The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: The Massive Mass Effect Review
If you have any interest in video games then you must have at least heard of Mass Effect, and I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that Mass Effect 3 has just been released. The Creators of this game, Bioware, released the first Mass Effect in the golden year for shooters, 2007. A year overshadowed by games like Halo 3, Bioshock, and the obvious Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Amongst those great titles; Mass Effect stood out in the crowd. While the series has progressed quite a bit over the years, my character that I created in 2007 hasn’t changed. All the fans, who had started this journey five years ago, will finally find out what it all means. So to honor the end of one of the best science fiction universes in a good long while I’m going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly on not just one, or two, but all three games. So crack open a bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy and read this Massive Mass Effect Review.
Mass Effect is an Action/RPG/Third Person Shooter where the player assume the role of Commander Shepard and is tasked with saving the galaxy from the Reapers. The character of Commander Shepard can be edited to be a male or female and the face can be edited to look however the player would like. Players also determine the class of character which range from the gun totting Soldier Class, the defense breaking Engineer Class, or the Jedi like Adept. The other classes are combo’s of these three main classes. In Mass Effect 1 and 2 the choices you make carry on to the next game allowing the player to customize the story in a limited way. The games are broken down into three sections: combat, dialogue, and exploration. Combat plays like a first person shooter, where at anytime during the battle you can pause the action to give commands to one or both of your other team mates, use an ability, or switch weapons. Dialogue in which the player receives missions and makes choices that determine the fate of the story. Lastly exploration to gather resources, which is more prevalent in the first Mass Effect and becomes less and less prevalent in later games. Mass Effect takes place in the future where humanity has been thrown into the fore front of galactic society. Many species don’t seem to like how fast humanity is climbing the political ladder in galactic life. Meanwhile the mysterious threat of the Reapers, a machine race that every 50,000 years wipes the galaxy of all advanced organic life, are behind the scenes preparing for their mass invasion. The only one that stands in the Reapers way is Commander Shepard a human who discovers an artifact from the last dominate species, The Protheans, that tells him all the gory details of the last Reaper invasion. It is up to the player to decide how best to handle the desperate situation.
The most impressive feat that Bioware did in this game is the level of information that they introduced in this first title. From the get go there was at least an hour of information in the codex and journal that provides background on many of the races and technology that is featured in the game. The level of detail and mythology is almost up there with Star Trek or Star Wars, and given enough time it could surpass those two staples of sci-fi. The combat is fun and challenging without being too frustrating. There is nothing like lifting a group of enemies in the air, with the Adept class, and watch them float haplessly around while your team fires on them like fish in a barrel. The characters that join Commander Shepard in his romp across the galaxy are fascinating with each character adding to the overall universe of the game. While this game has a morality system, like in most western RPG, Mass Effect has a different take on the gimmick. Commander Shepard is always going to be the good guy, but what kind of hero Shepard will become is totally up to the player. Players who stay inside the law and tries to find peaceful solutions ( Like Jean Luc Picard or Luke Skywalker) gain Paragon points. Players who are willing to break the rules for the betterment of humanity ( like Mal Reynolds or Admiral Adama) gain Renegade points. Gain enough points in either of these two categories and different dialogue choices become available to the player. This system encourages the player to try different paths and replay the game to see how the outcome changes. What makes it even more enticing is a new game + feature which allows a player to import an already leveled up Shepard right in the beginning of the game, which makes the game the equivalent to a modern day god mode.
Mass Effect 2
The second game Is my overall favorite in the series. From the opening Commander Shepard’s world is turned upside down because he dies. He is later resurrected by the renegade organization called Cereberus who was a constant thorn in the side of Commander Shepard in the first game. Sadly Cerberus is the only group that believe Shepard when he/she says that the Reapers are coming. So now Shepard has to form his/her own crew for a suicide mission to attack the Reapers head on. Whats ballsy is that the suicide mission is no idle threat: if you don’t prepare your crew and ship for what may come your Commander Shepard and company will die. The story will end and the player will be unable to import that character into Mass Effect 3. Combat has been changed to make the game more shooter friendly. Bioware introduced hot keying powers to make combat and commands to allies quicker, but if you still want to pause the game to issue commands that option is still there. In conversation you can interrupt the dialogue with special quick time events that range from cutting off the coarse of conversation with a sharp retort or by pushing the person you talk to out a window. Whats great about these quick time events; as oppose to how other games use them, is that you don’t have to do anything and not be penalized with a game over screen. Vehicle transportation has vastly improved over the Mako (See the Bad section). The new vehicle is far more maneuverable and fun to drive. Also enemies now have specific protections forcing the player to disable the enemies armor, barrier, or energy shield to actually effect their health. This forces the player to choose squad members that provides the player with a variety of abilities. Lastly Weapon management and leveling up has become far more manageable which gets the player back into action faster.
Mass Effect 3
I loved this game. While Mass Effect 2 in my opinion the best in the series Mass Effect 3 is a close second. While your not preparing for a suicide mission in this game the player is tasked with rallying support to help stop the Reaper invasion. While game play hasn’t changed all that much this time from Mass Effect 2 being able to see decisions I made 5 years ago effect a game now is just remarkable. Modding weapons is back, but has been given the streamline treatment like in Mass Effect 2. Combat is even more fluid with improved melee options and the ability to roll and jump gaps. Finally all characters can use all weapons, but if you overload your character with sniper rifles and shotguns your power recharge takes a hit due to the weight. What I found cool is that if you import your Mass Effect 2 character into Mass Effect 3 you keep all your abilities and level from ME 2. That is because the level cap is raised from 30 to 60 allowing you to completely level up all skills. If you want to respec your character they give you the opportunity early on in the game. Do yourself a favor and play without a guide the first time. Its too easy to see what choices you make and the effects when someone else already tells you whats going to happen. Accept the consequences of your actions and enjoy the ending you earned. I must say there hasn’t been an RPG that I have played where I actually debated with myself between the choices I was given more so than Mass Effect 3. In the game you are often asked to decide between two opposing points of view that are equally valid but siding with either side will make the war against the Reapers that much harder. While the musical score in all the other games provide a classic sci-fi feel that sets the mood and scene well, I have to single out the opening sequence score as your leaving earth rattles my nerves every time I played it, setting the desperate mood of the last game. Mass Effect 3 also has a Multiplayer mode called Galaxy at War which is quite enjoyable. Its essentially a version of Horde mode from Gears Of War or Spec Ops from Call of Duty, but the kicker is playing Galaxy at War increases your chances of defeating the Reapers in the single player mode. There is a certain giddiness that occurs when you see one player suspend an enemy into the air and then you add insult to injury by firing a concussion grenade at the suspended foe. Its a fun addition to an already stellar single player game.
The Mako, the ground tank to explore barren worlds, sucked… hard. First off exploring a barren wasteland is not very fun which is the majority of the exploration. Secondly when there is something to kill on the planet the Mako is terrible to control. The turret on the tank only swivels 360 degrees which is fine until you have to fire on something on a higher plane then you are. Enemies can take a higher or lower position than you and pelt you with rockets. The Mako is slow and hard to maneuver add to the fact that the damn thing is glitchy. Speaking of glitches combat is not as smooth as in later games. Taking cover is a hassle to the point where its far safer to use cover without actually taking cover; much like in first person shooters. Enemies also shrug off everything but biotic powers. The player can fire round after round into a bad guy and there is no reaction unless they die from it. There were many instances where the game decided to freeze up in the middle of too much action or in the middle of walking around the Citadel. As much as I like gaining new weapons and mods it almost becomes overwhelming by the end of the game. Towards the end you gain nothing really that valuable so it just gets junked or sold.
Mass Effect 2
Scanning planets, while less frustrating than using the Mako, kills the pacing of the game. Some of my fellow Fandominians would watch me scan planets and wonder why I keep going on and on about how great this game truly is. So, sorry guys but I had to buy my Thanix Cannons… you would understand if you played. The Xbox 360 version also comes with two discs that have to be swapped back and forth which doesn’t happen often but the fact that I have to worry about two discs getting scratched makes me a bit nervous.
Mass Effect 3
Takes one step back in the glitch department. Mass Effect 3 has some terrible glitches that freeze the game in both singleplayer and multiplayer modes. Several times while playing the singleplayer it would freeze in between load screens. In Multiplayer more often than not a terrible connection can make or break a quality match. Connection issues aside there is one particular glitch while playing as a Vanguard that is amusing and typically means total failure for my team and I. Sometimes while playing as a Vanguard I would find myself hovering a few feet off the ground. This usually happens after I have used my Biotic Charge just before falling to my death. If a team mate revives me I find myself floating through the air with the greatest of ease and the biggest target on the map. While rolling into cover is a welcomed addition sometimes you roll into a wall and then stand straight up. For some reason there are structures in the game that you are not allowed to take cover next to. Again the two disc system is back for the xbox 360 and is worse than ME:2. In Mass Effect 2 the disc swap took place once in the middle and once at the end. In Mass Effect 3 you can end up swapping the discs in and out three or 4 times in a matter of minutes depending on what missions you want to play. Sadly one of my saves files couldn’t read the customized Shepard that I built which was a huge disappointment that I hope Bioware can fix with a patch. The Multiplayer is fun but what bothers me is the micro sales where you can purchase, with real money, upgrades and weapons in packs similar to playing cards. Now the big controversy with the on disc DLC is shameful if its true, but as of writing this review there is not enough evidence for me to overtly wag my finger at EA, however I would not put that disgraceful act past them as well.
TEXTURE POP IN ARRRRRRRRRGH. Seriously this botherd the god given shit out of me. Every time you were in a conversation and the camera switched perspective the texture map would pop in about a second later. Watch a movie or t.v. show and imagine that every time there is a new shot every actor’s face wasn’t present until a second later. Every time there was a conversation with an NPC this glitch would pull me out of the moment which for this story heavy game was very ugly.
Mass Effect 2
For people playing on PS3 it can be a little difficult to invest in the story. For a lot of people this was their first entry into the series and yes I know there is that motion comic in the beginning but it is simply not the same as experiencing the first game. While combat has a great couple of tutorial levels the exploration and navigating the hub planets can be a little daunting for people not use to the RPG portion of the game. My wish is that somewhere down the line all three games will be available for all the consoles.
Mass Effect 3
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
Whats really ugly about this game is how negative of a reaction the ending is getting from the online community. I have heard complaints ranging from the ending is too bleak, I don’t understand what happen, or that there is no choice in the ending, to rumors of a perfect ending if you buy the day one DLC “from ashes.” To answer the third part first, no “from ashes” does not change the ending, secondly (or firstly… I’m confused) this ending leaves a lot for the player to interpret. Much like endings from T.V. shows such as: Lost, Battlestar Galatica, and Angel, not every ending is straight forward and nor does it need to be. People listen, just because everything is not tied up in a neat little package with everything reverting back perfectly to what it was before the Reaper invasion doesn’t make this a bad ending. Part of what makes a great story is character arcs. Seeing the change in characters from the beginning of the journey is sometimes more interesting then how the plot ends. Seeing every race in the galaxy stand up for their right to live was far more important to me than if they survived or not. I do understand the longing to know what happens to the other races in the galaxy, but like the crew of the Normandy, we may never know. As nice as it would be to have a sort of epilogue to peer into the future of the galaxy, knowing that if any species did live through the final battle at least they have a chance to survive. Lastly to say that this game doesn’t give you a proper choice in the end is like saying the other games gave you a real distinctive choice in the end. The outcomes of the choices made in the Mass Effect series are amusing but they never radically changed anything about the game, why should the end of this one be any different. Besides the choice in video games are an illusion; there really is no choice, your still doing what the developer wants you to do. Shocking I know. What is sick about all these complaints is that according to Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-founder of Bioware, there are plans in the works to help better explain the ending. While I’m going to wait until I see what they have coming down the pipe to make a complete judgement I will say this, “Hey Dr. Ray let me tell you something about people… you can never make people who are emotionally unbalanced- happy. You can make an individual happy, but once a group of people are upset at something they will never be completely satisfied. Ask President Obama how that whole birth certificate thing worked out for him after he released the official long form. That form is still getting shitted on.” If you don’t like the ending, then don’t like the ending. Don’t try to change it, let it stand as is; Good, Bad, or Ugly.
The Mass Effect series has the richest fictional history in science fiction since Star Trek. Although the games are not perfect they were all really fun and enjoyable in their own way. Bioware really listens to their fans and the sequels and DLC show that they are willing to bend over backwards to provide the game and story that most people want. Even if its changing the ending to a game series they have been working on for almost a decade.
Mass Effect: 8.5/10
Mass Effect 2 : 9.5/10
Mass Effect 3 : 9.0/10
Pour me another shot Drunk Superman…