Mass Effect 3 - Review - May 26th 2012

It's funny how things can change in the space of a week. In the days leading up to the release of the final part in Bioware's space opera, Mass Effect 3, fans were buzzing about playing the last game and seeing how things ended for their particular version of Commander Shepard. As the days after release trickled on though, there were more and more voices speaking out against the game, something I'm sure you're all too aware of by this point. But, at that part between the pre-excitement and the rage over the ending, there was a game in there somewhere, and that is the part we're interested in right now.

Mass Effect 3 kicks off, as we all expected, with the eventual arrival and attack of the reapers that Shepard has been telling the entire galaxy about. Despite repeated warnings and endless proof, the known galaxy gets caught with its pants down as Earth is attacked right in the middle of Shepard's court marshal. Unable to fight the vast size and numbers of the Reapers, Shepard reluctantly flees earth in an attempt to unite the races of the galaxy and find some way to defeat the reapers before it's too late. The game's story is the most linear to date. Each major piece of story progression appears one after the other, and while this doesn't take away from the overall quality of the narrative, it gives a sense that there's less freedom in the galaxy when compared to the previous games. There are side quests to be done, but many of these simply boil down to going to a certain star system and scanning a planet.

The story is linear but gripping.

Mass Effect 3 also feels much more restrictive in its exploration than either of the previous two games. While Mass Effect 2 did away with the Mako sections and replaced them with the scanning and probing functions, you could still land on some of the planets if you found something interesting. In the third game, the only missions available are the main plot missions and some 'N7' missions that are merely given to you by a member of your crew when you approach the galaxy map. All of what you do actually do is in aid of your 'galactic readiness' to proceed with the final assault on earth. There are two major factors that affect this final number. One is rounded from all the support you have gained throughout the single player campaign, and the other, and more important number, is the readiness.

This is another area of the game where people started to get upset, as this number is affected by playing the multiplayer. Introducing a new multiplayer mode in a game that never previously had one is one thing, but forcing players to play what has been, up until this point, a strictly single player experience to play multiplayer in order to feel like the game is complete... it seems like such a bizarre decision. I'm not going to discuss the story itself in any depth, but despite the moaning I've done up until this point, the smaller story arcs within the game are quite interesting. On top of this, the game takes nearly every decision you made from the previous game and changes some variable within this game to some extent. While most of these do only amount to a visual change or different character fulfilling the same role, it is good to see that each person can have a rather unique experience.

Combat has been improved.

These kind of things are the reasons people kept coming back to the Mass Effect series, a series where story and characters come first. However, this isn't a movie and therefore when players aren't trying to crawl into an alien's bed or put an end to a generations old conflict just for laughs, there are the combat sections. The game's combat is mainly unchanged from the cover based shooting seen in Mass Effect 2. Players have access to a number of weapons and abilities depending on their class and combat revolves primarily around the player's ability to use their powers and weapons appropriately depending on the types of defences their opponent has.

There are some changes though, most of which are welcome. While players were restricted to certain weapon types depending on what class they were in previous games, now all players can use any weapon. Each gun has individual stats though, including a weight that adds to your overall capacity. The capacity bar is shown to the player on their weapon menu. The lighter their total load out is, the bigger bonus they get to their power recharge.

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