Mass Effect is one of my favorite Sci-Fi series ever. From tracking down Saren to stopping the Collectors, the series has consistently delivered jaw dropping moments. But after walking away from the conclusion to the trilogy, I felt like there was something missing. Not just in the ending, like many fans have complained about, but in the entire package.
The opening sequence of Mass Effect 3 alone is an unforgettable sight. Hundreds of Reapers descend on an unprepared Earth. They decimate everything they deem a threat. Shepard escapes, but Anderson refuses to leave his home world. There are many emotional and action packed sequences like this. Many choices where I had to sit down and think "how do I want to deal with this?" But many things also felt that they were overshadowed by similar events in Mass Effect 2. I think many knew going into this game that it could never surpass the expectations set by the second. It came close, but just short. (On a side note, I felt the ending was a little confusing and disappointing, but overall not game destroying.)
Story- The story in Mass Effect 3 felt a little rushed to me. Again, not because of the ending, but because instead of using existing resources to defeat the Reapers, a whole new plot device is brought in. To my knowledge, it has never been referenced in previous games, and it felt like a cop out. In Mass Effect 2, forces are rallied and the Reapers are mostly defeated by tactics and force. In Mass Effect 3, it feels like a magic solution was pulled out of thin air by Bioware. Other than the main plot, there is a whole cornucopia of side missions, and some, I felt, were better than those in the main quest. If you can get over a whole new plot device being created in the last installment, this is a fantastic story.
Gameplay- In Mass Effect 1, I hated the gameplay. The shooting did not feel solid at all and I actually dreaded the next time I had to shoot . Then came Mass Effect 2 and redeemed the series' gameplay with stellar shooting and great overall controls. Bioware somehow improved on Mass Effect 2's shooting mechanics. The guns have more heft and melee attacks are much more effective thanks to a new heavy melee attack. Using powers can still be a slow process, but when I used Kinect to use them, I felt that it actually improved my experience. It's not for everyone, but if definitely works well. Dialogue options are varied and have a vast impact on the outcome of conversations, just as before. My one gripe is that sometimes Shepard moves a little stiff, or sticks to cover to easily. These are minor complaints though, considering how excellent the rest of the gameplay is.
Visuals- The Mass Effect series as a whole not only has great visuals, but a great style. The colors are diverse and environments are detailed. It is a beautiful series as a whole. Mass Effect 3 specifically isn't a huge step up from 2, but it definitely looks better. The amount of action going on at once is astounding, and I only encountered framerate drops once or twice. Some textures are a little muddy and geometry on things like rocks is a little iffy sometimes. Clothes in particular look ugly, but only on certain characters. Mass Effect 3 is the best looking game of the trilogy, but not by much.
Sound- There isn't much to say here. Voice acting is spectacular. There is so much emotion conveyed in the actors voices that it seems like the scene could be a real event. Gun sounds are just as good with a thicker, meatier sound to them than in 2. Music on the other hand, isn't very memorable. There are no songs like "Legion" from 2, and I found myself tuning the music out after a while. My favorite part of the sound design though, was the enemy noises. The Banshee's scream actually put me on edge and the Reapers electronic moans worried me. The sound design is phenomenal and the best I've heard in a long time.
Now, to directly address the controversy surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3; it is confusing. It is not what I expected. But it does NOT ruin the entire game. It was Biowares vision and it didn't pan out the way it was meant to. Yes, they said there would be 16 or so endings, but things like this happen. They are trying to make amends with the newly announced Extended Cut DLC, so I still have faith that the ending will make sense in due time. While we wait for said DLC, let's just remember all the other good moments in the series. The ones that make a lick of sense.
Overall- Mass Effect 3 is not my favorite of the series, but that doesn't mean it isn't an excellent game. It has a little bit of a confusing ending, and an overall story that disappointed me a little, but I still enjoyed my time with it. I only played a few multiplayer matches and didn't have much fun. Some may like it, but it's just not my cup of tea. I would say that anyone who has played Mass Effect 1 or 2 should definitely play this. I would advise anyone else to play at least 2 before this one.