The final part of the Mass Effect trilogy had a lot to live up to and it certainly wasn’t going to try and take the easy route to the end even if those choices would come back to bite them. The game is often cited as an example of where a creator’s vision and fan’s expectations collided leading to the game having to change to accommodate them; something which had previously happened to Fallout 3 too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves… let’s talk about the game!
Like the last game, Mass Effect 3 drops you into the deep end from the beginning as you witness the Reaper invasion of Earth. With the whole planet at the mercy of these giant killer machines, which present quite a sight in the background, Shepard is forced to flee and try to muster a resistance with the help of the galaxy’s other races. But it takes work and as you’d expect it’s not an easy task either which isn’t helped when your old ally Cerberus is taking matter into its own hands too. The biggest challenge facing Mass Effect 3 was that it somehow had to tie up as many loose ends as possible for long term players who had been taking their Shepard character through the trilogy while also making it accessible to new players. The story itself is mostly self contained but there are still so many references to its predecessors that I’m not sure a new player will appreciate everything that the game has to offer. It’s like watching the finale to a television series without seeing the rest of it.
Looking at the game now and I think it’s clear that the developers at BioWare were pushing the game’s engine as far as they possibly could. Environments look amazing but they are often smaller in terms of where you can actually travel. From that perspective it makes a lot of sense why BioWare would later switch to the Frostbite engine for Mass Effect Andromeda which I personally think opened up the world again in a way that was more comparable to the first game. Despite those thoughts it’s still an impressive bit of work.
Things I like
- The variety and design of locations can be really impressive – considering the high watermark set by the Mass Effect 2 DLC it’s great to see that carry over to the third game.
- The mix of new and existing characters and your interactions with them is well handled even if you do miss out on those awesome loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2. Some of the moments in this final part are what I remember most about my time playing the trilogy.
- I never get tired of hearing Keith David and Lance Henriksen giving my Shepard orders – I think I’ve appreciated it more now that I’m playing through the trilogy back to back.
- Weapons pack even more of a punch and provide much more visual feedback into their effectiveness. The heavy melee strike is awesome to see in action. There is an impressive variety of guns available in stores which go beyond those that you pick up and give you plenty of offensive options. Having a pistol that fires sticky grenades might just be the most useful backup weapon I’ve used in ages. 🙂
- The scanning and probes mini game on the map has been dropped, however…
Things I don’t like
- … the scanning mini game has been replaced with something that feels like “Spaceship Pac-Man” – when scans are overused Reapers arrive in your system so you spend time having to dodge them while collecting resources. I understand it trying to highlight the risk/reward aspects of chasing resources but it still feels like filler.
- The size of the world is just an illusion. With greater use of elevation, by climbing ladders or sliding down ramps, you get the impression of vast spaces but the reality of it is you’re still following a flat plane with intentional parts to slow down progress between areas… like a more clever version of the original Mass Effect elevators.
- The ending – POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD! Though it was disappointing that BioWare felt forced to update the game’s original ending (I was OK with the original) the main flaw for me was it felt like you were pushed into making a choice where past actions had less influence than you might have expected. You are likely to find that no option ever feels like the best one. This should have been the point where three games worth of decisions would present a definitive outcome but instead there was a situation where players would likely save first, choose a door and see if they were happy with that particular ending.
Being able to play all three games in the Mass Effect trilogy together has been a great experience. Having the first game tweaked to be more in line with the sequels was a smart move that makes the changes between each of them easier to accept. With Mass Effect 3 being the one to close Shepard’s trilogy it was always going to be a challenge and the developers really did an incredible job of including so many cameos and side quests that rewarded the committed players and those moments are some of the best parts to the game. And that’s how I look at the games as a whole: the destination may not have been to everyone’s liking but the journey there was unforgettable.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is out now for PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Played on an Xbox Series X.