Mass Effect 3 – Game Analysis & Review
By Patrick Newman
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Director: Casey Hudson
Producer: Jesse Houston
Writers: Mac Walters, Neil Pollner
Composers: Clint Mansell, Christopher Lennertz, Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco, Sam Hulick
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Genre: Action role-playing
Mode: Single-player, co-op multiplayer
It would be impossible for BioWare to exceed the impossibly high bar set by the preceding two installments of their stunning Mass Effect saga, but true to form, they have come within swinging reach of that goal to produce a satisfying conclusion to one of the finest trilogies of games ever produced. Continuing its epic, intergalactic journey as seen through the eyes of Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3’s conflict focuses primarily on the Galactic Order’s strained efforts to protect not only Earth, but all organic life in the cosmos from the terrifying Reapers, who have laid dormant for the past 50,000 years and now aim to wage war against any race with a beating heart.
Grossly outmatched by the Reapers, Shepard and his compatriots proceed through the narrative’s distinct three acts in a fashion similar to Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 – by exploring new worlds, engaging in their numerous quests, and all the while making crucial negotiations to consolidate their power against the coming storm. Diplomacy is key to the outcome of Mass Effect 3’s events, as winning the support from such alien races as the Krogans requires the dissolution of past grudges to service the greater good.
These missions of diplomacy are based less in loyalty quests this time around, but Mass Effect 3’s reliance on the art of conversation has never been more crucial. The choices Shepard faces when engaging each new character – be that allies of Cerberus, the Turians, or Salarians – are endless, and make for a satisfyingly complex and unpredictable confluence of drama as alliances are made and broken in the race to protect countless innocent lives. The political intrigue of Mass Effect, which has long been my favorite aspect of this series’ storytelling, is in fine form here.
The myriad conversational choices are compounded even further when characters from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 are imported to not only multiply the many directions Mass Effect 3’s story can take, but allow the events of the earlier two games to have a more vital bearing on the trilogy’s conclusion. Undeniably impressive and unprecedented is BioWare’s unfaltering commitment to develop three successive titles that freely exchange data and complement each other in vital ways on the levels of story, character, and gameplay.
On a sonic and visual level, the game bears much resemblance to Mass Effect 2 (albeit with a definite degree of polish), which is far from a negative thing. The aesthetic tone here is far darker and more atmospheric than its predecessors, and as always the voice acting is peerless in its naturalism. When it comes to audio the game receives its greatest kick from the participation of music guru Clint Mansell (The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream), who lends an appropriate emotional depth and epic sweep to the life-and-death urgency of Mass Effect 3.
The combat sequences of Mass Effect 3 continue to be a joy to engage, with a weapons customization system that offers the trigger-happy gamer a plethora of hardware to mete out carnage. In this new chapter Shepard has been given increased mobility – namely the ability to jump and roll – that helps compensate for battle arenas that take greater advantage of opponents’ likelihood to attack from all 360 degrees, ruling out any single cover area as safe haven from enemy attacks. This time out, Shepard contends with enemies firing at him from a multitude of directions, requiring constant tactical adjustments to remain among the living.
A new, six-class multiplayer mode has been developed for Mass Effect 3 – a first for BioWare’s franchise – and it functions well as somewhat of a spiritual cousin to Gears of War 3’s Horde Mode. As an additional bonus, actions taken in multiplayer can have bearing on Mass Effect 3’s single player campaign, if the player so chooses. It is unfortunate that Mass Effect 3’s team-based combat lacks the fluidity Gears of War 3’s impeccable run-and-gun mechanics, but as the campaign stands, this new mode adds even further replay value to a shooter-RPG that is already chock full of divergent paths and constantly unfolding opportunities, the cherry on top being that it gives those players seeking Trophies and Achievements ample opportunity for bragging rights.
The imperfections of Mass Effect 3 rest solely in the minutiae, with minor lip-syncing hiccups (something even the most stalwart game developers continue to falter with), stalls in texture loading, and dips in frame-rate that can sometimes derail the action at crucial, combat-heavy intervals. The grandest achievement of Mass Effect 3, and by extension, the series, is that it accomplishes that rare feat of coaxing true emotional investment from its gaming audience. The tooth-and-nails fight for survival in the cosmic sense – and the sacrifices required to preserve the lives that matter – allow Mass Effect 3 to exist not only as an entertaining diversion, but as a moving story that, despite its sci-fi trappings, speaks profoundly to the human condition.
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