Mass Effect 3 Review
It’s by no means perfect. While the combat has gotten a lot of tweaking to play better than it did in Mass Effect 2, it’s still not on par with high-level shooters that are just shooters. ME3 is constantly saddling you with weird cover issues, making you pop up when you don’t mean to, and while your squadmates are smarter than they’ve ever been, they still make weird decisions. Enemies sometimes exhibit a fair degree of tactical intelligence and fearsome brutality, and other times, take cover in stupid places and let you shoot them in the head. Combat has never been the strongest point for the Mass Effect series, and while ME3 is certainly fun to fight through, it still feels here as though it fails to carry the main event.
Many of the other elements of the game, also, are competent without being stellar. Side quests, for example, fall into two categories: actual side missions that have story attached, and overheard fetch quests in which you fly to a specific system and implement the game’s new scanner. You do this by scanning for points of interest in Reaper-controlled systems, foregoing for the most part the planet-by-planet checking for a sonar-like ping you fire as you cruise around the “world map” of different solar systems. Ping too often and Reapers will show up to chase you out of the system; something that really could have been cooler. Still, it’s a big improvement over the previous two titles.
In fact, let’s just get this out in the open: Mass Effect 3 has a lot of problems and a lot of shortcomings. The combat is fun (the best of the series) and achieves some great high-tension moments, without ever being a standout because of cover issues and uneven enemy responses. Many of the RPG elements feel more like filler: finding loot is nice, but you can buy everything you find and often find more than one of the same thing, making it irrelevant. You’re also almost constantly so inundated with cash that you can get anything you need, and if you can’t, wait a mission or two and try again. Even weapon modding and gun collecting begins to feel pedestrian when you get a gun upgraded and modded the way you like and never ever change it. There’s not a lot of incentive to try new things.
Speaking of things that feel tacked on, I can say definitively that the multiplayer component is unnecessary to the game. Some people will like it; some may even play it for a while. But it’s not going to be very many players’ mainstay experience, because it’s basically the “Horde” style mode so prevalent in shooters today, but with Mass Effect powers. Biotic pushes and combat drones are novel for a bit, but fighting waves of progressively stronger enemies just doesn’t hold a lot of appeal when there are other games that do it better. Players may put time in to use the multiplayer for its effect on single-player gameplay — winning multiplayer matches makes the armies of the galaxy more capable against the Reapers in your Shepard game — but long-term, even with all the unlockables and customization, there’s still just not a lot of depth. It’s best enjoyed with friends, but the best thing that can be said about multiplayer is that it doesn’t seem to have detracted in the least from the single-player experience.
Mass Effect 3 also suffers from a number of graphical and auditory bugs that are painfully effective at ruining the immersion of the experience. One particularly prevalent issue is characters tending to turn and look in a random direction during conversations — for the whole conversation. Stuff like this tends to happen so often, it seems impossible that BioWare’s QA didn’t come across it. Other moments when characters don’t appear in cutscenes or the camera cuts into blank walls and screens are even more annoying, and that’s to say nothing of character faces that sometimes look expressive and alive, and other times look like rubber stretched badly over a mannequin. There’s a good deal of choppiness and the game sometimes suffers from dropped frames, and shadows are so inky that at times the whole picture can be lost.
Still, despite many places where Mass Effect 3 falls a little short in its RPG systems and with the frustrating but ultimately tolerable troubles in an otherwise fun combat system, BioWare’s trilogy-ending title is incredibly impressive. The characters created here are just great, even if the writing fueling them is at times a little trite and dusty with cliche. And Mass Effect 3 packs what can only be described as an insane number of unforgettable moments, both tragic and heart-warming.
Having been immersed in the Mass Effect mythology for years now, I found the greatest portion of ME3 to be satisfying, and a few times, actually beautiful. Everything we’ve waited for is in this game, as well as some real tension in a war with real stakes. The issues of the game must be noted but they’re easily overlooked because Mass Effect 3 is so often packed with shining moments. There’s a reason so many of us have fallen in love with Mass Effect; the end to the trilogy reminds us of exactly what we love about the characters and the universe and mostly treats them with the perfect degrees of respect and intensity.
It was worth the wait, Mass Effect fans. As his or her story ends, Shepard will do you proud.
- Huge number of memorable, awesome gaming moments that gloss over shortcomings
- Great cast of characters
- Lots of weighty, tough decisions that matter
- Carryover decisions from earlier games are paid off extremely well
- Combat is often fun and tense, with lots of enemy variety
- RPG elements feel like a step up from Mass Effect 2
- Multiplayer is competent and fun if you’ve got friends
- (Mostly) very satisfying trilogy conclusion
- Scanning sucks a lot less
- Graphical bugs show the game could have used more polish
- Writing can be a bit iffy on occasion
- Combat can get frustrating because of the cover system
- RPG elements tend to feel like filler as time goes on
- Multiplayer is good, not great (but not necessary for story completion)
Final Score: 88/100
Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw