Mass Effect 3 Review
Like the previous installments of the game, Shepard gathers a crew with a few returning characters and a few new ones, and sets about performing mission across the galaxy. The storyline basically concerns Shepard convincing other races to go to war, and that means brokering alliances, doing favors, making threats and shooting guys — just about anything that needs doing. Along the way, he runs into nearly every single character he has ever encountered since the first game. To BioWare’s credit, this totally works, and works beautifully.
In fact, this is a game for Mass Effect fans. Sure, BioWare (and certainly EA) have been working to make ME3 an entry point into the series for new players — but if you’re new to Mass Effect and you’re starting with ME3, I pity you. Never before have I encountered … really any work of fiction that so thoroughly satisfied its story requirements. Every loose end is tied; every character gets his or her moment.
Shepard’s job has never been easy, but at no time in the series (or any other game ever) have the consequences of every action been so palpable, and so weighty. BioWare has done a beautiful job of making the carnage befalling the galaxy feel personal. The game is constantly throwing you up against moral decisions, forcing you to balance your player sensibilities (especially if you go Paragon) with the goals at hand. Every compromise or sacrifice you make can mean not bringing enough force to Earth when the time comes to launch your offensive. Mass Effect 2 tried to impress upon you that you were responsible for the lives of other characters — in Mass Effect 3, you will lose people. The resonance of each decision is extremely powerful and makes for a great experience.
As to the other aspects of the game, BioWare has done a good job of finding a middle ground between a more straight-on RPG, as it created in the original Mass Effect, and the shooter-heavy sensibilities that created Mass Effect 2. Sure, the game is still very streamlined and still very heavily focused on combat, but the weaker parts of the game have been ironed out and more RPG elements have been introduced back in. At least on the surface, these are all welcome and remind you that you do have a fair degree of control over your characters. Leveling up your skills now requires binary choices between different perks, so you can theoretically spec one character to be speedy while another does a ton of damage, and so on.
Weapons and armor are discovered as loot or purchased from stores, so it pays to look around every battlefield for extra goodies this time around. As you gather guns, you’ll also find weapon mods, which allow you to customize your loadout pretty effectively — at least at first. ME3 also introduces a new system for determining which weapons you’ll take into battle, a system that does a great job of dispelling the pair of idiotic ones developed in the earlier two games. In Mass Effect, your class specialized in specific weapons and using weapons outside your training was next to useless; in Mass Effect 2, you couldn’t even pull out those untrained weapons.
This time out, every gun has a weight, and that weight effects your special abilities (either biotic, tech or soldier capabilities). Every time you use a special ability, you get sacked with a global cooldown period — the weight of your guns causes it to be longer or shorter, so you’ll have to decide if the added stopping power of a sniper rifle to go with your assault rifle is really worth not being able to throw people through the air with a biotic push. Modding and upgrading weapons allows for more flexibility.