Mass Effect 3 was THE game of 2012 for me. The one I was anticipating, the payoff, the final hurrah of a long campaign against the threat of the giant mechanical squid monsters known as “Reapers“. Ever since we knew Harbinger and friends were imminently coming for us at the end of Mass Effect 2 and the Arrival DLC, it was a long wait from 2011 to March 2012. In anticipation, I got my character saves ready for import to go in and blow some stuff up.
The jump from Mass Effect 2 to 3 graphically was pretty minimal, it was the same engine with some better high resolution textures and lighting. To be honest, Mass Effect 2 still looks pretty good today, so this was understandable. The combat system was further evolved and makes running and gunning much more viable and enjoyable with dodge maneuvers and a much better inventory system that combines those of the first and second games. This was done of course to make multiplayer fun. More on that later.
The guts of the game is the arrival of the Reapers, the subsequent war of survival for all the species of the galaxy and Shepard’s journey united all the various galactic powers to stop the mass extinction of the galactic community. On the way, many Reaper creatures, Cerberus troopers and some Geth are shot or exploded. Also, giant worm versus Reaper fight! Obviously, depending on how you played the previous titles and how you deal with all the myriad issues in the game, the ending can go well, badly or somewhere in between for you. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the original ending options as shipped were…crap. Nobody wanted an RGB explosion nor the massive plot holes introduced by what most presume was Bioware rushing to meet an unrealistic deadline. Bioware acknowledged some of the major faults with it and redesigned the original ending so the most criticised elements were removed. The ending was much improved but still a little bit anticlimatic, and has left a bit of a sour note in many people’s opinion of the game.
However, the expansion DLCs really did help to get people back on side. The first two focused on the origin of the Reapers and of retaking Omega station where Cerberus (now bad guys again) has taken over and conducting some strange experiments. The final DLC – Citadel – focuses on you and your crew in a massive DLC that includes many in-jokes and references to the original games. To be honest, on playing this, the ending controversy completely slipped my mind and I found myself enjoying the game once again. In fairness, it’s not that Mass Effect 3 was bad in anyway apart from the ending. Far from it. It is brilliant. It is quite an emotional roller coaster playing it through the first time, from the initial shocking and devastating attack on Earth, the decimated defense fleet raining wreckage on the planet, the noble sacrifice of characters and a catharsis for two peoples at war for centuries. Even the final arrival at Earth, seeing the cumulative effects of the devastation is sobering as the one and only chance to save the galaxy and its slim chance of success bears down on you.
One other good aspect of the game is the free to play multiplayer which was fantastically supported by Bioware with free expansions every few months. Even though the gameplay was slightly repetitive, it is definitely good fun with a great variety of powers, characters and personalisation options. I only wish some of the potentially very rude character names players inevitably invented could be on display publicly!
As this trilogy drew to a close, confirmation that the universe would live on from Bioware is welcome news. Where the story goes and how the next installment plays is anyone’s guess. But please, whatever happens, don’t make a threat even bigger than the Reapers. It’s just not going to work. Give us some deep and dark conspiracy that only a Spectre can solve.