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Old 03-30-2012, 10:25 AM   #9
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Re: Rate this Review: Mass Effect 3

HIGH The character of James Vega.

LOW An ending that goes against everything that happened in the trilogy.

WTF Sparring while wearing high-heeled shoes and a dress. Really?

Mass Effect 3 was one of the, if not the most anticipated game of the year. Does it live up to the hype it got? Maybe yes. Does it live up to being the TPS/RPG hybrid the first one was? Definitely not.

I really liked the first Mass Effect, but the second game disappointed me. Not only did the atmosphere of the second Mass Effect feel.. crippled, but the game overall, couldn't live up to Dragon Age: Awakening for me, something I played before the Mass Effects. I still thought Mass Effect 2 is good, though, just not great like the first one. I didn't like, or more precisely, hated, the new combat which was reeking with bugs, didn't give such a challenge as the first one on higher difficulties because of overpowered abilities and generally easier combat, very much like the Jedi Knights series; From one game to another, they changed the style of the game for a different base of players. While Jedi Outcast could give the challenge I sought on the hardest difficulty, Jedi Academy couldn't do that, because you could get the strongest power not much after the beginning of the game. You also got a "guide system" (Force Seeing), which made the puzzles feel like being a rat that is lead through a labyrinth. Back to Mass Effect 2: I also felt the gameplay was worse. The first one gave quite a lot of hard choices, but those were scarce in the second. There was also bonuses, which made an excellent atmosphere for me (Quasar, armor customizations, exploration) and made the first one far better for me. The second Mass Effect was more of a shooter than an RPG, and the story didn't live up to it's predecessor's either. A 8/10 for me, while the first one was a 9,5/10, or even a 10/10.

While Mass Effect 3 unarguably does a lot of things right, it also messes up so much things for the franchise that the things they did right seem minor.

The first thing that bothered me is the needless amount of cutscenes. While most of the cinematics are great, the cutscenes are way too long, and they are badly animated. In fact, this game has the worst animations I've ever seen in a game, and it's present at conversations, cutscenes, and even at walking. For instance; You want to hug a friend, and because of the bad animations, you end up hugging the air. Cutscenes are also often non-required. This is especially true for the first hours of the game. What is worse, you can't skip a lot of them (like the beginning, the DLC cutscenes and so on), which makes replaying the game (or at least these cutscenes) unpleasant. You basically watch the game more than you play it, which was not the case with the first Mass Effect, but became common with the second game, another thing I didn't like about it. Luckily, the amount of cutscenes becomes less with time.

The combat is better here than in Mass Effect 2, but it is still worse than the combat of the first one. Why? Because the combat system in Mass Effect 3 is an upgraded version of the one in Mass Effect 2. It has the same bugs as that one had. They barely corrected anything about it. You might not get stuck so often, but line of sight is still non-existent here, which means you can shoot through walls. Space is still used for way too many things, which means control is still hard, and you can't change the key-bindings. It's all put under a tab: Storm/Roll/Cover - Space. So why is it better? As I said, it's an upgraded version, and that's true. It took a few things from the Witcher 2, which was a great idea. This game made a lot of good change over its predecessor. What I mean by that is: You can roll, and it works pretty good, which I didn't expect. There's also a heavy melee attack, which is a omniblade that makes big damage, and is quite spectacular. I call it finishing move, because it usually kills your target instantly, especially if upgraded (No, you can't one-hit Reapers with it, whether you like it or not ) and something similar was used for Witcher 2, except that there it is actually called finishing move and it's used against knockdown-ed or stunned enemies, and it actually one-hits them. I mentioned upgrading your heavy melee. That is a very good part of the combat, or accurately, the leveling. There are more branches of upgrades you can take, so it gives a choice in what kind of position you will take in combat. It's like the 2-way branch at the end of a skill in Mass Effect 2, except it's used multiple times in Mass Effect 3. Weapon mods also return from Mass Effect 1, which I really liked in that game, and it made me really happy to see them here, even if there aren't so many of them. What my other problem was is the challenge it gave me. I usually play games on hardest difficulty if I know how they play. Because of the same reasons as in Mass Effect 2, I found the combat not so challenging here, not even on Insanity. There was like 2 or 3 times where I had to try that part more times, whereas in Mass Effect 2, there were more of these challenging parts, and it was rare in Mass Effect 2, too. There were much better boss fights, however. I think the combat is definitely better than in the second game. The only reason why it isn't better than the Mass Effect 1 combat is because it had a bad basis to start with. Too bad.

The game got a new probing system, which is definitely not as mind-numbing as it was in Mass Effect 2. There is, unfortunately, a new, completely unnecessary and pointless addition. To know if there is something salvageable in that part of the system you are in, you have to do a scan. This will gradually alert the Reapers about your presence. So what is the problem? The mini game itself is like some web-based game. They come in, go after you, they try to pile on you, and Critical Mission Failure, or you can evade them, and you can come back after 1 mission without the Reapers, or immediately, with the Reapers still present. In any case; No animation, effects, nothing, just a pile of Reapers over your ship in case of failure, or a report about a successful evasion. To make matters worse, because of the possibility to die during scan, there are auto-saves after every jump or when you enter a new system. If you die once, you can easily memorize where the salvageable...things (These consists of assets, fuel, artifacts and credits, nothing else.) were, and avoiding the Reapers becomes way too easy this way, and this is not the only fault the mini-game has.

The N7 assignments return, and they are usually good, and so are other assignment quests, with one exception; Fetch quests. These quests are about overhearing 2 people talking about an artifact that is important to their nation/people, you get it by probing it, return the artifact, and done. For this, you can get Reputation (A mix of the paragon and the renegade meter, I'll talk about this later on.), War Asset(s) and/or Credits. These kind of quests didn't work in Dragon Age II and neither do they work here, and they are repeated even more times here. The other disaster is the quest log. It only tells you a "summary" and that's it. There are no sub-objectives like in the previous games, which makes tracking what you just did or what you have to do impossible.

While the story of Mass Effect 3 sure won't become the Planescape: Torment of our time, it does its job. The game is centered around getting an army for the retaking of Earth and finding solutions for longtime problems. The game leans heavily on the War Assets system. It is basically follows the details on the army and support you have. It is also affected by the Multiplayer, which can get you extra assets, but I couldn't really care about the Multiplayer at all, as I had my fun with it in the demo. These War Assets will determine how ready the Galaxy is, and also "determines" what ending you can get. The way you go on with the main quests is completely linear. You can't choose which race you want recruit first, or what problem you want to deal with first, which doesn't help the replay value. In fact, the missions feel linear as well. There are a few items you find in the room you are in or near some rubble, but exploration isn't much of an option here.

The new characters are mostly good, which surprised me, as I thought they will be shallow or uninteresting, and was really skeptical about it at first. In fact, James Vega became on of my favorite character in the series. I was surprised that he turned out to be this good of a character, as I barely knew anything about it, because I haven't read the comic and my first actual contact with the character was the demo. My romantic partner was Liara, and her romance left me with mixed feelings at first, but turned to "goodish" by the end. The first half of the romance is disastrous. I couldn't decide if my save bugged and forgot who my romance was or this was actually the romance. Luckily, the second half turned out to be great, especially the near-end part. The cameos and returning characters were excellent. Only a few of them had different voice actors, and none of them had a surgery like the returning characters from Dragon Age II. This is one of the strongest points of this game. There is actually time for the characters to tell you what happened to them but they don't distract you from the other things that happen. The same-sex romances were probably the biggest controversy of Mass Effect 3, but luckily, it isn't the forced mess that it was in Dragon Age II, where, if you had a male protagonist, you would actually hurt one of your male companion's feelings if you didn't "play along". That really bothered me there, and I'm glad it's 100% optional here. There is still one problem with it, though, and that's true for the entire game.

Your choices on how to approach a situation are way too limited, for example: In Dragon Age: Origins, if you romanced a bisexual character with a female protagonist, he would come up to you and ask if you have a problem with him being gay. You have a wide choice of options, and you can tell him that you do have a problem with that and after that, no surprise, he breaks up with you and gets really unfriendly at you. I really liked these kinds of options, that gave you choice in situations. There is no such option in Mass Effect 3. You can be either a total a** or a exemplary paragon. That's right. I really liked in previous Mass Effects that if you didn't like the extremums, you always had the middle option, a neutral one that helped the game not to feel so black and white. Now roughly 1% of the dialogues have a middle option and what makes this sadder is that the paragon and renegade bars are mixed (Now it's called Reputation.), but without a middle option, there isn't really a point of it if you can only do the extremes. The interrupts are still great, though.

The general graphics are good, but the background graphics were swept under the rug. If you pay attention to the background, you'll realize it's a train-wreck. For example: Lots of walls have low-res textures, "statue-men" (Paused, immobile models of characters) in some of the more stuck-away areas (Purgatory entrance, for example), sprites (2D textures as distant characters instead of actual models) way too close for the eye. There were serious problems with performance on PC in the demo. Most of these performance bugs were cleaned up nicely. Of course, there were some "left-overs", but new driver patches can correct those flaws, too. Framerate is very good even without the drivers, and with the drivers, it's pretty much flawless.

The ending. I know this has been talked to bloody bits, but I sincerely didn't like it. I'll try to explain what the problems were. The developers, before the release of the game, said that your choices would have a great effect on the ending of the trilogy. That's not true. There are basically 3 endings, all 3 being way too similiar to each other. The ending also gives zero closure. Nothing is told about what happened afterwards, and the plot holes are just too big to ignore. The things you are told and you see during the ending doesn't make any sense, either. What is worst for me, is that the endings are too much like the endings from 2 games I really like: Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The actual endings are like dumb versions of the first Deus Ex endings (Deus Ex: Destroy, Join, Control -> Mass Effect 3: Destroy, Join (Synthesis), Control), and the situation when you choose is pretty much like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. There are theories about why the ending is like it is. The most popular is the Indoctrination theory (Really big spoilers, only for those who finished the game!), but the game also wants to suggest something during the final scene (Stargazer), but it's hard to peel out what it's trying to say. Unfortunately, the only thing that can maintain the epicness of the ending, is the music. The music is pretty good all the way, which is typical for the Mass Effect games. The best thing we can hope is to get a DLC (hopefully free) that expands the endings, and it won't make things even worse.

So how did I feel after finishing the game? I was disappointed. I truly was. I wanted to forget the ending and remember the rest of the game, but I simply couldn't, I could barely remember the feeling of the game, the atmosphere it had, only that it was fair. Everything else I could remember was the lazy ending that not only ruined the final game, it damaged the trilogy as a whole. The ending takes away most of the replay value, because of the nature of the ending. The rest of the game had good to mixed feeling, but that's really pulled down by the ending, and you probably won't even want to see the icon of the game after you finish it.

I wanted to like this game, I really did. I wanted to give the trilogy a chance that maybe it'll fix the things Mass Effect 2 ruined, or even the damage that Dragon Age II caused to BioWare, but even beside the ending, the game messes up so much things that it's impossible for me to rate it better than I do now. While I still have hope, it's just not that lively anymore.6/10
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