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

Illusions of Choice
There are many, many great moments in which player choice in Mass Effect 3 leads to emotionally gripping, often heart-wrenching moments. If you haven’t explored all the choices at the end of the main mission on Rannoch, for example, I encourage you to do so immediately.

But for all the important moments of choice that really do matter to the way the story unfolds, there are many in Mass Effect 3 in which BioWare pretends that you’re making a meaningfully different choice, when the outcomes are really pretty much the same but with Shepard gritting her teeth more. We saw a lot of this in the demo/opening moments of the game, and a second playthrough quickly exposes the “behind-the-curtain” moments in which the game tricked you.

Don’t get me wrong — plenty of these carry some extreme emotional weight, and if your choice is actually meaningless, you might not necessarily know that, and the story works just fine. But pull the curtain back on a second playthrough and you start to see that much of Mass Effect 3 is like an old western movie set, filled with pretty facades that don’t have any buildings behind them. That kills replayability, as well as the power of being a meaningful actor in the story.

Combat and Multiplayer Issues
The combat in Mass Effect 3 is easily the best in the series, but compare it to some of the best-in-class third-person shooters out there and the flaws become readily apparent. ME3′s cover system is annoying, often causing players to hop up out of cover in order to get shot.

The real trouble is the same thing that many other cover-based TPS titles suffer from — one-button-itis. Like Gears of War, Mass Effect 3 crowds running, jumping, taking cover, leaping over cover, picking things up and interacting onto the same button. Epic Games diversified their controls some over the course of three games (though not nearly enough) to remedy that situation, but BioWare has gone in head-first to trying to make the game understand one input command for all actions. That means trying to revive a squad mate will generally make you dive clear, and picking up a much-needed heavy weapon will usually result in standing up and getting your head blown off.

Further, a game with a multiplayer mode has to be judged on that mode, and while the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer can be fun, it’s too unsubstantial to really score highly among much better multiplayer offerings in other titles. Multiplayer features more of the same combat found throughout ME3, and carries with it all the same problems — except that it includes only four maps, no story to speak of and little to keep the player engaged long-term. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it’s certainly not 10/10 perfect.

Great, But Not Perfect
Ross Lincoln and I have spent a ton of time talking about the ending of Mass Effect 3, and while he was pretty well devastated by it, I still found 95 percent of the game to be stellar. That said, it’s far from 100-percent perfect. Nagging issues that have been present throughout Mass Effect remain, and while BioWare tried to clean up some of the messes the earlier games made in terms of gameplay systems, much of what they changed doesn’t go much beyond a surface appearance of deep role-playing integration.

The emotional weight of the game, however, shouldn’t be underplayed — and factored very heavily into my own 88/100 review of the Mass Effect 3. Lots of players will come away feeling that ME3 might be one of the greatest video game experiences they’ve ever had, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But that doesn’t make it a pristine bit of gaming, just well-created tale with transcendent moments. Seeing ME3 for its flaws helps to make well-reasoned judgments about it, and hold BioWare to the standard the Mass Effect series deserves.

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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.