|Review: Mass Effect 3|
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 10:00
Mass Effect 3 is the final episode in the five year epic of Commander Shepard's battle against the Reapers. It's everything fans of the series were waiting for: waging war against overwhelming odds, making critical decisions that affects billions of lives on a whim and an emotional end to the story – and the journey was well worth it.
The story starts off with the Reapers edging closer to Earth. Commander Shepard's warnings have fallen on deaf ears and when the Reapers attack, they lay waste to most of the planet. Shepard then treks off to unite all the forces against the Reapers and defeat them once and for all.
If you have played any of the previous titles, you can import your character and all the major plot points and decisions you've made in the previous game. This carries through to ME3, where you are faced with a number of morally ambiguous choices. The story is well crafted and finds a perfect balance of forcing you make a choice based on purely on instinct in the backdrop of a full scale galactic war, where your decision could affect the course of all life in the galaxy.
The core RPG gameplay remains intact: Shepard treks around the galaxy building relationships with key characters and picking up side missions, all of which contribute to your "galactic readiness", a measure of your ability to successfully win the war. This replaces a number of the tedious resource scanning mechanics of the previous games and ensures the game flows at a faster pace.
One of the poorest aspects of this game is that the story comes across as controlling – as if the writers are purposefully limiting your dialogue options and moral choices in the game. One the one hand it is understandable as the story is moving to a point of finality but it does take away from the sense of freedom that made the previous titles so successful.
There are a number of classes you can choose from, with a combination of combat, biotic and tech powers. Each of these streams has multiple abilities and you easily customize them to suit your specific style of play. Also, on every mission you're allowed to select two squad mates. Ensuring that they complement your combat style and are effective against the type of enemies you are facing is essential for mission success.
Though the squad control mechanics, power menus and weapon selection are relatively clunky – holding down either the left and right bumper pauses the game and you move your right analogue stick around a wagon wheel to use your abilities, change weapons or command your troops. This is where the Kinect voice integration works well. Any of the command on the wagon wheel can be spoken out - shouting "Garrus, overload" to command your minions to overload a shield is much easier than accessing the wagon wheel. Also, it's the first time that I've found Kinect integration to be useful.
The online multiplayer is a series of "horde" scenarios, each level with 11 waves of enemies punctuated with random assignments like killing targets within a specified time or downloading info from various locations around the map. There are six multiplayer classes, each with three pre-defined set of powers. The map, missions and even the class structure is designed to promote co-operate gameplay, with the likelihood of success significantly improving when team members take up complimentary roles within the teams. For example, an Infiltrator class can activate their cloaking and move around the battlefield undetected and heal downed players.
The online and single player campaign is tightly linked: when you level your character far enough you can transfer some your progress to your single player character. Also, your overall progress in the online mode acts as a multiplier for your "galactic readiness" rating, encouraging more online play before going into the final stretch of the single player campaign.
Overall, Mass Effect 3 is an enjoyable RPG. Despite the story coming to a close, it remains deeply engaging and potentially a unique experience for every person. The combat is well balanced in the single player campaign and almost perfect in the multiplayer. Mass Effect 3 is fun, addictive experience and the best game of the year so far.
Pros: Brilliant unique story; customizable combat mechanics; some of the best 4-man cooperative gameplay since GOW2 Horde; no lag; brilliant voice acting; Kinect voice integration works well.
Cons: Limited dialogue and choices – compared to the previous game.
Time to 100% completion: 28 hours
Contact: BT Games - www.btgames.co.za
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