Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Review

             The Mass Effect series has been building up to an ultimate conclusion: the fight against the Reapers. It’s been known to many fans that this is how the game will end and as a result Mass Effect 3 has high expectations. However, will the game fall short from the pressure or be remembered by citizens of various worlds for centuries to come?

            Sadness, disappointment, sacrifice, desperation, and conflict. These are all words that describe the underlying tone of Mass Effect 3 as well as its theme. From the beginning everyone knew the Reapers were coming but what they didn’t know was how hard they were going to hit. Once the attack hits Earth and cities are razed by the sentient mechanical beings, there is a trail of dead bodies behind them. It’s a sight to behold as the terror really sinks in and once you realize that Shepard is the one man that can stop all this, you begin to sympathize with his difficult task.

            War is a tragedy. However, when you see your own race on the verge of extinction that’s an entirely different story. Shepard is constantly haunted by the fact that his own species could come to an end any moment and if that wasn’t enough, he witnesses the suffering of other races as they try to deal with the Reaper threat.

What Bioware did extremely well in the previous games is set up a precedent that leads up to Mass Effect 3. It’s inspiring, then, to see the perfect execution of this powerful emotional story. Your crew aboard the Normandy is filled with species across the galaxy. It hits you: you’re not the only one suffering. As you hear your close companions such as Garrus talk about how his Turian people are constantly being slaughtered by the Reapers, it becomes a conversation of worry, pain, suffering, but most importantly hope. It’s a struggle for Shepard and his friends to keep their sanity because if they fail, they fail their people.

What's our plan?

What is it like to stand by yourself and watch as worlds burn time and time again? What is it like to stand by yourself and be helpless to the fact that millions have to die as you try and rally allies? What is it like to have people sacrifice their lives for you so that you can have a chance at destroying the Reapers? Mass Effect 3 is a much grittier, darker, and moodier game than any of its predecessors. The powerful delivery that Bioware creates is monumental and it can only be achieved due to the excellent story arcs that are scattered throughout the 20+ hour campaign and clever writing.

Shepard and his crew will visit various planets across various systems in the Milky Way. The stories that each planet has to tell are done well. That constant feeling of death always looms over you. As you and others charge forward to the idea of hope and future, you have to accept that you might be the only one that makes it out alive. It’s illustrated in a way where each species you ask for help against the Reapers is quintessential to the idea of sacrifice. Species will die, people will die, and your friends will die. Each story arc builds up the idea of rallying allies but in the end you begin to question what you have really gained at the end of it. If the people you know and love die, was it worth it? If millions die as you try to save hundreds, ass it worth it? The fight for desperation makes this all the more unclear and Bioware effectively portrays this to the player.

If you have previously played any of other Mass Effect games then you have the option to import your save. This means all the choices that you made carry over and have lasting consequences in the final chapter of the Mass Effect saga. While the overarching story won’t change drastically you will see subtle changes that really make Mass Effect 3 feel like a personalized journey.

Boy you ugly...

The story unfortunately falls extremely short due to the ending. The beginning and the build up to the end are fantastic, really showing the narrative talent that Bioware has. It’s sad to note, then, the ending seems somewhat lacking, perhaps even disappointing, to the point that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The ideas that the game develops are hardly used in the ending, instead, it settles on an idea that rarely made an appearance.

Despite the disappointment, characters are a strong point in the game just like its predecessors. Your companions from previous games make an appearance, provided that they didn’t die. In addition to old pals, new allies join the fray to mix things up and they’re a fine addition full of personality. What makes them great is the writing that helps to really define the character.

Garrus for example likes to be humorous, sarcastic, but at the same time sympathetic with his encouraging words. On the other hand, James is a gruff meathead that has his own share of troubles that he keeps to himself. However, through the subtle lines of dialogue you get an insight to his character. All of this culminates to a well-developed set of characters that make them appear very realistic and in a way it’s hard not to become attached to them.

Don't fear the Reaper

It also helps to know that the narrative comes together very well through the excellent voice acting. Each character has his or her distinct style of talking and adds diversity to the cast. However, what stands above and beyond the rest is the emotion that is portrayed by the voice acting. There’s a powerful emotional feeling that hits your heart every single time someone talks whether it be humor or a sense of dread. Mix this all in with a soundtrack full of somber songs and it all hits home perfectly.

The combat in Mass Effect 3 is handled really well especially considering how far it’s come in the series. It still plays like a third-person shooter but a few things have been refined or added to make the experience better. The shooting is on par to other critically acclaimed third-person shooters. There’s a sense of power when the bullets hit and the variety of guns in the game allow for experimentation.

Your adversaries are much larger than you are

A new mechanic in Mass Effect 3 is the ability to customize guns. As you find and buy new guns you can outfit them with two additional add-ons. These range from being able to see through smoke, do more damage, increase the penetration, and more. The amount of guns you carry also change up how you tackle missions since the trade off to carrying more guns is that your powers recharge slower. It might be better to stick with fewer stronger guns than to carry multiple guns for a variety of situations. Still, the customization and the various way to suit up your characters is all here making Mass Effect 3 a much more compelling RPG experience.

In addition, movement has been altered so it feels less janky. The running feels smooth and the cover mechanic is sticky allowing for quick transitions from place to place. To complement the enhanced movement in the game, the level design is much more diverse this time around allowing for just more than halls and corridors. Some places will have great layouts allowing each class to take advantage of the map. An infiltrator will have a better advantage in a long corridor due to sniping but a soldier might be more suited for close combat. It’s all executed well and there isn’t a single problem with how they are designed.

A charged up melee does significant damage at the cost of leaving you vulnerable for a moment and the variety of Biotic powers available to you allow for some fun scenarios. There are tons of ways to engage your foes in combat and because it’s so enjoyable it rarely feels like a chore. The classes also feel much more distinct that its predecessor allowing for multiple playthroughs to be even more exciting. If you enjoyed the combat in Mass Effect 2 then you’ll be happy to know that it’s better than ever in its sequel.

Eat my sword!

When you’re not shredding up enemies in combat there are a few side quests that the game offers. You can spend time exploring the galaxy searching for supplies. However, Mass Effect 3 does it a little differently this time around. When you scan systems for supplies you alert the Reapers to your presence and if you get caught you will have to restart from when you first entered the system. It’s a pointless punishment and really doesn’t add depth.

You can also spend time exploring the Citadel and finding fetch quests. Most of the times you will be asked to look for items and deal with people’s problems. Other times you can just spend time lounging around and talking to your crew enjoying themselves. There’s a bit of variety and while it does get monotonous at times, the pacing between the main quest and the side quests does a good job of keeping things fresh.

Last but not least, your companions offer a more developed side quests that really expand upon the lore of Mass Effect as well as offer insight on individual characters. It’s a great way to waste time and adds information value that you rarely find in RPGs despite it being skirmishes or simple conversations. The dialogues that accompany them are great and add incentive to keep tackling new quests that your companions have to offer.

Multiplayer mayhem

In addition to the single player component there is a new multiplayer mode. It essentially plays like Horde Mode from Gears or War but alters it due to the game’s RPG nature. There are various races and classes to choose from with each set of distinct skillsets and gun outfits. Although it feels tacked on it’s hardly from it as it offers a great cooperative experience as well as a mechanic that ties into the single player called galactic readiness. All in all, there’s something fun about going crazy with Biotic powers or powerful guns with your friends in multiplayer and Mass Effect 3 does a good job in trying to deliver that.

The graphics of Mass Effect 3 are polished. While it’s hard to see all the changes, the lighting and the details of the world are much better this time around giving the galaxy a more realistic feeling. It’s a step up from Mass Effect 2 and it’s a welcome addition. Colors fit the mood and tone of Mass Effect 3 as red and gray are heavily prevalent.

Unfortunately, the graphics engine can buckle under its own weight as there are occasional framerate drops, slow downs, and long loading periods. It breaks the immersion when it happens but it doesn’t deteriorate from the game’s excellence. The PlayStation 3 version has some serious issues beyond this with the frequency of it occuring much more often and the occasional freezing. In addition, certain areas become inaccessible unless a trick is utilized.

Garrus is behind you

Mass Effect 3 is an excellent game with flaws that can be easily overlooked due to its accomplishments and scope. The combat has been constantly refined over the past two games to reach its pinnacle and the story has been building up to this grand finale. Every bit that makes up this massive package is worth it as they complement each other well with no piece feeling left out. The gameplay, the story, the audio, and the graphics leaves a lasting impression in your heart and your brain for years to come. If you’ve been keeping up with Mass Effect since the beginning then you need to play this game and even if you haven’t this is a great entry point. Suit up, get your battle gear, grab your companions; it’s time to save Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment