Mass Effect 3 Review Week: Tash’s Review
Mass Effect 3 is a masterpiece. It’s not a perfect masterpiece, and the game does have its issues. But on the whole, the finale in the trilogy is a magical example of how to do a game right. So very, very right.
It’s hard for me to discuss the game without sounding like a complete fangirl, but Bioware delivers on all fronts. The choices you make throughout each of the games are reflected in events in the third game – characters you’ve met, lives you’ve changed, side quests you thought were only small distractions – they each come to the fore in the final game, woven into the wider plotline in a way that just works. Everything feels right – starting up a game of Mass Effect 3 with a Shepard who’s been through games 1 and 2 feels like stepping into that pair of shoes you have that you’ve perfectly worn in – it’s that feeling of complete contentment where things simply ‘fit’.
The writing is amazing – from nuanced dialogue spoken by random NPC’s on the hub worlds affected by the events occuring in the galaxy (my favourite are the two Asari’s talking in Huerta Memorial Hospital on the Citadel) to in-depth conversations you have with current and prior squadmates – the characters are the stars of the storyline, and everything you loved about your favourite shines through in the finale. Where Mass Effect 2 in parts sometimes felt like an awkward meeting between acquaintances, Mass Effect 3 is the coming together of friends who’ve known one another their whole lives. It’s a synergy of vibrant, unique concepts that are brilliant on their own, but when combined form an experience so incredibly magical that you’re aware how special it is when you’re playing.
Being a long time fan of the eseries, and having a Shepard who defeated Saren in Mass Effect 1 and destroyed the Collector Base and gave the Illusive Man the heave ho in Mass Effect 2, my experience in Mass Effect 3 will go down as the most emotionally involved and intense experience I have ever had playing a video game. Mass Effect 3 is Bioware’s labour of love – and you can tell just how much it means to those involved by the attention to detail and focus on character and storyline progress. This is the end of the trilogy. The final hurrah – and boy do you know this as you play.
The music is sublime. The haunting delicateness of the piano notes coupled with the blaring cacophy of the Reapers featured in the leaving earth score (featured below) not only represents the balance of themes within the game, but also stays with you long after you’ve heard it. The soundtrack does everything it should – perfectly combining with the action on screen to focus attention to, or subtlety compliment moments in game. I have never, in all the games I’ve ever played, felt such raw emotion as I did whilst experiencing Mass Effect 3 – and this was definitely enhanced by the soundtrack.
The gameplay is superb. Never do you feel as though you are being herded into a room to face waves and waves of enemies only to move on to the next area and do it again (I’m looking at you Mass Effect 2, with your pop-up cover). The number of unique enemies you face in Mass Effect 3 is far greater than those seen in previous games. Tactics now have a much more important role than they ever have before, and surviving skirmishes is more than just finding cover and shooting without thought until everyone is dead.
But the star of Mass Effect 3 for me – the element that shines above all else – is the character and story development. Players have invested so much into this universe, and into the characters who inhabit it. As a player, I want to see what’s happened to everyone my Shepard has met along the way. I want to know what effect my choices have had, not just on the universe, but on the people around me, and most importantly on MY Shepard. As Shepard, I often felt others took centrestage in previous games whilst Shepard’s own troubles and issues were barely focused on. But in Mass Effect 3, Shepard finally gets his or her time in the spotlight. Shepard becomes a character in their own right, and you as the player finally get to peek behind their tough exterior to the person below – seeing their fears and their trepidations. Mass Effect 3 finally provides the opportunity to see Shepard’s vulnerability – and the way in which this is explored is perhaps one of my favourite parts of the game.
The game is not without its flaws – the journal which lists your active quests and quest objectives is terrible and is a step back for the series. Objectives are badly defined and only discussed in the barest of detail, leaving you to guess where you need to go, and what is expected of you. I bought the guide to accompany the game and found myself using it a lot in order to discover which planet in which system I needed to visit to complete a quest. The cover system is fiddly and takes a while to become used to – expect to do a lot of rolling around before you discover your “groove”. Some characters I was looking forward to seeing again even if only briefly were never mentioned (I wanted to see Gianna again, dammit!) Other important NPC’s were simply herded into ‘war assets’ and I also found that disappointing.
Despite these issues, Mass Effect 3 is an absolute joy of a game experience. The moments that I, as Shepard, shared with my squad, my team, my peers, my friends and my lover will remain with me as the most magically realised moments of any game I have played before, or likely will play in the future. Playing through Mass Effect 3 is an experience like none other. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Realise that something so sublime only comes around perhaps once in a gaming generation. Forget about the controversies surrounding the endings and experience the game for yourself. Immerse yourself in it. The dialogue. The music. The gameplay. The characters and the world. This is gaming at its purest, most raw, most emotionally engaging. This is an experience that afffects you on a visceral level.
And this is the game of a lifetime.