51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
It's not just the ending...
, March 19, 2012
This review is from: Mass Effect 3 - PC (Video Game)
The more I think about the game the longer and more critical this review becomes. I apologize for the length. This is the 3rd version of this review.
While I do understand the feeling of immense betrayal from Bioware most have echoed here I'll try to present a rather long and somewhat balanced review for Mass Effect 3. I'm not going to talk about the ending itself (yes, no plural there). More than half of the reviews here have made it patently clear that it's a catastrophe. Just wanted to chime in an say that it's not the only problem ME3 has.
Mass Effect 3 is a very entertaining and well told conclusion to the "Mass Effect" series, with the almost obligatory caveat of "except for the ending" added. The tone of the whole narrative is spot on for the setting of the war against the Reapers. I wish I could dwell a lot longer on all the fine aspects of ME 3. There's so much love for detail, so many shout-outs to even minor events and characters of the first two games that it makes the ending the story receives all the more baffling and unatisfying. Which brings me to the bad things.
The most frustrating realization, even more so than the vast disappointment of the 3 possible endings themselves, is that ninety percent of what you do in game is basically pointless. The gathering of war assets, the gaining of allies, the bringing together of old enemies to bury their hatchets in face of a new and overwhelming adversary? You spend much of the game trying to fulfill that goal, much like you spent ME2 with gathering your team members and doing their loyalty missions. And in ME 3 it just doesn't mean squat. The fleets and ships and extra brigades you gather, the allies you gain, the technologies you salvage or research, nothing of it matters because you're never taking on the reapers in a fight except as a diversion for you to attach the Deus Ex Machina to the Citadel! All it does is add extra time available for the building of that deus ex machina, the Crucible, which is going to win you the fight anyhow!
The ships and brigades and extra assets you gather? They never matter per se, which is something I really have a problem with since it fails to follow the simple but wonderful formula found in Mass Effect 2 where you gathered your team, then gained your squadmates' loyalties and found out their strengths and weaknesses, thus knowing how to employ them best. In Mass Effect 3 there's nothing of that kind.
Why not? Certainly not for a lack of time! Mass Effect 3 is by far the shortest of the trilogy, shorter than its direct predecessor even WITHOUT its DLCs. Mass Effect 1 took you between 50 and 60 hours if you did every quest. Mass Effect 2, including DLCs, was about 40 to 45 hours. Completing a very thorough playthrough of ME 3 took me around 25 hours.
The war assets only remain a statistic without substance. There are no side missions that lets you use them: never do you see the Normandy and Garrus' task force in action, never do you see a full krogan ground assault. You gain Aria's mercenaries, but they never make an appearence. Oh, I know why: because I'd bet one of my testicles that BIOWARE is planning a retake Omega" DLC. Yeah, good luck with that one...
Hell, what I wanted to SEE was that volus superdreadnought come out of FTL with a couple squardons volus bombers and take on a reaper mano-a-mano, either to go down in a mutually assured destruction scenario, or to WIN the fight, thereby earning the volus a name in history and elevating them from being comic relief.
What I wanted to see was the fight for some of the colonies the reapers attacked, doing hit-and-run attacks with my war assets. But no.
All the fleets and armies you gather? They don't make themselves felt in the end, and my question would be: WHY NOT? Why spend the whole game gathering these forces if you only see it play out in one well-done but ultimatey generic cut scene?
Compare this to Mass Effect 2, where you had to gather a team of the most badass, well-connected, deadly hombres of the galaxy and led them on a suicide mission on a ship you had upgraded with the best technology available to a point where it was a generation ahead of everything the rest of the galaxy possessed. Your chances of success were directly linked to your preparations, your investment in your team members and your knowledge of their strength and weaknesses. They went with you through the worst of it, and you cared because even though they were assassins, genetically engineered superwomen, rogues or amoral mercenaries you had come to know them for the personalities their own stories had to offer. Everything you worked for contributed directly to the success of your mission. Your Shepard was the centerpiece of the story, but it was your team mates who gave that story life.
Largely automatized. You get a number of interrupts but unlike with the prior games interaction is largely restricted to the "Question Wheel".
Horrible mess that doesn't track your progress, AT ALL. How the prime producers of western RPGs could come up with something like this is beyond me.
RUSHED & INCOMPLETE
As transcripts of on-disk audio files show a lot of material originally intended to be used was cut from the game. Especially the final battle on Earth seems to suffer from this, which is already an abortive, short instance. London as a location is unrecognizeable, your gathered allies don't make an active apperance, and instead of intense urban fighting through the ruins of Big Ben, the Tower of London or other landmarks (probably defended by the remnants of the Coldstream Guards, how about that?) you get railroaded segments. All in all the game could've used an additional nine months of development time and 15 more hours of playtime.
I thought as a stylistic means the nightmares of the small boy Shepard saw die in the beginning were a wonderful way to show the toll the events are taking on the commander. The fate of the galaxy is on his or her shoulders, and even Shepard is slowly beginning to crack under the weight of the millions that die every day while he tries to figure out a way to save them.
Which is why the revelation that the Catalyst uses the same appearence pretty much spits in the whole concept's face, more or less undoing it.
The multiplayer aspect of ME 3 isn't too bad. That is, if you just look at it on its own. The multiplayer maps are a nice way to spend some downtime with, however - and here it comes - it's BLATANTLY obvious that the only reason there even IS a multiplayer mode is to get the few sorry souls who have an attention span shorter than Jack's hair in Mass Effect 2 to buy and spend Bioware points. In short, multiplayer is nothing but a continuous cash cow added to a full price product. No you don't HAVE to spend money there, but it's clear what the intention was.
Secondly there is the more fundamental question of whether a multiplayer mode was asked for or necessary in the first place, to which my answer would be a resounding NO. Mass Effect has always been about your very own Commander Shepard and his story. I know there are game reviewers who get on a pedestal and preach for CO-OP MP modes all the time. Angry Joe is one of them, for example. But Mass Effect is a cinematic SINGLE PLAYER experience. It's about YOUR choices, and not about what you and your buddies Mike, Ralph and Jenna do. That's why Mass Effect works.
Third, the integration of the war readyness to be dependent on you and three other dudes beating a couple waves of enemies on MP maps is ridiculous and in my opinion just another means to try to get people to purchase bioware points. WAR READYNESS should be solely based on what you achieve in the single player campaign. What you do THERE counts because its there that you gather and prepare your allies for the fight against the reapers.
Fourth, I'm against the MP aspect of the game because its ready for all to see that the months spent coding it should have been spent on refining the SP aspects of the game, especially the endings.
Unlike many of the more, ahm, ENTHUSIASTIC fans I didn't have many problems with the character. Yes, Jessica Chobot is a lousy VA, but I found her to be an interesting addition to the Normandy, that is in theory. She's a war correspondent, so how about you actually SHOW US SOME OF HER REPORTS in animated sequences. What's the point in having her aboard if you never see the footage she produces? The game came on 2 DVDs, ladies and gentlemen. That's ample room for such material.
The project leads have stated that through the endings they wanted to create LOTS OF SPECULATION. In principle that would have been okay if this wasn't the end of the series. If at the end of the day all I wanted was to speculate and make up plot points for myself I could've saved myself the 5 years of waiting and 200+ $ and just daydreamed a little more often.
These are the points why I cannot recommend Mass Effect 3 to anyone at the moment: not to the newcomer, and certainly not to a fan of the series.
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