Did Mass Effect 3 Really Deserve All Those 10/10 Review Scores?

I’ve spent the last 10 days of my life thinking about Mass Effect 3. Having written one review of the game and finding myself knee-deep in a second (one for the console version, one for the available-later PC version), I’m a little puzzled by the number of glowing reviews the game has picked up.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very clear reasons why Mass Effect 3 can be considered a masterpiece. It includes some moments of incredible brilliance: a mix of spectacular set pieces, long scenes of phenomenal character development, and largely some of the most satisfying plot-line conclusions ever set down in a storytelling franchise. Discussions of the final 10 minutes notwithstanding, the game really does have moments of incredible catharsis, masterful storytelling and real, true emotional resonance. BioWare is to be commended on a lot of points with the story it brings to the conclusion of its popular and expansive trilogy.

But 10 out of 10, or 100 out of a possible 100? Did we play the same game? Because while Mass Effect 3 is definitely a strong game and fun to play, it’s not without its considerable, numerous flaws that seriously detract from the title. Mass Effect 3 deserves a high score, but a perfect one? Definitely not.

RPG System Smoke and Mirrors
The biggest letdown of Mass Effect 3 is the supposed return of RPG systems. While Mass Effect was inundated with inventory management and weapon decisions to the point of being bogged down and Mass Effect 2 stripped out both in favor of a leaner gameplay experience that disappointed RPG fans, ME3 was meant to combine both approaches into a system that actually worked. And for a while, it seemed pretty useful.

But a few of the systems appear to be more useful than they actually ever are. Weapon modding is the biggest culprit. Each weapon type gains five different mods, and across every weapon, they’re basically the same: damage upgrade, ammo extension, weight reduction, and so on. Trouble is, these mods are never really that useful. Most players will find that snapping a scope and a barrel extension on every single gun they carry works just fine, and while there are lots of mods to find in the game, they’re all better versions of the five basic mods you can get for every gun. Once your mods are in place, there really isn’t a lot of necessity or incentive to continually re-spec your weapons for varying situations.

The same is pretty true for character development. BioWare added perk choices as players developed their powers, requiring them to make decisions between upgrading damage or upgrading recharge time, for example. While there are some definite pluses to the system — it does require players to think about what they’re choosing and why — the player has to really work to spec a character in a way that would promote a serious adjustment in play style. Picking a 10 percent damage boost to biotic push over 25 percent faster recharge just doesn’t translate to much of a gameplay shift on the battlefield.

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10 Comments on Did Mass Effect 3 Really Deserve All Those 10/10 Review Scores?

Travis

On March 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I hate hate hate the ending, but I still can’t find enough problems with ME3 to not give it a 10/10. Until the last ten minutes, they absolutely made the game I wanted to play, matching or exceeding my expectations.

The only reason I can see to not give it that score is if you’re one of those “a ten must be absolutely perfect” kinda folks, which is fine.

If I was going to change anything about the game it would just be to increase Shep’s run speed on the Normandy. It’s exhausting going all the way down the hall for Garrus’ latest calibration joke.

Oh, and something to make the planet-hunting a little faster.

juancho

On March 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm

The game, as the film or the book, is about the experience and the sentiment you have while playing and keep afterwards. In these terms this is a 10, of course it is.

dieger

On March 14, 2012 at 6:29 am

in my opinion (been a fan since ME1) both ME2 and 3 deserve a 8 while they look pretty and its very action oriented there is almost no RPG elements :/ which saddens me

dieger

On March 14, 2012 at 6:31 am

also both ME3 and 2 are very dumbed done on PC in ME1 you could sprint use crouch etc. all with diffrent buttons in ME2 though no crouching and all with the spacebar

spikey

On March 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Maybe it’s just the PS3 version but I’ve certainly found a lot of bugs in my playthrough. Framerate drops, texture drops, game freezes just to name a few. It wasn’t here or there either, they were rampant throughout the game. I had to restart a couple of missions because enemies would not spawn and you could not proceed. Restarting from last checkpoint wouldnt work either.

usrev2

On March 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

none of the mass effect games are worthy of 10/10. they are fun to play but once you beat it you are done, and that time is still almost nothing, mass effect 2 lasted something like 30 hours, mass effect 1 only lasted like 20
it’s kinda crazy that people accept games that are this short in 2012 when games on the n64 lasted longer.
bioware makes amazing stories, and i am glad they are one of the few companies to voice act most the game but ffs make the game open world and last a respectable amount of time

skyrim lasted 170 hours easily and only had one province, mass effect has planets, cities, space ships and they end up being the equivalent of 1 or 2 buildings in skyrim, why is the citadel a few connected hallways with 3 shops? how come noveria “a huge trade city is about half the size of the smallest skyrim city.

if you want a great game, bioware write the script, do the voice work, write the story
get bethesda to make the world, or make a game so good that if the story was garbage people would like it.

the real ending is coming...

On March 15, 2012 at 3:00 am

THE TRUE ENDING IS COMING.

EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS ARTICLE. BIOWARE IS HINTING THAT IT WAS ALL A LIE:
http://www.thevine.com.au/life/tech/mass-effect-3-and-the-ending-debacle20120314.aspx

HAVE FAITH.

Mark

On March 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

usrev2,

Not to be an ass, but I would (almost) entirely disagree with you. 1) The Mass Effect trilogy has more replay value than any other game trilogy, ever. Yes, even more than the elder scrolls games. Discounting the ridiculous ending to 3, the story lines can be vastly different, and the play styles between different classes cover the entire spectrum. 2) I don’t know why everybody thinks that Skyrim is such a massive game. Granted… its a great game. Played it myself. BUT… half of the reason the game takes 170 hours is because of stupid . It takes 13 minutes of walking to get to a quest, 10 minutes to do it, and 13 minutes to get back. Even with fast travel. Sure, you can play skyrim for 150 hours if you want, but 70 of those hours are going to be walking somewhere or doing inventory management. Also, the insane amount of sidequests in skyrim have little to no variety. “I lost my family’s ______ in a cave called _____, Can you get it for me?” That is 65% of Skyrim in a sentence.

Luis E. Morales Falcon

On June 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm

While I loved Mass Effect 3 for 360, I was disappointed that:
-the game suffers from a lot of bugs (face importer issue and conversations that do not trigger correctly);
-the ending was sour, I was promised an ending that shifted according to player choice;
-they cutter this from the full game: http://me3explorer.freeforums.org/deleted-ashley-s-conversation-about-afterlife-t329.html;
-no heavy weapons (we are fighting kilometers long ships);
-the awards for completing the game where none (renember the 30% XP award imported from ME2 after starting a new career?);
The light RPG elements where implemented great in my opinion because they were not so clumsy like in ME or removed like in ME2, but those weapons and power upgrades work great when implemented correctly. I give it a 88/100.

Death Ray

On June 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm

People talk about ‘replay value’ as if the only way you can achieve it is through fiat choices. C&C gameplay for the sake of it isn’t real choice. Many of the choices you make in the second and third games are entirely binary and prescriptive, and a lot of them don’t even make sense, such as completing someone’s loyalty mission somehow affecting whether they happen to get shot in the final battle. Replay value should arise from the quality of the game and its storytelling, not from some dip looking at a scenario and thinking “right, how can we get players to redo this whole sequence again? How about give them some different dialogue options or an interrupt prompt that affects almost nothing outside of that particular scene.”

Mass Effect was an awesome game but I honestly think it’s led people to look at the vastly inferior sequels with way too much lenience. The ending was not the only thing that was poor about ME3 – almost everything about it and ME2 were watered down significantly from the original, mostly likely due to Casey Hudson’s rise to infamy and EA’s influence. They still ended up being better than a lot of games, sure, but that doesn’t mean they objectively warrant perfect scores.