Mass Effect 3.
Ill keep this spoiler light, apart from the end section which will be marked. Sorry its so long, I just felt the need to.
The third part of Biowares Epic sci-fi trilogy is a tough game to be mean about, as whilst its flawed in a number of ways, its still at least 117% better than most of the bilge you slot into your disk tray these days.
In the pantheon of sci-fi games, Bioware have produced one of the best, that is full of allegorical disputes and interesting cultures. This is still there with this game thankfully and it’s a universe that its fun to be steeped in from the first minute to the last melancholic section. In fact the universe is so well fleshed out, you feel loathed to leave it come the dénouement.
As with its predecessors, the game has above average video game writing for the most part and its characterisation is also well played out. Everyone gets their moment in the sun, no matter how fleeting. Your relationship with the characters feels organic for the most part and the tragic nature some of the relationships end, is genuinely quite affecting. I’ve certainly 4/5 had the most affecting moments of any ME game within this one title, so its doing something right.
It should be said though when it comes to the conversation, this feels to me to be reduced from both 1 and 2. There’s simply less to say and less people to talk to than ever before, all in the interest of slim lining the RPG component down to appeal to a mass (fnar fnar) audience. Seeing as this always felt like the games USP to me and the thing I enjoyed the most, I rued this loss. But then again this well documented move towards what is ostensibly Gears of Trek will be talked about loads by everyone.
The story is more focussed than 2’s and overall it all dovetails quite nicely, even though it is the only ME game ive done in 6 sittings. I did almost all of the side quests and I still came in at only 27 hours of gaming. Joyful it was for the most part, but I would have liked more. It should be noted shamefully a lot of the side quests basically consist of 1) get the mission from a random by eavesdropping b) fly to a star system and scan the planets till you find a flag/spoon/cocker spaniel c) go back to the citadel and give it to the person you ear-wigged on. The fact many elements of the story are judiciously ripped from Marvels Ultimate Gallactus trilogy ill let off on this occasion (mostly as im a giant nerd who shouldn’t know that).
The dilemmas you face in this game also seem to hold more significance and weight than previous games.
The fact that there’s no second hub like the previous games also grates a little and the number of explorable star systems seems to have dropped significantly.
Overall, the universe feels like its ½ or 1/3 the size it used to be in previous games.
That said, the combat has improved again, albeit incrementally, and not as much as the step from 1 to 2. The weapon and armour customisation adds a bit more meat to chew on but not much.
The Kinect enhancements are far from essential and there’s no reason this shouldn’t have used an existing headset mic. BUT, it does work well, and the ability to say “boomstick” and swap to shotgun or engage in the actual conversations is a neat addition.
Graphically and musically the game is also a treat, as expected.
As for the much talked about ending, this is a tough one and something I have mixed feelings about. SPOILER ALERT!. I always anticipated that the end would involve Shepards final heroic sacrifice, much along the lines of Fallout 3, but the three options I got were all “die baldy!”, which I found a bit odd.
Its really a proper downer, not only do you die, but it filled my brain with a million imagined melancholic stories of people stuck in alien galaxies they could never get back from due to the relays destruction.
Call me selfish if you like but I almost felt like I earned the right to at least pick one ending where Shep gets to go home and make space babies with Miranda. What we get is three endings, which are (apparently) kinda the same, and a little like the ending of Battlestar Gallactica.
Basically, Id just have liked a) more variation on endings and b) at least the option not to die.
That said, I found it quite emotional, and the ending has stayed with me since, which I can’t say about most games.
Anyway, as I said before, this is still a fine game, I just cant say I enjoyed it as much as 2, which still ranks as my fave in the series. If you enjoy the series, (especially 2) you will find much to enjoy in this. But if you thought 2 took too much RPG away, you are unlikely to be convinced.
Basically IMO it goes as such.
Best story and main character development: ME3
Deepest gameplay and universe: ME1
Best balance of combat and RPG elements/most fun: ME2.
"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring".