Ok, maybe FAVOURITE is pushing it a little bit, but I’m enjoying myself immensely in Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 is the finale that brings the previous two games to a conclusion, and the dire portents that were waved in front of us (and that the Galactic Council tried to ignore) are finally here.
As the finale, and with the Reapers bashing down the doors of Galactic Civilization As We Know It, the whole of Mass Effect 3 is suitably epic and dire. You start of the game witnessing the razing of Earth, and believe me when I say it only gets WORSE from there. The game (or at least the parts I’ve played) read to me like if Battlestar Galactica was made out of a disparate coalition of races. Or possibly Bablylon 5. The level of desperation and infighting in the face of a clear and present outside threat really makes me think of those things. I actually swore under my breath during one of my play throughs, when I realised what exactly I was walking by in the game.
I think that in Mass EFfect 3 Bioware really takes the adage ‘Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken’ to heart. What is the clear draw here is the dialogue and character driven story, which shines brilliantly (as it did in the past two games). It is epic, stirring, at times funny (wait till you hear those Elcor/Hanar buddy cop movie sound bites), and many times sadly poignant. It is a piece of work that lives up to the Bioware standard of story-telling.
On the flip side, everything else is pretty similar too. Graphics, while good, still falls into the ‘Uncanny Valley’ for me. I concentrate on the dialogue and subtitles in cutscenes because if I stare at some of the characters’ plastic faces too much I get creeped out. I actually relate to the alien races a lot more easily; I don’t have a mannequin smile staring me in the face all the time.
Similarly, gameplay is also almost identical to Mass Effect 2. They did have some welcome tweaks (I like that I can choose any weapon I like now, and to not just be limited by my class), but all in all the levelling, fights and combat are Mass Effect 2… only more so. I found the combat system for Mass Effect 2 acceptable, and well… it’s the same in Mass Effect 3. Acceptable. That’s it. I DO like the fact that I chose the ‘casual’ level of play for my combat, allowing me to play fast and loose enough that I don’t feel it’s as much of a grindfest (and making me feel like a Big Damn Hero) while still punishing me enough that I don’t make stupid mistakes in combat. Still, I certainly didn’t buy Mass Effect 3 for the combat, so I suppose I’m happy that Bioware concentrated on the story.
Lastly, there are bits that are new that kind of annoy me. I’m not sure what to think of the new Multiplayer and IPhone App options/add ons to Mass EFfect 3, but I suppose if you want to play them they’re there. I also don’t like needing to be online to play a single-player game, and wish EA didn’t make it mandatory.
In the end, the question of ‘should you buy Mass Effect 3’ though is a bit of a tricky question to answer. If you’ve played Mass Effect 1 and 2, I’m preaching to the choir. You probably bought the preorder and maybe even the collector’s edition. You know what you’re getting into, and have been waiting for too long for this. On the other hand, if you’re new to the Mass Effect galaxy, 3 games seems like a lot of time to invest, especially for something you might not be that interested in. And Mass Effect is a PRETTY OLD GAME.
But I really do advise any new players to start from the first game. If there ever was a game that required you to play its predecessors, Mass Effect 3 is it. Yes, you don’t need to have lived through Sovereign and the Collector Invasion to enjoy this game, but without the previous two games to provide you valuable and much needed background and context, I think you could end up making a lot of hard decisions a lot more flippantly. And when your companions die (and I fully expect them to, given what happened in the previous Mass Effects), these deaths would mean a lot less if you just met them in Mass Effect 3, as opposed to if you had also fought by their side for the past two games. And you’ll have a saved game which you can import into Mass Effect 3. Win Win!
Get the first game… it should be going for really cheap on Steam or somewhere else, and if the story hooks you, get Mass effect 2, and then 3. The number of old companions, and even recurring bit players and easter eggs in Mass Effect 3 will make it worth your while.