By Lucas Gonzales
The Reapers have invaded. Within the first few minutes, Earth’s forces are being decimated by the invading enemies. The towering synthetic/organic hybrids are obliterating everything in their path, seemingly unchallenged. It’s up to Commander Shepard to bring the galaxy together to stop them. Amid all the opening chaos and destruction, Shepard encounters a young child fighting for survival. Despite his efforts, Shepard is unable to be a savior and watches helplessly as the child’s escape shuttle gets shot down by a Reaper. This is the last scene before Shepard retreats from Earth, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Mass Effect 3 is riddled with emotional and expansive scenes. The scope of the game’s scenarios are easily apparent from main story missions. These missions usually involve gargantuan Reapers destroying everything in their wake. Mission sequences are immensely large in scale and regularly make you feel like you’re a small part of a much larger battle. A later mission has Shepard on a moon that orbits Palaven, home of the Turians. In the background, fires from the destruction of the dark side of Palaven flare and are accompanied by a large Reaper attacking the Turinan homeland. During this experience, I couldn’t help admiring the immersive scene and soon realized that enemies were attacking my character.
Mass Effect 3’s graphics are noticeably darker than previous games in the series. This compliments the desperation and intensity that the game now portrays. The animations are almost flawless; a minor exception are the running animations which look a little awkward. The cinematics are simply amazing and are executed well. Even the animations during conversations between characters look fantastic. That being said, there are some minor bugs with the animations. In one specific instance, my version of Commander Shepard was talking to one of his squadmates aboard the Normandy and his head was virtually twisted backwards.
The sound in Mass Effect 3 is also amazing. I recently purchased a pair of Astro A40 headphones, so I had the opportunity to listen to the game in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Firing Shepard’s weapons sounds great, and the sonic immersion gets intense when Reapers are howling their intimidating roar. The soundtrack composition is extremely fitting to each scene and the overall tone of the game. Mass Effect 3’s voice acting is also top-notch, with a talented cast of well-known voice actors like Keith David, Seth Green, Tricia Helfer and Martin Sheen contributing to very believable characters.
Throughout the game, players will be constantly engaged in intense firefights. The controls remain practically the same as the previous two games. They still feel a slightly clunky during combat but still make some improvements.
When he’s not fighting Reapers, Shepard engages in dialog with other characters. Many major decisions are made during these portions of the game and all have a large impact on the story, the game’s strongest element. The Mass Effect series has always been known for its personable plotlines, and Mass Effect 3 further continues story personalization with a returning system that allows players to import data from previous games. Not only can personalized character data be imported, but so can all crucial plot decisions that players made during the previous two games. Having completed the first two games, it was a no-brainer for me to import my personal Commander Shepard along with all my previous story-based decisions. The import system is one of Mass Effect 3’s standout features, as it allows the player to be fully immersed in a world that they helped shape. An example of this is when I came across a young couple on Citadel that I had met and helped way back in the first game.
In addition to strong single-player experience, Bioware has added a multiplayer game-type. At first, I was skeptical about Mass Effect achieving a successful multiplayer experience, thinking that it was destined to be rushed and sloppy. I was wrong. The multiplayer plays a lot like Gears of War’s famous Horde Mode, where players are tasked with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies. In addition to the aspect of survival, players are tasked with completing special missions like disabling transmitters. These objectives successfully test your squad’s teamwork, especially duirng the harder difficulties. Playing the multiplayer mode also benefits the single-player experience by providing war assets to help combat the Reapers during the game’s climactic final battle.
The combination of excellent storytelling and action-packed gameplay gives Mass Effect 3 a great pacing that makes it difficult to put down. Add in the superb voice acting and impressive visuals and the game becomes an unforgettable experience. Bioware had me hooked on the Mass Effect series with their first game, and I’ve now easily invested over 200 hours in the entire series. From the first game all the way to the last, I’ve played through a universe that I helped shape, enjoying my experience every step of the way.