Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Review

 This one took some time. We wanted to give it our full attention and go over every little detail. Normally, one person beats a game and then we go ahead and review it, but we actually wanted to talk this one out. While this is partially due to the ending (which I will address ad nauseum) we really wanted to see how our different choices affected different things. Also, I try never to do this, but seeing as the game has been out for a while there WILL BE SPOILERS. In order to address certain key issues I have to discuss them. They will be held to the ending of the game, though, and nothing leading up to that point will be spoiled. So I guess if you care just don't read the end. I'll warn you when it comes up. Now, there shall be no further delay.

I'm not going to lie, I almost don't know where to start. While the main game does have a few problems, a vast majority of the final chapter in Bioware's epic is nothing short of an amazing achievement. I really felt like my choices from the past two games were making a real impact. All the alliances I had formed were actually paying off. Even if some of the good I did came back to me in a small way, like running into an old acquaintance who did little more than talk, I still felt rewarded. I was glad to see that Bioware didn't forget characters that only had a miniscule role to play.

Except when I ran into this guy. Seriously, he's always been kind of a twat
 The first real, noticeable improvement is the combat. It's not a vast step up from 2, but things feel a bit smoother. Taking cover and shooting is a fluid process which is absolutely necessary as the scale of fire fights has definitely stepped up. It's galactic war now. You're not fighting rouge groups or mercenaries, you're fighting an unstoppable army. The shooting really gets hectic sometimes (especially near the end of the game) and it all comes together quite well. If I had to complain I would say that combat didn't gain any new features or settings. Mass Effect 2 was such a leap above one that it's strange to see no expansion. It's a huge conflict involving tons of different races and giant space battles. Why couldn't we participate in any of that? Why not an opportunity to pilot the Normandy and shoot down some enemy aircraft? That would have been awesome. That's actually one of my major problems with the game. Like 2, it's amazing, but it doesn't do enough new things to make it as special.

Despite no new additions to combat, the script and character development is just as good as ever. I've only played through it once so I don't know how different things can be. I've only heard a few stories of variations based on different decisions, but the dialogue I heard was still top notch. To see all of the relationships you have forged culminate in the end result is incredibly moving. That final moment when you talk to your crew one by one and call everyone who can't be there stands out as one of the best gaming moments of the year so far. Mass Effect has always been fantastic with the writing and storytelling and 3 is no different. However... I do have some beefs with the main game that I feel need to be addressed.

Pictured above: Character development
 First of all, where the hell is the active quest system? Every RPG has one except this series and it gets old pretty fast. Yeah, it's not overly difficult to figure out what you should be doing, but an active quest system is almost an RPG necessity. I hated my galaxy map yelling at me to go all over the damn place. Another issue is the quests don't update with your progress. I spent hours trying to land on a planet to complete a quest not knowing that I had already gotten the item I needed just by scanning it earlier. All I had to do was talk to the quest giver the second I was told to help him and I would have accomplished my goal. I had no idea, though, because the quest never told me I had finished. Knowing where to go can be vague too, and if you make an argument that flat out telling you what system the planet you need to visit is in is too easy, than I would tell you that it's a boring challenge to give someone. There also weren't enough substantial side quests. Too often you completed your goal by merely scanning a planet. Yeah yeah, the galaxy is at stake and there isn't time to do trivial shit, but that illusion is shattered when I'm told a school is about to be attacked by Cerberus and I can do random crap before I go there and I still get there in the nick of time.

Maybe I should just be happy that this never came back.
 My other huge issue is making the multiplayer almost necessary. No, you don't have to play it, but if you want every last unit you've earned throughout the campaign to matter you better play. Don't get me wrong, the multiplayer isn't bad. It's actually quite good. My only real issues with it are that reviving downed teammates can be annoying as you'll sometimes end up dodging or taking cover and that ammo boxes only give you one grenade at a time. If you're a character that uses grenades, which is the only special move that requires ammo, it gets old fast. But my original point is that the multiplayer shouldn't have this big of a role. What if you're one of the few people without Live on the 360? The main campaign of Mass Effect is a single player, personal experience. I don't want other things to affect it.

Despite these issues, Mass Effect 3 is an absolute masterpiece. It's wonderfully told and completely engaging... until you get to the end. Yes, we here at the O and E have discussed it to death and we have plenty of issues with it. Some of these you've probably seen before, but I assure you, every last one of these complaints came out of conversations between the three of us. We didn't need any outside sources to tell us what was wrong. Spoilers exist beyond this point.

I'm going to be frank. The ending is a cop-out. It's almost as if they didn't know how to end the thing so they just nuked the galaxy in a sense. No, I don't mean the whole thing was destroyed, but the universe we fell in love with is essentially ruined. These are the reasons we hate it.


The second I saw this little bastard, my mouth dropped. His appearance and  presence are completely unexplained and come out of nowhere. What is he? Beyond partially being the essence of the citadel (Huh) we have no real idea. Chances are he is in charge of the reapers, which makes him a reaper, but none of the other reapers appear like this. Okay, he leads them so it makes sense he could look different. Then why in the hell does he look like the kid we saw at the beginning and in Shepard's dreams? Can he read Shepard's mind? Reapers have never been known to do this, and if the leader of them can it better be goddamn established ahead of time. And the fact that he just tells Shepard his options and then just stands aside is also ridiculous. Why would the reapers just say, "ahhhh screw it," all of a sudden? They've been pretty determined and malicious before. Just because their logic is supposed to be beyond human comprehension doesn't mean you can just have them do stuff without explanation. It's called lazy writing, something the series has NEVER been known for.

Go play in the street, kid. The space street.


So they want to harvest all of us because we will make synthetics that will eventually kill us and this is their way of saving and preserving us. Huh? Say that... again. But, you're all synthetics... and you're killing us. Shouldn't paradoxes blow up robots? Maybe they are too advanced and self-aware for that. Could have fooled me though, you know, with how stupid their reasoning is.


That final room is reaaaaally stupid. Like... incredibly stupid. If I were going to invade a country, I would not create a control center that, if reached, could destroy all my forces, or worse yet, control them.That's just idiotic. And worse yet, when Shepard reaches it they just let him use the panels because their plans aren't working anymore, or something. Yeah, he got there... it's your room. Have some defenses that stop him. That room should be the most defended place in the galaxy if you're a reaper, and they didn't even put an alarm in it. And the synthesis option? It's science magic. Nothing more. Nothing less. As I said before, explain how things work. If you don't, you're just being lazy and probably including things that don't make sense.


Shepard finds a way. That's what he does. The reapers told him repeatedly that he had no hope, and yet, there he is standing at the foot of their demise. However, when that little bastard child tells him to do one of three things, he just says, "okay," and does one. What? I couldn't even tell him to fuck off? Shepard just accepts one of three fates and that's it? My fellow writer El Jefe tried to just walk away from all of it and the game wouldn't let him. So much for my own personal Shepard.

"...Okay."- Commander Shepard

This one hurt the most (but it's not the last issue). I didn't care if Shepard lived or died. I just wanted to see what the galaxy looked like after all my decisions came in to play at the end (and I'll touch on decisions in a minute), and the galaxy as I knew it is gone no matter what I do. What was the point? This is what I meant by "nuking the galaxy." The incredible universe that Bioware created no longer matters because they didn't feel like telling you what race relations looked like after the fall of the reapers. What a terrible move. Also, there is also the gaping plothole. In the ME2 DLC Arrival we are told that a mass relay explosion would take the system it's in with it. Apparently that's no longer the case. Why? Who knows. Maybe someone was lying, Maybe it was the same person that told us the ME3 day-one DLC wasn't on the disc already.

Little known fact: The energy released by a relay explosion is 99% crushed dreams.


This issue probably presents the most ridiculous leaps in logic. Why is the Normandy running from a relay explosion? That would imply they went through a relay, but why? Joker wouldn't have abandoned the battle or Shepard, so WHY THE HELL ARE THEY DICKING AROUND IN FUCKING SPACE? And when they crash-land on the stupid planet one of the people who gets off the Normandy is always someone who accompanied you on the final mission. You know, one of the people left unconscious at the foot of the beam that takes you to the citadel. That thing the reapers were defending personally. So that means Joker would have had to set the Normandy down nearby or send a shuttle down to pick up his or her limp body and then bolt back into space to run away like an ass. And he would have had to do all of that under fire from the freaking reapers. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?! UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Looks like leaving Earth was the wrong decision, asshole.


The endings having only tiny differences is downright insulting. The only differences that occur are the color of the beam, if the reapers fall over or fly up, and whether or not people have circuits running up and down their arms because you know... synthesis. So much for 16 different endings. Yes, Shepard can live or die, get killed by the Illusive Man, and Earth might get destroyed or saved, but do any of those things (besides being shot obviously, which just ends things there) really affect the overall ending? No. For the most part, the same shit happens.


This is the one. The grandaddy of all bullshit. The relays hurt the worst, but this one pissed me off the most. We were told all of our decisions would matter. That everything we have done would affect the outcome. And for a while it was true, until it mattered the most: the ending. As I've said, you get pretty much the same ending no matter what you do. And there's also the matter of all the relays blowing up. No matter what you've done. No matter who you've helped or hindered. No matter what huge changes you've made to the galactic stage... it's all undone. All the races are cut off from each other. Technology is set back hundreds of years. Forces fighting on other worlds are stranded and we don't even get to see how that pans out. Did you cure the genophage? Did you end the war between the Geth and the Quarians? Good for you. We will never see or know the effects of those decisions. They become pointless. And it's not just those decisions. It's every choice you've made across three different games. The hours you've spent creating the perfect save file to import into the next game feel wasted. Bioware told us those decisions would matter... and they didn't. It wasn't a miscommunication. It couldn't be. That's what they told us. I hate to say it, but based on that... we were kind of lied to. And trust me, I reaaaally hate saying that. I love Bioware. I really do. I respect that company above most others... but we were led to believe something other than the truth. There is one word to describe this: wrong.

That'll teach you to trust anything or anyone ever again!
So where does all this leave us. Well, I'm not going to give an overall score. I can't review the main game without the ending or vice versa and one is great and the other is awful. I honestly don't know where that leaves things. If it wasn't for those last ten minutes this would be a 10 for sure. Will Bioware release new DLC to fix things? Will we find out this was all a hallucination because of indoctrination? Who knows. What I can tell you is that it is a shame that one of the greatest experiences in gaming has been hurt by such an avoidable mistake. Whether things stay this way or Bioware charges us more money for a better ending (which is still kind of awful) doesn't matter at this point. Amazing game. Horrible ending. That's what it boils down to. Good day.


El Jefe said...

Another plot hole I thought of while talking to John: In ME1, Sovereign says that the mass effect relays ensure that civilizations evolve along a certain path desired by the Reapers. So isn't it their fault that organics necessarily make synthetics and fight them, since they're the ones planning it out via mass relays?

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