This is my first foray into making a game review, so I'll do my best.
So welcome to my review of the game Mass Effect 3. This is the final installment of the Mass Effect Trilogy, and rest assured that it's a good game. It was developed by BioWare and published by EA. You may know BioWare from their Dragon Age games or one of their best-known games, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Mass Effect 3 was released on March 6, 2012 in the United States. Having played through the game twice and attaining all the achievements (or trophies, for all you PS3 owners out there), I feel I have a firm grasp on this game. Let's get started.Story
Without spoiling too much, the game begins with an opening cutscene that details the current situation throughout the galaxy, or more specifically, Earth. The game takes place after The Arrival DLC in Mass Effect 2, so be sure to play that if you want the full understanding of why Shepard (your character) is in the situation he or she is in.
To put it simply: Commander Shepard has been in Alliance incarceration and the Reapers begin their invasion of Earth, and later the rest of the Milky Way. Shepard must leave his homeworld in order to build an army that can take on the Reapers and also focus on something that will be mentioned in the actual game. The story is dark (as the whole series is, come to think of it), but that isn't to say that there aren't light moments or comedic relief throughout the game. Of the three games, however, Mass Effect 3 does have the darkest story, for reasons that will become obvious within the first 5-20 minutes of the game.
If you haven't played the first two games by now, then don't even bother starting here. The story is very deep, and as Mass Effect 3 progresses, the choices and possibly sacrifices you have made across the series greatly affect the events of the third game. It is not even recommended that you play the preceding games. It's almost a requirement.
Mass Effect 3's main mechanic is to gather War Assets and amass as many people and factions as you can to support the war effort before you make the final assault. Whether it's a news reporter or an entire fleet of ships, it all matters in the end.
Please note: If you're going into this game, you are going to need to download the FREE Extended Cut DLC, which adds cutscenes to the final part of the game. Prior to this DLC, there has been a lot of controversy with the end of the game, mainly being that it provides absolutely no closure. This DLC, while overdue and should have been in the game since release, fixes this issue and is a requirement if you want enjoyment from your ending of the game.
Overall: the story is incredible, my only qualm being the fact that BioWare needed to create this DLC to fix an issue that never should have existed in the first place.
Mass Effect 3's visuals are absolutely stunning, especially if you play on a high-end PC, which goes without saying. Character models are almost painstakingly detailed, and animations are very, very nice. On the consoles, however, there may be some slowdown or even game crashes, even more so on the PS3 version, from what I've heard.
Each area, however, has a mood and style of its own, and the setpieces in some areas are simply breathtaking. Without spoiling too much, you will be visiting locations that really "hit home", as the saying goes.
Mass Effect 3's gameplay is top-notch. The conversation wheel is back in full strength. Remember, this is a sci-fi RPG. Commander Shepard is still famous for asking for as much information as humanly (literally humanly) possible. However, the "neutral" conversation option has been removed, because it really wasn't necessary at all. Instead, you get what I call the "questioning" option, which doesn't remove the Paragon or Renegade (the two moral classes) conversation options, but offers an extra bit of information should you want to hear about it. Which you should want to.
The level cap for this game is 60, like the first Mass Effect. It's easier to level up, however, for you don't get experience for each enemy you kill and a large experience gap between levels exist. You gain experience for each area within a mission you clear, or for every "assignment" (side-quest) you complete. By the end of the grame the first time, through, I managed to get to level 55, so it really isn't that difficult.
Each time you level up, you gain some skill points to spend on... well, skills. Depending on which class you have chosen (Soldier, Adept, Sentinel, Engineer, Vanguard, or Infiltrator), you will have different skills to choose from. Initially, each skill will be very linear in progression. As you get further, however, you will get a choice from one of two different aspects of the skill to better suit your gameplay style. Whether you want to be a gun-toter or a stealthy fighter that attacks from a distance with either guns, tech, biotics, or a combination of two of each.
Enemies in the game are fairly smart, adapting to situations as they see fit, and usually use their own powers accordingly. The enemies get pretty tough the harder you set the difficulty and also level up with you. Well, they actually are usually about five levels above you. But my point still stands.
As mentioned in the story section, you will be spending the game gathering War Assets. This is done by exploring planets and convincing people to participate in the war effort. Don't mistake this as the planet exploration in Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2. You will not be derping around in the Mako or spending countless hours gathering minerals. Only about one or two planets in each planet cluster will actually be explorable, and all you do is find one spot or "anomaly", to deploy a scanning probe to. And no, you do not have to replenish your probes, but your fuel, yes. This can either give you money (Credits), or a War Asset of some sort.
The combat in this game as more or less been perfected. It plays a lot more like a third-person shooter than than the past two games combined. You can now (do a barrel roll?) in any direction and go from cover to cover. Your teammates (you can only pick two at a time, as usual) have powers of their own, and you can utilize them in any way to suit the current situation. Each squadmate has their own unique abilities, so plan accordingly to what you're fighting. The combat is most comparable to Gears of War, but that's mainly because I haven't played any third-person shooters on the PS3. Maybe Uncharted? Not sure. xD
Needless to say, the singleplayer gameplay has a lot to offer.
The sound effects of the Mass Effect games have always been nothing short of amazing. The combat sounds are always engaging and never dull. The voicework is, of course, top-notch. Each character in this awesome cast (this includes the new characters like James Vega and Lieutenant Cortez) brings life to the game.
Music in the Mass Effect series has usually been an ambient thing you might hear in the background. It isn't much different in Mass Effect 3, but it does bring some really great scores to the table, especially in the main story. The fan-favorite song, Vigil, makes an appearance a few times across the game, as well as some others that just so happen to be some of my favorite soundtracks from games of all time. It's right up there with Okami, but that's a story for another time.
I was planning on making this its own section, but I feel it has place in this category. Mass Effect 3 is the only game that includes a multiplayer package. It's not a competitive multiplayer, as one might see in the likes of Call of Duty, but it's rather more cooperative. If you have ever played Halo's Firefight, Gears of War's Horde, Call of Duty's Zombies, or any sort of survival mode, then Mass Effect 3 has it. You will be fighting for your lives against one of three factions (the names of which I will keep secret for spoiler purposes), across a series of eleven waves. Whether you play on Xbox Live, PSN, or Steam, you can either play with friends or find random people to play with online. There is a great variety of maps to play on (even more if you download the two free packs of DLC, which I HIGHLY recommend getting), as well as three difficulty levels to choose from: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Much like the singleplayer, you get to make a character and progress him or her after gaining experience and credits from an online match. The leve cap in the multiplayer is 20, however, but you get the option to "Promote" that specific class of character (as the characters are divided amongst the different classes, which I have mentioned above), which is comparable to Call of Duty's or Battlefield's Prestige mode. You will start off back at level 1, but whatever upgrades or weapons you have managed to purchase in the store with your earned or bought credits will be retained for indefinite use.
Now, don't be confused. The multiplayer isn't just a tacked-on feature of the game. If you want the best possible ending to the game, you absolutely need to play the multiplayer at least to a point. This is, because, completing matches in the multiplayer earns you an extra percentage in your "Galactic Readiness Rating". This ties back into the singleplayer with how many War Assets you have collected thusfar. If you have a Readiness Rating of 100%, then all of your War Assets will be there for the final fight. If it's at its lowest at 50%, then literally only 50% of your War Assets will show up for the final fight. It is vital if you're looking for the best ending you can achieve.
Back to the replayability itself. From the thousands of conversation options, to the six classes in the game, to the distinct difference between Paragon and Renegade, there is infintely more potential for replaying not only this game, but the entire trilogy.
Score: 10/10Final Thoughts and Final Score
If you aren't convinced by my review, then go out there and at least give the games a rent. If you're playing on the 360 (not sure about PC, as I'm not much of a PC gamer), start at the first game, as rough-edged as it might be. If you're playing on the PS3, don't fret, because the second game offers an opportunity for you to make the important decisions of the first game. Mass Effect 3 is a wonderful conclusion to one of, if not the best, sci-fi WRPG franchises of this generation. Also, don't fret too much that this and the second game have been published by EA. I know a lot of you (myself included) despise EA, but that is no excuse to miss out on the Mass Effect series.
Final score (averaged from the five categories): 9.5/10