Replay Value: 8.9
Note: the second half of this review will contain spoilers. I'll draw a line so those who haven't completed the game will know where to stop.
Mass Effect 3. The final game to what I'd consider my favourite trilogy of this generation. Mass Effect 1 is my favourite game of this generation (unfortunartely PS3 only users would of missed out on the originality and immersiveness of such a game, leading to what I consider a realm of unnapreciation for the franchise within PSXE - no offense). But as you've probably already heard, the series takes a massive plunge on the third title.
To be honest, when it comes to RPGs and how they will suit the viewer, disregading graphics is always recommended. However I must try and be professional. Fortunately, the graphics for Mass Effect 3 are an improvement from ME2, giving a more sharper resolution and like ME2 tends to include more shadows and dark spots compared to ME1, which used grain effects to provide artistic visualisation; whether you prefer one style or the other depends on your taste, or if you dislike change. Speaking of change...
-Gameplay and Controls-
Ah, what can I say about the gameplay. I'll have to start from the beginning to make my point have a stronger structure.
Well Mass Effect had floaty controls catered towards PC gaming. There were 7 characters and each one had variable array of skills and abilities. I definately consider ME1 to be the most difficult of all 3, requiring more pauses and tactics to overcome each Geth and their barriers. Many people disliked the elevator rides, which is inconsiderate in my opinion since elevator rides with the occasional funny conversation beats a loading screen, right? People disliked the MAKO-35 exploration, but I as an RPG fan personally liked the ability to explore uncharted planets and check out the beautiful scenery, scarred moons, flaming stars or Prothean artifacts.
Mass Effect 2 was VERY different. Dumbed down unfortunately. Whilst there were many characters (11 overall, 13 + one playable in one mission with DLC), the skills and abilities were all diluted and much more limited on every character. There were too many cover spots, eliminating the need to think more or use more tactics with given abilities. Unlimited recharging ammo was replaced with reload clips (what were they thinking?) and overall gameplay was more clunky - very clunky. Battles and gunfire were more action paced to cater to the current target audience that love their FPS games.
And guess what? They replaced the elevator rides with loading screens (I'll have to say, Presidium exploration was appauling compared to ME1). They replaced the MAKO exploration with a planet probing minigame all in order to collect resources for weapon upgrades. Speaking of weaponry and armour, those features were dumbed down as well. From 17 models of each weapon and armour type you could collect or buy to about an average 5...which you upgrade yourself.
Ok, so you get my point: I don't really like Mass Effect 2. But what does Mass Effect 3 have to offer?
Efficiency. They utilise features from both previous games, but rather than shoving in the best of both worlds at different parts, instead they literally compromised both games to make a lovechild for nearly every aspect. Albeit there are 7 characters (8 with DLC for now) the availible powers for each character are somewhere in between the range of ME1's and ME2's. Loading screens are moving panoramic views instead of elevators or blueprint loading. Gameplay is neither clunky or floaty, but rather smooth, being more difficult than ME2 but not too demanding as ME1, which in turn inforces you to use powers more instead of just merely encourage, whilst still utilising cover systems (which actually gets real annoying and glitchy at times) and explosive action. Unfortunately reloading is still clip based, however there is one weapon that includes unlimited recharging ammo - and I used it until the very end.
Customisation in this game was most enjoyable. Weaponry and armour system sees the return vast amounts to collect and purchase, and also utilises a personal upgrade system that utilises the tried and trusted I-V system. Exploration of planets has been eliminated and planet probing is less of a mini game, but more of a destination finder, with a new 'Reaper evasion' system.
Hacking has been wiped from Mass Effect 3, which suprisingly I find convenient.
Only massive con is EA's will to make you play online. It's practically mandatory. Yep. Such a things would suck, especially with the PS3's online issues with the game.
This is a hard one for me to try and gain a definitive opinion on since it's the most technical. What I can say though is that the sound effects seem to have a great grasp of how distance should be utilised, and that most sound effects for explosions and weaponry has a great varierty, with everything sounding unique whilst also sounding smooth to the ears since the dynamics aren't too ranged (minus the Rachni blasters - loud and painful enough for me to remember). I also love how they experinmented a little, for instance how they gave menacing screeches to the Banshees, the Reaper horn (which is also awesomely used in one of the soundtracks), and the Reaper laser (that sounds like an intense more mass scale version of being hit in the face by Aerith Gainsborough's rod). Voice acting sounds as top notch as ever.
Two things worried me about Mass Effect 3, and one of them was the replacement of Jack Wall as composer. Sure, the guy replacing Jack was Clint Mansell, however I've noticed his previous compositions weren't exactly Mass Effect. Fortunately, Mansell did good. It can get a bit too melancholic at times, but he cleverly used many pieces from ME1 (to fit the Alliance Navy theming) and remixed them. I'll admit, his own recurring piano themes are utilised well, especially heightening at the end of the game to fulfill the musical experience; it actually puts you down so gently at the end that you may have not realised how flawed the ending was until analysing it afterwards...
...And this is where I make that line:
-Story and Ending Discussion-
The second big worry for me was the fact that they replaced the writer for Mass Effect 3. Unfortunately whilst the game was great, my fears would of been proven correct. What I did not expect however, was for most, if not all the flaws to flood in at the end. The ending was an issue that I'd still come to realise issues with days after completion. One being:
- The Deus Ex ultimatum. It's as if they literally took the A,B,C ending from the game Deus Ex for everyone to decide one. Whilst it works perfectly for Deus Ex, it certainly does not with Mass Effect, especially as Mass Effect is a game that heavily relies mass decision making. You'd expect there to be more choices, or more specifically: outcomes.
- Outcomes. Red, Green or Blue? Even Deus Ex's 3 outcomes managed to be completely different. Mass Effect 3's endings however, basically contain the same cut scene with a different colour, plus the few tinges of effect here and there. It's clear they wanted to use one cutscene regardless, no matter how nonsensical it would be.
- Plotholes and Implications. It is clearly started in Mass Effect 2 that when a Mass Relay is destroyed, the entire solar system the Mass Relay lies inside is also obliterated. All 3 choices leads to the Mass Relay being destroyed. Meaning? Lots and lots of people die. Including Earth. And even if Bioware managed to retract that claim, it still means everyone ends up diconnected from eachother, minus the mass amount of fleets stuck in Sol.
So the Quarian Flotilla will never visit their homeland? Will Wrex never get to see his people recover and repopulate? Judging by the fact that Joker manages to take off with some of your crew (in which your love interest manages to change uniform and get on the Normandy, despite the fact that he/she was right next to you about 10 minutes ago), and survive a race against the giant explosion and landing on some random jungle planet, everyone dies. Everything you fought for...was pointless? This leads to another point:
- Nullification. The decisions nullify pretty much all efforts from the previous 3 games. Everything you did, your war assets (hell if you get enough you get to see Shepard live, or make his final bowel movements - how is it possible for him to live helmetless on a destroyed Citadel?), all accounts to practically nothing.
- Closure. There is no closure. You don't know what happens to most of your crew. The crew that you spent time bonding with for 3 games. There's not even a cutscene for each of them.
- The 3 decisions are flawed in itself.
The 'Destroy' option keeps loyal to you intended mission, but in turn destroys the Geth (had you saved them earlier) and EDI for no apparently reason. There is a flash of Anderson making this choice.
The 'Control' option seems much more viable and cost effective. Funny how the thing you may have fought against in the entire game becomes the mist viable choice. There is a flash of the Illusive Man making this decision.
The 'Synthesis' option was clearly encouraged to be the main ending, but not only defies the point of unity through diversity, but also sounds like a Get-Out-Of-Jail card for Starchild. Fittingly it would of been Saren Arterius' decision. Why didn't they make a scene of him choosing that?
- The worst part: Starchild and the fall of the Reaper grandeur. Through one conversation, terrible writing shows circular logic (destroying life to prevent it from creating AI that destroys life? Wtf?) and makes the Reapers look like a big joke. Go search 'A Conversation with Sovereign' on YouTube. That one conversation made me fear what the Reapers were. Because they were beyond our comprehension. We exist because they allow it, and we would end because they demand it. But apparently it turns out they were just toys of the Starchild.
"Ah yes. The immortal race of sentient starships allegedly waiting in dark space. we have dismissed that claim." - Bioware
Btw, the original writer had his own ending in mind. So much more fitting. Look it up.
So in conclusion, the endings were simply rushed. People like to blame EA for this mess (remember the game was delayed once), however Bioware aren't exactly innocent. I believe they could of done a much better job. Even with limited time.
Finally will the ending(s) effect replay value? Yes. However since the trilogy as a whole has a great experience to offer, I probably will find myself playing the Mass Effect series in my lifetime. Multiple times. There's just too many ways you can play the games to not play Mass Effect 3 again.