Mass Effect 3 Review - Page 2
The Mass Effect series has always been the gold standard for single-player RPGs (The Elder Scrolls notwithstanding), and it is an understatement to say that the latest installment, Mass Effect 3, has been highly anticipated. Can it possibly live up to its expectations? More importantly, what is the solo gamer to make of the new multiplayer component?
While most of the trimming is welcome, there are a few minor trims that aren't. Mass Effect 3 features more side quests than ever before, and most of them involve fetching some artifact or resource. However, when you check your list in the pause menu, these quests no longer update as you progress through them, leaving you to guess which artifacts you have collected and which you still have to find.
|You will learn to dread these things|
There are a lot of little things like that I could nitpick, but there are even more tweaks I can highlight. Money is much harder to hoard; characters move around more; the Citadel feels more alive; Blasto 6 looks like the best movie ever; planetary scanning is quick and painless; the codex is more informative and detailed than ever before; your armor is more variable (and your casual outfits look more natural); leveling up is more frequent and rewarding; A.I. is better for both friends and foes; enemies are more varied; tactics serve you better than brute force; and much more. These positives definitely outweigh the negatives, which is why my nitpicks do not affect the final score.
Where Mass Effect 3 really shines is in its customability. This time around, you can not only change your difficulty on the fly, but you can switch to Story Mode--which downplays the action and RPG elements in favor of the narrative--to Action Mode--which automatically moves you through conversation trees so that you can focus more on the actiony parts of the game--or to RPG Mode, which is the traditional Mass Effect experience. This is the answer to those who like one aspect of the game but not another, while sacrificing nothing.
[GAMEPLAY: 10.0 - Despite a few tiny nitpicks, BioWare has refined each and every part of the Mass Effect formula to create the tightest and most rewarding Mass Effect experience to date.]
Right from the start, it is clear that the graphics and sound of Mass Effect 3 are an improvement over Mass Effect 2. Faces and movement are more nuanced, textures have higher resolutions, environments are more varied and detailed, ambient noise is more interesting, and weapon sounds are more satisfying. The musical themes are an appropriate mixture of old and new, and the voice acting is as top-notch as always.
|Hope you're not attached to your face|
Still, the game is not flawless. There are plenty of graphical hiccups--the occasional bad lip-sync, texture pop-in, or character facing the wrong way and spinning his head around like he's in The Exorcist--and dialogue can often overlap in ways that are obviously not deliberate (you can, for example, have two different conversations with a single character at the same time). While I didn't encounter any game-breaking glitches, I have heard that they are relatively common, especially in the PS3 version.
On top of that, my character, who has been with me since the first Mass Effect, had a face that couldn't be imported, and everything I did with him after beating Mass Effect 2 (namely, all the DLC) didn't transfer into Mass Effect 3, meaning I didn't get to see what happened to Kasumi, had to be re-introduced to the Project Overlord scientist, and had to hear how Liara dealt with the Shadow Broker without me. This is extremely disappointing, and it feels like something they should have dealt with before releasing the game.
On top of that, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the DLC being offered on day one. This is unforgiveable, especially since the DLC ("From Ashes") is awesome. I don't want to rehash my opinion of DLC, but putting a DLC addition out there on the first day is just the game distributers giving consumers the finger.
[PRESENTATION: 9.0 - The graphics, sound, and music are fantastic, but glitches and unfortunate marketing decisions force me to dock a point.]
Yes, even BioWare, one of the last bastions of solo gamer bliss, has been forced to answer the siren song of multiplayer. Mass Effect 3 features a four-player co-op similar to the horde mode from Gears of War. The good news is that the developers didn't devote so much effort into it that they had to sacrifice time on the single-player campaign. In fact, the levels are all available in single-player as "N7" missions and there are no enemies in multiplayer that don't appear in the main story.
|This screen will never change for solo gamers|
However, the multiplayer has a direct effect on the single-player experience, in that you can improve the "galactic readiness" of the main game by playing matches in multiplayer. If you are a strict solo gamer, therefore, you will be punished by a galactic readiness that never exceeds 50%, meaning you have to work harder to ensure you have enough resources to fight the Reapers.
And yes, there are multiplayer achievements. Granted, most of them do double duty, allowing solo gamers a chance to get them through alternate means, and this is something all games that have both single-player and multiplayer components should do. Unfortunately, there are still a handful of achievements that can only be won through multiplayer (such as an achievement to get a 100% galactic readiness rating), so the game must be punished in my final analysis.
[SOLO GAMER SCORE: 9.0 - Designers didn't sacrifice anything to include multiplayer, but by tying it to the single-player campaign, they are being slightly hostile to the solo gamer.]
SOLO GAME SCORE: 9
TOTAL SCORE: 9.3
Newcomers shouldn't start with this one, but fans should love the improvements and refinements of Commander Shepard's final chapter. It may not be perfect, but it's a hell of a ride.
-e. magill 3/20/2012