Mass Effect 3 Review by: endingsPerhaps the worst ending in video game history...Well, well, the third Mass Effect game that wraps up Command Shepard's story. Boy, its been a fun ride with his world, lots of aliens and exploring and fun characters! There's no way anything bad could happen to screw this game up, is there? How does that children's rhyme go? Ashes, ashes, we all fall down? Well, the series fell hard a couple places here. It picked itself up and soldiered on, showing some great scenes in places, but dang is the quality uneven. And sadly, Mass Effect was forever marred by a couple of really, REALLY boneheaded decisions.
Wanting to impress, this game features more giant space battles (cutscenes only boo), more alien home worlds that you've never gotten to see, a returning cast of all the characters you've had on your team since ME1! The stages feel bigger than ME2, its more of everything, including secret loading screens on your spaceship (lol). Characters look good, with improved lighting effects on their skin. The list of space guns and powers grows even bigger, and theres a lot of variety now in weapons. The omni-tool, the games frequently used wrist computer hologram-thing - gets into the fray by taking that 3-D printer quality it has to create giant swords.
One brand new graphical feature is how you navigate the Normandy(spaceship). Rather than just select from a flat, static screen, you actually drive your ship around. Sounds exciting, yeah? Fans have been hoping for a chance to do some ship to ship combat since ME1. Sadly, there is still no space battles you can participate in-game. Once you careen your hapless little cruiser around the big maps, it feels like a bad 16 bit game. The dinky Normandy you drive can only run around in circles and flee from the pesky reaper ships that come to get you - like Pac Man but without the maze. Which is kind of pointless. Running from the evil space squid reapers is just an annoyance, since you just leave and return, and they are gone. As dull as the old planet selection was, I think I prefer it over this goofiness.
The old synthesizer sounds of the previous games showed emotion of hope, exploration, and uncertainty. Now with this game, the tracks are often melancholy. This makes sense being the most serious game in the series, the tunes here are much more sombre, and thoughtful. Planets are getting destroyed, its as grave as it gets. Some of them nail this well, like "Leaving Earth". Not to say the old ME tunes are gone, "Mars" sounds like a ME1 track. But there are also some more bombastic pieces like we haven't heard before, such as "Cerberus agent". My favorite tracks are "Leaving Earth" and "The Scientists".
One thing I like is the wide range of firearm noises, and better audio capture for faraway conversations (more on this later). The guns have come a long way from the first game, now each alien race has their own unusual designs represented, and some I could tell just by sound in multiplayer. The heavy boom of the Geth Widow rifle. The metallic clang of the vicious Batarian harpoon gun. This game was probably the best at giving each weapon come into their own and stand out, sound wise.
Parts of it feel less successful than the previous games, as if they were a bit rushed, or ideas not fully realized. This varies almost planet to planet. Some feel very strong with interesting challenges and resolutions, and others are quite dull with bland characters and basic mobs to fight. There is one point in the game, where I can visualize a noticed drop in quality until the climax.
Fortunately for this game, it relies on a lot of nostalgia for the past characters and situations to tug at your heartstrings. Locations that were only mentioned many times, finally make an appearance and are pivotal to the story. Unfortunately, your rewards for doing awesome things and saving all the nouns are 'readiness points'. A not fun bar that basically tells you what kind of ending you can afford! All the flash of a dozen aliens and all their best gear, ships, and intel, and it all comes down to bare-bones math. Yup.
Um. I think one of the huge blunders takes place here. Sure, some planets like Palaven are fairly pedestrian and lack the narrative muscle and awe-inspiring ideas as seen on places like Tuchanka. The storytelling uneven, yes, especially in the later half of the game. But at least part of the story is good, and even a weak setting and mundane tasks can be polished up with some memorable cameos and scenery-chewing squad mates. However...
I think a big mistake is right at the very beginning of the game, the pacing. Right from the big opening cutscene, Shepard is on trial for having joined the Illusive Man (in ME2), at that moment, the big scary Reaper attack Shep's been warning everyone about finally comes. The very first tutorial mission is fleeing a burning earth. The aliens are decimating us, as they said they would, and start going to town with Earth's alien pals too, on their home worlds. Right from the get-go, you see a war playing out, one that seems impossible to win. All over the galaxy, planets are dying, and the ones that aren't, soon will be. Your mission is to help the other races, and construct a handy macguffin/super weapon just found moments ago (what great timing!).
Yet the game has tons of side-quests. Things like retrieving a lost totem of some race from a abandoned planet. No one asks YOU to get it, you're the guy trying to stop the Reapers after all. But you of course are supposed to find this item, for xp. Woo. Lets ignore the THOUSANDS of people probably dying while we take a leisurely cruise off to do a fetch-quest. The fact all your side-quests are largely from eaves-dropping on unknowing parties makes this even creepier. When is Shep a ear-hustler? This is just weird.
Perhaps smarter would have been to have the first half of the game focused on making alliances to fight, and building whatever weapon you can to fight the evil space-squid Reapers. No burning earth, no millions probably in peril by the second. It would make some of what the game asks you to do (Creeps bothering your sister, again, Miranda?), and listen to its own narrative priorities.
Strange for a game with so many evil Reapers, that it lacks for real, menacing villains (again, like in ME2). You get the Illusive Man, who was a shady cohort in ME1, bumped up to a supposedly human-supremacist in ME2, and now in ME3, he apparently is a terrorist with billions of hired goons. Where does he get this army??? Its laughable. Harbinger comes back, not that he is any more memorable than the previous game. Yawn. There is a new bad guy, a 90's version of a robot-ninja, but he barely manages to be threatening, and is honestly, a really lame character.
There's quite a lot of story missions, as many worlds are in trouble, and you have to raise an army to fight the Reapers together, and the threat of the Illusive Man and his army of clone troopers? The side-quests are numerous, but all draw you away from the main fight, and feel like a bad use of your time, even if there is no in-game clock ticking in reality. The tracking system for the quests is quite broken, only telling you how to start it, not if you've found part of what it asks you for, or just need it turn it in. So if you accidentally do all the parts for a quest, but forget about it, your guide will just point you right back to the start. Have fun!
So this is a game where many choices you've made throughout 3 whole games now is supposed to come to fruition. Expectations were set way too high by the public, the poor developers had painted themselves into a corner, having to tie up so many loose ends in ways that were satisfying.
Honestly, most weren't. Some big choices were life-changing to the aliens, but most were just factors into a boring bar that measures your 'readiness' to fight the Reapers. Rescued some scientists? Ok, heres a couple of points of space readiness. Saved that alien's lost book report, sure, heres a couple of points. I'm sure people were expecting more showing and less telling.
ME3 introduces a couple new characters for your team mates (surprisingly small compared to ME2), I'd thought they would be terrible, but they are not. Do I resent them being included when many of the snubbed party members from previous games was left out, sure, but at least the new people are not total garbage.
James Vega is your new squad mate that's human. Mass Effect games have a reputation for making their human team members bland compared to fun and engaging alien squad mates (mostly true). Vega is better than most, but right off the bat he's trying to be your best friend and wants to dance with you, or fight, its just... stupid and reeks of try hard. My game he stayed on the ship most of the time.
"The Robot" is there because this game loves to talk about intelligent machines that could get a body and go berserk and start a Matrix-style Us vs. the AI thing. This robot is nice but its still an argument that if everyone is scared of super-sentient computers WHY SOCIETY KEEPS MAKING THEM.
If you managed to save some (all?) squad members throughout the game, they will all be here in some fashion or another. A few take center stage and help you. Others have an excellent story reason why they cant go with you, but offer other kinds of support. And the rest are doing inane tasks they want to rope you into helping with. If you assist, they thank you (and probably get a couple exciting 'readiness points'), but no, they won't go fight the reapers for you. The logic just doesn't make sense when the entire universe is at stake.
The game's combat continues the trend of improving upon its predecessor, and the mammoth variety of armament lets you really play in interesting ways. You do end up getting some of the side arms a little too late in the game, though, and thats a shame. The game isn't too difficult, the squad's reactions are not so hot, being slightly less intuitive than before, but they still manage alright. Most basic combat isn't too tough and you have more difficulty options than ever now. Including for the first time, a story-mode easy difficulty.. Which makes all foes fall down in just a couple of bullets.
There are still a few frustrations, such as the aforementioned robot ninja sometimes bugging on his boss fights and making them forever locked in a stalemate. This game has very few bosses, but I think each of them has some kind of bug involved with each of them. Its again, maybe a bit of rushing to get the game out, but overall you really can't say its a hard game when you can play 'story mode'. if you do go for something harder, it does ramp up the challenge in the beginning. Later on you'll get strong enough it will just feel like regular mode.
There is a new mode, multiplayer, which doesn't use Shepard, but strike teams made up of humans and aliens taking back points from the Reapers or Illusive Man's Cerberus outfit. Its a glorified horde mode, but it works fairly well, though lacks dedicated servers. The MP is still active, which is saying something in 2017. Its not bad, really, but quite repetitive. There was also a ton of free dlc for it, maps, characters, so on.
Not talking about the ending but the effect of the ending in the media:
This isn't something I'd really mention. And definitely not spend paragraphs discussing. But having done over a hundred reviews on this site, my name's Endings, so yeah, this one time I feel I can say endings are important and this one is notoriously worth a small discussion. Let me try not to beat a dead horse and I WON'T tell you the ending, but just what happened when people beat the game. In a game about choices, this is one the player had little say in.
After people had started to beat the game, a great unrest was felt, it a strong, vocal mob that called for a better ending. The company didn't want to change it. It was their creation, they had final say in its story. A month of bad-word-of-mouth spread over this game. The Better Business Bureau was summoned about unfair marketing of the game; petitions for a better ending signed, billboards were bought right in front of the company offices, a meme about a common enemy became the spokesperson for the player resistance (#mauradershields) and people resigned from the company from the blow out of this game's conclusion. This wasn't just a thousand little angry gamers, this was huge, with media coverage, and the parent company EA eventually stepping in and promising there would be some changes to the ending. And eventually there was, but the damage had been done. Cause honestly, in its original state, it was a outright, hot mess.
Now, has their ever been an outcry like that about the ending to a video game before? It seems quite crazy, considering people are complaining about entertainment. While clearly first-world problems, was the original ending (pre-extended version) the worst ending I had ever seen? Honestly, yeah. It was so bad. I have beaten games that give me a black screen just saying "CONGRATULATIONS THE END" for my efforts and it felt more meaningful. But it was patched, and it was a slight
bit better. It was a bone-headed move to make that ending, and clearly someone should have sounded off on how off-brand it was.
While some of Mass Effects plot lines are tied up in a beautiful bow and some good times are had with the wonderful characters constructed in the series, Mass Effect makes a couple of fatal errors that really throw off the idea of giving this game a score similar to its previous entries. The bad pacing (starting with the war right off), useless quest checklist, trivial use of your former squad and the tedious flying segments hurt the game. But none so bad as the original ending, which I mean, come on, when making a sequel Bioware set it 600 years away from the milky way, so they could get a fresh start, thats how much they didn't want to retouch on this ending. It was heinous. I actually never played this game all the way through again, despite having other Shepards ready to go. I didn't feel my choices mattered enough to play through again, and I didn't want to sit through that ending ever again, even with the 'redone' fix, which to me was putting a band-aid on a severed limb.
I still enjoy the world of Mass Effect, and wish it to eventually rise over the bad feelings this one left me with. But if they came out with a 'Remastered ME trilogy' Huh... I don't think they would make the changes I'd deem neccessary to give this game another look.