Mass Effect 3 Review: Choices Lead to Consequences

For five years, we have heard that the Reapers were coming. Through battles with a rogue SPECTRE and travel through the Omega 4 relay on a suicide mission for which no one was to return, Commander Shepard and his/her motley crew of comrades have been preparing for this eventual war with the Reapers. Finally, in Mass Effect 3, the Reapers arrive. And all hell breaks loose.

Mass Effect 3 is the final chapter in the Commander Shepard trilogy. For those of us playing from disc one of 2007’s Mass Effect, it is the end of a story that we’ve had control of, via choices that we’ve made, each step of the way. For those gamers new to the series, ME3 allows for those choices to be made during character creation, so the player still has some control over the greater story.

For the sake of this review, I will judge the game based on my experience, based off my Commander Shepard (a male who looked like the guy that you picked on in grade school). This review will talk about the ramifications of MY choices throughout the series. And don’t worry; I will keep it as SPOILER FREE as possible.

Mass Effect 3 opens six months after the events of ME2. Shepard is on earth, having been relieved of all command. He has warned and re-warned the powers that be that the Reapers are coming, and no one takes him seriously… until the sky goes dark and they appear. From there, Shepard is reinstated and the quest to ready the galaxy as a whole from the treat of extinction that the Reapers represent begins.

The story takes the player through every possible “loose end” scenario left over for the greater mythology created in the first two games. Throughout the course of the game, and if the correct choices are made, Shepard brokers peace with warring civilizations, reunites lost loves, rectifies old crimes against entire species, and brings about a level of galactic unification never before seen. In fact, gathering “war assets” is the name of the ME3 game. The Reapers are here and they are wiping out ever living thing. Only Shepard can gather enough assets to bring the fight to the Reapers.

At times, the story can get slightly emotional, especially if you’ve been playing since the original Mass Effect. Every character (well, those still living from your previous journeys) plays a part. People will live and die, and a lot of times, revisiting these folks turns out to be a sad prospect, as the player is reminded that this is the “wrap up,” and you may never see these characters ever again. Even your “love interest” is dictated by choices made from previous games, though I was able to participate in multiple “loves scenes” with multiple partners (not at the same time, as this isn’t Cinemax) for the first time ever.

BioWare always said that the Mass Effect universe was about the player’s choice, and that is evident in how ME3 is played. Almost every previous choice is resolved to a consequence. And good or bad, the story rages on to its conclusion.

What makes Mass Effect (the series) so interesting is how BioWare kept the story going through three games. Allowing saves to be transferred over from game to game was a genius decision. I felt that this Shepard was MY Shepard (though due to a glitch, he did not look exactly like my previous Shepard, which is a point of contention that will soon be rectified with a game patch). I take full responsibility for letting the Rachni Queen live in Mass Effect, and for destroying the Collector base in Mass Effect 2. Instead of a 40-50 hour game experience, BioWare essentially created a massive 150+ hour opus that, unlike most MMOs, has an incredible story that resolves to an ending.

The game retains that same visual style, with the pseudo-grainy screen that harkens back to the sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s, and the character models still look fantastic. Personally, I love the Turian face design. I love looking at them and watching them talk. They are probably my favorite race in this fictional galaxy.

There are issues of glitches and character models pop in or out and lip-synching comes and goes, plus, the same movements are recycled during set scenes and story-moving dialogue.

The music is synthesizer-heavy, also borrowing from modern Sci-Fi movies. If anything, the music is toned down a bit and is not used as much in ME3 as it had been in previous installments. The voice acting is a strong point to the series, with a few incredible performances (Liz Sroka as Tali’Zorah comes instantly to mind, as does a cameo by Buzz Aldrin portraying a character known only as Stargazer) and the game’s sound effects are spot on, which says a lot in a Sci-Fi epic.

Combat is a true holdover from the previous game. ME3 continues the pull away from the RPG model and pushes more toward the shooter genre. In fact, ME3’s combat resembles more Gears of War or Uncharted and less Skyrim. And to argue that this is still an RPG is like saying that the multiplayer of Modern Warfare is an RPG. Both give you experience and both allow you to get bigger and better weapons, but neither have a Final Fantasy VII type of character customization option.

New to the Mass Effect series is a multiplayer component. There are modes, like that which resemble the Horde mode from Gears of War, and with each victory, your war effort is rewarded. There are six maps (as of now) and a handful of other play modes. Playing online multiplayer helps build the war chest to sway the momentum away from the Reapers. It is not necessary to participate in multiplayer to finish the game, but BioWare did a bang up job creating a mode that ties in perfectly with the solo campaign.

Also, the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 3 is enabled for Kinect. Calling out squad commands during battle, and using your voice to change weapons is neat, and all dialogue options can be made via voice. It gives a whole new perspective to the series.

Now, this isn’t without issues as well. Oftentimes, if left enabled, the TV’s speakers can cause a command to be made inadvertently. I’ve had my Shepard suddenly change weapons, mid-firing because the Kinect picked up on a phantom command. Also, having conversations with your TV is a weird sensation. It’s probably best not to do it in mixed company.

The greatest thing about Mass Effect 3 is that BioWare pulled it off. They created a universe that made players care about the consequences. Because of that, the choices made carried weight. A lot has been said about the ending of the game, and the series. The ending is completely derived from the choices made all along, and while some gamers were disappointed, I felt it was very fitting. I created that ending with my choices. I’m responsible, and BioWare was just an accomplice.

The Mass Effect universe will go on. Tie-in novels, comic books, toys, movies, and hopefully new full-length games will keep the galaxy in our hearts. Mass Effect 3 is the near-perfect ending to a journey started five years ago, and in the end, the journey was worth it.

Click here to buy Mass Effect 3 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or the PC at a discounted price from (March 6, 2012 release date).

out of 5

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