Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Single player, online team-based collaborative shooty multiplayer.
Regardless of the hype surrounding this game, it is difficult not to get excited about a game that brings to an epic conclusion the story of Commander Shepard and his role in saving the galaxy from the destructive and inscrutable Reapers.
For the benefit of those who have not played the earlier titles, there is little to explain. The story is very easy to pick up and follows the well trodden path of a threat of galactic proportions our hero has to face with the help of friends and allies.
The nature of the Mass Effect games has changed. Where the first outing felt like an adventure game with a strong plot that rewarded exploration, over time this has morphed into a more action-oriented title. This is not meant as a criticism. EA and Bioware may have acted on criticisms of the earlier games in order to make the successive titles more palatable, or more marketable depending on how cynical you're feeling. Whether we all share those criticisms is a different issue. How many of the fans of the initial game would have been as enthralled if the game was more like the action title it has become?
The game's third-person cover-based shooting continues to be exciting and feel slightly punchier than the previous games. It still has a habit of telegraphing shooting sections whenever you enter a new area and see a variety of knee high blocks that could perhaps be used to shelter from enemy gunfire. Unlike the previous games, this episode has weapon augmentation that allows for experimentation with add-ons that make weapons lighter or more accurate and so on. The weight of the weapons carried also affects the speed at which biotic powers (or spacey-magic to those new to the world) regenerate after use. All that adds up to a fun shooting experience.
The other main aspect of these games has always been the conversation between Shepard and NPCs. Shepard interacts with other characters by means of a conversation wheel; where options on the left side of the wheel tend to prolong the conversation and right are more abrupt. Towards the top of the wheel are positive responses and negative ones are at the bottom. During the conversations, you occasionally get the chance to interject with a nice or nasty action (or in the games nomenclature, a paragon or renegade action) to get an alternative outcome or response. One criticism of the previous games was that special conversational options only opened up if your Shepard was entirely good or bad, so without a fairly polarised character, you didn't get any benefit at all. To some extent this has been addressed by earning Reputation points for getting things done along with the Paragon/Renegade points introduced in the previous games. However, this is the first game where the Paragon/Renegade choices seem to make minimal difference, to the point where there seems little reason keeping the mechanic in the game.
What players of the earlier games will enjoy that will equally bamboozle newcomers are the seemingly perpetual cameo appearances. For example, a mission begins on Space Station X, and who should turn up but that guy from back then, y’know, the one you had a life or death struggle with in the last episode, that may either like or dislike you now, but never mind that let's get on with the mission... It truly is a small galaxy when Shepard seems unable to go anywhere without bumping into an old acquaintance!
Another minor flaw of this title is the way in which missions and errands can be tracked, or rather not. All story elements are tracked in the game's journal in an enormous list that builds up over time with no way of hiding completed missions, and no way of determining how far through any given mission you may have progressed. Have I visited the Wossname System and picked up a doodad for someone? It starts to blur after a while. Picking up a lot of the side missions involves creepily overhearing a conversation, the detail of which is easy to miss if you happen to be running past the person and miss the majority of their pining for their lost ‘precious’. This does mean that the completionists of the world will find themselves running around a few environments over and over again in the hope of picking up tasks.
In summary, it's a good game that has had both its positive and negative aspects overshadowed by a reactionary fanbase. I feel that it's the weakest of the series, but still an excellent game that's well worth your time whether you’ve played the previous two MEs or not.
- Exciting fighting sections. - Good plot twists
- Feels more on-rails than the other games. - Controversial ending.