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Since its release on March 6, 2012, I got to take a firsthand look into the full release of Mass Effect 3 for the PC. Mass Effect 3 has been a highly anticipated role playing game title from BioWare which follows the events of Mass Effect 2. Because I did have a chance to play the demo which I also did a review on as well: ME3 Demo, I had an idea of what to expect out of the game. For one, how the single player portion of the demo is exactly how it starts off, however as with any demonstration, it was just a teaser to the greater and broader perspective of what Mass Effect 3 had to offer.
Upon escaping the Reaper invasion of Earth and heading to Mars, where humans had their first encounter with Prothean technology, the game leaves no moment to breathe as you’re thrown from one conflict to another as you race against time to find a solution to defeat the Reaper invasion. Just as the previous games have done, you’re pitted with the responsibility of uniting all the races and their military power to come together and fight the reapers. With that idea and the kind of pace in mind, it is really easy to get very involved in this fictional universe and to feel like you’re making a difference in the war effort against the reapers.
On top of finishing the game once with my imported character, I figured it would be more fun to do one more lap through Mass Effect 3 with the same character. As you can see above, I’ve retained everything that my character had purchased the previous play through before as well as any mods and upgrades your weapons have gone through. Now unlike Mass Effect 2 where there was a limit on armor combinations and color customization, all of that is thrown out the window as they’ve added a lot more for your personal pleasure. On top of more armor augmentations, they’ve changed from the original written explanation to a more readable and comparable display which makes it a lot easier for the player to tailor their armor to their personal tastes and gameplay. So as you make purchases for armor upgrades, you can change the stock individual pieces of armor or whole suits depending on if you want something that’s more melee friendly or beneficial for biotics or boosts weapon and headshot damage as an example.
Upgrading weapons have undergone the same layout upgrade as well, allowing players to tailor attachments to balance out a weapons capability or to enhance its accuracy or strength for example. Another aspect that players will like also that individual weapons have their own levels very much like what was present in the first Mass Effect. Luckily, you won’t be stuck with multiple copies and items so any copies of weapons you find or purchase automatically brings the weapon to the next tier. Also, any weapon that is upgraded to the next tier, also upgrades the weapons that your squadmates are using. You also have the option of determining the attachments that your squad uses from this menu as well, such as if Tali and James like using shotguns, you can switch out the default Katana for the Geth Plasma Shotgun, which by the way is pretty brutal. A number of weapons from Mass Effect 2 also make a big return to round out Shepard’s arsenal such as the Scimitar shotgun and the Widow sniper rifle. Also, the more weapons that Shepard brings into battle, the slower his powers recharge depending on the weight of the weapon, which is why I limited myself to 3 weapons max. Depending on your style, you could just rely on one or two just like how multiplayer is set to, but its your call as the player to make those decisions.
Another feature synonymous with the Mass Effect franchise is the wholesome galaxy map. Most of the places you have been to since the previous games are mostly there, however as more places become available to you as you progress, more and more reaper invasion fronts begin to appear. Despite its simplicity, the look has been cleaned up quite a bit, and also keeping it familiar and simple to veterans of the previous games. Mass Relays and Fuel Depots still exist and assist with travel between systems, which brings me to the next aspect of space travel.
As with the Galaxy Map, the In-system view of the map has retained the same look, however there are some major changes that have occurred in comparison to Mass Effect 2. For example, planet scanning for materials have been somewhat altered as you no longer have to scan each and every single kilometer for platinum or element zero. Instead, you do a system scan with the Normandy which is about the diameter of 2.5-3 inch range all over a solar system in search of salvage, manpower, and other things of importance in your fight with the reapers. Because the scanning range is short, you have to cover a lot of space, and the more times that you attempt to find that last asset, the higher chance that you’re going to attract reaper forces like you see in the above screenshot and run away. In this sense, it is a lot more friendly I think for players because of the fact that its not as tedious or time consuming as planet surveying and then “digging” up your assets. But luckly, there are planets that do have assets that the scan will pick up and you can do the familiar ME2 thing where you find it by direction and then shoot a probe at it. Adding the reapers chasing you does make it more proactive since it does try to hamper your ability to get around and to go about your business. On the plus side, it is a lot more entertaining than just wandering from hotspot to hotspot as if there isn’t a war going on.
A big improvement that ME2 also brought was a cut down on loading times. There was never a time where I felt like spending eternity for the game to transition from one area to the next. On a side note, for veterans of the first and second Mass Effect, the Citadel also gets a make over, consisting of aspects from Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. Back in the first game, I really disliked having to run around such a large area as the Citadel because of the amount of things that BioWare wanted and need to establish for the players. It was necessarily but with ME3, they combined the simpleness of ME2 with a mix of cinematics and diversity in terms of the levels to give that player the full experinece of how vast the Citadel is or despite how small the Normandy is how vast those two places are, without overwhelming them with having a lot of tedious running around to do.
Both the Citadel and the Normandy have multi level areas that involve Shepard which are detailed very clearly as to what is present on those specific levels. With those improvements, the general map option has gone through a overhaul which is a relief for people who got lost or didn’t understand some of the information that your journal gave. The map not only just gives you your present position, it also notes important NPCs as well as gives you the ability to see every level you have access to so that you’re able to micro manage your time on the Citadel or Normandy and quickly get back to the action.
Just like the previous games before and to players that have never set foot in the Mass Effect universe, Mass Effect 3 seamlessly transitions story and dialogue together very much like a multi-million dollar hollywood movie. Though not as bland or linear depending on your game settings, Bioware does an excellent job of drawing the player into the perspective, thoughts, and attitude of this space drama. It makes you want to care about what you’ve done, about future decisions, relationships with the crew and the various people, and the helplessness that Shepard sees in horror as Earth turns into a warzone in literally just a few minutes. The Paragon and Renagade system has also been changed in Mass Effect 3, allowing players to be more grey in certain issues rather than just white or black. For example, you could support one side or another in a dispute about allowing more supplies for incoming refugees. The decision wouldn’t affect either score but would raise your reputation based on those kind of choices that you have made earlier in the game, maintaining a ratio reflecting your decision making which is on the same bar. As one other example, most of the choices I made were paragon choices but I made a few renegade choices. And as I completed things, my reputation increased as most of the choices I’ve made and continued to make were paragon.
Now the gameplay overall for Mass Effect 3 isn’t anything new for the veterans but at the same time, there are some changes to the HUD as well as some combat oriented actions. For example, instead of Shepard’s health bar behaving like his shield bar from Mass Effect 2, Bioware seems to have adapted the old Halo style health system with individual bars, possibly to make it more challenging for veterans since this is supposed to be the last game. To restore lost health in combat, you have to use medi-gel to restore lost portions, the very same to resurrect your squadmates from distance when they get downed. On the plus side, if they’re near by and under cover, you can waltz over and revive them, very much the same way you would revive another player on the multiplayer portion of the game. As I stated earlier, the game play is more or less the same since its run, shoot, get behind cover. But if you’re so immersed in the story of Mass Effect 3, I highly doubt that its going to heavily hamper your fun factor for the game.
The Mass Effect Franchise, just like other big profiled games under Bioware’s belt is heavy with story, intrigue, suspense, and other events all happening at once, regardless of our direct involvement or not. As I also stated earlier, Bioware does a great job in fleshing out iconic characters, NPCs, and other things synonymous with them that its much more than a science fiction soap opera. Playing as the male Shepard, there are some events say with your best friend Garrus that brings you much closer to that camaraderie that it makes you somewhat sad that the game is close to an end. On my save file, I also was highly amused by being reunited with Tali as with all Bioware games, having a flirtatious conversation in a combat zone while running around brought those characters that much more alive. Of course no Bioware game is complete with romance options and this game is no where even short of them. Surprisingly as I played early on forward, I was seeing so many Shepard’s old flames that I was worried that if someone tried romancing them all that it would end up becoming another war zone in itself or just mud wrestling, maybe. But because you feel for some of these characters would you ever think that the storytelling aspect would be too good?
As far as the story goes for Mass Effect 3, they got you at the end of your seat at the beginning of the game, ready to go and off to go do the Shepard thing of uniting the masses against the Reaper threat. To not spoil the ending for those who haven’t played Mass Effect 3 yet, the story from beginning towards the ends seems like a big giant cliffhanger with swiss cheese holes. The reason being is that no matter what choice you choose at the end, the Mass Relays that the universe relies on travel are completely destroyed. Also, through out the game, I never once did run into Harbinger, the great Reaper that was the mastermind behind the Collector threat in Mass Effect 2, influencing their actions from the shadows and from a long distance from what it is implied. Not one time did he show nor was it heavily implied that Harbinger was present at Earth. Besides that, the only thing that you see is a happy-go lucky cinematic of your crew on some alien planet, supposedly you saved the world with one choice leaving you possibly alive. Because of issues such as those, there is a big controversy about the endings that has sparked world wide attention. Now, I’m not going to get into those theories or explanations, but if we just look at the game as it is, it is a decent good game. Story wise, it has so many holes that I can say that this isn’t the closing part of the trilogy that was hyped up to be. Even if you’re not a fanboy, and I sure am not, its really hard to accept the endings for what they are because they seemed rushed and inconclusive to what occurred afterwards other than the “Legend of Shepard”.
All in all, as I said earlier, the game is a good solid game as a whole, taking into account the gameplay, music, sound, controls, and the overall feel. Replay value is there as far as those who don’t like the YouTube quality videos of their favorite quotes or moments such as “Emergency Induction Port”, or just to watch Grunt take down a whole bunch of reaper troops. Multiplayer as a whole largely contributes to that replay value. However, for the fans of the Mass Effect universe and myself included story wise, Mass Effect 3 is not what it was designed to be, the concluding end of a trilogy.