Mass Effect 3 is the final part of the Mass Effect trilogy, Bioware’s space-based epic. It begins with Commander Shepard being reinstated by Admiral Anderson, and then being told to ‘gather all the space-bros, Reapers are killing everyone on Earth’. Of course, in true ‘gather all the peoples’ style, it’s not quite as easy as she would like – every other race has their own problems, and need her to come fix their shit before they will commit troops to the (naturally final) fight on earth.
Put simply, ME3 tends to carry over from ME2 in a more natural way than ME2 did from ME1. Shepard doesn’t die in the opening sequence, and doesn’t lose all her levels. You’ll start ME3 at the same level you finished ME2 at, with the same upgrades you had at the end of that game (In my case it was at the cap of 30), you’ll find you have another ability or two to level up, in addition to another couple of ranks for all your abilities, as well.
There has been a number of refinements to ME2′s generally good 3rd person shooter gameplay. Shepard can now roll/tumble around by tapping space & a movement key, which feels really good, although it sometimes leads to some rage-inducing moments revolving around rolling forward instead of moving into cover, or doing any other action that is bound to space (which includes interacting with objects). Team-mates can now be revived without the use of medi-gel by moving up to them and spending a couple of seconds reviving them, however this doesn’t restore any of Shepard’s health notches, like First-Aid does. That being said, for most of my 24 hours spent playing on Hardcore, I’ve managed to not use First-Aid more than a couple times.
Grenades make their return, although the enemy makes much better use of them than Shepard, who seems unable to hit anywhere near a human-sized target, and Shep’s grenades also seem kinda weak in comparison to the grenades of the enemy (although that could just be the difficulty setting – still, I felt that in most cases I was better off using guns). Additionally, there is a new ‘weight’ system, that changes the recharge speed of your powers depending on how many / which guns you bring with you. This is an interesting system, although it just means that when I might of used another gun in the previous game, I now can not, as the only guns I brought with me were my assault rifle and my sniper rifle (and later in the game an SMG because it literally weighed nothing, although it’s pretty much useless).
The Paragon & Renegade scores have been condensed into a single bar, the ‘reputation’ bar, which fills as you finish missions (gaining you ‘alignment-less’ reputation, which just grows the bar and keeps it’s ratio, as well as the traditional Paragon/Renegade points that grow the bar as well as making their portion a bigger proportion of the whole). It feels slightly easier to fill than in the other games, but I’m not really sure, as I pretty much did all the side quests.
You also have the infamous ‘Galactic Readiness’ bar. This goes up as you acquire war assets, from doing missions, side quests, and turning in random items you find. Additionally, the bar is cut down depending on how much MP you play. Now, it seems that you can max out the bar fairly easily with only a few games of MP (I’ve played ~3, my bar is scaled to ~60% of it’s full worth, but it still fills the ‘ready to kill some reapers’ bar, I think), but ultimately the bar doesn’t change the ending all that much (although I would still fill it up as much as possible).
Speaking of MP, it’s basically the ‘horde mode’ you see in countless other games, although the leveling system works better than most games featuring them. Weapon unlocks are based off of buying ‘boosters’ from the store, either with credits (which you get by playing games) or with cashmoney, which contain a number of common boosters (which last a single round), single-use items, and uncommon/rare weapons, mods, and alternate character appearances. This system works fairly well, although I kinda wish that I could just buy the items I want, as the RNG usually hates my guts (I’ve opened the top end box twice, got the same Race/Class card twice (which gives a metric tonne of bonus XP for that class, but I don’t want to play a Salarian (give me Quarian or give me death))).
Overall, I think ME3 is a not-horrible game, and a worthy sequel to the first two. While I wouldn’t recommend it to someone new to the series (despite Bioware’s cries of ‘best place to enter the series!’, I think the game works really well knowing stuff from the first two games, in addition to changing the story (slightly) based upon your choices), it’s certainly not a horrible game. Apart from the ending, which numerous people have made much more eloquent arguments regarding what’s wrong with it. (Personally it’s less that I have a problem with the ending (although I do), and more that I have a problem with how it was executed)