Mass Effect 3 Review

Seems like I'm constantly apologising about late reviews but here's my Mass Effect 3 Review, finally! In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I've thoroughly played Mass Effect 3 and have finished it no less than 3 times and played the multiplayer, so you'll know when you're reading this review that I didn't just play the first 10 hours or so and pass judgement then (like a lot of game reviewers :)). It also helps me build an excuse for why it takes me so long to review games...

Anyway, it's probably no surprise that I grabbed a copy of Mass Effect – I’m actually quite a big fan of the series since I love sci-fi RPGs – but don’t worry that doesn’t mean I go any easier in the reviews. In fact, sometimes fans can be the harshest critics ;). You may recall Mass Effect 2 being awarded Choicest Games Game of the Year in 2010, so Mass Effect 3 had some pretty big shoes to fill. So how did Bioware’s latest sci-fi RPG fare?

Plot (5/5)
Mass Effect 3 starts off with Commander Shepard being court-martialled for some reason back on Earth (you had to buy the DLC in Mass Effect 2 to find out why apparently – not very choice!). Anyway, Commander’s Shepard’s fears become a reality and the Reapers actually begin their invasion of Earth. Shepard reunites with Anderson only to bid him farewell as he orders Shepard to find allies to bring the fight to the Reapers while he stays back to lead the resistance on Earth.

What is great about this Mass Effect is that you finally get to visit the home planets/star systems of many of the races. You also get to learn the fate of many of the allies, friends and acquaintances you met in the previous two games. To top it all off, the climactic start to the final battle is one of the best scenes in sci-fi gaming history.

What almost let the game down though was the original version. The original version was great for 99% of the game but the final 1%, the crucial final 1%, was pretty abysmal. It provided no closure whatsoever, no indication of how your actions impacted the rest of the universe and left you with more questions than answers. It also felt pretty rushed and reminded me of the ending of Knights of the Old Republic 2, another game that was rushed out of the door and which also had a sloppy ending as a result. Thankfully, Bioware released the Extended Cut for free and resolved most of these issues, and while not everyone will still be happy about the ending, it at least gives more information and you finally know what the fate of the galaxy is.

Gameplay (5/5)
Third time’s the charm. Bioware finally managed a good balance between old school RPG mechanics ala Mass Effect 1 and streamlined gameplay ala Mass Effect 2. Modding of your weapons is back and you can equip scopes, extra ammo cartridges and heat sinks that will modify the weapon’s stats.

Also, Bioware have probably read up on Sid Meier’s "Covert Action Rule" which states that too many pesky, time-consuming mini-games breaks the flow of the main game and just ultimately annoys the player. No more attempts at scaling vertical mountains in the Mako or endlessly searching planets for minerals. You now have to scan for additional forces and credits on the galaxy map itself. If you scan too many times however the Reapers will find you and then attempt to intercept you. So it’s still a mini-game but it’s been integrated seamlessly into the galaxy map phase of the game, instead of requiring you to go down to a planet’s surface or spend several minutes scrolling your mouse over a wireframe planet.

Sound (4/5)
As always, there is great voice acting in this game and they managed to get most of the voice actors from the previous two games to reprise their roles – no small feat! Bioware also introduced some cinematic/dynamic audio thingy that’s meant to make sound effects sound choicer. While occasionally it does work, sometimes the difference in volume will blow your eardrums, so I unfortunately kept the setting off every time I played.

Music (5/5)
Unlike the previous Mass Effects, Jack Wall did not play a part in creating the soundtrack and instead Bioware brought Clint Mansell aboard. At first I was thinking “How dare they get rid of Jack Wall? He is what made the soundtracks to the first two games awesome!” Sure Clint Mansell may be an accomplished composer but could he possibly do better than Jack Wall? This initial animosity or cynicism resulted in distaste for the mellowing down of the soundtrack thanks to Mansell’s moody piano pieces – it just didn’t seem like Mass Effect anymore. But after thinking about this a bit, that was Bioware’s intention all along. The mood for the last game in the series was intended to be sombre, moody, depressing. After awhile however, the music did grow on me. It did make the series seem more mature and serious. And there was enough music that was similar to the original series (thanks to Sam Hulick and a whole bunch of other collaborators) that it’ll make Mass Effect veterans feel right at home.

If you want to know more, check out my review of the soundtrack.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics in the Mass Effect series is starting to become a bit dated but it’s still good enough nonetheless. The animations in this iteration seem to be much more fluid than its predecessors.

Replay (4/5)
Mass Effect 3 has multiplayer! So this definitely helps in terms of the replay department. Before the Extended Cut it was extremely difficult (potentially impossible) to get the best ending in the single player campaign without at least playing a bit of the multiplayer. You see, somehow the number of matches you win in multiplayer reduces a penalty you get in single-player for your final fleet that you send in to defeat the Reapers. It’s a really stupid mechanic and thankfully I think it has been toned down since the Extended Cut (now you can get the best ending without needing to play multiplayer). Because of this link between single and multi player, I initially resented multiplayer. However, the multiplayer is kind of fun although it’s a bit laggy for us Australians so it’s by no means perfect.

The game also provides a lot of replay due to the multiple ways the story can unfold, not only depending on actions you make in Mass Effect 3 but of all the decisions you made in the previous two games. However, this could be a problem in itself since you probably miss out on quite a bit if you don’t buy the first two games and complete them and it also means Mass Effect 3’s replay value is heavily tied to what you did in the previous games.

Polish (4/5)
As with any RPG, there’s bound to be a few bugs but this is the least buggy out of the Mass Effect games yet. Sure the original ending felt rushed and wasn’t a high point for Bioware, but the Extended Cut thankfully fixed that.

Score – 9/10

It’s fortunate that Bioware released the Extended Cut otherwise the last 1% of the game may have resulted in ME3 being the worst game in the series. With the Extended Cut, ME3 is a worthy addition that manages to bring some closure to the many personal stories developed in the earlier games.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Origin.

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