Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Review

Platform: PC

Genre: RPG
This might be the first time I review a big title short time from release date. I didn't know much of the Mass Effect franchise till a friend showed me the first game while I was having a "I don't know what to play" crisis. I liked it... but for one reason or another I didn't finish it. A while later My Shepard defeated Saren. Then Mass Effect 2 popped his head out. Also a very good game vastly improved by all the DLC's it received. Since then My Shepard silently occupied his kb in My Documents folder waiting. For those new to the franchise, Bioware gave players the option to import theyr character from one game to another, applying their custom face and all the decisions they made in previous games. Theese influence the story of the later game in one way or another.

So, I was looking forward to My Shepards new adventure to save the galaxy. As soon as my paycheck landed, Origin was already downloading Mass Effect 3. After the game finished
installing I loaded up on energy drinks and snacks and double-clicked the icon. For those who don't know the games where action-RPG's with a heavy emphassis on dialog and interaction with NPC's, especially with those that accompany Shepard in his adventures. So I was surprised to see that I am presented with a setting so the game is more RPG or ... not. Also you can choose not to have any involvement in the dialog, the answers beeing chosen for you. At first I looked with anger at theese options, but then I realised they were a good thing for new players who new players who don't have their own My Shepard with it's baggage of choices or for players who don't play many RPG's. This might be a good move on Bioware's behalf since they mentioned at some point they might expand the Mass Effect universe beyond Shepard's story. (two iOS games appeared on the store). But, this might also be coming from EA, but I won't start a debate on the subject right now. The sad part came after I imported My Shepard and I hot a prety neat "error" message for the appearance. I tried to reload the game but it was still there. So, my only option was to take the default Shepard or try to recreate my work of art if years ago. I went for the second. Anyway, ti clarify, after scooping out on the Internet I found out that this only happens to those who imported in Mass Effect 2 their character from the first game. Those who made a new one in 2 won't be dealing with this problem. But Bioware said they are working on this problem.

The galaxy is, as we left it, on the verge of being attacked by the Reapers. Shepard is grounded back on good old Earth and Udina is the humans representitive on the Council (even if you selected Anderson in the first game). The game starts with Earth being invaded and Shepard leaves to rally up the other races to defend and take back Earth. The game is presented with the same modifies Unreal 3 engine. Although the game looks amazing and some of the effects are awesome, it starts showing it's age, especially the textures some looking a bit low-res.

Shepard retakes command of the Normandy wearing Alliance colors again. He will have friendly faces (unrelated: dunno if it's just me but Joker seems to caught on some weight). Im his quest he will meet most of the major characters from the previous games, also those from the Mass Effect 2 DLC's if you had them. He will presented with the option to help sone of them in a way or another. Also between missions you can come to te Citadel to listen for rumors of Artifacts from ithers planets or stuff to do (more on the matter in a bit). While on the Citadel you can meet some of your crewmembers and said major characters and talk to them, get deeper knowledge of what are they up to.

About the before mentioned artifacts. They represent the exploring part of te game. While in the previous ones whe had the Mako or te planet-drilling now Shepard searches for long forgotten Artifacs. But this is not as exciting as it sounds. While walking around the Citadel you can eavesdrop on peoples conversations and pick up locations or sightings of them ol'Artifacts or other stuff they might need like better equipment for the Hospital. You can travel like before from the Galaxy Map. But now each sistem has it "alertness" meter. When the meter is full Reapers will cone to take a bite out of the Normandy (not literary but that's what it looks like). When you enter a system you can can the area around The Normady. If there is anything near it will be revealed. It can be a Artifact, war assets or fuel used for travel. With each scan the alertness meter fills up a bit. If it's not full you can leave the sistem and it will reset. If it's filled it will reset after you complete after a quest. Besides the main questline, you also have side quests. Some of them though are just battling Cerberus forces on the multiplayer maps (of course you have a objective like uploading some data or something). I mentioned that you can also gain war assets. There are used to determine the ending of the game. Sort of.
War assets determine the readiness of the galaxy against the Reapers. Those found on planets are usually hround units or fleets. Helping characters can also contribute to the readiness level. They say that to achiev the best ending you need to have around 5000 readiness. Also some of the decisions you made in the previous games and playing multiplayer can affect the readiness level. Low readiness level can get Shepard killed before the actual ending of the game. Hope this is not considered as a spoiler. It is possible to fail at getting at 5000 without taking certain decisions in all games. Some said that it cannot be reached without multiplayer. I did play a few rounds but I am aware of some stuff I missed on the first playthrough so I'm not sure what to say about that statement. But if it's true my only question is: what if I want to play the games in a few years or my children would like to play this piece of gaming history ... What then ? What if there will be no-one playing ?

Anyway ...The multiplayer is strong. There are classes each containig different characters with their own race, sex and set of abilities. They each level up individually when used and you unlock new weapons but unlike the singleplayer you can only carry two (I didn't play too much so there is a slight probability that at some point you might be able to carry more). The maps are relatively small and you have to survive 10 waves. Each wave throws enemies at you and sometimes you have to complete certain objectives. If you die you respawn. At the last wave you have to board the shuttle and escape. If failing here, you won't respawn. Between matches you can buy packs of weapons and abilitiea with game coins which are earned in game or bought with real cash.
Now, a while after the game has been released there have been numerous complaints about it's ending. I will only say that I find it very good and unexpected. Without spoiling I can't say any more just that you should watch ine of those youtube videos that try to explain it. They might not be official Bioware sayings but they did tweet about them hinting they might be true. Also they announced a free DLC coming this summer that wi expand on the ending, and that will answer all questions.

While the writing of the game and it's presentation is top notch, the gameplay can get repetitive. Every time you stay behind a chest-high-something and pop up your head to pew-pew at the other guys when they pop their head up or start walking around towards the next thing they can take a nap behind. You can customise the armor that Shepard is wearing by buying different parts from the Citadel or dinding them in missions. The same applies to weapons ... you will come across numerous upgrades and new weapons while you progress. Also between missions Shepard can pursue the heart of one of it's crewmates and help them "relief stress" later on. There are many options, and Bioware also included one of the same sex. Like we got used to ... When in missions they will interact with each and on the Normandy they don't always just stay in the same room all the time. You might walk on them laying on the floor piss-drunk or something.

With the game I also got the From Ashes DLC. I really don't like it when games have payed DLC's on release ... since it's something tht was already done and could be included with the game. There are rumors (didn't look too much into the matter) that From Ashes is already into the game anyway, you just unlock it. Anyway the DLC gives you a short mission that will leave you with a new crew member. And sincerely he is one of the best new characters. Not just because of his origin but also from the conversations between him and My Shepard and his personality.

Theese being said I really enjoyed the game and the series and I'm very curious what will become of the franchise.
the bad: more exploration would be nice
the good: the ending, writing

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