As far as trilogies born in the seventh console generation are concerned, the Mass Effect trilogy stands on the podium along side the likes of the Uncharted and Gears of War franchises. It does, however, transcend this console generation by being my favorite science fiction franchise in all of gaming. And all of this praise takes into consideration the entirety of Mass Effect 3 — including its controversial ending — for I am not going to let a handful of minutes ruin three games’ worth of engrossing characters and side stories.
Mass Effect: Revelations wouldn’t be an inaccurate subtitle for this game. It may be an incredibly cliche title, but it describes exactly what the third game delivers. Seeing the Earth burn by giant mechanical claw shaped ships is only the tip of the iceberg. Mass Effect 3 also featured the homeworlds of many of the major races involved in this galaxy-wide conflict. It also revealed what happened to every one of the surviving crew members from both games. That’s incredibly mind blowing to me.
What happens if no one survived the final mission in Mass Effect 2? Who leads the band of Biotics that I met in this game into battle? Do I even meet them in the first place? And who is there to help my Shepard with the — often talked about but never seen — female Krogan? They’ve tied in so many story threads that were spun in the first two games, it’s difficult to imagine how this game stands up without those personalized details.
I haven’t put much weight into the the overarching narrative since the introduction of the Collectors in Mass Effect 2. BioWare postponed the Reaper invasion in the second game and by doing so, they deemphasized it for me. By the end of the second game, I was more invested in the Mordin, the Quarians, the Geth and Krogan people — I was invested in the universe because I spent so much time learning about it.
By the time the third game came about, I didn’t care about the Reapers. I didn’t care about Earth’s demise. The whole marketing push to “Save Earth and Stop The Reapers” fell on deaf ears here. To me, it was the necessary noise I had to listen to in order to find out what happened to my crew mates. I wasn’t able to recruit a Salarian or a Krogan this time around; I only got to check in on them and converse with them like guests. Many of the alien species weren’t as intricately involved with Shepard’s mission as they were in games’ past which was my biggest disappointment. They may have had their own reasons or other commitments to take care of, but I selfishly needed their help and entertainment on the Normandy.
A new War Room in the Normandy allowed me to check up on the current efforts happening around the galaxy and on the front lines of the war effort against the Reapers. It was mostly text accompanied by a little photo of the “war asset” that I recovered or recruited. The idea behind it was sound, but I didn’t notice the benefit of acquiring such assets like I did for the Normandy upgrades in Mass Effect 2. The amount of war assets was supposed to affect the outcome of the final battle in some shape or form, but it wasn’t apparent to me.
The immediacy of upgrading was found elsewhere — specifically in the weapon upgrades. Mass Effect 2 swung the pendulum too far into the “streamlined” space resulting in an almost non-existent upgrade system. The final game of the trilogy sees a blend of the past two games; it was reminiscent of the Modern Warfare games and its weapon mods. I appreciated this direction for customization and loved the fact that I could wield any weapon of my choosing.
My Shepard was an Infilitrator which meant I was given damage bonuses for shooting whilst cloaked. But it was up to me how often I could use my powers. If I wanted to pop in and out of stealth more frequently, I had to reduce the amount of weight I was carrying which meant I had to carry fewer weapons. This kind of flexibility allowed me to play the way I wanted when I wanted. If I knew an upcoming mission needed more armor melting power, I should take advantage of the power cooldown bonus afforded by carrying a less powerful weapon or fewer weapons.
BioWare had to step up their third person shooter game if they were going to pull off this multiplayer component and justify their online pass. Mass Effect 2 was an improvement over the first game, but it was an improvement from barely admissible as a shooter to a playable shooter with a few kinks. Mass Effect 3 was another giant leap forward into the third person shooter game.
Aside from the awkward looking run, I found it was a satisfying experience. Tech powers propelled their way towards enemies at a snappier rate. Grenades made a return and were no longer the awkward flying discs that were triggered by the “Back” button. And it wasn’t all combat oriented changes either. They added a number of subtle changes to how Shepard navigated cover and other obstacles as well. It was a substantial improvement indeed.
The conversations and their portrayals in the Mass Effect games continued to evolve with each and every game. Most characters from Mass Effect 2 remained unchanged but Ashley was literally given a massive facelift. In fact, I found her facelift makes her stand out far too much. My female Shepard was given a visual boost as well and thanks to the improvements in hair technology, I was finally happy with her appearance. It only took three tries.
However, the third game’s most significant accomplishment was with the character’s eyes. I said it before, but I cannot stress enough how convincing characters are with well realized eyeballs. The glisten of life was evident and so were the range of emotions that accompanied it. BioWare didn’t have to rely solely on the talent of the voice actors anymore.
Mass Effect 3 wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but it wasn’t the offensive abomination that it was made out to be either. Like I said, I didn’t give a damn about the main story thread. What I cared about were the encounters with fellow crew mates and the battles with foes — and Mass Effect 3 covered these two key areas pretty well. It may not have been the drastic departure witnessed in Mass Effect 2, but as a fan of this franchise I was still able to sink 30+ hours into this third game with no problem. I just love this franchise. It’s the end of trilogy, but I would be shocked (and sad) not to see it return in the next generation.
For Fans Only
For more information on Mass Effect 3, visit the official website.