This has been a particularly difficult game to review. For anyone that hasn’t tried it, bashing out a review of a triple-A title while you’re standing up is pretty tricky work. Why am I standing? Because I’m applauding. It’s not often a game comes along promising the world and, lo and behold, actually makes good on its promises when released to an eagerly awaiting public.
As the conclusion to a five year trilogy, Mass Effect 3 has, by all accounts, set a new standard for RPG games that will be very difficult to equal. Every inch of this technical masterpiece oozes a finesse and refinement that would put many Hollywood movies to shame.
A few years ago if you’d asked a seasoned gamer to name the top three RPG games of all time and they would have replied with titles like Knights of the Old Republic, Oblivion and perhaps anything that starts with the two words ‘Final Fantasy’. Now there can be no doubt that Bioware has elevated the Mass Effect series to the pinnacle of the RPG mountain.
Following hard on the heels of Mass Effect 2, Shepard’s last outing has you facing no less a task than saving the world, humanity and the galaxy. In a climax to one of gaming’s most popular franchises, Mass Effect 3 pits Shepard against the most menacing threat the galaxy has ever known: The Reapers. These are huge sentient machines that are, arguably, tougher than Borg’s armed with flick knives. Yes, the Reapers are back – just as Shepard warned in the last game – and they are dead set on wiping out every sign of organic life in the galaxy. It’s up to you to travel from planet to planet reconciling warring species, settling old scores and uniting battle ravaged worlds into one last offensive against the Reaper threat.
As always you can customise your character to your heart’s content. In fact, not only can you play as a female Shepard, but you could even create a gay Shepard who has a homosexual relationship with one of the NPC’s. Surely a first for any RPG game.
Bioware has paid heed to the time-worn adage, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ and left much of the mechanics behind the game relatively untouched. As always you are accompanied on your mission by two team mates that you will choose according to their particular areas of expertise and fighting prowess. However, what you will notice though is that the graphics have been polished up to a degree that most gamers will find mesmerising. Almost every screen has been created with the intention of staggering players with its sheer scale and detail. Epic Games did it with Gears of War 2 and Bioware have probably topped that achievement. Yes, most of the war-ravaged worlds that you visit only give you a visual backdrop to the war and the player is fairly restricted on where he or she can go, but the overall impression of being a small part in a huge, chaotic, beautiful and brutal universe is unforgettable.
Shepherd’s movements are slicker and the character is far more responsive during the many, many battle scenes that you will find yourself thrown into. Oh yes, there’s a lot of shooting going on here. So much so, that you will often see the occasional nod to Gears of War with the familiar shoot and cover mechanics that have defined Epic’s runaway blockbuster. The use of grenades makes a welcome comeback from the first Mass Effect. But this time throwing them is much easier than the decidedly tortuous process of the earlier game. Shepard also has a new melee attack which is particularly useful for those awkward moments when you’ve run out of bullets and you simply have to get close and personal with the enemy.
As always, decision making is at the heart of Mass Effect 3’s gameplay. The direction you take in the game really seems to affect the world around you and your choice of dialogue impacts on how NPC characters relate to you. Familiar characters such as Tali and Garrus also make an appearance. For players that have invested a lot of time and emotions into the Mass Effect franchise over the years, playing with familiar faces is incredibly satisfying and is further testament to what is essentially master storytelling.
As a side note, for anyone who hasn’t played the previous games, Mass Effect 3 can be at first be a little overwhelming. Not much time is spent explaining who or what the Reapers are, as the back story has been told in the games’ previous incarnations. But, even for first timers, Mass Effect 3 is an experience that should not be missed.
Bioware has also offered a few innovations in Shepherd’s latest outing. The most notable of which has to be the inclusion of a multiplayer option. In this mode, you can now play certain levels with real people as your team mates. Your objectives are randomly assigned by the computer but there is something rewarding in achieving them using teamwork with real people. It’s a simple pleasure and, admittedly, one that won’t be giving Modern Warfare fans sleepless nights, but it is a welcome addition none the less.
My only niggle with the game was the omission of the puzzle mini-games found in Mass Effect 2. These were often used to open locked doors and access sealed areas. Perhaps not an essential part of the game, but one that served as a good mind exercise in the middle of so much running and gunning.
Overall, Mass Effect 3 is a worthy addition to a superb franchise. Bioware has done itself proud and delivered a game that will strike a responsive chord with die-hard fans and newcomers alike. And for that, we applaud them. Oh, and as for the ending? Well, let’s just say it isn’t what you were expecting.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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