The lights are on
Alright ladies and gents, this is my first time writing a review, so please be gentle.
Mass Effect 3 continues to be an incredibly engaging game. The final chapter of the masterpiece that Mass Effect is continues to bring both an engaging story and satisfying combat that is sure to please many. The game manages to retain all the fun aspects from the previous games, while at the same time getting rid of all the fat that clogged ME1 and ME2 - I am looking at you planet scanning.
Combat is as fun as ever. The gunplay is tight and fast paced. Being able to flank and enemy taking cover from my allies' fire, and then storming his position and emptying a entire clip on his exposed body will continue to bring a smile to my face no matter how many times I do so. I am looking forward to try all the other careers to try new tactical approaches. However, my biggest critic combat wise, is in regards of the use of the use/dodge/run/cover key. My statement to the cramming of 4 critical features into a single key is: What the what?. If you are in the heat of the battle get ready to see Shepard turn into the amazing booger as he sticks to a wall when you were attempting to storm an enemy position. Or be ready to curse your head off when he dodges in front of a console for the 1000 time just because your view was one 1 milimeter away from the "use" icon. Froma design standpoint that made very little sense to me. On that note, when are game developers understand that dodge is better when it is a double tap feature rather than shoehorn another button into the equation?. A smaller critic about the combat, is in the melee combat department. It is not as engaging as Bioware claimed it to be, predominatly due to the fact that heavy melee attacks are a constant, single animation with serious targeting issues - a ducking target can take a blow to the face and laugh about it before smashing your face with his own melee attack.
Customization wise, class upgrades are back and offer 2 additional pair of upgrades to the squad member's specialization. Shepard's ability to learn 1 additional power from a squad mate is a clever addition. Weapon upgrades are back once again, but this time around, they are smaller in quantity and all do, for the most part, the same type of modifications to all weapons. The customization that was touted about the guns via upgrades is also lacking, as most only change the colours of the gun, or its lights.
Characters continue to be amazingly well designed. The squad members' personalities, small banter with Shepard, and between themselves, makes them more believeable and easier to form an emotional attachement with them - if you are into that kind of thing. I for one, am. Garrus, Tali, Li'Ara and Legion are by far my favorite characters of all time - including Shepard of course. One critic - small one that is, is that there are no longer squad member missions, like in ME2, which is sort of a dissapointment, since I would have loved to spent just a little more time, and delving deeper into their lives, before the final farewell. The scene with Shepard and Garrus on the rooftop of the citadel, being two guys unwinding is, by my standards, one of the most moving ones I have ever seen. The beauty of its simplicity is just difficult to describe by yours truly.
Exploration is back in full force, but this time Bioware had the good sense of removing all the nasty fat that clinged to it like love handles on an oversized man that has eating one too many 20oz. steaks all by himself. Exploring a planet is easy, fast and the addition of the scanning tool removes the tedium of having to explore each planet individually, virtually sinking enormous amounts of time into it. Vehicle segments have been completely removed, which is in a way a good thing - since it would make no sense tangling with a Reaper riding a Mako, but they did offer a nice change of pace in the previous 2 entries of the ME universe.
If you like doing side quests, this might be possibly the one game with the least amount of them. The great majority of side quests have been reduced to travel/scan/return to the citadel fetch quests. The Citadel continues to be the only hub in the game, so expect a lot of back tracking. The Quest interface continues to be as unintuitive as ever. The text of a quest never varies, if you managed to obtain a quest item, and were not paying attention, forget about it, it could be sitting in your invisible inventory for the next year and you would not have a clue about it.
Interface wise, Bioware continues to do the same thing as Bethesda: unbelieveably obnoxius interfaces. Instead of allowing the player to key-bind each interface screen - journal, squad stats, equipment, etc, to the keyboard (which has a hell-ah of a lot of keys for that reason), you are required to "esc" your butt out until the menu pops out. I know it is not that big of a deal, but after a while is one of those things that ticks people off, and I am one of them. I guess it could be worse, it could have been the Skyrim or Fallout 3 interfaces, yuck.
*Spoiler beyond this point*
The story is continues to be one the greatest stories I ever read or watched. The set pieces are a combination of action-paced moments and mixed emotions powerhouses - joy and sorrow in equal measures. The reapers continue to be larger than life as the all encompasing end of what we have come to know and love. Thane's final moments, Tali's suicide and Legion's final questioning moment "does this unit have a soul" are probably the closest I have come to actually go fully emotional. I was fully aware that I was fully invested into Mass Effect, but this 3 scenes made me realize how much I actually did care about the characters. And the thing is, I am not a guy that easily gets emotional, specialy for a game, but man was I blind sided.
My biggest critic of the game, and to be frank, the most dissapointing and game breaking flaw in the game: are the endings. Bioware did pull the Stephen King on this one - as I stated in the title of my review, and that is in the fact that the game - and the entire ME universe, takes off with a bang and never ever lets go, sucking you in, making you fall in love to it, cursing when your allies permanently died, or cheering when Sovereing went down, set pieces that grab you by the gut and tug at all your emotions at once, and then....then nothing. You are rewarded for all your effort with a ho-hum ending at best.
Allow me to flesh this out so more. The entire game, from ME1 to ME3 is base around on the premise of "choice/reward". In ME1 you get a minimum of 4 playthroughs, and that is based solely on whether if you let Kaydan or Ashley die, and whether you romanced either. Add to that all the other factors, Li'Ara, letting the Rachni queen live or die, and we are talking a massive amount of combinations aplayer can get out of ME1 alone. Then along comes ME2 and again the combination of storylines is just staggering. But not also did they add long term choices, Bioware also added the finality choices, in which your actions dramatically affected the outcome of the suicide mission, which is by all means brilliant.
Then along comes ME3 and again you are presented with numerous decisions - while less in number, they have more dramatic weight. And then, the final mission begins, and all you have done so far suddenly amounts to ***. You are going to have to forgive me on this one, but the final mission and endings simply take a big fat *** on everything the player has done. Which begets the question: what was the *** point to all of it?.
As you progress along ME3 you are faced with the task of gathering all this resources for the war. It has the exact same feel and flavor as the finality choices in ME2: Do I purchase the armor plating for the Normandy and prevent Jack from being turned into sloppy joe during the approach at the Collector's base, or no? Do I equip the guns that Garrus wants me to, or do I skip them in favor of my Koi Fish and let another squad member eat a mouth full of plasma?. But on ME3 all you do is brilliantly absent at the end.
The first moment my flags went off was during the Quarian/Geth conflict. Shepard is given throughout the entire series the power to affect with his descisions the outcome of every conflict, no matter how difficult it is. However, during the final moments between the Quarian Geth faceoff he becomes this retarded mute that is content staring at Tali's sweet tushy allowing one single lonely well-known reckeless Quarian commander decide the outcome of both species/ Really? All of the sudden Shepard forgot that he could have ordered Legion to download all Geth data into his own and preserve their species for reconstruction, or threaten like he always does the general into standing down - which could have been possible, givent the fact that the Geth were playing freeze at the moment. Or any other number of options. Instead we are shoehorned -yes I love this word, a dramatic plot twist for the sake to fulfill BioWare's promise of universe changing decisions. Apparently Shepard forgot how to solve problems, just as he did with the Salarians and the Krogan.
I was expecting a least 1 cutscene involving the progress of the war - plus its negative or positive effects, per resource gathered. You something like "oh no we are gonna die" and then BAM! there comes the retrieved Volus dreadnought saving the moment, and if you didn't get the Elcor support, then wham! they are the ones going down. Building intensity you know? The Rachni Queen is happily absent and the Aria T'Loak, a prominent figure in the lore is absent as well. Then, once you manage to get to the reaper, Harbinger appears and facemelts the entire place, and - here is the best part, arbitrarily kills your squad members. And then Shepard is alone. This made me think again, what was the point to all of it then? The squad choice got reduced to: who I like the least so I don't care they get stamped to the ground?
Anderson's final appereance is meh, and the Illusive Man's final act of madness ends with a miserable single bullet....then here comes the plot twist and the arbitrary death of possibly one of the best characters of this game's generation. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with heroic deaths and all, but where there are only a few endings and all have the same outcome, it pretty much reduces all the efforts of the entire game to 0%.
And what do we get for all our struggle? We get a cutscene where everything goes to hell and the Normady crashes in a planet where some of the crew walks out confused, reminiscing something pulled out of the Land of the Lost, and then credits. There is no closure. We never get to see the fruits of all our effort, how our squad members' lives evolve afterwards and what happens to the universe after the reapers are destroyed/gone.
One of the biggest problems of ME3's current effect is the fact that BioWare had the need to add a plot twist. Big hint: Not all games require a plot twist. In many cases, the simplest solution is usually the best answer. The reapers believe in the expunging of the organics, and thus need to be destroyed. Simple, and to the point. Pepper it with some extra facts to add flavor and you got a good recipe. The need to shoehorn an additional being that is the boss of the reapers, and that the reapers are in reality this "benevolent" beings with harsh methods like a chastising father was worse than a mexican soap opera plot twist.
Others claim that the ending is open to interpretation. I beg to differ. You never EVER use open to interpretation to games unless it is an integral part of the story from the start. The game didn't used it at all, and attempting to use that as an excuse for the crappy ending is short of shameful from a storytelling standpoint. Open to interpretation rarely works for movies, and definitely sucks the big one in game endings: Limbo and Braid are an excellent example.
Bottom line is: BioWare failed massively in the final moments of Mass Effect. I stopped all urges of playing ME1 and ME2 past the first playthrough so once ME3 was out I could restart from the very beginning and witness the unfolding of Commander Shepard's epic story - and this is the only time in my life I will use the word epic in such a lose manner, but knowing what the outcome is, I have little desire to do so now. Maybe I will play it again, but I will sure as *** stop before the final mission and just daydream about how it should have been done.
I wished nothing more than to see Shepard spend his war-free time with Tali at their own house at the very spot in Rannoch where they had their sweet moment - where she daydreamed about where the window would be, right before the mission. But I got cheated out of it.
My apologies if the review is way too lenghty.
Your final paragraph sums up what I wanted as well. That's ALL I can bring to mind when I think about this game. How I wanted it to end, how that ending was stolen from me, and how I will NEVER get it back.
Very sad game; Both throughout, and the way it was horrendously ended.
I loved the "bioware pulls a stephen king move..." At the end of the game it felt so much like darktower, a series that made it impossible for me to finish a book for close to a year because of the ending. Honestly didn't want the "white horse sunset blah blah blah" but I did want an ending that matched my play style. I wanted to finally stop running with Miranda, go someplace nice, because honestly we all knew one way or another shepard was done saving the planet after this one, even says as much in final mission. Unfortunately bioware did not give us this choice, and it made all my choices and all the peace I brokered during the final game worthless.
Great review man sums everything up. What a letdown:(
Bravo. You sir have writtien the most intelligent and thoughtful crtuic on the ending ive read. I Feel like with all the yelling and mindless shouting about the ending only makes it look better, like it's some deeper meaning thing that people don't "Get".