I’m going to be honest, I am completely ashamed to say that I have not actually played the first two Mass Effect games before. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, but my ever lingering lack of funds have long prevented me from buying most of the awesome games out there. But never fear! For this review, I joined forces with a good friend of mine who is a Mass Effect veteran and in fact wrote an article on the Mass Effect 3 launch for DBG. Together, we were able to experience Mass Effect 3 from both the beginner and the veteran points of view. What you will read here is a combination of both our opinions.
So without further ado…
THE STORY SO FAR…
With the discovery of a network of ancient cosmic relays in the 21st century, humanity was thrust into a universe teeming with alien life. At its heart lay the Citadel, the capital for all space-faring races. It had once been inhabited by a species known as the Protheans, who mysteriously vanished 50,000 years ago, leaving behind warnings of a godlike race of machines that had destroyed them. These enemies were called Reapers-and the warnings claimed they would return again to harvest organic life in a never-ending cycle of destruction.
In 2183, Commander Shepard, captain of the Alliance warship Normandy, destroyed the vanguard of the next Reaper invasion in a fierce battle for the Citadel. But Shepard’s victory was only temporary. A vast Reaper armada remained, patiently waiting in the voids of dark space to launch their next attack.
Two years later, Shepard was mortally wounded on a routine mission. Cerberus, a pro-human terrorist organization, recovered and resurrected Shepard. Led by the shadowy Illusive Man, Cerberus recognized that the Reapers would soon threaten humanity. Enlisting Shepard’s help, along with a crew of scientists, soldiers, and outlaws, the Normandy launched a suicide mission beyond the fabled Omega 4 relay to once again confront the Reaper menace. Yet even this triumph was only a delaying action in a much bigger war–a war that was about to engulf the entire Milky Way.
STARTING THE GAME
Even before you get into the gameplay, there is a mass of options on how you want your game to go. For example, you can choose the type of experience that you want within the game:
Action: You would jump straight into the gunfight, no conversational decisions are made by you. You pretty much can jump in and start shooting
Role Playing: The traditional gameplay experience. Your difficulty is adjustable and you have full conversational options
Story: As it describes, focuses primarily on the story of the game and lessens the difficulty in combat.
Then you have your classes to choose from. Which accommodate you more on the type of gameplay you’re looking for.
Not to go too far in detail, the choices of classes available are:
Each of these classes have their own unique powers and tailored towards unique weapons in the game.
For our game, we chose to have the traditional role playing experience with the infiltrator class.
You also get to choose the sex and look of your Shepherd character. I always find personalising my character makes me feel more connected with them so I thought this was a great touch to the game. We did however leave our character as the generic female Shepherd, who in my opinion was the best looking one anyway. I did notice that the theme of red and blue was constant throughout the game and was even shown through the female shepherd who has red hair and blue-ish uniform.
For me as a beginner, the first thing that caught my attention was the music. It is absolutely astounding and immediately set the mood. Even before I knew who the characters were, I felt their emotions and even the general state of the planet before I saw anything visually. Naturally when the visuals came it was even more beautiful.
Secondly, the cut-scenes. Oh my gosh, the cut-scenes. This people, is what won me over. Within the first 10 minutes of turning this game on. I was crying. Literally had tears running down my cheeks due to the emotional impact the cut-scenes of this game had on me. What Bioware have successfully done with this game is make the player deeply and emotionally connect with the characters and the story. This is an extremely hard thing to do. I think it’s easy for a game to make someone laugh or giggle, but if a game can make me cry, it is well worth my time and attention. So within that first 10 minute time frame, I was hooked.
There’s nothing too difficult about the control scheme for Shepherd. They are quite simple for any level of gamer and movement was nice and fluid. Combat rolling is a lot of fun and moving between cover positions was nice and smooth. I liked how the powerup wheel pauses the action in the game and you are able to assess the situation and select commands and powers for yourself and team mates. Also with the sniper rifle, when looking through the scope, it slows down time a little so you are able to make a decent shot. This doesn’t make things too easy, it is just enough to prevent anyone from rage quitting.
The weapons you are equipped with actually fold up and fit on your back when you aren’t using them. This may not seem like something important but it really added to the immersion of the game. I always hated in some games how your weapons disappeared into thin air when not in use. For me it takes away from the experience but Mass Effect 3 have fixed that completely.
The AI in this game is great as they keep you moving. If you stay in the one spot too long, an enemy will throw a grenade at that area, forcing you to move around. I like this as it prevents camping and keeps the player on their toes. There is also a good variety of enemies which makes the need to change tactics in order to defeat them imperative. You can’t use just one gun to fight through all the obstacles. This game seems to encourage the player to try everything they have to get through the game.
Something I did notice during the gameplay was that the ability to snap to cover spots and the ‘push button to focus’ were very similar mechanics to Gears Of War, and I am wondering whether or not Bioware appropriated these from the Gears Of War games. Not that it’s a bad thing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it! So the saying goes. Although it did get me thinking about Gears Of War, momentarily taking me away from the immersion.
Grug first explained that he thought the multi-player co-op seemed unnecessary but after playing it, he explained that it has definitely earned its place in the game.
Multi-player works in the way that you need to survive wave of enemies while completing certain objectives such as holding down an area while someone hacks a terminal or eliminating a certain amount of enemies within a time limit. Earn xp to skill up powers, stats and earn money to spend on packs that unlock equipment, weapons and other alien species that you can play as. The enemies you fight are pretty intelligent. They take cover, roll out of the way to avoid attacks, try to flush you out with grenades and deploy smoke screens to obscure your vision.
This is very fast and frantic action and is a whole lot of fun to play with friends. The only downside to this is that it’s online only and no LAN option is available. However matchmaking on Xbox live seems to work well when you want a quick game in the afternoon.
The galaxy map is cool, you can fast travel to parts of the galaxy, this is where it stops being linear and you can choose where you want to go if you want to take a break from the main story line and do side quests.
In some conversations there were awkward silences which were well… awkward. Someone would finish talking to you and there would be an extra 3 or 4 seconds of them staring at you.
I find the fact that shepherd butts into random people/AI’s conversations to have their 2 cents heard a little dickish. Although it did turn into a kind of joke for us, we tried to see how many conversations we could rudely stick our nose into.
The world itself is beautifully done. There is so much going on in the background that is relevant to the story that the whole world feels alive. Game developers should really take note of how they created such a live environment.
We both really enjoyed this game. Its beautiful, its fun, and most of all, its immersive. We played from 9am to 5pm straight without realising the time. There were so many moments where I was gasping in shock, giggling like a school girl or on the verge of tears.
If you want an awesome action packed game where you can really connect with the characters, this is the way to go. I’ll definitely be playing through the first two now that Ive experienced the third one.
Mass Effect veteran Grug and I agree on giving this a 4.5 out of 5. Aside from a few tiny hitches, this is one incredible game that I definitely recommend spending your pennies on.