Mass Effect 3

If I was going to be a terrible c**t about it I’d say that Mass Effect 3 is about sentience, in the same way that Fallout 3 is about emancipation and Portal 2 is a treatise on Schrodinger’s Cat. Any game of import has an overarching theme, a philosophical point worthy of exploration and this game, being the closing chapter on a truly massive franchise, earns the right to be a bit pretentious and for me to talk about it in a pretentious way. It’s a story about what binds all sentient life together and how little separates one form from another and a majestic tale it is.

Your character, Shepard, the hero of the galaxy, must bring together not just individuals as in the previous games in the trilogy, but whole races. The various missions you undertake are complex, varied and many. They span the biggest most death-defying encounters and confrontations and the smallest of mini games but each will contribute to the final showdown. This complexity is presented in the easily recognisable format of a strategy game, where you build resources in a variety of categories which are  then expressed as numbers and percentages. There’s even a bar that fills up. Once it’s full it’s time to kill the boss, right? Like everything in the Mass Effect series this perfect storm of complexity and simplicity makes the game appealing to almost everyone who can hold a controller.

Combat has never been Mass Effect’s big draw but it has come on in leaps and bounds since the original game and is now a truly engaging experience. There are so many ways to play, so many possible powers to unlock and wield. You’re given access to a wide variety here, no matter what class you choose to play as. You can dip in to the best abilities of other disciplines normally closed off to you. Weapons are customisable and armour varied. The enemies are smart and use distinct tactics. Shepard, too, is more mobile, able to traverse vertical environments. Like many of the new game elements it’s a small change and you’ll quickly forget it being any other way. Like a tap dancer, developers Bioware have pulled of that most underrated of achievements, making something really hard look really easy. If done right no one pays attention to it, or appreciates it.

The story of Mass Effect, Shepard and the companions and colleagues you’ve made along the way are the heart and soul of this franchise. You can, and should, carry over your save data from previous games if you have it to give you one epic and immersive experience, where Shepard can embody your own sense of morality and the endless permutations of choice available to you. The conclusion of individual threads of plots for the friendships you’ve made along the way are very moving, more so that you could reasonably expect from such a populist, everyman game. These people matter to you. Just as you have had to make important choices throughout the trilogy, so they too now have to do the right thing, with all the sacrifices and rewards that brings.

Mass Effect 3 is not perfect, but there are few blots on the galactic landscape. The framerate is a bit iffy in busy battles, and there are a few combat situations towards the end of the game that are wildly mismatched to the rest of the gameplay and serve to bring the otherwise seamless experience to a shuddering halt. Otherwise, though, the game looks and plays brilliantly and is very much the pinnacle of modern gaming that fans expect by this point. There has been some backlash about the game’s endings as well as some concerns about the day one DLC. I don’t believe that it’s warranted in this case, however gamers are quite right to question how game content is priced and delivered. We are the true keepers of the industry and gaming’s future is in our hands just as the galaxy is in Shepard’s hands. The endings may not offer the crystal clear clarity some would like, but they don’t lack weight.

To believe this is truly the end of the franchise would be naive and foolish. If EA don’t continue to milk this cash cow I will eat my N7 helmet but the trilogy, and this story arc is most definitely complete. For this sentient being it has been an honour.







One response to “Mass Effect 3”

  1. Ben avatar

    Looking forward to getting to it! 🙂 It’s sat on my shelf, taunting me…

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