Game Review: Mass Effect 3

Number 3 of my old reviews

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (reviewed)
Available on: Origin

Attention, this review is spoilertastic!

Alright BioWare, round three. After a rocky start with the mostly forgettable Mass Effect 1 and the immense improvements you made in Mass Effect 2 I can only imagine what kind of masterpiece Mass Effect 3 is going to turn out like. Ha, I wish! Alright, it’s not all bad, there are a few things you can enjoy in this game and it’s still recognizably Mass Effect, however I do feel that BioWare made a couple of decisions this time around that I feel were entirely for the worse, but let’s do the proper rundown first, starting with the combat system.

Now, Mass Effect 2 improved the boring combat form Mass Effect 1 in a pretty substantial way and I feel that Mass Effect 3 has similarly good combat mechanics overall, mostly because they’re largely unchanged. However I feel that the sound effects for the guns are improved over Mass Effect 2. They didn’t bother me there, they were solid enough, but the new ones really give the guns some punch and make you feel like you’re actually wielding a powerful weapon. Speaking of powerful weapons, the heavy weaponry unfortunately didn’t make a comeback this time around. Really a shame, they would’ve been greatly appreciated in the fights against the Brutes because those guys hit like trucks. The heavy weapons are still there in some capacity but you can only use them when you find them on the battlefield and when you switch to another weapon you’re equipped with, you automatically drop them, so they don’t enter your weapon inventory.

Speaking of inventory, still no sign of the one from the first game, but the weapon mods are back. Instead of permanent researched upgrades they’re back to 2 slots per weapon for upgrades. It’s more intuitive than the first time around but still needless busywork to manage all the weapons for all the party members.

After two failed attempts at making hacking interesting they basically abandoned the whole notion of hacking entirely, if you need to bypass anything it’s basically just an interruptible progress bar. Again nice that they reduced busywork but they didn’t provide any substitute for it at all and reduced the amount of gameplay even further. And since this new version doesn’t add to the challenge, it can be again considered wasting time.

One thing that completely pissed me off throughout the entire game was the journal. How could they fuck up something as simple as a journal? Heck the one in Mass Effect 2 was basically perfect, because it told you where to go for each quest and updated itself after you completed an aspect of said quest and told you where to go next and even indicating it on the map if you needed to talk to a specific character. This time around you get one entry per quest with a vague description of where to go. It’s especially bothersome for the sidequests, where you’re told to look for something on a planet or in a star cluster, but where you have to look for it is entirely up to you, since this shit isn’t highlighted in the galaxy map and to whom you’re supposed to be bringing these items you find is only indicated on the map once you have the item the NPC is looking for, but since you have no inventory to check if you’ve already collected that item and the questlog never updates, you’re completely in the dark as to why you’re finding these objects, who is searching for them and why they need them. You’ll encounter countless artifacts that could’ve been used to flesh out the universe some more, but nope, again it’s busywork for you to do.

The mind-bogglingly boring exploration system has been replaced with another boring exploration system, however it’s not as tedious as the last time. At least in theory, since you can just fly around the star systems and use a scanner that alerts you to any objects you can collect and use as a war asset against the reapers. However they still found a way to make it tedious and annoying by summoning reapers if you use your scanner too often in a hostile star system. Sure I can understand that from a narrative point of view, but it makes finding a lot of this shit extremely boring when you have to escape the Reapers, complete a mission and then return to that star system because the only way to reduce Reaper alertness is to do another mission and then come back. And I was 20 hours in when I thought to myself “The galactic readiness is still at 50%, when is this shit ever going up?”, before looking it up and realizing that you need to play the multiplayer (fuck that) or play the iOS games (fuck that some more because I don’t own iOS devices) or go online to advance the readiness. Seriously? Fuck you BioWare, why did you have to split up Mass Effect to try and squeeze more dollars out of us instead of focusing on providing a good story.

Ah, that’s something we need to talk about: The story. So hold on to your pants because I’m gonna spoil so hard you’ll shit yourself. Now it feels like Mass Effect 3 seems laser focused on simply delivering a climax to its story in the most over the top way imaginable. It’s so hell-bent on making Shepard the ultimate hero that it almost becomes comical at times. I mean in my case she cures the Genophage, unites the Krogan and Turian races after a hundreds of years of vendetta, intervenes during an assault by the Quarians on the Geth and singlehandedly ends their 300 year animosity and makes them the bestest friends ever, amasses unbelievable amounts of allies, firepower and resources to build a prophesized super weapon that is the galaxy’s last hope in a matter of what I assume have to be a couple of months, with Prothean plans from 50’000 years ago, which apparently are easily translated, etc. They really wanted to pull all the stops here to make the player feel like he’s the biggest hero in the whole fucking galaxy. And the ironic part is that they completely undermined that feeling with the ending. Now I haven’t followed the controversy about the ending since I knew I wanted to play the games eventually and experience them for myself and I managed to stay unspoiled until now, but I can definitely see why people have problems with the ending. I’ll try to present some of the problems I have with it.

  1. It basically completely undermines all the character development and all the choices I’ve made over the course of the story. I didn’t expect a tailor made ending to my specific Shepard, but at least it could’ve entertained the notion that I had some input into the whole thing beyond a final choice at the very end, because that was already stupid when Deus Ex: Human Revolution tried it. You know, just acknowledge the shit I did in this galaxy – either saving or condemning races and planets – instead of showing me three crewmembers – Anderson, Joker and your first love-interest (Liara), because those were the special ones, not my second or third love-interest (Thane and Samantha) or my best buddy Garrus.
  1. All the options given to you blast the entire galaxy back by millennia by destroying the mass relays and basically ignoring any notion of this galaxy finding peace and harmony together instead condemning them to an isolated existence, as well has having tons of aliens stranded on Earth with no chance of ever getting back to their homeworld and loved ones. What’s that Tali, you reclaimed your planet, got to see a bit of it and now you’re stuck on Earth with no means to get home ever again because it’s too far away for conventional FTL drives to ever get back there? What about you Wrex, enjoying the newly regained fertility of your women and the pregnancy of your wife? Have fun seeing your unborn child growing up without you! And Garrus, it must be good to know that your family safely escaped the massacre on Palaven, hope you said goodbye because you’re stuck now, shithead. This was addressed with the revised ending BioWare released, but keep in mind that it took huge amounts of complaints from gamers for them to change this aspect, so in essence, this is still their true vision for that game, since they shipped it this way.
  1. It’s just full of plot holes. So the Catalyst is basically an ancient AI (not explained in the game, had to look that up) that overpowered its creators and then harvested them and turned them into the first wave of Reapers. And because it did this, it surmised that every civilized species will inevitably construct sentient machines that will eventually overpower their creators and in the end wipe them out completely, ironically missing the aspect where the Catalyst itself didn’t wipe out all sentient life. And that’s also disregarding the fact that work on true AI is forbidden in the galaxy’s current cycle and yet all true AIs shown in the games, namely EDI and the Geth, are demonstrably shown to being cool with just existing if they’re left to their own devices and not getting killed for being living machines. I mean the Catalyst resides within the Citadel, it controls the Reapers, therefore it must know of these developments and yet it simply chooses to still absorb any and all advanced species into its own army with no real justification given other than “You need to be protected from yourselves”, which is an incredibly nihilistic view. Not to mention that it’s really easy to understand, in direct contradiction to both Sovereign and the Reaper on Tuchanka claiming that their reasons are far beyond human comprehension.
  1. It gives us no outlook into the world we’ve created. Given that all the endings you can choose from have such major consequences we aren’t shown any of them, neither on the small scale with the surviving crew – crash landing on some planet that’s good knows how far away from any other world and having a multitude of races on board so it’s basically guaranteed that some of them won’t survive on that planet because of the atmosphere, food, etc – nor on the big scale, how the destruction of the mass relays affected galactic life, how the different worlds are being rebuilt by their respective races, etc. it just lacks closure.
  1. This might seem like a small gripe, but having Shepard basically die at the end really feels like a kick in the balls. Now I get that some stories need the sacrifice from the main character, but usually this is a redemptive moment meant to carry some weight and add to character development. And maybe your renegade Shepard will feel redeemed through these actions, but mine was an absolute paragon saint who went through all sorts of trials and tribulations, being lied to, mistrusted, ignored by friends, peers and superiors at every single turn and the thing she gets at the very end after that passionate exchange with my love-interest Samantha about having a nice house and a family is a nice fuck you, you’re the hero of the battle of the Citadel, the survivor of the suicide mission at the Collector base, you’ll die and become a legend, you have no right to be a person anymore, you’re a symbol now. Again, this was addressed in the expanded ending, but fuck that, because it’s really just a weak cop-out for BioWare in order to please some fans.

And since I’m already frustrated with the ending, let me also mention that this game is bugged up the ass. Now I mentioned the bug in the first game where I had to turn off the dynamic lighting because the render engine had problems on certain levels, but that’s because of my processor and BioWare couldn’t have anticipated that. The second game had one glitch where it seemed like it loaded the geometry of an entirely different level altogether where I walked in the air above the actual level, so I had to open up the console again and enable no-clipping to find my way back to the normal map geometry. Not a big deal. But this game has some really annoying bugs. Characters not spawning at all, quests getting locked off without explanation, conversation screens looking at blank featureless walls because the respective character who’s talking is not in frame, sound not loading in quick enough, rendering a lot of the dialogue unintelligible if you haven’t turned on subtitles, dialogue not matching subtitles and on the Geth dreadnought, the animation for sliding down ladders crapped out and my Shepard remained at the top of the ladder, playing the canned sliding animation and when it was done, she just dropped off the ledge onto the next one.

So yeah as a whole Mass Effect 3 is a massive letdown. The combat is fun and exciting, but everything else that made the series great was sucked out of it. There’s no real exploration because the plot prohibits that in favor of becoming a cavalcade of climaxes and the shitty ending undermines all of the character development as well as all of my choices throughout the series and it really gives no closure at all. The only other thing I can say that was good about this game was that the romancing seemed more interesting this time around, especially because I liked the chemistry between Samantha and my FemShep.

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