March 29, 2012
By J.D. Cook
I am a huge Mass Effect fan boy. I have been since I first played it in 2007 and recognized that it literally had all the elements of a story I was writing and expanded and blew away what I was then creating.
This is not a very common occurrence in modern story telling. I often come away from movies, books, and games saying; “I could have done that better.” But not with Mass Effect, so it was that I decided this was a franchise I could get behind and love (I have worn a Mass Effect bracelet on my wrist since I received it from my friend long ago) and why I was willing to do whatever I could to attain the Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition.
Now before I go further, I believe Mass Effect 1 is a modern classic of gaming and Mass Effect 2, while not as great as ME1 in terms of storytelling, was not as bad as I originally thought when I wrote this review in 2010. Looking back, I actually really like Mass Effect 2 but it took the inclusion of all the downloadable content to make me feel this way. This is a problem since a game should be complete from the get go and you should not have to add things onto it to make it truly perfect.DLC is created because it is pure profit for the developer, and while I totally understand the thinking if I have invested sixty dollars into a game already I shouldn’t have to spend X amount of extra dollars to get the full experience. That said, I did not mind the DLC Arrival having to be purchased since it was essentially a bridge between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.
Now onto Mass Effect 3. This game takes the best parts of Mass Effect 1 and 2 and combines them into a nearly perfect game. The tedious planet scanning has been refined into looking for war assets while trying to avoid Reapers which can catch you while you are scanning. This gives even the most mundane moments of the game like picking a destination a sense of franticness. For those of you who do not know the Mass Effect story, this game takes place during a galactic war with a sentient race of massive machines called Reapers. So the sense of franticness is perfect to imply the sense that you are at war. The combat is even better then it was in Mass Effect 2, and the settings are gorgeous throughout like they were in Mass Effect 1. The story is a bit more linear then the first two, but all the side stories that have been developed in the Mass Effect universe are wrapped up in some way. The Geth vs Quarian conflict is wrapped up. The Rouge A.I. from the Moon has a happy ending (you read that right and you will understand when you play). The Illusive Man is dealt with and multiple characters from the books make appearances if you’ve been following the Mass Effect story in other mediums. So what are the flaws with this game?
Well those of you who know anything about Mass Effect 3 know that there has been a huge reaction to the games ending. Before I dive into that I want to focus on my few flaws with the game. First, there is no vehicle play at all. When you are fighting things as big as Reapers you would expect to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and take one of them on. Now that is not a huge problem, but it’s one I have. I also have a problem with the limited response’s your character has in this game. In Mass Effect 1 and 2 you could literally control just about every response Shepherd (the main character of the game) made. In this one whole conversations are had with you making only one response or maybe none at all. Lastly, I romanced Ashley in Mass Effect 1 and stayed true to her (didn’t romance anyone in Mass Effect 2) and focused on talking to her in Mass Effect 3 but I did not get any pay off! I don’t get how the game didn’t know that I was aiming at being romantic with her! My only conclusion is that this is due to the fact that talking to squad mates has become more of a, click and here them talk kind of thing, over actually conversing with them.
Now onto the ending – yes it is flawed. Essentially you make a huge amount of choices in the Mass Effect series and fans expected those choices to play into the ending of the story. They did not because the ending is the same for everyone as long as you get there. I actually like the concept of the ending, but I agree it seems rushed and does not give enough back story on the Reapers themselves. That said, the artistic game series that is Mass Effect belongs squarely to Bioware and they can do as they wish with it. If they make a bad game or have a bad ending the chances are people will be less likely to buy their products in the future. That is how the free market works. It’s in their best interest as a company to please their fan base. With that in mind Bioware would be totally justified in not changing anything about the game. They chose the ending that they chose and consumers have no say over what the consumers produce.
Recently I met with Kevin Smith (read about that here) and he said something that stuck with me. Essentially he said that if you don’t like his work that’s cool, but he loves everything he’s ever done because he made it and he is attached to it all in some way. Mass Effect 3 is 99.9% fantastic and saying the game has disappointed you completely due only to the ending is childish. This is not to say fans aren’t entitled to their opinions – they are – but I just don’t see why all this madness has erupted over what is nearly a perfect game!