Review: Mass Effect 3

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Gaming, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

You knew it was coming eventually. I’m actually a little bit surprised it took me so long to get through the game, almost a month here. Considering though that my professors have piled a mountain on top of me, I’m doin’ what I can.

Alright, a little housecleaning first off. You’ve probably noticed that I changed the title of my blog, and drew up a knew header. I felt like having “Outlaw Productions” everywhere was getting a little bit redundant, and also wanted to change the title to reflect the material that actually gets discussed here. I’m not all business or music here, as you know, there’s a lot more to this.
I’m also eventually going to go back and change all the categories and tags on all my posts, so they’ll be easier to search. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I created this, and just started clicking things all willy-nilly. This needs to look more professional-like.

I should mention before this begins, this thing is long…really long. The word count here is 4222. If you really want to get into this, I’d advise getting up and grabbing some popcorn and a juicebox or something.

Okay, with refreshments in hand, let’s start the show.

I’m going to be referencing a lot of Mass Effect specific terms throughout this review. If you find yourself wondering, “What the hell is he talking about?” you might need a glossary to help get on my level. This link will help.

Mass Effect Wiki

This is the Review of Mass Effect 3, the full review. I need to preface this review saying that there are going to be LOADS OF SPOILERS. I don’t wanna hold back here, so if you still haven’t beat the game yet, and don’t wanna know, you might just want to skip this post. I however, en lue of the amount of material that I will cover in the Campaign, I’ll go ahead and review the Multiplayer first.

Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer

The multiplayer that we got in the Demo version of the game was pretty much the same multiplayer that we get in the full version of the game.

You get together in teams of up to 4 players to take on waves of enemy forces. In each engagement there 10 waves of increasing difficultly leading up to a final 11th wave that must be survived in order to be extracted from your location. There are 5 different levels that can be played, and 3 different types of enemies that can be played against. The levels correspond to the 5 different theaters of war that must be maintained in the Galaxy at War System, which will be explained later. Your 3 different enemies include:

Cerberus…

Geth…

…and Reaper.

You are also able to play as all the different classes present in Mass Effect: Adept, Soldier, Sentinel, Engineer, Infiltrator, and Vanguard. Within each class, you can acquire 4 different characters: 2 humans(male and female) and 2 aliens(a combination of Asari, Drell, Krogan, Turian, Salarian, and Quarian).

The combat system plays out very similar to how it does in Campaign, but streamlined. There are only 3 active powers(biotic, tech, or physical) and 2 passive power trees for enhancing health, shields, weapon damage, power damage, etc. You can also carry a maximum of 2 weapons. This layout eliminates the weapon and power wheels, and maps everything to hot keys, streamlining combat. Assigned to the plus pads are equipment that can be brought into battle. In each battle you can bring a maximum 2 each of Medi-Gel, Extra Ammo, Heavy Weapon Ammo, and Stim Packs(which boost your health and shields/barriers to max). Each class also has a unique heavy melee attack that utilizes either the the Omni-Blade, or some form of biotic attack. For instance, Asari characters use a biotic compression wave as their heavy melee.

Each engagement gives you several different mini-missions to accomplish, sometimes with a time limit to complete them in. Most of the time, you are just required to eradicate all the enemy forces in the area. Other times you are given four different items, spread around the map, that must be activated/deactivated in sequence within an allotted amount of time. The player working on the device at the time will be unable to engage enemies, so teammates must provide cover for them. Another mission type is eradicating specific targets. Again, you are given a certain amount of time to achieve this, and the targets are usually the ones with high levels of health or damage protection, but sometimes they can be easier targets. Regardless, when players team up to take the targets down, the process goes a lot faster. Yet another mission is the area upload/download. A short range connection is established to upload or download data, and you only have so much time to complete the operation. The more people in the short range of activity, the faster the process goes. You can fight back against enemies while the process progresses, however the area you can fight from is a small one. The enemy knows this and will make more of an effort to flank you.

As I said about the Multiplayer Demo, I really like the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3 because it really does a lot to encourage teamwork, where many other games let players run around rampant, and disorganized. Not only do the mini-mission types force you to rely on the the rest of your squad, but your restricted amount of usable powers and selection of weapons ensures that no person can be a one-man-army. 1 person can be really good, but even at Bronze level, they will struggle and most likely fail at wave 9 or 10 if not earlier.

New weapons, weapon enhancements, and character customizations can be acquired at random from player packs that can be bought using credits gained from battles or from Xbox Live credits. Improvements have been made to the acquisition system since the Demo so that rarer items can be more easily acquired through purchasing more expensive packs.

The Multiplayer ties into the Galaxy at War System, which evaluates your Galactic Readiness. Multiplayer allows you to improve your readiness in each of the theaters of war. There are 5 of them: the Terminus Systems, the Attican Traverse, Inner Council Space, Outer Council Space, and the Earth Systems Alliance Space. Each successfully completed multiplayer mission adds 4% to the specific region you are playing in, or all regions if the location is set to random. If you make it past Wave 5, you get only 2%. Without playing multiplayer, each of your theaters of war will sit at 50% readiness, and won’t dip any lower. Playing multiplayer adds a significant amount of points to your overall Galactic Readiness, making playing it well worth while.

The improvements made since the Demo have been good and necessary, and have elevated an already good Multiplayer option, to a great one.

Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer5 out of 5

With that out of the way, we can move on to the Campaign section. This is section that contains the massive amount of spoilers.

I’ll say it again…

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS OF THE MASS EFFECT 3 CAMPAIGN

You have been warned.

Mass Effect 3: Campaign

After the events of the Arrival DLC in Mass Effect 2, in which you slam a meteor into a Mass Relay, eradicating it and the Batarian System it resides in, all in an effort to buy the galaxy time to prepare for the Reapers…the Alliance has grounded Commander Shepard and the Normandy. You open in the same spot as the ‘Demo’ did. Shepard reports to Alliance officials that, based on the information they have gathered, the Reapers are coming. As you make your report, the Reapers touch down on Earth and begin their onslaught. After a short training stage introducing you to the combat and gameplay mechanics, you arrive at the Normandy, and are given instructions from Admiral Anderson to report to the Council: tell them what has happened, and get their help.

I’ll tell you at this point the same thing that I said about the Demo. I like the improvements to the combat system, mainly the addition of a heavy melee attack, and the addition of the dodge roll and other evasion techniques. The weapon and power selection wheels were very streamlined in Mass Effect 2, and since they weren’t broken, there was no need to fix them. With the selection wheels and hot keys for certain powers and weapons, combat feels very fluid, and doesn’t distract from the story telling elements of the game. If anything, they add to the elements making the story genuinely feel like it unfolds based on how you play.

That feeling that your choices and your actions determine how the story unfolds has been the cornerstone of the game since its inception. You can play it good or bad (Paragon or Renegade), get all the details or get straight to the point, play only the main missions or do all the side quests as well…whatever you choose, you will wind your own path to the conclusion.

After being sidetracked to Mars to uncover some Prothean technology, you get to the Citadel and petition the Council for help. Even though you’ve been trying to warn the Council and the rest of the galaxy of the Reaper threat for years, only few have ever taken you seriously. As such, everybody tells you that they need to cover their own asses before they can think of helping humanity.

This is the point where the main game truly begins. The other races of the galaxy are willing to help you, as soon as you help them solve their own problems. This is also where a new gameplay element comes into play: the Galaxy at War System. This system allows you to view all the different assets you have acquired, and adds them up to calculate your “Galactic Readiness”. It should be said at this point that, just like in Mass Effect 2, the creedo of the Mythbusters holds true here; failure is always an option. It is possible to get all the way to the end of the game and, lacking a sufficient Galactic Readiness rating (from what I keep hearing, 4000 or 5000 is the number to beat), fail utterly and have the game end on you without a completely favorable outcome to the galactic conflict (I’m not sure what the actual number is, but from here on forward I’m just going to continue to say 4000). Getting your ship and crew ready in Mass Effect 2 was a fairly easy and straight forward task to accomplish. Attaining Galactic Readiness in Mass Effect 3 is much less straight forward as a few wrong choices in dialogue options, in some cases, can mean the difference in acquiring new assets or not. A hot topic for debate right now, between gamers, is whether the campaign alone provides enough attainable assets, given that you make the right choices to attain them, to add up to the minimum of a Galactic Readiness of 4000. Whether they’re all there or not, getting to a rating of 4000 is not an easy task without the help of multiplayer mode, as mentioned earlier.

The first asset that ties into your Galactic Readiness is the Prothean technology you acquired on Mars, what comes to be known as the Crucible; an unfinished weapon designed by the Protheans for the purpose of defeating the Reapers. Other assets you can acquire include various Alliance forces, the forces of the various other galactic races, and anti-Cerberus intelligence.

After your meeting with the Council, you’ll spend most of your time running around the galaxy helping out your alien allies to get, in return, their promise to give you all the aid you need when you call on them. You will also spend your time fighting Cerberus, as you seem to tread on each others toes every step along the way.

You find out on Mars that the Illusive Man has a very perverted view on the best way to combat the Reapers. At one point you pull the facemask off of one of the Cerberus troopers to find him loaded up with Reaper technology. You find out that the Illusive Man has fallen under the impression that with the right amount of research and development that the Reapers can be controlled, in much the same way that the Reapers use Indoctrination to control their own agents.

From the point that the Illusive man tells you to stay out of his way, and you essentially tell him to shove it, you end up harassing each other right up until the very end. Literally. You realize about a third or so of the way through the game, when Cerberus launches an assault on the Citadel and outs Councilor Udina as a Cerberus spy, that the Illusive Man and the Cerberus organization are just as big an antagonist in this game as the Reapers are.

It ends up coming down to, once you’ve helped the rest of the galaxy as much as humanly possible (see what I did there ^_^), that you need to direct your resources at the Illusive Man and his home base to retake stolen intelligence on how to complete the Crucible. Since you also are diverting forces away from Earth and the Crucible to do this, this will be Stage 1 of an inevitable final assault on the Earth-based Reaper forces. After ripping his base apart, dispatching his cyberneticly enhanced head-lacky, “Kai Leng” (that dude in the last picture), and taking back the finishing piece of the Crucible, you learn that the Illusive Man has personally tipped off the Reapers that the Citadel is a piece to this whole Crucible puzzle. The Reapers thusly move the Citadel…yes, I said move the Citadel, to Earth where it can be best protected by their own forces and used as a processing center. Not only that, but the Illusive Man has already implanted himself on the Citadel, right in the middle of all the action. With the Illusive Man, the Citadel, and the majority of the Reaper fleets engaged on Earth, it would seem there is only one thing left to do.

Your allied forces are divided into 3 groups for the final assault: Sword (a direct ship based attack on the Reapers themselves), Hammer (a ground assault on the Reaper forces deployed on Earth’s surface), and Shield (a larger fleet of ships assigned to protect the Crucible and escort it in to dock with the Citadel when the time is right). There is nothing at this point that you can do on the Normandy that Joker and EDI can’t do better, so you and your team are covertly escorted down to Earth to participate in Hammer. Depending on your Readiness Rating at this point, Sword and Hammer will either begin to take heavy losses, or they will be able to hold their own for a while. Regardless of your readiness rating, you will wage many time consuming and difficult battles that will ultimately lead you to the Conduit that the Reapers are using to transport humans up to the Citadel for harvesting. After receiving a near direct blast from a Reaper, Commander Shepard limps on and follows the Conduit up into the Citadel.

Okay, fair warning, you are entering a zone of intense spoilers. This is the end, the conclusion of the saga. If you don’t want to know, use this opportunity to…I don’t know, discontinue reading. Again, you have been warned.

You find out farely quickly that you and Anderson were the only members of the surviving Hammer team to make it through. He somehow is well forward of your position, and guides you to the final room. You find 3 things in that final room. Admiral Anderson, a console, and the Illusive Man. I told you he was already there, weren’t you wondering when he was going to show up? Well, you find out pretty dang quick that his whole theory of controlling the Reapers hold some water, as you and Anderson are powerless to resist his control over you. You argue with Illusive Man for a few moments, during which time he forces you to shoot Anderson, as a show of the power he now possesses. Depending on the Paragon/Renegade options you made throughout the game and during the course of this conversation, you either can shoot and kill the Illusive Man, shoot and injure the Illusive Man to leave him lying on the ground talking about the view of Earth, or you force the Illusive Man to realize for himself that he is Indoctrinated, at which time he commits suicide. Either way, the Illusive Man dies on the floor and you are free to use the console to open the Citadel and allow the Crucible to dock. You and Anderson take a seat on the ground, have a short conversation, and Anderson eventually succumbs to his injuries. At the urgings of Admiral Hackett, you limp back over to the console to try and save the galaxy but pass out, and are transported on a platform to a higher level.

The next part has many fans up in arms, including myself to a small degree. Despite my own feelings over it, I will be objective, and present you with just the facts.

Shepard awakens to the image of a holographic boy, resembling the boy from a recurring dream of Shepard’s. The boy tells you that he is the final piece to assembling the Crucible (what is referred to throughout most of the game as the Catalyst). He also claims to be the Citadel itself, and a representation of the primordial creators of the Reapers. You learn here that the Reapers were created as the answer to a problem: Chaos. Chaos created between the creation of synthetic life, war with synthetic life, and also infighting between the organic races of the galaxy. Coincidentally all of these things have occurred in the present cycle of life. Many advanced raced have experimented with advanced AI progams, and in the Quarian’s case the Geth overtook them on their home planet leading to a galactic war with them and AIs in general. And just as far as organic infighting is concerned, many major conflicts stand out: the Rachni Wars, the Krogan Rebellion, the Genophage, and the Human’s First Contact War, among others. The Reapers were created as a solution to all this chaos. The Reaper solution is to save organic life, at the pinacle of its existence by harvesting each advanced organic race into a combination of organic and synthetic efficiency and synergy in the form of a new Reaper, per organic race harvested. This also equates to a Reaper reproductive cycle. This harvest of advanced organic life rids the galaxy of chaos, and makes room for lesser organic life to evolve into new advanced species that will venture out into the galaxy, continue to advance, and inevitably repeat the process.

However, each set of races in each cycle have gotten progressively closer to stopping the Reapers, with Commander Shepard, the apparent representative for the current cycle, being the first organic being to make it all the way to the end. The Catalyst informs you that at this point, with Shepard reaching the end, that the Reaper solution to the Chaos problem has finally run its course, and failed. With the Crucible in place, docked with the open Citadel, ready to fire, it is now up to Shepard to make a decision as to what the new solution will be.

Now, if your Readiness rating is below 1750, this is a moot point and the ending will be determined based on your past decisions. If it is between 1750 and 2799, you have the option to choose between 2 options, but only if your score is 2800 or higher do you get to pick between all 3 options.

The first choice, on the left, is Control. The Catalyst tells you that the Illusive Man’s theory on controlling the Reapers was in fact, a viable theory. However, since the Illusive Man was already being controlled by the Reapers, well, you get the point. Shepard however can take control by embracing the blue electrical beams and merging his consciousness with the Reapers, exerting control over them, I guess. Although this option results in Shepard’s death, it works.

The second choice, on the right, is Destruction. The Catalyst tells you that it knows that this has been your intention from the very beginning. This is the option that will destroy the Reapers outright, as well as the Geth, but will also destroy the Mass Relays. The Catalyst also warns you that synthetic life will ultimately rise again, and inevitably go to war. Without the Reapers to ensure the salvation of organic life, the Catalyst warns that this decision will lead to the extinction of all organic life.

The third choice, in the middle, is Combination/Synthesis. The Catalyst tells you that there is one final option, a new true solution to the problem of chaos. Shepard can choose to fling himself into the central beam which, in the process of killing him, will gather his genetic sequence. The resulting blast from the Crucible will serve to change the genetic sequencing of all organic life. Organic genetic sequencing will be resequenced to integrate synthetic sequences. This will change all organic life into an organic/synthetic hybrid. Remember, the Catalyst mentioned earlier that the purpose of the Reapers was to ascend organic life to the pinacle of evolution: the synthesis of organic and synthetic life. The Reapers must be used roughly once every 50,000 years to complete this operation. This new middle option, in one fell swoop, would complete this same operation for all organic life in the galaxy, and allow them to retain their physical form and free will. This option however will also cause the destruction of the Mass Relays.

I’m not sure about this, but I believe if your Readiness rating is not up to a certain level, that the Crucible will not be running at peak efficiency, and the resulting blast, no matter what option is selected, will result in some collateral damage in the form of lost organic lives. Again, I’m not sure about this though, my Readiness Rating is ridiculously high.

It should also be noted that out of all three of these scenarios, one of them has an additional scene attached. If you choose the Destruction ending, there is a short additional scene showing Commander Shepard, lying motionless, covered in wreckage. All of the sudden, Shepard inhales a deep breath. End Scene…I’ll let y’all draw your own conclusions based on this information.

There has been a lot of uproar, from the fan community, based on this conclusion tree. The main complaint is that this was a cop-out answer from the Bioware Team that lacked proper closure or conclusion in connection to the story told so far. Another complaint is that forcing Commander Shepard into any 1 of the 3 decisions is very un-Shepard like, and that Shepard would say something to the point of, “Screw you, [Catalyst], I’m going to find my own solution. There are many more complaints, but the point is that there is an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the ending from the players.

Bioware has announced some upcoming free DLC, to arrive this summer, that will offer extended cuts of the existing endings that will fill in the knowledge gaps, and elaborate on the fate of the galaxy based on your decision. Bioware has also announced that this DLC will NOT include new alternate endings.

It also bares mentioning that with the immense dissatisfaction with the existing ending, that several theories have emerged that hint that another ending already exists, built-in to the choices made in the final sequence of the game. The only one of these theories gathering any steam is the Indoctrination Theory. I feel like it is worthy of mentioning because it fills in a lot of holes in the storyline, and accounts for a lot of discrepancies and oddities associated with the ending sequence of events. Also, to add some subjectivity into the mix, I for one feel like this theory makes a lot of sense.

Now, I’ve gone on for long enough with this post, and explaining Indoctrination Theory could easily double its length. So, I’ll link to a video I found on YouTube that does a spot on job of explaining Indoctrination Theory. If you’ve made it this far, you are either a fan of the franchise, or you are to be commended. Either way, enjoy.

Despite my reservations about the ending of the game, the overall game was extremely enjoyable, and offers an immense amount of replayability. This game, nay, this franchise is personally one of the best I have ever played. It offers the unique ability to genuinely play the game the way you want to play it, allowing many different play styles, and moralities that can be used. This game, just like the rest of the series, is an innovation to how games are both played and made.

Mass Effect 3: Campaign5 out of 5

Good lord. Longest. Post. EVER. I don’t think I’ll be writing anything this long again any time soon. I will have some more posts up here in a few days though…I’ve got a lot of brain dumping to do. Until then, do as the Eagles say, and take it easy.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

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