot of cut-scenes, which although they feature some gameplay, have a predetermined outcome. At least 2 ended with a boss fight, even if it was a bad one (Mass Effect 1 had it right - a difficult boss fight that was very obviously the end of the game). Mass Effect 3 does have one semi-difficult boss fight, against a supertough assassin who looks like he's wandered into the wrong game, but it comes ages before the actual end mission.
But that's only scratching the surface. The problem is what happens at the end. Most importantly, Mass Effect has been sold as a game in which the choices you make have lasting importance, and that things you choose to do in previous games will resonate through the entire trilogy. This seems to be true, until you reach the ending. And whatever you do prior to this turns out not to matter at all - you get the same three (very similar) options no matter what you've done. The only difference is how 'war ready' you are (where the multiplayer stuff comes in), which determines how successful your ending is. But even there, we're talking superficial differences. To say this feels like a kick in the teeth is putting it mildly.
And plotwise, the ending is a shambles. It feels like they didn't have an ending in mind and just threw something together in five minutes flat without thinking it through. I can't say much without giving it away, but if the implications of what has happened are followed up in a way with what's consistent with what we've already been shown about the universe, then there really was no point in any of the stuff your character has done in the first three games at all.
Also, the final cut scenes feature something that makes literally no sense in the context of what's just happened, and reeks of cheap emotional manipulation. Perhaps worst of all, an explanation for the Reapers is offered that is probably the dumbest plot reveal since, well, whatever the latest M Night Shyamalan film is. It makes no sense at all.
Presumably we're all supposed to be so caught up in the emotion of the climax that we don't notice that it's mean-spirited, reductive, dumb, contemptuous, and lacks any sense of closure. Unfortunately for Bioware, an awful lot of people have noticed. We are now promised that a new ending will be available (probably a big cutscene rather than anything playable). It had better be good.
There was already downloadable content (DLC) available when the game launched. It's very good, a mission which gives you a new crewmember to interact with. But it really ought to have just been included in the main game rather than be something we had to pay for - this habit of releasing games that are incomplete unless you spend money on DLC is getting on my nerves (see also Arkham City).
The game has angered fans yet further by ending with a little message telling us to buy more DLC. But it's hard to see what they can possibly offer now that would be interesting. Perhaps some new multiplayer maps. Any additions to story mode will be pointless, given that the story is done. Previous instalments had downloadable missions that advanced the main story, like the excellent Shadow Broker episode for Mass Effect 2. There is no scope for anything like that now. If Bioware think I'm paying £10 just for a couple of extra Cerberus bases to fight my way through, they are sorely mistaken.
In fact, I doubt I'll be buying into any more of Bioware's big roleplaying franchises. If six years of build-up goes nowhere, there doesn't seem a lot of point. My interest in Dragon Age 3 just nosedived.
Is Mass Effect 3 worth playing? Yes, just about. The ending is terrible, but the rest of the game is every bit as good as its predecessors. And whatever else, it really nails the sense of the epic like nothing else I've played. If you can get behind the idea that it's the journey that's important, not the destination, then you should still enjoy it. It took maybe 30 hours to play through, which isn't bad.
Unfortunately, if you actually care about the story, you're going to be in for a nasty shock...
Without doubt one of 2012's biggest video game releases, the end of the Mass Effect saga had to come to an epic end. WIth 'The Reapers' hunting down all intelligent life in each of the galaxies, harvesting millions of human and alien souls to 'stop the chaos', Commander Shepard must once again rise to the occasion and stop them at all costs. The Reapers first destination? Earth. This time it really is personal. For those who are unfamiliar with the mass effect franchise, you'll most likely be lost in the plot as it has spanned 2 very long games beforehand - that and characters, dialogue and subplots change depending on your past experience of both games - destroy a species, kill off a character, make your choice. That said, ME3 isn't exactly impossible to get to grips with thanks to the addition of the default plot choices when choosing new game and not importing a previous character.
The battle system is largely the same as the others in the saga and seems loosely based on Gears of War's battle mechanic, in a third person perspective with a lot of ducking and diving for cover, but with the paused like state for selecting abilities. Compared to the first 2, its far slicker and faster, a real improvement, especially with the new choice of advanced melee and mapped bumper/d-pad commands. The story element is as fantastic as ever and experienced gamers will remain attached to old crew members and mourn/cheer their fate. New, fresh conversations can be found for all recurring characters, new and old. Though the addition of Diana Allers seems thrown in at the last minute, as a mild mannered interviewer who asks a couple of questions but thats about it. Her and Traynor's romance conversations are dreary and rushed.
The story finally comes to an end with a climactic battle through London (by far one of the best levels in recent gaming history let alone mass effect). Fighting new enemies such as Banshees - reaper engineered Asari', Brutes - gigantic charging behemoths, and numerous other basic and specialist troops. One real disappointment is the miniboss Kai Leng - a stereotypical asian cast member, who, in the age of guns/blasters, insists on using a samurai like sword - even though the guy is Chinese. It really seems as if a child put him in there because he is like a techno pathetic ninja samurai. He does his job though, of making you hate him as an enemy (at one point he sends you an email talking trash about how he 'whooped' you in battle) and its not as if the battles are well thought out either as you can never really beat him until the end because of his 'plot armour'. Other than him though, the other battles are decent, whether they are against hordes of troops or even a reaper.
The musical scores have been great in all the games, but this one features a sombre piano concerto that really hits the spot for the grim chance of success. The idea of the game is to unite species and combine forces to take on the reapers in a final showdown. You make your choices whether to help a species or doom it to extinction. You have 'Galactic Readiness' to determine the outcome of your final battle, which is mostly based on multiplayer. This may displease some gamers as ME has strictly been single player, but the MP is actually very well done. There are no children screaming down the mic, no gamer vs gamer choices, just teaming up against numerous enemies across random maps, difficulties, acquiring new equipment via earning and spending points. Make your own custom character like your Shepard, and take part in the engrossing 11 wave long MP. Its really quite addictive and each game lasts approximately 20 minutes - the time really flies.
The levelling system is similar to 2, but offers more distinct choices and even adding/removing new ones and finding updates. The galaxy map has changed a fair bit though, as scouting each galaxy (if under attack) has a chance of alerting the reapers to your location. Scanning is still involved, just less frequently and there is no more bouncing around in vehicles that look and feel like a remote control car. The endings have received bad press lately, as they bare minimal differences, regardless of the choices made and there is no happily ever after ending. I personally found that while the endings weren't spectacular, they did not deserve such negative criticism from gamers. Its a worthy end to a brilliant series, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bioware/EA caved in and made lots of DLC or even a fourth installment, similar to that of the Halo series.
I only came across the Mass Effect series in early 2011, but I bought each one, played them in order, and they were some of the best hours spent gaming for a long while.. Different as well.. no other game can rival the genre known as a space opera. One of my favorite game series comes to an end in spectacular fashion. We can only hope it is not the end of decent single player, campaign based games.