Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

The first time Mass Effect 3 annoyed me was when I learned about the galactic readiness – having to play multiplayer in order to see the best ending. As it turns out, you didn’t really have to do that. Also, the multiplayer was surprisingly good – not really varied enough to be fun all the way to advance two characters to level 20, but a solid shooter experience making good use of the customization and class gameplay. I had a lot higher expectations on the rest of the game which probably is why I chose to highlight the multiplayer as the good part.

First of all, the game feels rushed and is very buggy. I lost count on how many times it crashed, there were blatant animation issues in every other cutscene and entire multiplayer matches could be ruined by a single lag spike. Mass Effect 2 was nowhere near this bad so I wonder where it went wrong – beside the multiplayer there are very few notable new features.

In addition, the gameplay has taken a step down. Mass Effect 2 was far from the perfect shooter, but it had the basics right so I was kind of hoping that they would just keep the compelling core of class-based third-person cover shooting and fix the shooting bits… To be fair, the extended class system adds a lot of interesting variety while keeping the skill tree simple, but the cover shooting has taken a turn for the worse. Levels are littered with covers that will not actually protect you from incoming fire, or covers that will not allow you to fire back at the enemy. Some high-end enemies have attacks that instantly kill you, adding nothing but frustration to the fighting. Thankfully, the multiplayer levels are properly designed and enemies make more sense there.

The important part, of course, is the narrative. To me it wasn’t really about the ending, it was about the entire course of the game – the game is first and foremost about the conclusion of the galactic war. This is the core of what makes the approach taken in Mass Effect 3 bland to me – the game was never about the grand scenes and inevitable conclusion, but about the characters and your own choices. Mass Effect 3 offers a comparatively linear experience and attempts to replace the characterization found in Mass Effect 2 with visually impressive battles and pre-set moments of dramatic tension – the problem is it doesn’t really work.

Some of the events in the game felt really out of place in regards to how I had played, others (like enemies who were supposed to be frightening) just meshed really poorly with how the gameplay presented them. The thing that made the first Mass Effect games great were the choices, how the greatest narrative moments in the game were made much greater because the player could change the outcome. In Mass Effect 3, the Paragon/Renegade system is all but gone and the longer you make it the less the game cares about your choices. It’s not bad by normal videogame narrative standards – I thought Dragon Age: Origins had the same problem where the endgame ignored everything that had previously happened – but Bioware have shown that they can use different story structures that fit the medium better so it seems like they could have done more.

In the end, Mass Effect 3 is a good game that is in the unfortunate position of being the sequel to a great game.

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Posted on Apr 03/12 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »