5 Things We Love About Mass Effect 3
Written Monday, March 19, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
With GDC and Microsoft’s Spring Showcase dominating my time, my social life and my wellbeing the last few weeks, it was only this weekend that I finally got chance to sit down, play and complete Mass Effect 3. You know what that means, right? It inspired me to chew the ears off the guys to discuss it before sitting down to write a few features about it – three in fact.
By this time, everyone – well, most people – should have had the chance to finish Mass Effect 3, so we can be a bit candid with our opinions on the various happenings in the game and not worry about spoilers. Yes, there will be spoilers, lots of them. Of course there will... It’s a feature about Mass Effect 3 for Pete’s sake. Again, with emphasis, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
The whole post-release content is something that we’ve discussed doing for most triple-A, 90%+ games for quite some time now, you know, so you can continue the dialogue and discussion with like-minded souls long after our review has been posted and the credits have rolled.
In the first of three Mass Effect 3 post-release features this week we look at the five main things that made us fall in love with Mass Effect 3, while on Wednesday, we look at the five main things we hate about Mass Effect 3 – hate’s a strong word, but we’re offering two perspectives from each end of the spectrum. Finally, on Friday, just in time for the weekend, we recap and reflect on our top 20 “Mass Effect moments.” It's going to be a good week!
Without further ado, here’s our top 5 reasons why we love Mass Effect 3...
It's A Transmedia Love In!
For your everyday gamer who’s played every version of Mass Effect and not ventured outside the games, this first one might mean nothing to you. But for your hardcore Mass Effect gamer, who’s absorbed as much of the extended universe as they humanly can, this is a big deal.
Mass Effect 3 saw a number of characters introduced into the games that Mass Effect fans have been aware of for years thanks to the series of books that BioWare has created alongside the game. Starting back in 2007 in Mass Effect: Revelation (before Ubisoft used the suffix for Assassin’s Creed, mind), fans of the Mass Effect books have followed the trials and tribulations of Kahlee Sanders across four books, meeting various characters along the way and hearing more of the universe along the way.
Not only does Kahlee Sanders feature prominently in one of Mass Effect 3’s side-missions, but so does the setting of Mass Effect: Ascension (Grissom Academy) and one of Cerberus’ bad-ass agents, Kai Leng, who featured in the latter two books (Retribution and Deception). Heck, there’s even mentions of Grayson, which for those of you who've not read the book might leave you thinking, “who the hell is this guy?” whereas those who had read the books could smile at his otherwise unexplained reference. That, my friends, was one for the fans and great fan service if you ask us.
More Tough Choices
The best part about Mass Effect 1, I think you’ll agree, is the difficult decision you were faced with down on Virmire, whether you should sacrifice Ashley or Kaidan. Mass Effect 2 on the other hand, so long as you played it sensibly enough, you technically weren’t faced with such a decision. You pretty much had to decide – loyalty mission, provided – whether you should send a soldier or an engineer to repair a door in the suicide mission but that was about as complex as it got.
Mass Effect 3 took the Mass Effect 2 rulebook, urinated all over it before incinerating it and throwing it out the window. With tough decisions like that of Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 3 will have you second guessing the big choices you make and then leave you to live with them after you’d made them. It’ll have you contemplating all the big choices and reflecting on every decision you’ve ever made during the course of the trilogy.
Should you trick the krogan into believing you’ve cured the genophage just to get the salarians on board? Yes? Even at the expense of your good friend Mordin’s life? Oooohhh, it’s a toughie! What about choosing to back the geth when you realise what the quarians actually did to them? Even if it meant losing your good friend Tali? Yes, it’s one hell of a decision you have to make, and as a result, Mass Effect 3 is a much better game for it. There’s no right or wrong answer to any of them. As The Monkees and Billy Joel once said, it’s ‘shades of gray.’ They weren’t exactly singing about Mass Effect though… or were they!? Actually, I think Joel’s was called 'shades of grey' – you crazy Americans!
Quite possibly the best thing about Mass Effect 3 was the amount of friendly faces you managed to not only see and talk to again, but were actually involved in Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy. The cameos ranged from fully-fledged roles in the sequel, like Engineer Adams who returns from Mass Effect 1 and Ashley Williams who also returns from Mass Effect 1 and has the chance to join Shepard’s squad. But there were much smaller, yet equally brilliant roles too.
Whether you’re talking about - and bear with us here, this is a fairly lengthy list - Doctor Michel from Mass Effect 1, Urdnot Wrex, the Batarian terrorist from Mass Effect 1’s Bring Down The Sky DLC, Major Kirrahe from Mass Effect 1’s mission on Virmire, Jenna the waitress who you saved in Mass Effect 1 and got a job at Chora’s Den, Conrad Verner from both Mass Effect 1 and 2, General Oraka from Mass Effect 1, Captain Bailey from Mass Effect 2 or Aria T’Loak from Mass Effect 2...the list goes on. They all make an appearance.
Then there’s your whole squad from Mass Effect 2... if they survived, that is. If they did, they all made an appearance in Mass Effect 3 in some way, shape or form. Some had tragic ends, a la Thane, and potentially Mordin and Tali, while others had a change in character, a la Jack and Jacob, but they all played welcome parts and added to the overall spectacle of things. For veterans to the series, it seemed like there was a friendly face around every corner and there was. It made you feel like you were a part of something much bigger and it helped you become immersed in one of the most fully-fleshed out universes we’ve seen in quite some time.
Much Darker Tone
BioWare said that Mass Effect 3 would have a much darker tone, and boy, they weren’t kidding. Things were hitting the fan and shit’s got serious from the first minute all the way to the last. Mass Effect 3 allowed the franchise to really come out of its shell and see how far they could push gamers, whether they’re skulking around in the shadows of the Ardat-Yakshi’s monastery with screaming Banshees in the background, watching Thessia fall, seeing the geth and the quarians prepare for all out war, exploring the krogan temple hearing the torment that the krogans had been put through or seeing Cerberus tempt in refugees, only to exploit them and experiment on them. It’s subject matter which is rather close to the bone and we loved it.
It was no-holds barred for the Edmonton-based developer in the finale of the Mass Effect franchise, with them essentially killing off as many of the franchise’s main characters whenever and wherever they pleased. Watching Tali take her own life after we decided to back the geth and failed to talk down the quarians is a moment in gaming that we’re probably always going to remember. It’s powerful stuff. We’re sorry Tali. We made a mistake. Given the chance to do it all over again, we would. What’s that? We can? Gee willikers! The third in the franchise, in fact, showed some considerable signs of maturity and a much darker tone than we’d seen before in the franchise, and the game – and we – benefitted as a whole as a result.
Return of the RPG
One of the biggest criticisms that was levelled at BioWare following Mass Effect 2 was “where’s my RPG gone?” Mass Effect 2 was essentially stripped of anything and everything that sent stat-happy RPG-ites crazy. The role-playing was still there, of course, but the character growth had been dumbed down leaving many feeling that ME2 was a shooter merely masquerading as a role-playing game.
Welcome to Mass Effect 3, where the RPG is well and truly back in the franchise. Not only does Shepard now have more skills – eight in ME3 as opposed to six in ME2, not including rewards for completing the game – but each of those new skills actually branch halfway through levelling up, allowing you the chance to choose your own path for Shepard and his/her squad.
As well as that, there’s the return of weapon modifications, the ability to upgrade weapons, the Shadow Broker’s Glyph that lets you add character bonuses and even the armour customisation that allows players to don different armour with specific character attributes. Sure, the RPG elements might not quite as in-depth as some people would have liked for a game that classifies itself as an RPG, but for us, they suit us just fine. Just fine, indeed.
Check back on Wednesday to see the 5 things we hated about Mass Effect 3 and then come back on Friday for our top 20 Mass Effect moments. It’s going to be legendary.