Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect franchise has been one of the most-loved and hotly-anticipated games throughout its lifespan. Players of the first title had the opportunity to grow and develop with Commander Sheppard, taking their character through the second game, and culminating the experience with the final game in the series.
With the release of the last title, players were promised that all their questions surrounding the massive plot, some side characters and the different relationships would be answered. Well, players got that and a lot more.
Mass Effect 3 takes off a couple of years after the events of the second title, so new players will have the opportunity to fill in the blanks in terms of plot. But for returning gamers, the wait couldn’t have been longer, as they were desperate to continue the saga of the much-loved Commander.
For the story, Earth is attacked by the nasty Reapers, and Commander Sheppard has to escape before the last soldiers are wiped out, in order to lead a rebellion against the mechanical monsters and save the universe once and for all.
Naturally, while there is a main plot, the game consists of a number of side-missions. It’s not necessary to complete those, but players will get a more engrossing and detailed story if they do. In general it will help the player’s cause if they complete as many side-missions as possible.
A couple of changes have been made since Mass Effect 2, and it’s all for the better. A new control system lets gamers make better movements, interactions and selections, and equip weapons in a flash.
The major change between iterations comes in the form of Microsoft’s Kinect integration for the Xbox version. With Kinect enabled, players will be able to verbally select conversation points, and give squad mates orders by simply speaking the command. It works well, but it’s more of a novelty addition than a necessity.
In terms of combat, there is a very strong focus on the third-person element. The cover system has also been updated, allowing players to seamlessly go in and out of cover without sliding. Blindfire has also been added and gamers can now target certain limbs of enemies. Taking on more of a commanding role, gamers can also issue different attack commands to assistant characters in battle.
Players will once again be able to import their character from Mass Effect 2 into Mass Effect 3, but while it’s accurate for the most part, there has been some issue with importing, such as hair colours not matching or different eyes.
Before starting a new game, one of the biggest changes introduced is the option for how the game is played – Action Mode, Story Mode, and RPG Mode. For Action Mode, players won’t have to make any conversation decisions; in Story Mode, conversations replies need manual input; and for RGP Mode conversations will have manual replies and a normal combat difficulty.
The graphics have remained as fantastic as ever, and there has definitely been an improvement in detail and accuracy. But as with all games, there are small glitches every now and again. While it’s by no means a deal-breaker, it does raise a few eyebrows – as a game of this magnitude should really be glitch free.
The third game also introduces a number of new characters, which keeps the plot fresh and revitalised. But favourites like Joker, Miranda and Thali make a return – albeit very briefly, with the exception of Joker, who still pilots the Normandy.
In general that title is a brilliant ending to the trilogy, although some gamers felt that the end sequence needed a lot more work in terms of answering a number of questions. For us, the end was rather fitting, and left the series completely open for a fourth game – which is an exciting prospect.
There is also a massive online element, which ties in with the single player. During the single-player campaign, gamers will have to combine all the forces of the universe to exterminate the Reapers. By playing the multiplayer missions, gamers will add to the galactic forces in the title, strengthening the player’s position in the single player.
It’s a nice touch, as games hardly every make use of the cross-play between multiplayer and single-player.
Mass Effect 3 is definitely a must-buy for any player who has ever loved, or played, a Mass Effect title. Playing through all the main and side missions, the game should keep players busy for around 30 hours, which is very decent by any standards.
While some players disliked the ending, it’s a nice touch and ends off the series rather well. With all the changes, additions, plot twists and familiar territories, Mass Effect 3 will prove to be a thrilling ride deep into the galaxy.
Our score: 9/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor