From the outset things get dramatic very quickly, as Earth is besieged by the deadly Reapers, and you find yourself fighting to find a way off the planet in order to call every major species in the galaxy to Earth’s defence. You then spend the majority of the game zipping around, attempting to bring peace to a galaxy already full of mistrust, fear and conflict in the kind of over the top space opera plot Mass Effect is known for. As a fan of the Mass Effect series since the original game was released on the 360 back in 2007, you can imagine my expectations for the concluding chapter of the series being pretty high. Happily, this third instalment seems to have gotten most things right.
Combat is very similar to ME2, though a better cover/dodge mechanic has been implemented, and the way you level up your powers has been improved slightly – higher levels now give you the option of choosing how to develop a power, allowing you to customise skills the same way you do your appearance.
The armour/weapon system has also been re-thought. ME3 strikes a good balance between the list-heavy system of ME1 and the ridiculously dumbed down system of ME2, with weapon mods making a comeback, and armour options and effects being greatly increased. The AI has also seen improvement, now employing flanking tactics and showing self-preservation instincts.
Plot is definitely ME3’s best feature, with some truly brilliant highs and tragic lows. It’s entertaining, dramatic and, at times, downright depressing. Indeed, ME3 has much darker undertones than the previous two outings, with Bioware highlighting how the war affects the common man with great poignancy. Walking around the citadel, you’ll hear stories from various people – a soldier saying goodbye to his wife as she leaves for the frontlines, for example, or a teenage girl whose parents have been killed. You’ll feel your own losses too, especially if you’ve imported data from the previous games (from which your choices are revisited frequently).
With all of the previous in mind, it’s sad to see that ME has slipped in a few places. The side quest system is unfulfilling, with tasks often lacking context, and the long promised same-sex romance side plots feel rushed and neglected. Character progression also feels slightly lacking, with ME2’s many party member conversations having been reduced to a mere handful, especially for newcomer James. Worst of all, the game’s endings are spectacularly disappointing, having almost no variation between them and never tying up loose ends. In fact, the final ten minutes are easily the worst in the series.
Finally, multiplayer is fairly fun. Although it doesn’t amount to much more than killing lots of enemies alongside 3 other people, the ability to select and level up a class, buy equipment, upgrades, etc. make for a satisfying diversion to single-player.
Despite its few flaws, ME3 is still very enjoyable, and fans of the previous two games should definitely pick up a copy of ME3. Newcomers will probably feel a little confused by the plot, but should consider purchasing the game anyway, if only to live out that childhood fantasy of saving the galaxy from giant space shrimp.