Mass Effect 3 – Our Thoughts

Mass Effect 3 – Our Thoughts

Even though planning your latest IP as a trilogy has been a fashionable thing to do during this console generation, Mass Effect 3 is a game that has truly been anticipated by some for the best part of half a decade. Despite of the needlessly late release of Mass Effect 3, many of the team have spent this weekend picking up where they left off, with the characters and choices they’ve carried forward from the two preceding games. Here are their thoughts and first impressions:

Kevin's Default Mass Effect 3 Shepard
Kevin opted for the default look for his Shepard, which at least makes it easy to track down screenshots.

Kevin McLennan

The culmination of four years of gameplay, countless decisions with over 1,000 variables, battles fought and characters relationships have been brought to conclusion in this epic of a game. Not since the Metal Gear Solid series have I been so excited to play a game and so wrapped up emotionally in the characters and storyline. I’m happy to say that Mass Effect 3, at least initially, has not failed to deliver everything that I wanted.

The graphics and sound have been given a nice improvement making cut scenes a lot more enjoyable. The AI is smarter and a lot harder to fight (mostly because of those nasty turrets and smoke grenades) and the build up to galactic war has finally exploded into intense, fast paced  and very enjoyable combat. Characters old and new return and all the decisions and mistakes you have made over the past two games worth of playing are finally brought to conclusion in many different ways along with a whole new set of life and death moments.

The voice acting and scriptwriting is excellent, keeping me hooked through every piece of dialogue and every scrap of information I can find. Added depth in customisation, modification and the inclusion of multiplayer gameplay are great to see and stand this release out as the best of the series for me.

Mass Effect 3 is a brilliant RPG with plenty of action, intense storyline, memorable and powerful characters and replay value like no other game I own. If you have somehow been hiding in a hole for the past four years then I can’t recommend this game enough, but if you want the full experience and have the patience you should definitely get a hold of the whole series.

Shepard and Teammates in Mass Effect 3
Edcrab's Adrian Shepard apparently got his moniker because he's a distant relative of the similarly-named protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force. ("And I wasn't the only person to do this. Represent!")

Edcrab

Mass Effect 3! After finally procuring it I have returned to active duty. Despite trying to prep myself by revisiting ME2 in the last month it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things; it’s a little jarring to have to contend with context-sensitive controls when I’ve got an entire keyboard ready and willing to be remapped. At present the game doesn’t even support Xbox controllers on PC, so I’m not even sure why this is the case. But after accidentally using a few control panels when I wanted to enter cover, I’m getting the hang of it.

I think. Maybe I’m continuing to be awful at the “action” part of this action RPG, but then I’m failing to notice because I’m enjoying the “RPG” portion so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the gunplay. Also the multiplayer, a sort of wave-based cooperative comp stomp where you mow down AI baddies with the odd special objective thrown in. But this is the culmination of a trilogy set in a science-fiction universe that, despite initial resistance, I’ve found myself really invested in. I desperately wanted to see the impact of Adrian Shepard’s earlier decisions, enjoying the rare foray into continuity.

And soon into the story missions I was blown away by the events on the planet Tuchanka. Damn. …I suppose if I say anything else I’ll be quite righteously gunned down for circulating spoilers, but damn.

Anyway! I haven’t actually finished the game at this juncture. Still juggling my war assets. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a galaxy to save. Repeatedly. And then after I die I’ll have a galaxy to reload.

Michael's Custom Shepard in Mass Effect 3
Striking out from the default look, Michael provided this shot of Jeremy Shepard. I'd call him "Jez", but he may or may not allow the use of nicknames on his ship.

Michael Johnson

Mass Effect 3 is quite possibly Bioware’s crowing achievement to date. Over the course of three games they’ve refined the fabled ‘Bioware formula’ into a unique blend of action and story allowing players to actively express themselves through their conversation system. Here, we get to see the effects of our decision making throughout the whole trilogy, with all our remaining friends, alliances and enemies neatly woven into an epic story-line, that is significantly darker than what came before.

There’s nothing like the impending destruction of humanity to get the emotions running high and this really allows Bioware to play to their strengths – the character interaction here in particular is stellar. Conversations with old friends and foes alike are deeply referential to Commander (Jeremy) Shepard’s previous adventures and every relationship has its payoff.

The conclusion of the trilogy really highlights Bioware’s foresight – this doesn’t just feel like a blockbuster sci-fi epic par excellence, it feels like a deeply personal one, where our decisions have shaped the fate of the galaxy, I’m not sure what more you could ask for from a game. The game isn’t perfect – combat can feel repetitive, running around the citadel performing fetch-quests at this stage in the story seems completely ludicrous and some characters are less rounded and interesting than others – but taken as a whole, Mass Effect 3 is an intense and emotional climax to one of the greatest pieces of interactive story-telling we’ve seen in gaming.

Steph's custom Shepard, Alexandra
Nope, this isn't a librarian or your old ballet teacher, this is Alexandra Shepard. She loves all the species of the galaxy. Except the Rachni, for some reason.

Steph Woor

So we’ve come a long way. Sure, we’ve gone from pottering around the galaxy, to forming the dirty dozen, to fending off the dark robotic hordes of a galactic apocalypse… but going from those awkward first steps of glaringly flawed design in Mass Effect 1 through to the refined product we’re playing today feels like the greater achievement. Correcting Mass Effect 2‘s panicked, near-wholesale withdrawl from RPG systems, Mass Effect 3 also ‘just happens’ to be a superlative cover-based shooter. Which is how it should have been all along, really.

Though systems and intelligent design are the greater achievement, it’s the narrative and the universe I’ve been here for all along. Early in the game I was all geared up to start complaining about Mass Effect 3‘s approach to characters, new and old: your squad has been halved, and all those far more fascinating types you’ve picked up over the years pop up only for the odd mission and then get filed away into your ‘galactic asset’ roladex.

But as the story continues, I’m seeing it in a different light. Whereas Mass Effect 2 was about playing Jim’ll Fix It with a bunch of self-entitled all-sorts on your ship to earn their loyalty, earning the respect of entire races feels a lot more rewarding. At the same time, Bioware have found time for smaller, more subtle touches. One moment in particular is stuck in my mind – a scene in which they manage to take a classic comedic moment from the second game and use it for the opposite effect. From that moment on, I’ve been torn between wanting to see every last one of my digital friends survive this war intact and seeing what other emotional responses the game can manage to extract from my usually apathetic mind. Because either way, we all win.

Kevin will post a full review of Mass Effect 3 later in the week. The game is out now on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

3 thoughts on “Mass Effect 3 – Our Thoughts

  1. With the endings being so controversial (i particularly very dissapointed for several reasons) it would be nice if you could make another article like this one after they complete the game, see what their thoughts are about the complete game.

    For me personally, everything except the last 5-10min of the game was amazing

    1. Kev will be writing a full review having finished the game. As for my opinion, I’m only as far as the middle of the Quarian / Geth missions and utterly perplexed by all these reports of the terrible ending. I’m still looking forward to finding out what is so bad about it, but it does raise the question: would I mark a game down significantly for its ending, especially a game I’ve enjoyed so thoroughly up to that point? I don’t think I would, but I’d probably have a good grumble about it!

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