Commander Shepard is back and he is ready to take on the final frontier in the third, and possibly final, Mass Effect entry. Set to be the most ambitious Mass Effect game yet, this installment has set some extremely high expectations for an already ambitious franchise. Coming to the table with an intense story mode and an all new multiplayer suite, could this finally be the space epic to end all space epics? Or will this anticipated iteration be massively ineffectual?
Let’s take a look at what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Mass Effect 3.
The Final Fight with the Reapers
Several months after the events of Mass Effect 2, Shepard has been discharged from the Navy Alliance and now resides on Earth under house arrest. During one calm and ordinary day, intel is received by the Alliance stating that the Reapers are set to invade Earth. Shepard, the person who knows the most about the Reapers, was asked to appear in front of the council, but that meeting IS disrupted when the Reaper begins their invasion of Earth. With no plan whatsoever on how to take down the Reapers, Shepard is given a mission to seek help and find a way to stop the ancient force once and for all. Navigating through the massive galaxy once again, Shepard seeks alliance from the different species with which the commander is familiar. Recognizable characters such as Liara will be joining Shepard’s in the fight to take back Earth to finally eliminate the Reapers.
Import Previous Mass Effect Save Data
If you’ve been following the Mass Effect series and have played both previous titles, then you will be happy to know that you have the ability to import your save data. Mass Effect 3 will alter events and characters based on the decisions and events that unfolded in your previous two games. While it’s not really necessary to import your save data, it’s nice to bring over the choices you made in the past two games to really personalize the entire experience. The following are just some of the major choices that will have a noticeable effect on the game: who you rescued between Kaiden and Ashley back on the first game, if you spared or killed Wrex back on Virmire, whether or not you decided to destroy the Collector Base during the Suicide mission, and the final events that took place in the second game. If one of your squadmates died during the suicide mission in the last game, then they will not be present in the Mass Effect 3 (obviously). This means certain characters from the previous entries will be playable while others will not.
Choose How to Experience the Game
For those of you who never got around to playing Mass Effect 1 or 2, there’s no need to worry. You can easily jump into Mass Effect 3 without feeling confused during the story or gameplay. Once you start a new game, you will be given three choices on how you want to play and experience the game. If you’re a newcomer and simply want the action the game has to offer, an “Action” option will be available for your choosing. This removes the decision making portion of the game and allows the player to simply enjoy the intense shooting and cutscenes. However, if you want the traditional Mass Effect experience where it has equal parts of action, story development and dialogue choices, then there’s a â€œRole Playingâ€ and â€œStoryâ€ option. Whichever of the three options you choose, you definitely enjoy the game since it gives players the option to custom tailor the experience to their liking.
Tons of New Features and Improvements
A lot of new features have been added to Mass Effect 3 that fans of the series will enjoy. Between this game and the previous titles, you can expect this installment to be more heavy on the action side, meaning fans of third person shooters will love this game. The new changes you can expect are: Commander Shepard can now roll in this game to dodge incoming bullets, use an Omni-Blade to perform a devastating melee attacks, throw Grenades and Smoke Grenades to enemies, revive a party member in the squad without using a Medi-Gel, the ability to use Turrets, jump from one place to another and many more. The additions to the action portion of Mass Effect 3 makes it feel more like a true shooter than the other games in the franchise. The movement of Shepard was extremely limited before Mass Effect 3. In addition, BioWare has brought back the health system from the first Mass Effect game where the health bar is depleted upon losing the protective shield.
When it comes to leveling your characters and distributing skill points earned, you’ll notice major improvements. Instead of having a simple leveling system, BioWare implemented somewhat of a skill tree. Here you can spend points in increasing rank of each power for the main character. Each new rank gained will improve the effectiveness and stats of that power.
Another new addition in Mass Effect 3 is the way you carry weapons. This time in Mass Effect 3, the weapons that you equip will have a certain weight. Overburdening Shepard or a squadmate will make it harder for that character during combat as their power cooldown will regenerate slower than usual. As for weapon modification, BioWare has taken a big step in that department. Instead of simply gathering parts to improve your weapon stats, you can now add different modes to the available mod slots of each weapons, thus making it more efficient when used in battle. You can buy the mods from the in-game store or by searching every inch of the battlefield. As for the armor, you can now also craft it and add mods just like the weapons.
While Mass Effect 3 succeeds when it comes to exciting action sequences, it also succeeds in the storytelling. From the very beginning to the very end, players are sure to enjoy every moment. The voice overs are phenomenal, the cinematography is great and the characters within the game have their own story to tell, which makes playing dangerously addictive till the very end. Similar to the past games, your decisions have consequences and will contribute whether you’ll be on the Paragon or Renegade side. As always, it’s best to play the game twice as each side offers different take on the game’s story. Expect a lot of twists on the story and an unexpected turn of events (with Cerberus and … ) as Shepard seeks help to take the Earth back from the Reapers!
Better With Kinect
If you’re getting the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 3 and you have a Kinect, you can play the game in a whole new way. Using the microphone that is built into the Kinect, you can now give commands to Shepard and the party members in your squad. Instead of using the Power Wheel to give commands to your squad mates, you can now just say it in real time and the characters in the game will react accordingly. Simple commands like “Liara Singularity” or “James Carnage” will make playing the game a lot easier and will save time from pulling up the Power Wheel Menu. Aside from being able to use the Kinect in battle, you can also use the voice recognition to respond within the game by saying the complete sentence.
Just how responsive is the Kinect? Well, from games that have voice recognition like Binary Domain, I can conclude that the voice recognition in Mass Effect 3 is much better. Regardless of whether or not you have an accent, the Kinect will hear your voice pretty well and there’s no need to shout to give commands! Simply say the commands in a normal tone and within 1-2 seconds (there’s a slight lag but it works!), the character will do what you have commanded. Also, if you have someone with you, they can help issue commands as well.
Glitches Here, Glitches There
For a game as massive as Mass Effect 3, it’s nearly impossible for BioWare to have a game that’s perfect on the technical side. Therefore, you can expect glitches to pop in and out as you play through the game. There are some game-breaking glitches I’ve encountered on my playthrough where I’ve gotten stuck in one place and the only way to get out of it is to load a previous save. While this isn’t frequent, it’s something that you should be aware of. Another random glitch that appeared placed subtitles on the screen that didn’t match up with what was currently being said.
Online Multiplayer Feels Limited
One of the major additions that BioWare included in Mass Effect 3 is the online multiplayer. While playing it is hard to enjoy what the game is offering. It’s mainly there to give gamers a reason to go back and play the game after finishing the single player story. For those who are fans of Gears of War’s Horde mode, you will find a similar mode in Mass Effect 3 where up to four players will play cooperatively to survive waves of enemies. While the idea itself is good and new to the Mass Effect series, the downside is that I felt the new mode was very limited as there is only one mode spanning just six maps. If BioWare were to add more modes into the game’s online multiplayer portion later on (maybe via DLC), then I could see it being worth everyoneâ€™s’ time.
Sidequests Can be Redundant
Along with the main missions that are required to progress in Mass Effect 3, there are side quests that you can participate in, especially in Citadel. While the missions are there to expand on the background story and present more experience points, the objective of majority of these sidequests feels redundant. For the most part, these are your typical fetch quests.
In the end, Mass Effect 3 definitely provides a satisfying conclusion to a well-received franchise. What fans loved from the previous two Mass Effect titles are all intact here in Mass Effect 3, which can be seen through the exemplary storytelling â€“ with a climax that is breath-taking, mind you â€“ and a solid mix of action-RPG gameplay. While there are some technical issues present and an uninspired online multiplayer mode, these problems are small enough to be considered a spec on a nearly perfect game for 2012.
[Editor’s Note: Mass Effect 3 was reviewed on the Xbox 360 platform with the Kinect sensor. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]