Mass Effect 3 Review: Is It A Shepard… or the Sheep?

Finally, Mass Effect 3 is here, and has smashed into the face of the gaming public like a ship traveling through a Mass Relay station. It seemed like BioWare couldn’t push this title out fast enough after the impressive Mass Effect 2, but they may have taken mach speed too seriously and lost some vital components. We’ve got the long and short of it, pitting a Paragon against a Renegade for an important debate on the recently-docked Mass Effect 3. Is the game as polished as Joker keeps the Normandy, or did BioWare’s shields sustain too much heavy fire while working towards their trilogy-capping title?

Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Genre: Spaceballs… If It Were A Serious RPG
Release Date: March 6, 2012
ESRB Rating: Mature

One of BioWare’s greatest achievements with the Mass Effect is the wide variety of choices they peppered throughout the trilogy. No one played the same game and in the end, we thought that any review of the game needed as many voices as possible. So that’s what we did.

John Martin, Paragon: Oh, Mass Effect. What a ride it’s been over the last five years. The final chapter is here to get me all choked up and provide some amazing third act thrills. I jumped immediately into the campaign to see all of my old friends (sans Kaidan, I haven’t seen that dude since the first game, mainly because I was never a fan of Carth Onasi) and to check out how the Mass Effect universe was dealing with the Reaper threat that was established in the first game. Seeing the galaxy at war was exhilarating, but at the same time, I felt as if everything I did as Shepard was just moving everything closer and closer to impending doom. Or salvation. It’s open to interpretation.

Each action I performed felt like it carried more weight, since I was trying to stop the annihilation of the known galaxy while tying up loose ends from previous games, bringing several storylines to a close. The genophage, for example, was always an interesting tidbit to hear about, but now I was given the chance to either cure it or make sure it continues to subdue Krogan populations. I was reminded of being given the choice to poison the waters of the planet Manaan back in BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic back in the day. After years of hearing about it, my Shepard was given the choice of influencing history in a big, bad way.

These types of branches in the storyline seem a lot thicker than in previous installments of Mass Effect and seemingly have far greater consequences. Each Priority Mission featured similar choices that carried great weight while also concluding, or at least giving a sense of closure to, a character’s story arc.

But what made the game for me wasn’t the large, sweeping influences my Shep had; it was the number of poignant moments Shep shared with his crew and their interactions with each other. In RPGs like this, party banter can deepen one’s emotional engagement. Seeing the crew of the Normandy look back at their adventures and express their mutual fondness and respect for each other gave me warm, fuzzy feelings inside. It didn’t matter where the ride took them, because they were in it together. Ahh, the beauty of camaraderie.

Ryan Littlefield, Renegade: Obviously, the main selling point of Mass Effect 3 for me was the resolution to the trilogy’s story. From the beginning of the game to my 38th hour, I loved every second of it. The majority of the game held some very deep, very intense, and very gripping moments. In my opinion, the original Mass Effect spent a lot of time on Commander Shepard while leaving the scope of the story fairly distant, allowing a lot of more vague detail and base-level story to be established. Mass Effect 2 seemed to zoom in further on Commander Shepard, and identify his situations with Cerberus and the rekindling of his former crew. Mass Effect 3 did what I thought was best – took the focus further away from Shepard himself and allowed all of the characters/races to completely identify themselves. The interaction between these characters and Shepard seemed to magnify the tremendous amount of character development that is suddenly realized here. The game does a great job of ramping up the player’s emotional investment with the characters who they’ve spent the last five years with. It’s like taking the cast of Cheers, putting them on a ship, and having a few drinks in space. Well, almost.

And especially after a few drinks in space, nothing is more refreshing than multitasking, Mass Effect-style. Emptying a round of ammo, using Biotics to throw a Husk across the room, and finally taking cover while you spam Garrus’ Overload ability on that giant Atlas mech walking towards you. Gameplay, specifically combat, is the only improvement between the original Mass Effect and its sequel, in my opinion. Mass Effect 3 continues to carry the torch as far as combat goes, but there were a few things that I was left scratching my head about.

The Weapon Upgrade mechanic was an interesting and simple one: paying credits to raise your gun to its next level, increasing combat damage, adding more ammo capacity, etc. The Weapon Bench with the gun attachments was fine too, but I really would have liked to see the two combined somehow. Leveling up a particular weapon left me feeling somewhat cheated, because I felt like I was simply taking the game’s word for it. “You want to pay 2700 credits to get this pistol to its second rank? You got it!” Okay, great, but I’m not really sure what I just bought. I would have loved to see the Weapon Bench’s attachments go hand in hand with the upgrades; this would display exactly what was upgraded, and would more fully let the player customize their whole play experience, let alone their guns.

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