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So a few weeks ago I finished Mass Effect 3. This game has been surrounded in controversy since before it even came out. Between failed giveaways shooting the game into space, EA’s DLC shenanigans (where have we heard that before), bigoted clowns getting up in arms because there were a couple gay people somewhere in the universe, and of course, fanboys ready to wage war on Bioware because of the ending. I have many feelings about ME3 and the Mass Effect series as a whole. This is probably my favorite game series of all time. ME2 got a decent sized post out of me back in the day (here) but man, ME3 is just full of so much. After the jump I’ve got my feelings on the game as a whole, the ending, and the full series. This should go without saying, but there are ALL OF THE SPOILERS below, so, you know, don’t read if you don’t want them dummy. Also, this is crazy rambly and tl;dr, just be forewarned. (EDIT: I’ve been writing this over a series of days, I’m not gonna get into the announcement about their plans to add on, in short, I’m glad it’s not changing anything, just additional. Sorry this is super rambly. Carry on)
Before playing ME3, it seems worth saying that I’ve played both of the 1st 2 games in the series with a very heavy Paragon playthrough. Everyone survived my ME2 suicide mission, and I came in to ME3 as a level 30. I’ve since started a Renegade back at ME1 (which, while a great game, is so painful to play mechanics wise after the sequels), and plan on playing through all 3 games.
So it seems impossible to start talking about this game without starting at the end. First off, I hated the ending of the game. Before I go into my issues with the ending, I want to make it very clear that I think the ideas of 1) Bioware changing the ending of their story because of people’s reactions and 2) the fact that people are literally protesting because of the ending, are both absolutely retarded. As far as changing the ending goes…Come on yall, have a sack. You clearly told the story you wanted (at least I think, more on that later), so what if people don’t like it?? I’m not going to get in to the retread “are video games art” Ebert rant type things because I think games are supposed to be fun. But A piece of fiction, be it a movie, or a show, or a video game, especially one as story-centric like Mass Effect, is made to tell the story it’s made to tell. You shouldn’t go back and go “oops, how bout this?” just because some folks don’t like it. Old Yeller dies, Bruce was always a ghost, and Ken Griffey Jr. eliminated the Twins. Sometimes these things happen in works of fiction, grow a pair, and quit listening to the lame, whiny gamers who clearly have too much time on their hands. As for the people protesting because of the ending….just go away. You are dumb.
As for the ending itself, and again SPOIIIIIILERRRRSSSSSSS, I hated it. There are a few things about it I take umbrage with. First off, I agree with the complaint that has so many protesting, that what you do doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of difference. Thanks to their save point putting you right before the beam, I’ve seen what happens with all 3 options for my game. I got up to level 56 (60 is the highest), completed all but maybe 3 or 4 sidequests (1 N7, 1 or 2 fetch/scan missions, and the Eden Prime data) and had 60% galactic readiness from the multiplayer. From what I could tell based on how the game ended for me, and from poking around on the web a little bit, I really don’t know if having more assets or readiness changes anything. Aside from the amount of people that check in before your fleet goes up against the Reapers at the beginning of the last mission, I’m guessing that there aren’t really any changes besides quick cameos in cutscenes leading up to the last mission. For a series which has been built around the differences and ramifications caused by your choices, and done so well mostly, it’s bizarre to me that the “different endings” all end up so similar. Admittedly, all 3 games had certain things that were always going to happen, and I that makes sense. But if you are going to tell me there will be different endings, they should be vastly different, not all of the Reapers will chill in some manner and your ship will end up on some random jungle world.
Aside from the fact that the “different endings” weren’t all that different, I also just didn’t like what they went with. While the last level was hard, you didn’t get a true big bad fight. As opposed to a boss, they just threw a ton of Brutes at you before you went up to the Citadel. Why not move the Kai Leng fight to here before you get to go up to the Citadel? Then everything that happened after the blackout was…strange. Let’s say you do survive, make it up to the ship and go through all the stuff w/ Anderson and the Illusive Man (IM from here on out). I like the way they have IM indoctrinated, half of him already looking like a husk, and if you choose the right options, offing himself the same way Saren did back in ME1 to show that you were still able to reach something inside of this indoctrinated foe. But the art book that came w/ the collector’s edition shows they thought about having you get a true boss battle like in the past versions, having him super Reapery as a boss. I wish they would’ve carried through with that, but oh well. Instead, you just get the dialogue tree. I can’t totally blame them for this call, but I would’ve preferred you have a battle with Super IM which then led to the scene you got. As it is, I still have questions. How did IM make you shoot Anderson? The glowy hand thing looked like a biotic power, but…what? I don’t recall hearing anything in either ME2 or 3 about IM having crazy Biotic powers, and we never saw that exact of a telekenetic type move anywhere. So get through all that, hit the button, and nothing works. Then it gets churchy.
So throughout the game you have these weird dreams whenever you get a second of downtime in this dark, creepy forest with weird ghost things and a lil kid in a hoodie (probably shady amirite? TOPICAL) that you saw in the first mission of the game get blowed the fuck up. Did I mention throughout this last segment of the mission there is a weird black wavy aura around the sides of the screen that look a lot like the dreams? Yah…So there is always the whole thing about being dead the whole time, which I guess would take care of some issues, but I digress. So you try to hit the button, but pass out. All of a sudden a segment of the floor is surrounded by light and raises you up. You wake up and the little kid is there again, but now HE’S A GHOST or some other translucent such being. The lil kid goes into all this business about how the reason the Reapers show up every 50,000 years and blow almost everybody up because everyone always starts making synthetics, and if we don’t go back to just past 0, shit gets bad because synthetics and organics can’t coexist. We’ve heard the 50,000 year thing frequently and the idea of synthetics vs organics is one of the backbone tenets of the game from the get go. So then you get a choice, kill all synthetics (YUPPPPPPPP), control all the Synthetics by dying in the process…somehow, or sacrificing yourself and letting your essence mold man and machine into a new, happy combo…I think. So no matter what happens, the Reapers are taken care of, you are pretty much dead, and somehow your guys still survive. That’s such a damn copout to me!
You could let me win, which may be predictable or boring or whatever, but it’s always gratifying to blow up the evil sentient robot race that’s hell bent on universal destruction. Or, get real ballsy and Ken Griffey Jr. me at the end. If none of what I did leading up to this point is really gonna change then be awesome and say “Hey Shep, you gave it a good run, but remember how hard it was to kill one Reaper, yah, you can’t kill them all RAWRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR(Reaper sound)” *explode everybody* *cue Harbinger evil monologue about how the universe can not be changed no matter how baller of a hero you have* *end*
It wouldn’t be the first game to go dark. Hell, look at Red Dead just a few years ago. But this was just so…unsatisfying. I appreciate and applaud the choice to not give you the happy ending with you standing defiant and victorious as credits rolled. But, I don’t know, it just felt so empty, and like I said, like all these choices really didn’t make a lick of difference. There’s also the issue of some logical plot holes. How’d your squadmates get out? Why’d they bail? How come Harbinger didn’t just blow you to hell before you made the beam? Where’d all your armor go? How’d you get an infinite pistol? How come EVERYONE bailed, but Hackett could still call you? There’s a theory floating around that Shepard is indoctrinated the whole time. There’s a long, but interesting video put together (here) that takes clips, dialogue, and hints from all 3 games to make it’s argument. Remember when watching, the voice overs, especially in the citadel chamber, are parts of all 3 games, not just what happened in ME3. The part of this that really strikes me is the stuff related to the dreams, and the similarities between what you see in the dreams and the last segment. Still, if that is the route they are going, I don’t know if they do enough to really prove that point. Especially with the last scene in what I can only assume is the next cycle.
The next cycle is part of another issue I had with the game. All of the sudden things got realllllll churchy. Now religion was constantly mentioned throughout the series. Several species made reference to their various deities, and many of ME3’s side quests involved various religious artifacts folks wanted. A major part of your relationship early on in ME with Ashley revolves around her religious beliefs. That said…Shepard passes out/dies and then raises to the sky? He’s met by ghost hoodie who talks about the Reapers are under h(H?)is control and do his work. We go through all that, you make your choice, fall out, mystery jungle planet, then the last voice over… You see a wide shot with a kid and an old man asking to hear another story about “The Shepard.” Ok, I kicked myself the first time for not seeing that coming, but come on son. Also, the place they are at? Sure looks a lot like your dream forest of ghosts and scared be-hoodied children. Just…why?? What did that serve? I guess that another cycle happened, life went on and they were able to pass the info? I just….ugh, so much eye rolling and dismissive hand wanks all around at that last little scene.
Cleansing breaths, I’m done with the ending.
My thoughts about the game as a whole. I have so many. For starters, it felt considerably harder this time around than in the previous 2. I started out on Hardcore, but after getting rolled 4 times the first time I saw an enemy (granted, no powers yet) I decided to just play down because I am weak and they’ve stepped their game up. I liked the gun play better this time around, but thought it was strange that the classes didn’t have the same powers attached to them (miss u incinerate). I like that while the enemies are considerably smarter and tougher, your ability to use your teammates strategically is also much better.
The way choices you made from both of the previous games came up in this was phenomenal. Probably the most compelling stuff surrounded the Krogan Genophage. Given how intense the story surrounding it has been throughout, with the option to kill Wrex in game 1, the terrible experiments in the 2nd and Mordin’s closeness to the project, and all the implications surrounding Krogans and the rest of the major races, there is just so much going on. Mordin is a character, especially, who is just amazing in both games. If you plan on playing back through the games and didn’t do much w/ Mordin, or let him die in ME2, you should definitely do more with him on your next go round.
One major complaint I’ve seen with people is the fact that that each random mission seems to reunite you with someone from your past. Is it a bit strange, maybe at first glance. But think about it this way: beyond the fact that they want to get as many people from your past involved as possible, these people have helped saved the universe with you on multiple occasions. Doesn’t it make sense after you split up that they would return to their people and clearly be seen as people that can get the damn thing did, and therefore used in important situations? That doesn’t strike me as much of a stretch.
My biggest complaint with ME3 is something that I can’t really fault them for and is probably nitpicky, but it is what it is. You have intergalactic, seemingly unkillable gigantic robot beasts running roughshod throughout the universe. You’ve got the one guy anywhere that has taken one down before and might have a shot at fixing it. Death is imminent, but it’s really a good time to ask him to go get a flag, or a new recipe, or some new heating stabalizers????? Sure, you need to have side quests in the game, I get that. The first 2 games were able to go with much more exploration because while, yes, shit was going down, you weren’t on the precipice of universal destruction. With ME3 though, your head is in the noose at the gallows. The major side quests worked well. A race is about to die unless you pull something off. I feel like the fetch missions with scanning could’ve been done better. Again, this is a minor gripe, but one I couldn’t get over. My only other complaint with the game was the Tron mission with the Geth. I just thought it was bizarre. Fun, but bizarre.
If you are still with me after this long, you may think I didn’t enjoy this game. I don’t want to give off that impression. While I didn’t like the ending, I thought the game tied up a lot of different stories very well. I also thought the gunplay itself was at it’s best in this iteration. While I was mad at the encumberance slowing up your powers, that’s just because I hate encumberance things. The challenge the game presented was fantastic. The voice acting and cinematics were still top notch. For the most part, I thought it finished the story really, really well. The cover system could still be a little frustrating. I’m still just thankful there is one as going back to ME1 without it is painful. But it can be very annoying trying to get over a ledge and hopping in and out of cover 8 times before you do it.
As far as the multiplayer goes, I’m torn. I thought the way they did it, essentially just making the N7 missions a 4 player co-op affair, was great. I liked having different races with different powers so you could try things that you may not have used much in the single player. I didn’t like the fact that it was the only way to up the Galactic readiness. Then again, because the readiness and all that hardly seemed to affect the ending, I guess it didn’t really matter. Still, I’m glad they put it in, but just go ahead and disconnect it completely from the Single player. It’s a fun mini horde type mode that lets you play with friends, it doesn’t need to be more than that.
The last choice they made that I can’t understand has to do with the Day 1 DLC (MORE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVENT GOTTEN DLC SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH). With as big a part of the series as the Protheans have been, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have had Javik in the game for everyone. 1st, he’s a freaking beast in the game. Since there wasn’t the variety of squad memebers in this game, having one less option would’ve been very disappointing. Plus, I though it added a ton to the story to add in a Prothean that has already fought the Reapers once before, and lost. It added to the stakes in my opinion. I get that it’s a business and all, but I also am not a fan of companies shipping incomplete games when they have it all ready to go. But that’s not gonna change any time soon and EA can’t hear me though their Scroogian pool of money they are swimming in.
This game was phenomenal. For me, personally, it doesn’t top ME2. The gameplay jump alone from 1 to 2 was so huge, that it made ME2 seem better. The stakes were surely higher in 3, but that made some of the choices seem silly. While I wasn’t a fan of the ultimate ending, this was a damn good game, and the endings of several story arcs, particularly the Genophage, were fantastic. I can’t even fathom how many flow charts they must have had to make to deal with different amount of choices and the different outcomes it would lead to over the 3 games. This is one of the most amazing technological feats I’ve seen pulled off in a video game and my hat is off to the Bioware folks. If you haven’t played these games, well, I’m assuming you aren’t reading anymore, but you need to get on board. I’d put this trilogy of games up against any other series out there. Just an amazing job.