Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) Review – The Good, the bad, & the ugly

Posted on Mar 27 2012 - 12:56pm by Tatjana Vejnovic

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You’ve surely, by now, heard that the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy is god-awful, illogical, and out right stupid. As someone who uses the series as an outlet for stress and anger, and has played through it eight times, it disappointed me, too. But does a bad ending make a bad game? In this case, absolutely not. Mass Effect 3 is a phenomenal game. In fact, I have personally chosen to forget the ending and enjoy my playthroughs (from now on) up to the last mission until Bioware releases the new ending via DLC.

I will try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but I will admit, talking about the story without doing so is going to be awkward and difficult. If Bioware knows how to do one thing, it’s how to write a magnificent, dynamic story with exquisite character development. In the last six years we’ve met many different characters, assisted them on their life journeys, and strengthened our friendships with them so they had our backs until the end. In Mass Effect 3, as predicted, you do lose a couple of those friends.

…does a bad ending make a bad game? In this case, absolutely not. Mass Effect 3 is a phenomenal game.

In the first character-death, I caught myself reaching for the tissue box to stop the tears from flowing. It was tasteful, and the dialogue was appropriate; the character did not die in vain, but an honorable death that will be with fans forever. The second death, for me, was the worst. It was a character that I had grown extremely attached to in each playthrough; someone I felt that in real life, I could get along with and have by my side.

This character assists you one last time, and the pre-death dialogue is so strong and powerful, that I couldn’t help but reach for that tissue box again. I thought to myself, “this is ridiculous! I’m crying at the death of a video game character.” And after I thought about it a little harder, it wasn’t ridiculous at all. Bioware gives us characters, whether human or alien, to befriend. Characters with such rich back stories and personalities and that it’s extremely natural to become attached. When that character died, I literally felt as if I lost a friend.

Which takes me back to the story. The story (aside from that awful ending) is great. Commander Shepard has to deal with Saren, and then the Collectors. Each time it seemed harder and harder, until s/he was faced with uniting the races of the galaxy together to fight in unity against the Reapers, which wanted nothing but death to all organics. The story features love, conflict, sadness, and happiness—it’ alls very well done.

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Bioware definitely listened to the fans when it came to improving the gameplay mechanics. The leveling system in ME3 was everything I ever wanted it to be and more. You gained points with each level (starting at level 30 if you imported a character from Mass Effect 2), and had the option to take a skill through six different levels. You can take a skill in a different direction a starting with level four. For example, you can either enhance “Overload,” or you can make it “Chain Overload,” which affects multiple enemies. The way your Renegade/Paragon points were represented is a bit confusing at first, as well as the relationship between “Reputation” and R/P points.

Planet probing is mostly gone. Instead of investing several hours in probing planets for minerals that you’d use for upgrades, you are sent to specific systems to locate assets. This task was replaced by “scanning.” You hit the left trigger/L2 to “scan” your area and anomalies would pop up with a red ring around it within the solar system you were in. However, if you scantoo much, the Reapers detect you and swarm the system, and if you let them, eventually destroy the Normandy, resulting in a critical mission failure. This got annoying at times as I would scan a system once, and before I could even think about probing the planet, seven Reapers would already be on me. The system is also a bit unfair, as the Reapers don’t affect most solar systems with a mass relay, and rarely had anomalies in them.

I decided, when I played the original Mass Effect the second time, to play Shepard as a Vanguard. I found Vanguard extremely entertaining and intense, loving it until Mass Effect 2 took a giant dump atop its head. In Mass Effect 2, all cool-downs happen together. So if you used first aid on your squad, you’d have to wait for your powers to cool-down to add an ammo power. ME3 changed that and made it more logical (ex. If you add an ammo power, you can still use a biotic/tech skill). This heavily improved Vanguard; I could use biotic charge and Nova immediately after, however, I had to wait for the cool-down from Nova to use Pull.

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I’m glad that I didn’t have to recruit and please twelve crew members this time around, however, I would have liked to physically see the other past friends you recruited for the fight help you in the final fight.For example, you have the option of recruiting Kasumi Goto to help build the Crucible. I would have loved to see her adding some final touches in a cinematic prior to the final fight, but alas, regardless of what you did, those cinematics were all the same. You did get to see everyone one last time though, and for that, I applaud Bioware. If there’s one pet peeve I have about video games, it’s much-loved characters not returning in sequels.

If the ending had been up to par with Casey Hudson’s promises, I wouldn’t have a problem. He promised “a good ending to conclude the series,” and “over one thousand story probabilities from your past decisions.” I saw a lot of different probabilities, but not over a thousand. Over a thousand was much of a stretch. Instead the ending involved picking one of three colors and listening to people babble on about conspiracy theories. I would have been satisfied with destroying the Reapers and then being seen in a “five years later” scene with my arm around Liara on the beach. Alas, I got something nowhere near that, but one can dream.

I could go on and on about Mass Effect 3, but I won’t. The Mass Effect series is no series a review or news article can prepare for you. This is a game you experience. A game that only you can decide how you truly feel about it. You are Commander Shepard, and you shouldn’t even be reading this, because the Reapers are coming, and they’re coming fast. It’s your job to take Earth back.

In the words of Garrus Vakarian, “go out there and give them hell. You were born to do this Shepard.”

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Gamer. Photographer. Internet superhero. Commander Shepard. Specializing in urban decay photography and being a gamer since she was two, Tatjana is one unique cookie. Not only does she climb fences and risk arrest for the perfect shot, she's also convinced that she's actually Commander Shepard.

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2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Vorodill March 27, 2012 at 4:06 PM - Reply

    “go out there and give them hell. You were born to do this Shepard.”That’s Garrus, not Anderson.

  2. Tatjana March 27, 2012 at 4:48 PM - Reply

    Whoops! My bad, you’re right. :P

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