Mass Effect 3 Review (PC)
Developer/Publisher: BioWare/Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 3-6-12
By Matthew F. Hibben
Trilogies seem to be the rage in the entertainment world, and Mass Effect 3 (ME3) brings gamers a much hyped finale. From blasting targets behind cover, exploring the intricacies of your squad mates, and traveling across the stars, ME3 delivers a lot for players to take in. This Game Tech article explores BioWare’s Mass Effect 3, reviews the features, and offers insights into gameplay.
ME3’s story takes place in a future where humans and various other alien species inhabit the galaxy. The story focuses around Shepard, a human commander, being brought up on charges for actions transpired at the end of last ME title. The story itself begins with many cut scenes and chat interactions as Shepard is facing a tribunal regarding the charges brought up against him or her. Just as the session gets underway Earth is attacked by the Reapers, a mechanical race that becomes the game’s primary antagonists. The introduction sets a tone for dark times and destruction to come as Shepard must flee earth, rally the various species of the galaxy, and eventually confront the Reaper threat.
Gameplay in ME3 begins as many titles do, with character creation. Players can select a variety of attributes ranging from physical characteristics, class role, and story background. Players with previous ME installment characters can opt to transfer their characters into ME3. It’s important to note that each of the various class roles have different achievements associated with the various powers each of the classes use, so players looking to complete all achievements will be facing some serious play time. I chose Infiltrator as my class role, which can be thought of as the rogue class, with abilities that allow you stealth, to snipe for huge damage, and to hack systems. The class options in ME3 are: Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator, and Vanguard.
Gameplay for ME3 is a mix of third person shooter and an RPG. The game blends these two types of gameplay throughout the campaign, not just shooting while on a mission, and RPG while between missions. While on missions players engage enemies with a mixture of weapons and abilities. Players get a large array of weapons to choose from as well as a myriad of various class based abilities to use in a variety of ways, from offensive abilities that damage targets, defensive abilities that can mitigate damage and distract enemy forces, to support abilities like stealth. Players familiar with other shooter games will be familiar with the combat system of finite ammunition, accuracy of weapons based on various factors, as well as damage dealt based on where you hit your targets. In addition to what the player can do, the game also allows you the player to bring squad mates with you on missions. Players will want to try out the variety of different squad mates available to find the ones that best compliment their play style.
Squad mates have their own talent allocation systems, just as players do, and this is customizable in terms of what power you wish to enhance.
The game play at a macro level is based on both a linear storyline as well as side quests and missions. Players have the main storyline that they will need to progress through as well as numerous quests they can undertake in order to improve their reputations and galactic readiness. The primary story missions always include some form of shooter combat as their primary combat, mixed with various cut scenes and chat selection options.
When players are not off on missions, they reside on board their ship the Normandy or at the floating space station/city called Citadel. These two locations offer vast areas for the player to explore, interact with various NPC’s, purchase items, and engage in side missions.
Side Missions and the Minigame
Side missions in ME3 will engage the player in a wide variety of activities in order to complete the missions. Side missions range from additional shooter based missions, to lost and found type missions around the city, and space scanning missions. Space scanning missions in ME3 are what I consider the game’s primary minigame. Players can travel from star system to star system scanning for various assets while avoiding hostile Reaper ships.
The minigame itself is fairly simple, players ping the various solar systems with scanner pulses, but each pulse attracts hostile forces, adding a level of urgency to the task. Players that engage in this minigame receive additional war assets, credits, and the ability to unlock achievements.
The first thing that comes to mind about ME3 is the presentation. The game is both visually stunning, and the cut scenes and voice over work is top notch. The combat itself feels very natural and polished, with primary missions really adding a lot to the overall experience.
The side missions add a good amount of variety to what the player must do while experiencing ME3, but I felt that the combat oriented side missions were often too short and confined the player to areas that felt much too small.
The variety of tasks the player can engage in really brought the RPG feel into the world, however quest tracking in the game is nonexistent, so tracking down where to pick up quests, and whom to turn them into later often became a huge time sink.
New to ME3 is the addition of multiplayer features. The multiplayer brings various players together on a preselected map in order to complete objectives very similar to those found in single player. This multiplayer content is also needed to unlock various achievements found within the game.
ME3 is well worth a visit for fans of both the series and Sci-Fi in general. The game has some shortcomings, but also a great many strengths as well as things that only ME brings to the table currently. With the development of DLC content, something BioWare is very active about, the player’s ME3 experience can go on for quite some time.