Well, it’s time. The bittersweet moment where I come to this blog to post some of my thoughts about a game I’ve recently completed. Except this isn’t just any game. This is the conclusion to the critically-acclaimed sci-fi trilogy released by Bioware; a company that I’ve come to really respect after playing the Mass Effects and Dragon Age: Origins. I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts for this entry, despite the fact that we went camping for a week after I binged on ME3 until I saw the end credits roll. I was determined to finish it before being unplugged for a week. I sacrificed a lot of sleep, which I NEVER do after having a baby and sticking to a strict workout regimen. Basically, this was a big deal for me.
What I’m saying is, I became a bit obsessed.
After seeing the credits roll, a familiar sort of depression sank in. The journey was over. I saved the galaxy from the Reapers. The characters I fell in love with were nestling into the closure that Bioware and my FemShep brought to them, and didn’t need my input any longer. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve only felt this way after completing two other games that currently top my Top 10 list: Final Fantasy X and Xenosaga Episode III. After finishing these games, I just sort of existed in a lull for a week or so, taking my sweet time transitioning back to reality, unable to divorce my mind from the amazing experiences these games offered. Thankfully, I had a camping trip with friends and family to keep me occupied this time.
Okay, I promise I’m done gushing now. I find my posts more interesting to read when I’ve got a mile-long list of complaints to vent out. While Mass Effect 3 is now one of my favorite games EVER, that doesn’t mean it is perfect. There are a few things I’d like to address that really irked me.
1.) YOU DON’T GET A KROGAN IN YOUR SQUAD. Seriously, when did ANY fans say they thought having Wrex and Grunt as squad members was a sucky idea and they’d rather have more boring humans in their group? If they exist, send me their addresses so I can hunt them down because I found this to be completely inexcusable. I love my meatshield krogans. Something tells me Bioware heard fan complaints, because in The Citadel DLC they let you have Wrex if you don’t get him killed beforehand.
2.) Controls suck less, but they still suck. My main gripe is using X for running (and taking cover, and the wannabe parkour jumping). This makes your right thumb occupied with sprinting so you can’t use it to move the camera around and search for loot. Loot is a big deal to me.
3.) ALL THE DLC. And the $$$. Sure, I will never drop a penny on extra multiplayer map packs. But I downloaded and paid money for FOUR different DLC bundles, priced at at least $9.99 a piece. This game is two years old, for crying out loud, you’d think they’d be cheaper. While the DLC is technically optional, I suppose, I can’t imagine my ME3 experience without it. From Ashes gives an extra party member with important background information and Leviathan discloses more important historical facts about the Reapers (As in: where the hell did they come from?). Omega, which I’m in the middle of playing now, may not be mandatory for garnering helpful information, but it should have been included in the game because when you see Aria in The Citadel she tells you about the mission! Little did I know, I had to PAY extra to actually help her with her pet project. And, The Citadel, while being completely optional, is something no Mass Effect fan will want to miss. It is the writers letting loose and letting the characters just have fun. I laughed a lot. And, of course, there’s Extended Cut (The infamous backpedaling). Which is free… but still. Getting DLCed to death has become a major gripe of mine in the last few years… and I just majorly supported it with ME3.
4.) Multiplayer in a single player campaign. Single player for two installments. Huge hit game series. Hmm, let’s incorporate multiplayer missions that directly affect how well the galaxy can defend itself against the Reapers and make that affect end game events! Great idea! … NOT.
Now that I’ve got those off of my chest, I have to say, Mass Effect 3 was phenomenal. I said I’d stop gushing, but I need to say this: While the Xenosaga trilogy blew me away with its character development, story, and universe, I think the Mass Effect trilogy might top it for me. When playing video game series, as a gamer you’re always nervous when you pick up the next installment. Are my favorite character still here? Did they screw up the battle system? Is this one going to suck compared to the last one? I will defend Xenosaga until the day I die, but I can’t really stand up for Episode II. The second entry stripped all fun out of the battle system and they lost a lot of fans trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. If I weren’t so obsessed with the characters and driven to see the events unfold (and didn’t have a strategy guide), I would have given up. And maybe nowadays I’d quit in exasperation. While Episode III redeemed the series for me, I think they’d already lost too many fans. But in the case of Mass Effect, each game is better than the last. Sure, I was disappointed with some of the character interactions in ME2, but other than that each game vastly improved upon the last. After playing Mass Effect 2 I wondered how it could get any better.
Oh, did it get better.
Character leveling and skill upgrades remain largely unchanged. They did add mini skill trees for each ability so you can see the progress and choose between two options in the later tiers.
Not a huge difference, but I liked seeing the advancement and choosing options for 3 tiers instead of only the final tier like in ME2.
After the significant overhaul (though I think “removal” would be more accurate) of the equipment menus in ME2, they sort of backtracked a little bit. Not in a bad way, but to give the player at least some sense of customization that was missing from the middle game. You can change Shepard’s equipment but still can’t change the squad mates. Sorry, but deciding which purple helmet you want Tali to wear or whether Liara looks better in black or white doesn’t count. But weapon modifications are back! Each weapon has two mods you can add to it. These mods are either purchased from stores or picked up while exploring. And trust me, there’s basically no inventory management to worry about.
Another improvement that I didn’t think could get any better is the way they handled scanning planets for resources. There is no more element mining for upgrades! Big cheer from this gamer! Instead, you scan items and wreckage for war assets, intel, fuel, or credits. Once you start scanning in a cluster or galaxy, you’re given a percentage so you know when you can move on. This streamlining comes with a price: scanning alerts Reapers. If you scan, they’ll come after you, and give you an automatic game over if you let them catch up to the Normandy. I wasn’t crazy about this new feature. Especially since I waited to do 90% of my planet scanning at the same time. It got tedious and frustrating. I felt like I was wasting time darting in and out of a galaxy to rush and pick up something or do some scanning before the Reapers caught me. If you’ve alerted them, they won’t go away until you move on and do something else first! I was irritable after half an hour of playing cat and mouse.
Unsurprisingly, my main praise goes to Bioware for their ability to write great characters and stories. Each of the main characters you’ve known since the beginning have pretty satisfying character arcs and interactions. You’ll get to visit their homeworlds on the premise of uniting their race to your Reaper Killing cause, but along the way they’ll grow and make you love them even more. Unless you don’t have enough Reputation, then things will go south. Since I forgot to mention this earlier: Do side quests ASAP!
Now I’m going to take a low jab at Ubisoft: In case you haven’t heard, they’ve been under a lot of flack recently because they claimed they “Don’t have the resources,” (Loosely interpreted as “Can’t be bothered”) to incorporate female models in the next installment of their annual cash cow, Assassin’s Creed. Well. All I can say is that I find it interesting Bioware could, and successfully gave characters the option to be a female in a vast story that expands 3 games with hundreds of interactions with NPCs. Many of which are tailored by the sex you selected when creating Shepard. As per the cover art, it’s assumed you’ll be the brooding man with the close shave. Not only did Bioware give you the option, they also created unique situations and dialogue for FemShep. In the third game, they took it up a notch by drawing very specific attention to it. One of the more subtle, but most satisfying moments, in ME3 were the conversations with a certain female Krogan. If you’re a female, she not only confides in you, but also expresses admiration at the great responsibility humanity has placed on a female. It tickled my fancy to not just be given a different character model (that Ubosift can’t be bothered with) but to also change dialogue and outfit the experience so that it didn’t feel at all like I was playing a subpar role. Never, in the entire trilogy, did I find the conversation nuances inappropriate or with that “This is definitely meant for a male” vibe.
I do have some story complaints, but they seem to just whimper in the shadows of Mass Effect 3’s generally great presentation. I knew about the ending’s big controversy, so I barreled towards it with anticipation. After experiencing my ending, taking advantage of Youtube to watch the others (there’s 4 altogether depending on what your ultimate decision is) and then speaking with a friend who got the original crappy ending… I can say I’m glad I got the Extended Cut. It actually, you know, explains the aftermath of your choice. I can honestly say I liked the ending(s)… Mine, at least, was bittersweet, with enough disclosure to satisfy me but some open ends to let me interpret a couple of things as I see fit. With all this hubbub about a Mass Effect 4, I’m sort of confused. The four endings have vastly different implications about the future of the universe. It’d have to be either a prequel or be an alternate universe/spiritual successor sort of deal. Which I’d be okay with, I just don’t want them to mess with my Shepard and my story.
I know I’m obsessed with this game because even though I already watched the credits roll, I’ve gone back and decided to wrap up some side quests I didn’t complete and play through the Omega DLC which I got kind of late. My gaming time is crunched thanks to adulthood, so I don’t usually do anything extra with games… Especially after I beat them. As of right now, Mass Effect 3 has killed other video games for me. I truly have no desire to play anything else yet.
In closing, here is a picture of my newest video game girl crush and one true love to my FemShep: Liara T’Soni. She’s intelligent, blue, and has a nice rack. What more could a human ask for? Oh I know, how about a lover that could literally mindf*ck you? Sold!