Product Type: Electronic Arts Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... it brings a close to the epic storyline, it finishes off the characters stories and gives you some closure surrounding shephards story, If ... more
Where did it all go wrong?
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)
Member Name: thejarofdirt882
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)
Advantages: fantastic characters
Disadvantages: poor ending, stripped down RPG, auto dialogue
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).
Summary: You will laugh, you will cry, you will have fun and thyou will wonder just what on earth went wrong.