All Good Things Come in Threes

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English: Mass Effect logo, cropped in Photoshop.

English: Mass Effect logo, cropped in Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is going to be my review on Mass Effect 3 ([amazon_link id=”B004FPYHBE” target=”_blank” ]buy on[/amazon_link]), last part of the role-playing saga created by Bioware. It’s going to contain spoilers because the story is what made all the prior Mass Effects worth while and the last part is no different.

I’m writing this after approx. 20 hours of playing, having made it through the entire game (and one DLC) up to the final mission on earth where I’ve spent about 90 minutes fighting with no end in sight. So I haven’t finished yet but I guess (as with most story-based games) that I’ve seen the best. Everything else would be a pleasent surprise but also probably wouldn’t change my opinion very much. But first things first.

Changed or not changed?

If you’ve played the predecessor you will feel right at home when it comes to controls and interface, they’re very much the same with only minor differences. I don’t think graphics have improved compared to Mass Effect 2, at least I did not notice it. Imho this speaks for the game because if you discuss graphics the rest seems to be boring. While there have been many changes and tweaks with the overall gameplay after the first Mass Effect I guess they pretty much nailed it with the second and thus there was no need to to fiddle with it.

What matters

The story continues quite shortly after the events of the second game. Again you can import your character from the previous parts and keep playing based on all the specific choices and events you experienced and – probably even more than the predecessors – ME:3 goes to great length to reference those during the game. The main story starts on Earth where Sheppard has been kept in prison and is only freed when reapers attack the planet. You can barely escape and it’s your responsibility to unite all the different races in the known universe in battle against the reapers. They start to pop up everywhere in the galaxy and destroy everything pretty much without real resistence. Conventional fighting would be useless so the only hope to actually stand a chance is to build an ancient weapon of which plans have been created by the Proteans. Because Asari, Turians, Quarians and the others nations are pretty busy with defending their home worlds they are not really in the mood to help you build this weapon and free the Earth. So one by one you need to help them with their issues in exchange for gaining resources for the final battle. 

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All this you do onboard the Normandy SR-2, the ship you steered all through Mass Effect 2. It has been refurbished by the Earth Alliance during which some of the interior was changed. It now has a big war room where you can see at all times how much helping hands (or rather guns) you have collected for the final battle. A slightly smaller room for communication lies in the back. Some areas do look like they couldn’t be finished in time which is probably on purpose. You can also hunt for resources like in ME:2 but it has been simplified with less of the tedious scanning and probing on planets. Bioware has made a good move, as the whole hunt for minerals and metals would have seemed a bit pointless under the constant pressure of the galaxy being destroyed.

The fighting (of which there is plenty) is very satisfactory. As I said the mechanics haven’t been really touched and fights remain quite accessible from the get go. Still, with the simple ways to level up your team members and the option to simply buy or find better gear (weapons and stuff) there are several ways to tweak your chances in combat. And so even if fighting can become repetitive I don’t think it ever gets too easy to be satisfactory nor too hard so it becomes frustrating. And the fighting is indeed part of the narrative, as it gives you a feeling of how you develop and get bigger tasks to solve.

There are many places you can go, some are familiar from the two other games or rather generic but others are unique to ME:3 and really do look different. And you get to meet almost anybody from the previous games so you’re able to realise how your decisions played out and oftentimes you are able to bring the circle to a close. Which is an important thing to recognize given the big discussion about the ENDING. Which I will come to in a minute.

You see, I started writing this before I finished the whole game, so everything up to know is basically what I thought of the game prior to finishing it and then waited until I finally got through to also finish the review. But I realized my opinion not really changed much and here is why.

Many fans have said that they were disappointed by the actual ending of ME:3 because there were questions left open and Bioware did not make a great job giving them what they expected from the last game of the series. In the very end, when Shepard (he or she) is quite close to death and everybody else around you seemed to have died as well, you’re left with a final decision between saving the world and destroying it but it seems to be completely disconnected to all the moral choices and actions you formed your character with. That also seems to have caused great irritation amongst fans.

Everything that has a beginning has an end

Garrus, left; Commander Shepard, center

Garrus, left; Commander Shepard, center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think the ending is quite extraordinary because it is kind of unexpected and also it’s unspecific in a Matrix Revolutions kind of way (which btw. also many people didn’t like). However, it is only the ending to a game full of endings. As I said before, you meet all kinds of characters from the prior games or you get messages which tell you what happened to them which I found a great treat and very rewarding because it’s all over the game. Still the whole story points toward an inevitable end in a very definitive way. Before you go into final battle (which I thought was really really hard btw.) you meet each and everyone of your crew during what I would call a “Good Bye – Walk”. You can talk to everybody and this is presented really nicely while you line them up for the last fight. Afterwards – you barely made it through alive – you are on your own, walking towards certain death heavily wounded and it’s a very powerful decision to end the story like this. It’s no hollywood ending where everything is resolved with no main personel harmed and everybody smiles a the end. It’s truly bringing everything to a full stop with no intention to have it go on. Or so it seems. But then there are certain images that mess it up. Like the Normandy going down on a strange green planet and some of your crew (those you picked on the last assignment actually, made no sense to me) getting out. Or the whole galaxy being transformed by the beam you send from the Citadel with no hint whether the war actually ends so you at least reached your goal through death. And a final scene hinting to other stories about Shepard after the credits that I also didn’t really get. Other than those parts that don’t really fit I guess people overlooked that the whole game actually was about connecting the dots so that the actual ending really could only be about Shepard alone. Granted it’s not a great way to incorporate all the things you have done during the three games. But then again that’s probably how actual death might make you feel when you think of all the things you achieved in life. You might regret some decisions but you can also look back at a hell of a ride. And that’s what Mass Effect was to me.

However, Bioware seems to have heard the fans and they have announced that they will  release a “Extended Cut” – DLC. To me that sounds like they actually aren’t satisfied with the ending they presented, because just why would you give in to anybody if you actually had thought about it and had good reason for doing what you did? That puzzles me to a degree, if the ending is how they wanted it then they should leave it at that. Otherwise of course they would have done a bad job in the first place. So I guess we’ll see.

I close with a video of another opinion on the ME:3 ending and you will be able to find even more across YouTube to agree or disagree with. Which by the way you can also do in comments below.

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