Console: 360, PS3, PC
Synopsis: In this concluding chapter of the Mass Effect saga, Shepard leaves an Earth that is being devastated by a Reaper attack. It is his mission to rally all the other species in the galaxy to defeat the Reapers once and for all, and hopefully as a result save his home planet. The key to victory may exist in the form of plans discovered on Mars for a Prothean weapon, which the Alliance refers to as The Crucible. NOTE: At the end of this review I address the controversy over the endings of the game. There will be ample spoiler warning, so if you have not finished the game, you can read without fear up until that point.
Finally, after many hours of gameplay and total immersion, I have come to the end of the Mass Effect trilogy, and what a ride it has been. Controversy over the endings aside, this is a superior game with hours of entertainment and challenging gameplay, spread over two discs on the 360 version, on which console the game is here reviewed. Having played every chapter, my game was the result of cumulative decisions across all three chapters.
This is a very long game, especially if you play to complete all potential missions and to find all potential resources. Shepard starts off being refined to quarters and restricted access after his association with Cerberus in the previous game. It could be worse for him, but he is treated leniently after having dealt with the threat posed by the Harbinger and the Collectors (and so he should, that final suicide mission was a doozy!). When the Reapers do attack, he is reinstated, being the only man who has extensive knowledge of them. This reunites him with Anderson and Ash, the latter of whom joins Shepard on the Normandy for subsequent adventures. We also meet new crewman James, a latino badass who is a lot of fun on the squad.
To say too much more about the subsequent additions to the squad would be telling, but just like in Mass Effect 2, there will be a mix of new and old faces. In this way, the continuity of the game is quite strong, while the new face add a fresh element. Depending on how many of your team survived the suicide mission, you will get a chance to reunite with them all throughout the gameplay, though they do not all necessarily join your team. This is where your previous decisions really come into effect, as these determine how many allies you can draw to your cause.
The key element to the game is collecting your war assets. You need to assemble a united force against the Reapers, which means brokering peace between warring factions, getting old and new allies on side, and getting all the pieces to complete construction of the crucible. This allows for a lot of gameplay to delve into what is happening all over the galaxy, and it is quite intense, and I was absolutely immersed whilst playing it. There are quite a few shocks and surprises along the way, especially as the cut scenes evolve the story in some unexpected directions, sometimes uplifting and sometimes devastating.
I will get into the endings shortly, but otherwise I shall end the review here and give ratings for those that still wish to be surprised. I was thoroughly entertained for the majority of this game, if a little underwhelmed by the ending. Apart from this though it is a fitting first chapter, revisiting all the most significant events and characters from the first two games, as well as expanding the story with some thrilling battles and stirring cut scenes. The controversy over the endings has overshadowed what is overall a superior gaming experience.
4 stars out of 5
The endings. SPOILERS AHEAD!
I have been reading online a number of complaints about the offered endings to the game. Though I find a number of the comments perhaps on par with my own, I feel that a lot of them over-simplify matters.
The most common complaint is that after making all these decisions and having your gameplay subsequently effected, many find it ridiculous that the entire game come down to only three choices. These being, to control the Reapers yourself, subsequently meaning that this whole cycle could continue again as it has, to destroy all synthetic life in the universe (in my case, this would have included destroying new and old allies. including EDI and the Geth). or to sacrifice yourself to create all life in the galaxy as both synthetic and organic merged into one. These three choices do not lead to one completely happy ending, but they may perhaps leave you one that you are most satisfied with. My preferred option was the merge, as I was not content to kill allies, and it would provide one final solution, despite my Shepard’s death.
Another complaint is that no matter what decision you make, the endings themselves are not that dissimilar to each other. Some have narrowed it down to being a literal RGB choice… whether the Crucible fires a Red, Green or Blue laser. This is where I feel that matters have been over-simplified. These choices do make some other subtle changes if you examine which allies exit the Normandy at the end. There is also one ending in which Shepard can survive, but the question is at what cost.
For me personally, after my level of investment in the game, and after all the rallying reunions and speeches before the final battle, I was a little bit underwhelmed. In some respects a game that had been going full throttle kind of ended with a whimper. Yet upon reflection, I can see why it ended this way. The choices presented each offer an end to the conflict, and there are pros and cons to each of the choices. This is actually in essence what the whole trilogy has been about… living with the consequences. To the naysayers, your previous decisions did get you up to this point. Yet in life sometimes no matter what you have done previously, you are forced to make hard choices. This is how Mass Effect ended. I may not like that this is how it ended, but it does make sense.
There are some other interesting interpretations out there of the ending, such that Shepard himself at this point may be indoctrinated. Perhaps this open interpretation was intentional, as it certainly leaves room for the game to be expanded, which will be done with downloadable content in response to fan outrage. I am keen to see what they do come up with, however there is a caveat with that. The current ending, though not exciting, maintains the integrity of the Mass Effect story. Lets hope that any changes to this can maintain this integrity, and not be a hacked up job to please those that have complained loudest.