Shepard said it was going to happen and now it has. Mass Effect taught us about the Reapers, Mass Effect 2 saw us take the fight to them. Now, the war begins. The Reapers are here.
Mass Effect 3 is the final chapter of Shepard and the Normandy’s saga. It picks up with Shepard being incarcerated in Vancouver on Earth for their part in the events of Arrival (Mass Effect 2 DLC), or if unplayed, treason for working with Cerberus. Shepard is called up when reports of spaceships entering multiple mass relays across the galaxy are reported. Shepard begins to say it’s the Reapers (I bloody well told you so!), when the Reapers land in Vancouver. They start their attack, and the war is on in earnest.
From this point, Mass Effect 3 is very linear. The steps toward a third person shooter that were made with Mass Effect 2 have been completed, and there is almost no exploration elements left (except some minor planet scanning and wandering the Citadel). In some ways it makes sense, as this game has a greater sense of urgency about it, and it seems unlikely Shepard would bother with merc groups on isolated planets at this point, however it does mean that it has lost a bit of the uniqueness of the first game, and feels more like a mainstream space shooter.
All the standard classes (Soldier, Adept, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator and Vanguard) are still there, with some nifty new powers added. My biggest happy was realising that tech powers now cause explosions – Engineer is my new jam. Priming powers can also be detonated with any detonator power, not just tech or biotic – incinerate can be detonated with throw for instance. This allows for some great squad dynamics, and lets you mix and match as you wish, rather than being tied to a few dependent on the class you choose. Along with shorter cooldowns it makes for a much more flowing and natural feeling combat experience.
There are still quite a few familiar faces around, and it wouldn’t be a Mass Effect game without being able to bang your crew, though depending on how you went through the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2, your options may be limited. You can still talk to your crew, and some conversations can save their lives, however, overall this has been pared back. New conversations only trigger as you progress the story, even with your chosen love interest. It does take away from that real “Mass Effect” experience when you get recycled dialog repeatedly, and meant that I started not bothering to make the rounds as faithfully as I did in the first two games.
This is the crux of the issue with Mass Effect 3. There are some fantastic improvements – the combat is far better, the missions are fun, the music is amazing, and I was glad to see the back of the endless planet scanning nightmare. But the things that make Mass Effect what it is – finding codex entries, interesting NPC’s, romance and chatting with your crew, are all there but…..lacking. Even the morality meter seems arbitrary – just pick one and you will succeed, it really doesn’t matter which. This is where it falls down. Instead of focussing on the relationships Shepard has and the impacts that war can have on them, or the difficult decisions that need to be made and can turn battles, the effort was put into speeding up combat and improving animation.
Overall, Mass Effect 3 is a good bookend to the series. It’s fun to play and has some great moments throughout it. I enjoyed seeing Shepard’s story through to the end (that I didn’t mind), and getting to say goodbye to some favourites. There is just an undertone as you play that says, this is missing something, this could be better. Despite this as you work though there is a feeling of completeness and finality that is satisfying, and gets me buzzed for the future. Shepard out. Let’s go see Andromeda.