Mass Effect 3 Review: A Failing Farewell To The Honorable Savior

Commander Shepard slowly walks away from the spaceport window in glory, called to the battlefield once more to finally end the Reaper threat and take back earth. BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 seemingly is introduced as the finale and the grand exit of Commander Shepard in the planned and conclusive Mass Effect trilogy, but nothing is preventing this series from saga potential in the future. An entire new weapon arsenal, an innovative new inventory system, and not to mention deeper pre-save variables in the RPG action narrative and adaptation to play styles has made Mass Effect 3 a game that far exceeds the reach of previous title of the series in some ways. In other ways, however, Mass Effect 3 keeps to a formula which is too similar in terms of combat and the in-between of the game’s narrative which is lackluster. While multiplayer is lacking to respects of originality in cooperative mode rewards and transitory elements, Mass Effect 3 includes multiplayer for the first time which is more than welcome even if relatively mediocre. Mass Effect 3 has encapsulated somewhat of a vision that takes the core elements of the original Mass Effect and infuses it with newer graphics and improved gameplay for a relatively decent Mass Effect experience but certainly not the one most people have been looking to for heavy improvements for a final title let alone a dialogue journey.

Mass Effect 3 carries on after the assault of the Reaper base from Mass Effect 2, where Shepard’s last words were of a continued struggle which was undying and imminent in what the Illusive Man stated as a “time of war.” As for the storyline itself, playing over 8 hours of Mass Effect 3 makes one thing immediately clear: there is less of a Gears of War with dialogue options spin given here, and Mass Effect 3 really does feel more branched than any of its predecessors in terms of a converges reasonably than just predetermined endings regardless of specific choices. While there are clearly still limitations to telling a predominantly linear story, there is more decided personality to Shepard with less dialogue options to choose from, which is perhaps the most disappointing Mass Effect 3 element. In previous titles, Shepard was anyone we made him but still held some core beliefs, now he seems more like a predetermined robot with cinematics in storyline. Mass Effect 3’s storyline is more improved regardless, and the play style of narrative gameplay eases the difficulty of combat so certain story lovers can focus more on story and less on hard rail-shooting combat.

Combat itself in Mass Effect 3 has little changed in core mechanics in comparison to the change that Mass Effect 2 made to the original Mass Effect. Inventory has been integrated into the GUI more fluidly which is great rather than constant stat-checking items and armor. The battlefield mechanics are sadly still similar to Gears of War, which while not a big burden in Mass Effect 2, is definitely dated here and now. Regardless, there is a fluidity that the combat has in terms of increased enemy Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that is more improved from the past titles. Enemies are quicker to respond, and their coordination is faster. Weapons are largely improved with any class being able to yield any type of weapon with a moderate limit, and powers themselves are relatively the same but the skill tree is larger and more varied for Mass Effect 3 with more than Rank 4 powers in two variations of a specific skill. Nova, Lift, and Carnage are newer powers that have been added to mix up variety in the power skill tree.

Online aspects of Mass Effect 3 are the worst. Downloadable content (Day 1 DLC) is charged, which is rather disappointing despite Mass Effect 2’s initial DLC free models. EA’s Origin service for PC and Xbox 360 (reviewed on) is essentially stifling with bad lag and the whole Online Pass trend with consoles is something that seems like a market control to prevent people from playing a used game at its fullest. Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 leaves little to say about it. Online cooperative mode involves simplistic objectives and is rather linear for the same type of mission. Players create new characters and there are leveling trees for weapons and powers which is a confusing mix as it involves having a character for multiplayer separate from the singleplayer. While this seems like a feasible idea, the result is a largely confusing and haphazard mix of two individual characters that split the uniformity of multiplayer to be optional and almost completely useless. Optional is a good thing, but useless is another thing entirely.

Exploration within Mass Effect 3 involves traveling around the solar system to unite allies for Earth’s recovery and this itself is grand on its own with the narrative tale. Space combat exploration, however, is one aspect people have been asking for repeated change and one that has been noted as stale at best and sadly while BioWare changed this they failed to largely change enough of Mass Effect 3 to make this aspect seem plausible of a $60 purchase. Graciously, they did not include too much vast amount of ship exploration and this is a relief but for a game in its third iteration, players are looking for a change that is realized and there does not seem to be a lot of it going on in terms of exploration.

Mass Effect 3 has done several things right in way of improving a formula that made the franchise so successful by adding more variables for a dynamic non-linear storyline, and better balancing out the elements of pacing in terms of storyline to combat and back. Sadly, there are just too many familiar elements after a long wait and they remain rather unoriginal from combat to a tack-on multiplayer cooperative element. What is worse is this: the dialogue is virtually nonexistent now. There are far too many few choices, and this seems like a Dragon Age 2 mediocrity all over. While this formula for the time had its pros and cons, it was exciting and fresh in Mass Effect 2 for a step up and beyond in terms of action. Mass Effect 3 tends to strictly adhere to elements of its past structure and also detract from what made them work, which essentially weaken it as a whole in terms of something newer or even similar. This does not even seem like Mass Effect. While the gameplay storyline elements are the only real aspects which have been improved in fluidity in terms of deliberate cutscenes and Shepard personality, the rest seems dwindled down and there needs to be more than slight tweaks to keep a title in the AAA category not to mention lesser dialogue options. While Mass Effect 3 is a runic title in some regards, it falters in other places that could have been much more. Commander Shepard departs from the windows of his spaceport valiantly in pursuit of regaining Earth and saving humanity once again in the universe of Mass Effect 3 which presents a world half-lit and half-dark.

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