Archive for May, 2014

Mass Effect 3

Posted in Games, Mass Effect with tags , on May 3, 2014 by pieman70

And so, dear Friends we come to the final part of the Mass Effect trilogy.  Many of the choices you make will have consequences here and one way or another the fate of the galaxy and the reapers will be decided once and for all.  No pressure.

As always, this article will contain Spoilers.  Avoid until you play Mass Effect 3 and also if you haven’t played the first two games.

The game follows the same format as the last two, a third person shooter with RPG elements.  The game kicks off with Shepard facing a court martial after being suspended for a period of time. I initially thought this was for joining cerberus in the previous game but it seems to be due to the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC “Arrival” which culminates in Shepard destroying the Batarian Mass relay, and most of the system, to slow down the reaper advance.  During the court martial the reapers attack earth En Mass and, with the help of Anderson, now returned to military life apparently, Shepard escapes on the Normandy while Anderson remains to co-ordinate resistance on earth.  Your mission is to unite the races of the galaxy and find a way to defeat the reapers.  In your way are the reaper forces, mercenaries, Geth and a more aggressive and amoral Cerberus.

As always there are tweaks to the gameplay.  These are less major than previously, there is a larger selection of weapons and armour, essentially bringing back the system from the first game, however they have kept ammo types as standard which is something.  In the game there is now jumping, but it is used as an action, similar to vaulting cover, rather than an unwelcome foray into platform games that tends to happen.  There are also occasions where you can take control of turrets and mech suits.  Outside of combat the system is pretty much unchanged, Paragon and Renegade interrupts remain but I have to say I found the conversation options less ambiguous.

The scanning of planets has been altered again.  Now you enter a system and have to set off sensor “pings” to find supplies, objects and sometimes reinforcements for the galactic fleet or parts for the Crucible (A device that may defeat the reapers)  this is actually pretty tense as the reaper alertness only resets after a mission.  I found myself barrelling the Normandy through systems, pinging madly, pursued by reapers, trying to catch that last object.  It really adds to the tension and the feeling that the reapers are unstoppably marching through the galaxy.  Any player will be hard pressed not to jump every time the loud horns sound heralding reapers arriving in the system.

And so, to the most important part; the story.  This is always the strongest suit of the mass effect series and this one doesn’t disappoint.  As stated previously, the story involves Shepard trying to defeat a full on reaper invasion and liberate Earth.  To do this you have to unite the council races to commit assets to the fleet that will free earth and to the crucible project.  A prothean device that is the key to defeating the Reapers.  Through this and some side missions you will bring your crew back together and encounter all of your surviving allies from previous games.

The story can almost be split into three acts.  The first involves recruiting the Taurian fleet to your cause.  To do this you must persuade the Krogan to help the Taurians fight the reapers on their own world, and to do that the Krogan want the Genophage cured.  The second involves you intervening to stop the war between the Quarians and the Geth.  Finally you have to take the fight to Cerberus before launching the assault to re-take Earth.

Each act runs the theme of victory at a cost, be it the bittersweet cure of the genophage at the cost of Morden’s life or the freeing of the Geth and the return if the Quarians to their homeworld at the cost of Legion’s life no victory comes free.  The game does do a great job of building you up over the first two acts, between the main stories and the side missions, and despite the losses of some friends along the way you feel invincible.  You regularly achieve the impossible and you feel like an all conquering hero.  By the end of act two you feel lime you’re going to give the reapers a good thrashing.  Quickly kick the illusive man in the nuts and back home for tea and medals.  Act 3 brings this crashing down when you loose the Asarii homeworld to the reapers while searching for a prothian archive.  It really helps to take you down a peg.  It also adds to build up a villain called Kai Leng, a dark mirror of Shepard working for the Illusive man, as he is responsible for you failing to get the archive and loosing the Asari homeworld in the process.  There is also another worthwhile point before we reach the endgame.  The Reapers are hard.  They have minions which you fight normally, but when an actual reaper shows up it is properly terrifying.  You actually down 3 over the course of the game, but each is such an achievement you never feel the threat diminish.

Procrastinating from the end game a little more, I was given the choice to re- kindle your romance with Tali or Ashley (or indeed start a new one). I chose to stick with Tali and I’m bloody glad I did.  You are rewarded with some lovely moments on the Quarian homeworld and a romance plot that feels genuinely affectionate.

Also, I should mention the extra colour you pick up on as you travel around the citadel, be it an alliance soldier wanting to change assignments as her brother has joined cerberus or the salarian who finds out his new armour was bought from his friend selling her car, combine this with catching your engineers snogging below decks (not a euphemism) and the universe seems fully fleshed out.

So, to the end game, the invasion of Earth.  Starting from a lovely cut scene of the combined citadel races, plus the Geth vs the reapers you are quickly thrust into a ground assault through the streets of London.  In the middle is a short break where you catch up with everyone, featuring a touching scene with Garrus, and indeed a general feeling of the positive impact you have made in the lives of all these people.  However it was at this point I got the distinct impression old Shep wasn’t going to make it through this one.

The final mission initially continues the battle through London as your forces push towards a transport beam to the citadel, now under reaper control and in earth orbit, and being the last piece of the crucible.  This culminates in a really hectic battle as you try to defend missile launchers poised to take down the reaper guarding the transport beam.  Once downed a mad dash to the beam begins.  I took garrus and Tali with me on this.  Representing both the people who had been with me from the beginning and my in game best friend and girlfriend.  Half way along this dash through exploding vehicles Tali is hurt.  There is a heartfelt goodbye as the Normandy picks her and Garrus up for you to go on alone.  It is at this point where things take an unexpected turn and indeed where I suspect the controversial part of the ending begins.  Caught in a large explosion shep comes to burned and bruised and you take control and limp to the beam.  Yes, the end game eschews combat for talking.  I love it.  Your final confrontation with the illusive man is verbal, there is some real pathos as Anderson dies next to you and then you finally you activate the crucible and are given three options.  Destroy all artificial life, which will kill the reapers, but also wipe out the Geth, Edi and of course yourself.  Control the reapers, which will still kill you or option three use your half artificial form as a template to make all organic and artificial life part organic, part artificial.  And of course die in the process.  This was my choice, and I found the ending both hopeful and satisfying, and the memorial service on the Normandy for shep and Anderson may have made me shed a small tear.

Now, to address some of the criticism, the lack of a boss fight and your character dying, frankly get over it.  I’m sure some would have preferred an ending where you kill the reapers and waltz off to victory but I thought the direction the game took was more interesting and original, and worked better.  Second, the criticism that in a game where it stresses choices having consequences everything boils down to a choice of three endings, first what the hell did you think, that they’d programme a thousand different options for every combination of events?  For starters, we know that while choices influenced events through each game only 3 or 4 transfer between games.  Also, look at the game as a whole, your choices counted.  Was a character dead?  Who trusted you?  Just because the ending doesn’t represent every conversation tree doesn’t mean each choice was for nought.  I thought the ending wrapped up the story and left a hopeful note for the future.

So, to summarise, a barnstorming story, good gameplay, were there any issues?

Well, I wasn’t too happy with adding the complexity back into weapons, and instead of being able to keep a heavy weapon at all times those were now things you pick up at certain points but drop if you select a different gun.  Finally, a rather minor point but worth mentioning.  During the game you meet the crime lord Omega from the previous game on the citadel.  She is in hiding after Cerberus took over the Omega satellite.  You run a few missions and she says she may ask you to help when she re-takes Omega.  I wondered when this mission would appear and it never does. Turns out the Omega mission is DLC which I felt was a bit of a swizz.  I don’t mind DLC adding extra to the experience but to have a section highlighted only for it never to appear feels a bit like a cheap in game plug for DLC.

Overall though this is a fitting end to the trilogy.  The story grabs you and the gameplay entertains.  Highly recommended.  As I have said previously, I am developing an itch to re-play all three games.  I may get the DLC first and comment on the differences when I manage to do that.