Mar 23, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Thoughts

Wow. What a stellar ending. I know that BioWare is getting a lot of flack for the final moments of the culmination of the story that has been forming since 2008, but I for one enjoyed it. Minor spoilers below.

The gameplay follows the established formula from ME2, but with some improvements inspired by the original Mass Effect, without the cumbersome inventory system that plagued the freshmen effort. Each weapon is now ranked from I to X, but unlike ME1 you don't have to juggle adding upgrades and managing your inventory. Going from a II ranked weapon to a III ranked weapon simply upgrades your existing weapon. Also making a return from Mass Effect 1 is the weapon add-on systems, allowing everything form expanding your clip size to adding a scope to most weapons.

The import from ME1 to ME2 and finally into ME3 is such an awesome feature that I would love to see other games incorporate, although with the uncertainty of the gaming marketplace I understand this is a huge risk (I am looking at you Too Human). Having a consistent and constantly influenced story base on decisions I made years ago was like seeing a magic trick pulled off with all the whimsy of fascination to not even dare to ask the magician to reveal his secret, which all magicians know is a big no no anyway. This truly exemplifies the paramount of modern story telling and I hope people continue to view it as such.

The characters are the strong selling point, and this game doesn't disappoint, even though there are hardly any new faces for the final game. And that is okay because most players will have spent time cultivating relationships with these characters, so why would they want them to be tossed aside for a shiny new model? I am eager to play the game yet again with one of my other save files just to see how everything can change based on the decisions I laid the ground work for all those years ago. The paragon and renegade system is the same, although I noticed far less interrupts compared to Mass Effect 2. Not really a deal breaker, but in Mass Effect 2 seeing the interrupt icon appear in the corner always brought a smile to my face.

Speaking of facial contortions because of Mass Effect, this is the only game to make me cry at multiple points through out the story, mostly when party members from the previous game take fate into their own hands. My final tear count was four separate occasions, but you can double that number for the fist pump cheering at the TV moments, which I must say Mass Effect 3 had plenty of. While most people where disappointed in the ending for the story, and I understand why, I think the amount and intensity of these epic moments set their expectations way too high. The overall thematic tone is shown to you in the first moments of the game as Shepard sees an evacuation ship with children in it blown out of the sky. I won't spoil the ending, but I will tell you that the aforementioned tone carries though out the game until its final moments. Also: Watch the after credits scene.

I also found myself using the Kinect functionality provided with the Xbox 360 version of the game way more often than I initially thought I would. The combat integration is decent, as about 30% of the time my crew ignored my call outs, but it really shines in the out of combat dialogue decisions. I really felt more connected to the character of Shepard because of it, where as in the previous games I felt as if Shepard was such a generic player character in a universe littered with character driven depth. I even found myself defending Shepard as one of the best characters in the game to a friend, something rare for a player character to accomplish. I solely blame this on the Kinect functionality that helped evolve the character past the expectations of a player driven experience.

The tacked on multiplayer definitely feels like an unneeded addition, but it is still fun and serves its purpose. I still disagree with the methods of unlocking everything through a random buy system, although I am sure at this point there is very little that can be done to change that. I also feel a little shorthanded based on the low amount of multiplayer maps, only 6, included on the disc. I am willing to bet that that number will only increase because of the advent of DLC in the marketplace, but that is a no brainer. There have already been screenshots suggesting new character combinations that aren't listed in the menu so it looks like the multiplayer is here to stay. That being said I am thrilled that it is co-op multiplayer and not versus. Co-op works within context of the Mass Effect story.

Mass Effect 3 is a very solid purchase, and like its predecessor will probably show up again in November and December when the Game of the Year conversations start popping up. This year it looks like the competition will be tough to crack with so many great games on the horizon (BioShock Infinite, Diablo III, and who knows what else spring to mind). Regardless if the game enjoys the critical success of its two prologue games, the series will always remain in the top echelons of my mind as a must-experience game for gamers old and new.