- Mass Effect is a pretty cool
universe to fool around in
- Fantastic production values
- Combat is enjoyable
- If you're a first-time player
you'll wonder about the significance of the cavalcade of
characters that show up
- Mixed emotion on exploding the galaxy
- Sidequests that build up without warning
- Why do I need to bother going to different locations to
buy/upgrade items? Does the Internet not exist in the Mass
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Score:8.0 / 10
SPOILER WARNING - The ending of Mass Effect
3 (at least, my ending) may be revealed in the text below.
Besides the ending of Mass Effect 3, where Shepherd dies, the galaxy
explodes, the Reapers are destroyed, and everything pretty much goes to
Hell in the worst way possible, the thing that most got under my skin
with Mass Effect 3 is that even with all the technology, all the
advancements in communication, the faster than light travel courtesy of
the mass effect relays throughout the galaxy,
apparently the Internet does not exist and has never existed in the Mass Effect
Stores and upgrade stations are all accessed by computer. If Shepherd
wants to upgrade a weapon, she needs to head down to the cargo deck and
access a specific terminal (which I didn't actually come across until
the closing chapters of the game).
Check email? She can go to her quarters or access
her personal terminal on the bridge. Buy ship models and fish? Find the
terminals on the Citadel or find the models scattered throughout the
game. Besides lacking the ability to simply re-route a terminal -- such
a staple of source material like Star Trek: The Next Generation -- which
is absurd given that Shepherd's ship, the Normandy, is the most advanced
ship in the human fleet, there's also this wide-open logic hole that
caused me so much irritation it was practically an open sore by the end
of the game.
Shepherd, and seemingly every character, is equipped with something
called an Omni-tool. It opens electronic locks, acts as a communication
tool, as well, it has the ability to send out a healing pulse to revive
squad mates in the heat of battle. So why can't it tap into local wi-fi
to order weapon upgrades? Fish? Models? I can do that on my cell phone!
I could be under fire in a real battlefield, whip out my phone, browse
Amazon and order a set of salt and pepper shakers. Then when I get home
(or, if) there's the salt and pepper shakers waiting for me. Why can't I
do the same thing in the Mass Effect universe?
This same "shortcut" could also apply to the side missions, which are
simply added to Shepherd's to-do list without any active involvement of
the player outside of just overhearing a conversation. Why can't I just
make a call and turn in the info or just courier it to the alien dude
hanging out at the Citdel in the same vein as Futurama rather than
having to hoof it back to the Citadel, hunt down the guy (and you might
always know who because you may not even remember when the "quest" was
"handed" to you), and deliver the information or goods.
It's baffling to me that such a thing could be
overlooked, especially in light of the fact that time is of the essence
of Shepherd's mission. The very survival of all organic life in the
galaxy hangs in the balance and Shepherd's still saddled with menial
jobs any random contractor with a space ship could complete. Or could be
completed with a simple email.
Also, baffling, though not nearly as irritating, is the fact BioWare has
spent three games fleshing out the Mass Effect universe but still feels
compelled to tap into other source material like Marvel comics and Star
Wars. (At one point there's a line pulled directly from The Empire
Strikes Back.) Maybe it's just a happy coincidence, but some of them are
so overt, so obvious, that one might wonder if they simply ran out of
new ideas because there isn't even an interesting spin put on the
"homage" that goes on.
The actual gameplay -- the part of the game that isn't worthy of the
same kind of ire aimed at the underlying problems with the fiction -- is
great. The parts that are desperate, are difficult and an enjoyable
challenge. Ducking and diving into cover, throwing biotic powers around
to lay waste to Shepherd's opponents, issuing orders to squad mates,
that all feels really good, and the multiplayer component offers plenty
of opportunity to hone combat tactics and strategies.
Most of the combat scenarios and missions are sandwiched between some of
great cutscences and natural dialogue, that have become the hallmark of
BioWare games. The production values can't be faulted.
Plenty of Mass Effect fans found fault with the end of the game, which
closed out the trilogy in such a spectacularly bad fashion that it
sparked an online petition to change the ending of the game. In and of
itself, this is phenomenally stupid and entitlement taken to the nth
degree. Maybe it displays the kind of fervour and passion that fans have
for the series, but really, if a player doesn't like an ending that's
okay. There are seven different endings to the game -- my ending appears
to have been the worst -- depending on how thorough Shepherd's been in
exploring the galaxy, but a demand to change the ending? To what,
exactly? Shepherd saves the day and opens a pie shop? Or creates the
Internet and develops an online retailer? (That would be a great idea!) Or
just have the Jade Empire universe slide into Mass Effect universe and
take out the Reapers with maximum chi?
This writer is at a loss. Except to say that BioWare should stick to the
endings they designed and spend some resources patching the Omni-tool to
allow me to order things "online" and turn in quests via email.
Mass Effect 3 is thoroughly enjoyable and a good sci-fi romp. But it's
not "the most intricately crafted stories in the history of the medium"
as Andrew Reiner of Game Informer put it. It's good, there's little
doubt of that in my mind, and I had fun with the game overall, even at
the point that I blew up the galaxy and everyone in it (thereby giving
the Reapers the last laugh on that particular score) but it's not the
pinnacle and there's plenty of "space" for BioWare to explore not only
in the Mass Effect universe but also interactive storytelling.