Written by Twisted Ideas
The conclusion to Commander Shepard’s battle against the Reapers has finally begun. For the past five years Bioware has set the groundwork for the choices you’ve made. Will your decisions come and stab you in the back or will everything change as a result?
The game starts six months after the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC Arrival. Commander Shepard had been relieved of duty and is stationed on Earth when the Reaper invasion begins. The entire galaxy is under the Reaper threat but are not prepared themselves to fight against them. Shepard has to traverse the galaxy and rally as many troops as possible to fend off the Reapers and find a way to stop them once and for all.
Mass Effect 3 is a third person shooter with simple RPG elements and weapon customization. Shepard is the leader of a squad of three. You can choose two AI controlled crew members to take on missions. There is an emphasis on conversations between characters leading into huge amounts of dialog. The choices you make influences how major or minor events will play out.
The combat takes the revamped system in Mass Effect 2 and brings back weapon mods. There are a greater number of weapons for weapon type which can all be upgraded increasing its stats. All weapons have weight which affects the speed your skill’s cooldown rate. As in Mass Effect 1, skills have six tiers with each level improving the skill. Skills can be passive, offensive or supportive. You spend skill points you gain when you level and when skill reaches level four you have one of two options for upgrading. You can have one skill for you and your squad assigned to quick buttons.
Mass Effect 3 uses a cover system and has a new dodging mechanic. You can automatically go into cover by running into it but if you are standing near the cover and dodge buttons are the same so you may accidentally roll. Shepard can sprint indefinitely and has a new heavy melee attack. Bioware is moving away from the typical long corridors. While they still exist there’s more variety. The environment can change in scripted moments creating more dynamic scenes and moments of battle. Even in urban or facility areas you can find yourself traveling in places you just never were in the first two games. This sounds small but you can now climb ladders. This can changes how the levels can be designed and changes how encounters feel and how they’re approched.
Shepard has to rally war assets to prepare for the final battle. Each war asset will add to your Effective Military Strength. The amount of Effective Military Strength will affect the events of the final mission.
There’s no resource gathering, Mako or Hammerhead. You can still scan systems and EDI will inform you if she has found something of interest. These can either be war assets, side quest items, credits or fuel. When you are scanning it alert nearby Reapers who eventually will chase you. If need to exit the system to avoid them or risk a game over which only brings you back to the moment you entered that very system.
The morality system still exists but has merged with the new reputation system. You can make paragon and renegade choices in conversations and events and they will add points to your reputation. The previous Mass Effect games you needed high paragon or renegade status to make certain decisions to charm or intimidate people. This still happens but you reputation can still be a persuading force allowing for a mix of paragon and renegade.
The combat isn’t the only thing that is more dynamic. As you progress in the story you will find that your crew members aren’t holed up in their quarters as they were in the previous games. You can find members interacting with each other, in different parts of the ship and frequently visiting the Citadel. Some characters even have personal arcs where you can provide emotional support and advice.
Galaxy at War ties into the single player by improving your Galactic Readiness thus increasing your Effective Military Strength. You and up to three other players have to survive eleven waves of either Cerberus, Geth or Reaper forces. Some waves require you to upload data, terminate targets or trigger four devices. The final wave requires you to survive the time limit until your team is extracted.
The multiplayer plays like the single player for the most part. You can choose from the six classes each with slightly altered skills. Initially you can only choose two characters (humans) from each class and have access to a limited amount of weaponry. In order to unlock new weapons, upgrades, mods and characters (each with different abilities) you have to buy item packs with credits you earn in each match. Item packs yield random items and the more expensive ones guarantee at least one uncommon or rare.
Each match takes place in an area that you may have encountered in the single player. You have a limited amount of supplies to use in matches. Medi-Gel will revive you when taken down. Thermal Clip Packs will reload your weapons. Ops Survival Pack restore health and shields/armor/barriers. The Cobra Missile Launcher can be used to deal heavy damage. You gain experience for each kill and performing feats like kill x number of enemies or surviving x number of waves without being taken down. If a player is taken down and doesn’t use a medi-gel you can run to their body and revive them manually before they are executed or bleed out for the remainder of the wave. There are three difficulties each spawning stronger and greater amounts of enemies.
There has been a significant improvement in graphics compared to Mass Effect 2. The textures on the characters, mainly Shepard, look much better. While simple objects like walls or floor tiles don’t look noticeably better trees, scenery and destruction look amazing.
The voice acting is strong all across the board even though I don’t care for male Shepard’s voice. There are hours of recorded dialog and are done well enough to create touching and emotional moments. The sounds of the Reapers is unsettling and effective in setting the sense of fear and danger. There are fewer if any audio sync issues found in Mass Effect 2.
There have been several complaints first with the fact that there are issues importing your Shepard’s face and the ending. Bioware claims that they are going to patch the importing problem but what baffles me is that it’s a problem in the first place because this didn’t happen in Mass Effect 2. The ending has received a lot public outcry as it has not been well received. Bioware may already started they will address the fans. Whether this is an alternate ending, an epilogue or something else we will have to wait and see.
Do not let the ending detract you from Mass Effect 3 especially if you have played through Mass Effect 1 and 2. This is a 30-40 hour epic that is both fun and intense. Multiplayer is enjoyable and actually adds to the single player. Bioware goes straight for the gut and doesn’t let go. They have come such a long way through in terms of gameplay, graphics and they created such a rich universe that is very hard to ignore.