“Mass Effect 3” Game Review

And now, we come to the end of the trilogy. The third installment in Bioware’s epic science-fiction action-RPG franchise launched on March 6th, 2012, selling over 3.5 million copies in the first quarter of its release. Unlike the two previous games, this one was released on all major systems at launch, even getting a Wii-U port which- I’ll tell you right now -is grossly inferior in controls and visuals to its counterparts. Set a mere 6 months after Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard has been grounded on Earth for his/her involvement with Cerberus. Right when his trial begins, the Reapers- ancient hyper-advanced machines floating in the dark space -begin their cyclical purge of the Milky Way Galaxy’s organic life, starting with Earth. Barely escaping by the skin of his/her teeth, Shepard and the crew Normandy make a mad dash across the galaxy to rally as many allies as possible, while Admiral Anderson holds down the fort with the human resistance. So this game is a mixed bag if ever there was one. Let me be clear: Mass Effect 3 is a great game and deserves to be played, but some of the controversies it caused are earned. Let’s start with the gameplay because it is perhaps the best in the series. Expanding on the cover-based combat from the second game, you’re given more ways to approach a gunfight than before. And that’s partially thanks to the improvements made to the guns, as well as the addition of new ones. Rather than overheating, it does rely on ammo. Word of advice: the 2 guns you want to use the most are the shotgun and the sniper rifle, simply because they’re the most powerful against enemies. Much of the action is shown from an over-the-shoulder perspective, so when you jump over cover or run across the room, the camera is shaking. This made the experience feel more cinematic, really placing you in the middle of an intense war zone with almost no way out. Mass Effect 3 does get rid of the loyalty missions for your teammates, but this is supplemented with various side-quests and activities. This feeds into the feature of War Assets. The more you complete, the higher your reputation will climb and the more aliens commit to your cause. A good chunk of time is also spent onboard the Citadel, where millions of refugees are housed in the docking bays and politicians can’t figure out what to do. Considering the events unfolding in Syria and the controversial executive order signed as a response, the game couldn’t be more timely in its themes of unity and prejudice. The soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell and a handful of others, is beautiful and unforgettable. The score utilizes a simple piano melody established at the very beginning, when Shepard is forced off Earth as the Reapers slaughter much of innocent human life, as the backbone for many of the tracks. By far, it’s one of the most memorable emotional suites I’ve ever heard in a video game. And yes, Mass Effect 3 is a super turbulent ride of dichotomous emotions; hope to despair, joy to sadness, optimism to desperation, but all human. This is a war, and it isn’t pretty to be a part of. Especially considering the fact that the game really makes the player feel as if the entire fate of the Milky Way Galaxy rests on your own shoulders. So the choices you make on each mission, main or otherwise, has a relatively big impact on the finale. Also, it’s highly recommended that you play the first two Mass Effect games before starting this one. To be clear, it is possible to jump into this installment fresh, but you won’t have the necessary attachment to the characters. Because some of the things that happen to them in the story are just so tragic, it’s almost hard to watch. Props have to be given to the writers for allowing gamers to feel that kind of emotion. Then, there’s the end. This is the subject of controversy, a lot of fan division, and is polarizing to the point that it makes the series finale of Lost look like it was universally praised. Okay, that’s pushing it, but you get the idea. Basically, at the very pinnacle of the epic climax, you’re given a choice of 3 different endings, each one essentially distinguished by a certain color. I will not fret from saying that I hated the ending of Mass Effect 3, and was one of many people who demanded something different. While Bioware refused to change it outright, they did throw us a bone with a rewritten Extended Cut. It added much more resolution to the conflict and its aftermath and added an additional 4th ending, that was a far more pessimistic outlook of everything the series has led up to. And honestly, this Extended Cut gave me everything I wanted the first time, and I’m interested to see how Andromeda uses the different outcomes in the story. Despite that somewhat anticlimactic ending, Mass Effect 3 is an overall fitting conclusion to one of the best science-fiction epics you’ll find in any media out there. Also worth noting, get the “From Ashes” DLC with it, as it adds new missions and one of the most fascinating crew members in the series. One of the most emotional and unforgettable trilogies in the history of video games, you’d be a fool to miss out on it.

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