It is approximately 2185 and you are Commander Shepard of the ship Normandy. You have been warning the entire universe of an invasion by a hostile alien race of machines and no one believed you. Well, who’s laughing now that Earth is being destroyed? Regrettably, no one is, since almost everyone is dead. The plot is a heavy one, which is understandable with the threat of all organic life in the universe coming to an end. With a heavy plot comes extreme amounts of intensity, and some of the best moments involving fighting for your life against highly-sophisticated and enormous spacecrafts named Reapers, which can annihilate anything in their path. It only intensifies when these Reapers focus entirely on you, with a laser that rings with the noise of death each time it strikes the ground, shaking the world as you dash for cover to stay alive. Trust us, it’s intense.
Mass Effect 3 is a third-person, cover-based shooter, but it is also an RPG. However, there is an option to switch to a specific mode, either narrative or action. If you don’t like RPGs, have no fear, you can still shoot plenty of aliens without worrying about experience and levelling. However, it is strongly suggested you use the RPG format to get more satisfaction from this game. Playing in the action mode deprives you of what makes this game beautiful, which is the depth and attention to detail. There are countless planets in this game and every single one has a small backstory and description. Not only that, every alien race has an incredibly deep history that rivals the actual history of the human race. Even in a sci-fi setting, everything seems to work and blend together perfectly to give off an authentic feel.
There are six different classes to choose from, all with different abilities. Some specialize in the mastering of weapons, while others use more supernatural powers. As you progress through the game you gain experience and spend it on your character to either upgrade previous abilities or gain new ones. The multiple classes add a level of depth and detail to the game, and each person will progress through the combat differently based on the character they create. A strong class will undoubtedly be charging the front lines, but a long-range class will wisely hang in the rear. If you play the game twice with two different classes, it will feel like a completely new game.
Personalization is the name of the game in Mass Effect 3. You have complete control over what Shepard will look like, including gender, along with one of three backstories, which is an interesting way to influence the morality system. This system is fairly basic: you can either be a renegade or a paragon, which translates into a ruthless Commander everyone fears but respects, or a friendly Commander who everyone loves. The choices made will affect the person Shepard becomes and how everyone reacts to the Commander. Some choices won’t affect the game much while others will mean the life or death of characters, so choose wisely.
There is plenty to do outside of the story missions. For instance, visiting the Citadel will take up a lot of time with all the people to speak to there. This is where the RPG elements incorporated into the game really come to the forefront, wandering around helping people with their troubles and gaining insight into locations and characters. You can spend hours at a time between story missions just messing around on the Citadel and the Normandy, speaking with people and learning about the universe you inhabit. This game will undoubtedly keep you busy.
On top of the thirty-hour campaign (shorter or longer depending on side-quests), there is co-op multiplayer. It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen in gaming before, but is entertaining nonetheless. You pick one of the six classes and join three people to complete simple missions on a small level. Working together with three people of different classes is fun since it gives you the feeling of being a team of superheroes. You need to use your strengths to overcome their weaknesses and vice versa. Still, it gets rather repetitive completing the same simple ‘survive’ and ‘defend’ missions over and over. If there were more options for different classes, or more levels or modes to compete in, this co-op mode would have a lot more to offer gamers than it currently does and would be a better addition to the game. However, as it stands now it is hard to look upon this as a reason to buy the game if you weren’t already sold on the excellent story mode.
This game is good but there are some apparent flaws. For instance, any time you step into an elevator, you will have to sit through a loading screen. It isn’t unbearably long, but you’ll see it enough that it gets annoying. The second flaw is the absurd idea of planet-scanning. Despite the fact that this has been a staple of the series, it still fails to engage the player in any meaningful way. Sure, it is necessary for side-quests in order to collect items, but it just doesn’t add to the game. It’s the definition of padding and it’s unfortunate that you have to spend time doing this – since there are multiple endings (and you want the good ending), you will have to put the time in collecting random items with this method.
Speaking of the ending, if you want a good ending (without completing 100% of the single player, which involves the horrible planet-scanning) you have to play multiplayer. This will increase your galactic readiness rating, which helps to determine what ending you get. While being forced to play multiplayer may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s the only decent way to achieve a better ending without spending a lot of time on mundane tasks. There are many problems with the endings themselves, but that’s spoiler-related. All you need to know about the multiple endings is that they really don’t differ that much from one another.
Despite the few flaws, this is an absolutely amazing game, and the setting is one of the greatest we’ve ever personally experienced in a video game. What is better than charging enemy encampments on a distant moon with a burning planet in the background and a spaceship battle roaring above you? From the astonishing visuals to the crazy amount of history the developers put into this game – it’s all incredible. The war for the universe will come alive in your mind in some spectacular ways, as you are literally the last hope for not just humanity but all organic life in existence. This is truly an experience to be had by all gamers.
Final Verdict: It’s worth a purchase.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Mass Effect 3 developed by BioWare and distributed by Electronic Arts.