-Kris “Kaz” Sturm
It’s quite sad to say that we’re at the end of an era. Commander Shepard has taken us from one end of the galaxy to the other and yet here we are at the end of it all on our home planet, Earth. The question is, how did you, the player, go through his life? Did you play as a Paragon and savior of the galaxy or a Renegade; wreaker of havoc, chaos and general douchebaggery galaxy wide? Looking at you Khalisah al-Jilani. Quit asking so many goddamn questions. I for one went with the solid Paragon route and only chose Liara T’soni for my romance option through the course of all three games and would only have intercourse with her in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation. I’m quite possibly one of the most disturbed people to have ever played this game.
This aside, we’re led back to what started all those years ago. We’re brought back to Commander Shepard, now currently out of duty and supervising Earth’s Alliance force after having left Cerberus. It seems as though after his fight against the reapers he’s been stuck with a desk job; the player only being informed it was the lightest sentence that the Council could have given him after his unauthorized fight against the Reapers involving considerable damage to the Citadel. As Shepard had notified before of a Reaper invasion, thousands of them have come to wreak havoc in the biggest “I told you so” moment the galaxy had ever seen.
Now before I get into anything else, remember how it took an entire fleet to take down ONE as it attacked the Citadel? Yeah, give time six months and deal with thousands of them. Either:
A) you’re completely fucked or
B) the Alliance made some CONSIDERABLE changes to their weaponry, armor and… they’re still fucked no matter how you look at it. As best phrased by Shepard when talking to Garrus Vakarian, “This isn’t war… it’s slaughter.”
Regardless, the teams at Bioware and EA Games can be noted for their overall success in creating yet another engrossing title to add to their repertoire and small spoiler, if you had continued your save game through the course of all three of the games, then you’re in luck and will find yourself at a relatively advantageous position over the course of the game. If the player held themselves through a paragon path in the prior two installments, chances are that they’ll be set off with more opportunities to work with War Assets. These are a recent addition to the game in the fight against the Reapers where all choices made before and during the game function as an asset towards the end of the game which as many could attest to, is the biggest factor in deciding just how things will end.
On the topic of the war assets, this does bring to mind the whole multiplayer aspect of the game; in the sense that by completing these missions (netting anywhere between 3-7% in wartime preparation) would help add to the war assets… with the knowledge that these assets can be depleted over the course of one percent each day. Essentially, in order to get that achievement where the player maxes out all of their war assets, they would be forced to continually work to improve themselves and maximize the assets they have on hand.
I have to say though, given the atmosphere and direction that the multiplayer missions present to the player, I was rather surprised to see that there was a good deal of teamwork implemented on the missions as those on headset relayed tips to better help the other squad members. Given how most of my multiplayer has been left with players either calling me insulting, derogatory and racial terms and talked about the raping and sodomizing of people I know. During the time I played online, I either found that the Mass Effect Multiplayer was a very supportive environment or over the course of those five to six hours, I consistently hit the 1% of good, inviting players every single time. I’m still reeling from it.
Game play -as mentioned by Project Director Casey Hudson- Normal difficulty could be akin to the Veteran difficulty of its predecessors; an increase I’m rather glad for as it helps in not letting game play grow too easy. In a way, by scaling things up it helps to illustrate how much of a struggle it is in the war against the Reapers. In fact, while playing on the standard Normal difficulty I noticed a general death increase, even factoring in the 30 level jump by transferring my files from Mass Effect 2 and the weapon upgrades made available to the player early on.
The weapon upgrade system seems to have evolved a good deal over the past three installments; initially presenting us with the ability (and necessity for higher lever weapons) to buy every weapon we could, with each weapon having different levels characterized by their own strength levels. Mass Effect 2 tried to change this by giving us a selection of weaponry, but all at fixed values, not to mention taking away the unlimited ammo that we had in the first installment, as well as the revocation of our grenades. Unfortunately, this wasn’t met with the most positive favor. If viewed in another light however, the implementation of using thermal clips did help to add more of a realistic feel to the game, making the whole weapon firing dynamic that much more plausible and relatable as a by-product by likening the weaponry to real life artillery.
In the latest installment, we have a full inventory with access to personal modifications, each of which having the abilities to reduce the weight of the weaponry (which slows down your power cooldown time) as well as having the capability to increase your fire rates, accuracy and strength; and even the size of your magazine. As seen above, adding the different mods to a Phaeston rifle. While only two upgrades can be applied at one time, the upgrades themselves can be upgraded by purchasing their respective upgrades over the course of single player gameplay.
In the same vein as these modifications, the player is also presented with the opportunity to not only increase their weapons, but provide personalized armor customization, with each piecing of armor having its own attributes that can be mixed and matched to customize and tailor Shepard in whichever fashion best suits our needs. Whether it’s to boost weapon attacks, shields, power strength, power recharge time, health, melee strength and so on. If personal customization isn't exactly your thing, then the opportunity to buy fully detailed and customized armors. As seen on left, the Blood Dragon armor returns with stat boosting effects: +10% Power Recharge Speed, +30% Power Damage and +20% Shields.
Last but not least, there’s the ending. DEAR GOD, the ending. Anything I say about it is going to get someone’s jimmies rustled so hard that they’ll yank the stick out their ass and beat someone to death with it. At this moment, I've stopped just before the point of no return (so as to gather the maximum total of Galaxy at War points I can before making the final push), but I have seen the endings. From what I’ve gathered, sure, there may be some issues with the whole “after everything happens” part of the game, but by looking at things in context, and supposing a certain circumstance had made itself present earlier in the game (not to say there aren’t clues to tip off the player), then a good deal of the events that take place make sense.
As much as I do support Bioware and EA Games for what they’ve made over the past few years (hell, the story of Commander Shepard has helped in establishing some sort of standard that character development can be held to compare itself to) but as much as I would love the company to basically tell the fans that complained to effectively go fuck themselves, fact of the matter is that no matter how good something that we make is, it can always be better and Bioware/EA is no exclusion from this rule. Personally, I think they did a damn good job and the implications that were set forth are a fantastic example of fridge brilliance; however they do leave some plot holes open and too many questions (posed to me at least) for me to list here without just wasting space. Admittedly, yes; they could have smoothed it over. Hell, maybe they could have given it another couple months to fine tune everything. Do I think that it necessarily warrants a new set of revised endings? No, of course not.
Points of criticism can be directed to the companies not for their endings but for the fact that they didn’t stand by their own work hard enough and caved to the demands of those that bought their wares. I mean, it’s always good to give feedback to the company (hell, I’m technically doing that right now) but there’s a difference between being disgruntled about something to -as stated earlier- pulling the stick of ignorant ranting out of your ass and start beating the companies with it because you’ve ran out of more eloquent verbal ammo (thanks again Joker and Garrus).
Other than the issue of the endings (not for their presentation but for the aspect of caving into others’ demands), I have to say that Mass Effect 3 absolutely tied everything together in a way that left me almost entirely satisfied. The game play was satisfying, plot development grabbed me in such a way that whenever I had any semblance of free time, I’d pick it right up in order to conclude Commander Shepard’s journey and see where all of my decisions landed me. Kudos goes to Bioware and EA for the years of gaming they’ve given me with the Mass Effect series and I hope the next series they come together for will grip me just as well… so long as they don’t start shutting down online servers after a finite period of time. Other than that, well done guys. Thank you for giving me roughly 400 hours of great game play over the years.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 4.8/5
Additional note, no matter what criticism Bioware and EA has come under, the one thing I'm sure most can agree on is the fact that Shepard is a total badass. Shepard gave us the opportunity to actually step into a new realm and let the player shape the game in their own image. It's been a great ride and to commemorate this, I'd like to add Gavin Dunne's (sole member of gaming tribute band Miracle of Sound) original Commander Shepard song. It may be dated, but the message still stands: you can fight like a Krogan, run like a leopard but you'll never be better than Commander Shepard.