“Mass Effect 3” a whirlwind of emotions

 (Courtesy of Electronic Arts)

(Courtesy of Electronic Arts)

No game has inflicted me with such a wide and varying range
of emotions as “Mass Effect 3.” On one hand, it’s an extremely polished and unique third-person shooter, while on the other; it’s a cinematic RPG with no apparent equal in terms of depth and production values. The majority
of the game comprises one of the best experiences I’ve had with both genres, and the emotional attachment I had to the characters in game is also like nothing
else I’ve experienced within the medium. It’s a shame the ending is such a massive disappointment.

The core gameplay is similar
to the first two “Mass Effect” games. You build up a squad of various specialists, some new and some returning, and go off on
a mission to unite the galaxy to fight the reapers. The game starts with Earth being attacked by the reapers, and the humans lacking enough power to fight them off
by themselves. It becomes clear that if humanity is to have any chance of survival, they’ll need the combined force of all the races in the galaxy working together.

The actual combat mechanics have had a fairly major upgrade since “Mass Effect 2.” The basics remain the same; taking cover, using skills, leveling up abilities and commanding allies should all feel very similar to taking those actions in the previous games. However, a few additions and changes to the formula help make “Mass Effect 3” the strongest shooter in the series. Taking another trait from “Gears of War,” you can now do a combat roll in any direction. While it seems mostly cosmetic at first, the added mobility proves invaluable when the action heats up. Weapons have improved recoil and impact, and can now be modifed with things like scopes, magazine expansions and the like. Most RPGs have to work at making combat exciting, but “Mass Effect 3” has combat that you actually want to play.

I don’t get emotionally attached to video game characters easily,
let alone fictional characters at
all, but during the entire course of the “Mass Effect 3” 20-30 hour campaign, I was always worried about my squad’s well-being. I knew that if I made a bad decision, they could actually die. The characters that I’ve gotten to know and have had many conversations with over the three games in the series could die and be gone for good. Even if the situation is fictional, when you see someone you knew and fought alongside for hours die because of a decision you made, you feel it. Few games give you this kind of responsibility, and even fewer do it this well.

This level of emotional involvement wouldn’t be possible if the characters and the universe weren’t written as well as they are. Keeping to the form shown in the first two games, the writing is witty and very smart. Most games don’t come close to the kinds of issues that are addressed in “Mass Effect.” These include but aren’t limited to genocide, cross-species sexuality, trans- humanism, synthetic life and
the purpose of sentient life to name a few. The key here is that it’s all handled very well and explained intelligently. Instead
of being simply told about a certain people’s struggles, you’re experiencing it right along with them. When you watch a character that you’ve known for years now finally accomplish their
goal because of your help, or fail because of a choice you made, you actually become engaged in the story.

The game’s campaign is one of the best in video games today, but its ending is also one of
the worst seen in recent times. Without going into specifics, the last 10-15 minutes of the game take a drastic turn for
the worse in terms of writing
and intelligence. It seems
like the game had a sensible, intelligent ending somewhere in development, and it was changed at the last minute for reasons unknown. It’s not only poorly written, but the ending offers very little closure to the story and to the fate of the characters you spent the entire game trying to save. None of the choices you can make in any
of the games have any meaningful effect on any of the endings. It’s such a shame that, in a game where player choice
is constantly touted as being the defining trademark of the series, it deviates from this right where it matters the most: at the very end. However, even with the poor ending, few games can even get close to how good “Mass Effect 3” is. “Mass Effect
3” is at the
same time
one of the best shooters I’ve ever played and one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played. It blends the two genres so seamlessly that all action RPG’s from now on will be compared to it. If you’ve played the first two games, it’s a no-brainer.