In respect for those have not played the game and for some reason clicked on this review I will have a brief no spoiler introduction. Let me start off with that I was extremely disappointed prior to release to the game and was debating on not buying it for some time. Well obviously that didn’t happen and I finished the game in 3 days…quite rare for me given that it took roughly 25 hours for me to complete 100% of the single-player campaign.
Rarely does a game grab me like Mass Effect 3 did(much more than ME1/2) and overall a good game. I did not try multiplayer as I have no interest in it so my review will not include it, and as much as I hate day one DLC the game would not be the same without it no matter what Bioware tries to lead to you believe since it felt like a major chunk of the story was tied to the DLC.
Now lets get into the real review. Do not read anything below this unless you want to ruin the entire story side of the game. Skip over until the end scores if you do not want any spoilers, I would advise simply leaving this page now if you haven't played the game yet though.
This review will start off critiquing the game play and feature side of the game. The story and the presentation of the friendships/relationships of the game will be towards the end of the review. This rightfully will be quite a lengthy read as it should be since it is the end of the trilogy following “The Sheppard”. This is part review and part recap of the choices based on my play through of ME3 as I am reviewing the game mostly based on those choices.
Aiming still is slightly stiff and hard to aim at times but it feels much better than previous games and the camera angle still is a very close third person view which is hard to get used to. Introduction of an improved melee system was a nice addition and very effective in certain situations. Some improvements like a better field of view and more fluid aiming could have helped but overall the controls didn’t detract from the game that much.
Thank god Bioware decided to add back in some RPG-like features (although they still aren’t as in-depth as a true RPG) and customization. Mods and upgrades for weapons were something greatly missed in Mass Effect 2 and were appreciated. Being able to reset and tweak character’s skills in the Med Bay was also a right call along with specific skill traits as you progress down a skill line. And finally the small bonuses available through exploration and Liara’s Shadow Broker terminal were another small but important touch for making the game feel more like a RPG.
Carrying more weapons or certain weapons now actually affects your powers. My Shepard was a Soldier so no longer did I always carry every single weapon kind for certain missions. If I wanted to run guns-a-glazing I could do so with a wide array of weapons, but being pushed towards focusing on less weapon kinds was welcomed. I will say though that to me the sniper rifles and shotguns are not really viable for a soldier in this new system due to their massive weight. Many times I just carried an assault rifle, submachine gun, and a heavy pistol.
Much improved over Mass Effect 2’s Normandy and it feels less of a hassle moving from area to area due to load times and the feeling of emptiness. Lots of small things to check out, study, buy and loading screens like the one from the War Room to CiC keep you immersed in the game.
While I did enjoy the tricks Bioware used to mask some loading screens like doors opening, bypassing a door, or the scanners there still were far to many and sluggish. Might be because I chose to play on the PS3 instead of my PC since that was where my ME2 saves were but they still were slightly annoying.
Anyone who played the game will be slightly amazed on how Shepard’s neck and face will be crooked and turned about completely around in a cut scene while talking to someone. Why such an apparent glitch was never fixed amazes me. Other small bugs like disappearing squad members during missions, invisible people who you are talking to, and game freezing during loading is still there from Mass Effect 2 but only happened a handful of times through my play through.
Each mission felt top notch and never boring. Most were still just blast away Cerberus/Reapers but Bioware did a good job at making sure it never was repetitive. The mini-stories tied to each mission were well thought out and the presence of many characters from past games was nicely done. The Citadel “missions” were generally small and tied to scanning planets were ok but not great and were mostly a time waster. Exploration was a step in the right direction since mining planets was just plain bad anything better than that is alright with me and having Reapers tied into it now made sense. Having a short briefing after each mission was also well implemented and was a nice touch.
Enough about the game play! The story is what Mass Effect is all about. Overall I enjoyed the story and presentation of the game. And what about the controversial ending? Well, I will get to that. Essentially I broke the game into 3 parts. The first part was the opening sequence on Earth/Mars, followed by the bulk of the game of recruiting the races, and ending with the attack on the infamous Illusive Man’s base which leads to the return to Earth. Note that the story might differential slightly with other’s since I am basing it off my choices in the game.
The beginning of the game felt a bit rushed to me and out of place, not that it was *bad* but it left me wanting more and felt like a step down from Mass Effect 2’s opening. Essentially the Reapers suddenly appear and within minutes basically take out Earth. As much as the game focuses about much of the politicians not believing about the Reaper threat this was a bit to unbelievable. We also get our first glimpse at the small child who at the time just seems like a set-piece put in to get across the severity of the situation and wouldn’t be present throughout the game.
Mars revealed that Cerberus was going to play major role in the game and set up the lasting conflict throughout the game between the Illusive Man and Shepard. Mars also reveals the plans for the Crucible which is built throughout the game and is the weapon expected to kill the Reapers.
Before playing Mass Effect 3 I pretty much thought the game would have a section with Shepard rallying up the other races to band together to face the Reapers. This is the main part of the game time wise and I enjoyed each of the separate events for each race.
I chose to unite the Krogans and Turians by going against the Salarian Ambassador’s threats by curing the genophage and in the end sacrificing Mordin in the process. The journey from the Turian moon and ending in Tuchanka had a great mix of up and down moments and ended on a sad note with Mordin choosing to fix the genophage he helped engineered in order to save the Krogan species. The battle against the Reaper was also one of the better moments in the game and showed how a mix of species banded together to face a common enemy. The side missions with the Turians attempting to fix their mistake and defuse their bomb on Tuchanka fit well with the theme of this part of the story with a character doing the right thing at the expense of their life.
This chunk of the story starts out with the revelation that the Quarians have stupidly decided to launch and all out attack on their home world against the Geth. This is understandable but then again sort of makes me think why the hell they would choose to continue to attack when the Reapers show up when they would eventually die even if they took their home world. This was my least favorite part of the game story wise since some of the Quarians were hell bent on destroying the Geth even after they essentially surrendered since they were only defending themselves in the first place. The game play and missions were exciting and different in each way however the long drawn out mission inside of the Geth server was a tad boring.
It was nice to see more back story on the Geth and Quarian conflictand revealed that the Quarians were largely to blame and the Geth were sympathetic to their creators but the server segment walking around aimlessly for what seemed an eternity was poorly executed. In the end I saved the Quarian admiral siding with Tali and united the Geth and Quarians. Legion, like Mordin, sacrificed himself to give his “race” of “people” intelligence and make them a completely individual AI.
The mission involving the Arachni wasn’t as large as the previously mentioned sections but I found it quite enjoyable. Probably one of the scariest missions (I was playing this at around 3am in the pitch black) of the trilogy. Previously I chose to destroy the Arachni Queen and did not expect them to return due to this choice but the Reapers decided to create their own Queen. I chose to save her and thus placing Grunt in harm’s way and he decided to stay back to allow the rest of the crew to escape. Once again Bioware played off of one of the main characters (Grunt) sacrificing himself as it seemed at the time to save Shepard and the Arachni but in the end he narrowly escaped after being presumed death.
I was slightly disappointed that more attention wasn’t placed on the Asari portion of the game. For the most part they were ignored until later in the game when it was revealed they were being hit hard by the Reapers and were losing the fight for their home planet. There were only two main missions dedicated to the Asari with one being the Ardat-Yakshi mission and the other the one on the Asari home world in search for the Prothean data involving the catalyst.
Unlike the other races it felt like the Asari were hung out to dry and being the most advanced civilization of the cycle were a priority for the Reapers and were destroyed much like how Earth was. The revelation of the Prothean computer was a bit of a surprise and revealed how the Asari advanced beyond other species in the cycle until the super-ninja Kai Leng appeared and stole it. The Ardat-Yakshi mission I felt wasn’t really important at all to the main storyline besides re-introducing Samara although I did find that it expanded upon some of the Asari’s culture.
***Attack on the Citadel:
This part of the game really didn’t make that much sense until the final chapter when it is revealed that the Citadel is actually the catalyst. Udina was a traitor and the council was in jeopardy. Besides that I didn’t find it to be that great since at the time the player doesn’t understand the importance of the Citadel. Thane makes an appearance and following the theme of past crew members puts himself in harm’s way and is critically wounded. The mission ends with Shepard and Ashley almost firing upon one another and I ended it with the renegade option of simply shooting Udina. Afterwards Thane dies in the hospital in front of Shepard and Thane’s son which was a touching moment since the entire prayer which seemed to be for Thane was actually for Shepard.
The Cerberus conflicts weren’t exactly a section of the game since they were prevalent throughout the entire game but for the sake of ease I am lumping them into one section for the review. At first I was slightly put off by the importance of Cerberus throughout the story since I thought the game would center on fighting the Reapers. However as the game progressed and you slowly learned at how Cerberus was trying to control the Reapers and eventually learning that for the most party they were being controlled by the Reapers I looked back and was pleased by this part of the story.
The two missions that stood out were the Cerberus scientist defectors and one of the final ones taking place in Sanctuary on Horizon. The Scientists defecting was either an unimportant mission or very informative mission depending on how much time you spent. Talking to each person and exploring further revealed what Cerberus was up to and catching up with Jacob Taylor also was a part of this mission. Skipping these parts pretty much turned the mission into one of the side missions. Sanctuary on the other hand was the prelude to the beginning of the end of the game. It revealed that Cerberus was much more cruel and involved than previously known and in fact were close to finding a way to control the Reapers. Miranda’s father was behind the program and in the end he was killed and Miranda was grateful of Shepard coming in the rescue them. The slight breaks in the mission provided small videos detailing Shepard’s Lazarus Project, Kai Leng, and also the Illusive Man’s obsession with the Reapers.
***From The Ashes DLC:
I am including this as its own separate of the review simply because it should have been included in the game to begin with. Bioware stated that it was DLC since it was not that important to the overall story; I strongly disagree. The Prothean Javik gave insight into the last days of the Protheans, how their civilization was contrary to what everyone though they were like, and also added another layer into fighting the Reapers with the last Prothean alive from the last cycle. One specific scene after the destruction of the Asari’s home world between Javik and Liara also was very moving and emotional. I usually stay away from day one DLC but I had to get this since friends said it added a lot to the game, and they were right. Shame on you Bioware/EA!
I felt that Bioware did a great job at tying in past crew members and characters into the story. I’ll highlight some moments that stood out.
On the Citadel Garrus takes Shepard to the top of a passage way and they have a friendly competition at shooting bottles. This moment felt *real* and was a great example of a connection between two characters. I was nice and missed the shot to allow Garrus one last moment of glory before the final battle.
Oh Liara and you bringing up those little blue children. I felt that Bioware rewarded those who stuck with Liara and Ashley with the best romance options in ME3. Throughout the game you slowly saw the relationship be rebuilt as both Shepard and Liara supported the other in their times of self doubt. The romance scene was touching and was better executed at showing the last relaxing moment between two people in love than it was in ME2. Then the last conversation with Liara before the final push with both knowing that their chances of seeing each other again is high doubtful is equally as good. For the first time I actually cared about returning to someone in a game and I wished that Shepard would somehow survive.
The final moment in the hospital room with Thane was truly a masterpiece in writing. Between Thane struggling to complete his prayer before he died and then his son and Shepard reciting the final words before he passed it was a very emotional moment. Then his son revealed that Thane was actually praying for Shepard and not himself just tugged on those emotions even more.
It is a shame that some will play Mass Effect 3 without the stupidly decided upon DLC. The moments of the final days of the Prothean Empire and the struggles of Javik dealing with being the last Prothean adds a great layer to the game and closes out the Prothean story line. By making this DLC Bioware/EA snubbed many of their fan base the chance of this experience.
***Attack on the Illusive Man’s Base:
This portion of the game started with the attack on the infamous Illusive Man’s base. The mission itself was kind of dull and was just the standard corridor to corridor shooter. The ending boss battle against Kai Leng was the most difficult fight up to this point in the game as ammo was scarce. Here you were face to face with the Illusive Man as you tried to reveal to him that he was actually under control of the Reapers but he was too far gone to be saved and clearly was struggling against his will. The mission concludes with Shepard learning that the Citadel is the catalyst and then finding out that it is already too late and the Illusive Man and the Reapers are already in control of the Citadel now near Earth.
Finally, the moment that the entire game spent building up towards. The combined forces are to attack Earth while Shepard and an advanced ground force lands in London to try and reach the Citadel to allow the Crucible to dock and activate. The fighting on earth is the most difficult part of the game by far and at times you will be facing an overwhelming force of enemies.
The time spent before the final push at the command post is a touching moment where Shepard essentially says farewell to the main characters in the game. This moment in the game is one of the most touching points even though it might not make 100% sense since those characters not present you are speaking to would be in intense fighting but I’ll give them a pass since it was needed. Each conversation is unique and moving although it would have been nice to have them a bit more personalized to your actions throughout the trilogy. I was in a relationship with Liara since Mass Effect 1 and the final conversation with her before heading off to near certain death was spot on and truly one of the best moments in terms of a relationship portrayed in a video game ever. For the other main characters chosen to be present were Garrus, Edi, Joker, Ashley, Wrex, and the much important Javik who should not be DLC and all had very emotional conversations much more than those spoken to on the communication platform.
Fast forward to after the reaper destroyer is blown to pieces and Shepard and allies are making a desperate last rush to the beam. For a moment it seemed like all had failed and everyone including Shepard had died. I thought I did something wrong and I failed! Shepard then slowly got up and staggered towards the beam narrowly surviving husks and a Marauder. I felt that this moment could have been capitalized on a bit better by having quick “life flashes before your eyes” moments that depend on key choices you made from ME1 to this crucial moment. Nonetheless it was a heart pounding moment of whether you would make it or not.
I was expecting to need to fight on the Citadel, but instead it was a non-combatant point in the game. As you staggered to the central point there would be some chatter with Anderson, but once again it was another failed moment that Bioware didn’t grasp. Shepard was injured badly and slowly dying as he tried to advance so why not have flashbacks to highlight the memorable moments of the trilogy based on your decision? Flashback to the crew members you are leaving behind or have lost, your partner (Liara for me), the races you effected throughout the games, if you sacrificed the council or not, whether Kaiden or Ashely survived, etc. etc. etc. Would have made the 3-4 minutes of you stumbling much better.
You finally reach the main room only to find Anderson under the Illusive Man’s control. Words are exchanged and the Illusive Man is completely under Reaper control now without noticing it and is about to execute Anderson. Shepard fires but it was too late and Anderson is dead. Shepard opens to Citadel’s panels allowing the crucible to dock but to everyone’s surprise does nothing. Suffering from major injuries Shepard is unable to do anything and falls to the floor and looks to be dead only to be lifted by an elevator.
Shepard now finds himself face to face with the young boy in his dreams and also who died on Earth. This figure reveals itself to be part of the Reapers and the one who built and controls them. It’s plan is the use the Reapers to cleanse the galaxy every cycle of advanced life forms since it feels that synthetic life will always rebel against its organic creators and will wipe out all life much like the Geth and Quarians.
Then the Reaper creator decides to let Shepard decide the fate of the galaxy since it realizes it's plan will no longer work. The choices are… Kill the Reapers, destroy the Mass Effect Relays, destroy all technology, and spare all races. Be integrated into the Reapers allowing him to control them, destroy all Mass Effect Relays/technology, and potentially return in the future as the Reaper controller. And finally the third option of using his own life to merge all synthetic and organic life together and thus ending the conflict (and guess what it also destroys all technology and mass effect relays!).
I chose to destroy the Reapers which the only differences from the other ends is that the Reapers blow up on Earth/Space and the color of the beam that destroys the Mass Effect Relays is red. The Normandy for some odd reason is using a Mass Effect Relay and crashes into an alien planet (happens on all 3 endings) and Joker, Liara, and Garrus emerge looking up at a sky with 2 planets/moons. Credits roll…
BOOM! Short little teaser showing a burned up alliance soldier wearing N7 armor take a gasp of air which most likely is Shepard due to the N7 armor. This only happens on the destroy Reaper option, have the maximum amount of galactic support, and don’t skip the credits.
Then another scene shows up with a young boy and his father/grandfather looking up at the stars at the same night sky that the crashed Normandy members saw. The boy asks him is he can tell him another story about “The Sheppard” and how he saved the galaxy although he admits much was lost of the story over many generations.
My reaction to the ending… Personally I enjoyed the final part of the game besides the lost opportunity during the prolonged stumbling sections to flashback to your actions on the game and those you cared about. I did not hate the option of choosing between the 3 options like some people, however I did dislike that all 3 were essentially the same!!!! Also, why was the Normandy running away? Makes no sense, and also it would be nice to have a longer scene with some sort of memorial/remembrance of Shepard involving the Normandy crew and importantly your romance choice. At first I felt let down and hated the ending for many of the shortcomings, however a good ending makes you think about the game and that is exactly what it did. Between the ending scene, gasping N7 soldier waking up, and the stargazers talking about “The Sheppard” it leaves you to fill in some of the blanks and make your own ending. Sure Bioware could have expanded on the ending more, but in no way was it a bad ending and looking back at it I now understand and like it.
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In the end I simply cannot give the game a overall score as it is a very tough game to review since it is tailored to a specific person’s choices. Since N4g requires a score I am going to give it a 9 instead of a 10 due to the slight missed opportunities not taken in terms of the ending and the various bugs in the game but if given the choice I would not give it a score at all. This is now one of my favorite games I have played which is saying a lot since I have been growing tired of gaming the past few years with the direction the industry is taking.
I would recommend the game to anyone and the Mass Effect trilogy ends with best game of the bunch. It leaves you sad not by the ending but from the potential of this being the last moment of Shepard's story and all of the characters that helped you save the galaxy.