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Bioware's Mass Effect 3 (Standard Edition)

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Rated #89 in PC Games

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Mass Effect 3 (PC) Review & Thoughts

Genre: Action Role-Playing
Rated: Mature
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 6, 2012

Versions: Standard, N7 Digital Deluxe, Collector's Edition

Steam Powered: No

Origin: Yes
Origin Versions: Standard, N7 Digital Deluxe

Min System Requirements:
CPU: 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Equivalent AMD CPU)
RAM: 1 GB RAM (XP) / 2 GB RAM (Vista or Windows 7)
HDD: 15GB
GPU: 256MB w/ Shader Model 3.0
DirectX: 9.0C

Recommended System Requirements:
CPU: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Equivalent AMD CPU)
RAM: 2 GB RAM (XP) / 4 GB RAM (Vista or Windows 7)
HDD: 15GB
GPU:
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB or Greater
  • nVidia Geforce 9800 GT 512MB or Greater
DirectX: 9.0C


Opening Comments:
This is (supposedly) a finale to the Mass Effect trilogy. That being said THERE ARE SPOILERS (you has been warned) that will ruin the inherent plot, namely the ending. It will be entitled The Ending so skip it if you don't wish to see it.
I have seen the entire game, from start to end, unlike some professional reviewers (of which it is obvious) and I have given the ending its own section, but not because it’s controversial. I think an ending to a video game (if it has one) should always be accounted for in a title.


Gameplay/Controls:
The gameplay has retained its fluidity of ME2 controls and improved upon it. Some streamlining can be bad but they have done a number utilizing the "Spacebar" as a smart key that is used for a variety of functions. However, it isn't smart enough not to be problematic sometimes. The biggest complaint, the majority of users and I have, is that it Sprints and Takes Cover. If you are sprinting to close to a coverable object (namely everything now) you will automatically take cover. Cover is "snap able" as well, meaning you are locked to what you take cover to. To disengage from cover at this point, you must release the space bar and tap the key one more time. However, if you are holding a directional key (like many of us do while playing) and tap it, Shepard performs a dodge roll to the next nearest cover and "snaps" to the wall/crate. I died quite frustratingly a few times simply because it was an intense fight and I couldn't get Shepard off of a damn wall that provided no cover what so ever from a rocket. Bioware meet keyboard - 35 keys accessible from the WASD finger planting. There is key re-mapping, but there is no function remapping, and the functions are all stuck together in the game. I really think play testing on the PC would have brought this up. Shift should be sprint and Spacebar can still be the other 5~6 functions it performs.

Other than my dispute with cover / sprinting mechanics, the shooting mechanics are well done. Enemies are tougher/stronger, combat is much longer, and unless you are in easy mode, its hard to get overpowered for every fight. While this doesn't affect the review score of the game, I actually prefer the opportunity to be overpowered by side-mission experience and armor caches. This is more or less impossible due to the sheer number of mobs that can be thrown at you times and ammo conservation. In essence, if you are at home with the mechanics of ME2, you will be right at home in ME3.

Game-Sub Score for Gameplay/Controls: 8 / 10


Character Development:
Character development, plot-wise, is at an all-time high. There are a few laughs, tear-jerk reactions to the story line, and a few deaths. I don't just mean your crew this time either. They really improved some of these scenes, but more importantly, their relevance’s. Unlike ME2's leading to the end story / slaughter fest (which I thought was a little stupid by the way), the deaths in this game are extremely relevant to the plot and Shepard. Some of the lives are saved and lost in a manner outside of Shepard’s control this time. There are times throughout the central storyline when you realize you are not God, and you are often brought down to the reality (well Space/Mass Effect Reality biggrin.gif). This is a real (virtual) war and you can't win a war by yourself… and without sacrifice. It’s a very touching philosophical development to an already deep Bioware-made universe.

Character development, strategy wise, is at an all-time simplified. There is virtually nothing compelling you here to plan out your missions. Aiming your pistol greatly overshadows what you are wearing or what your party is shooting with. I personally believe (I will test this out) you can play the entire game (ME3) and beat the game without changing any gear, just upgrading your guns (not modifying) and spending your talent points. Something seems inherently wrong about that. It’s not just a question of difficulty, although Hardmode (and beyond) will force you to think about what you are doing, it’s a design choice that I frankly don't like. Hardmode / Insane is the new Normal and Hardmodes essentially. They have made the game so easy that it offsets what customizability they have left in the game. At this rate of simplicity, Mass Effect 4, or more likely Dragon Age III, will be a simple action game. No more roleplaying it seems.

Game-Sub Score for Char Development: 9 / 10


Inventory Management:
If I could bring back Mass Effect's inventory with tweaks I would. I was upset about the changes for ME2, a lot of people were, but a lot of people surprisingly didn't care. I have to remind myself, this is an action role-player. Not a hardcore DND game I am used to from Bioware. That being said, I will review based on what was given to me.

The customizing of gear in the game is still there. You can upgrade your weapons, you can change your armor ala ME2, and you can go to shops. However, you can ONLY alter Shepard’s armor/appearance identically to ME2, which is still lame to me. How I upgrade weapons is trivial and meaningless to me. I don't have to find an upgrade, I simply go to a console and choose to upgrade my weapon (and pay for it.) Once I find a weapon, it’s available to all comrades to use simultaneously, provided they are allowed to. There is a weight dynamic as well to weapons, which I ignored the entire game without much issue (played Soldier). Turns out my class was not really affected by the added variable. Weight issue affects your ability to recharge powers, I am sure there was a Mass Effect reason for this, EEZO or what not, but it added virtually nothing to the game as far as strategy/difficulty goes, most of the best guns in the game were also “light.” There is no resource gathering, again akin to ME2, for upgrades or mods, whether you liked scanning or not, at least the game didn't just give you access to upgrades. I find it too easy.

Weapon Mods are back, but like the weapons, you find one and it’s available to all simultaneously. That "feature" just bugs me as perhaps I am too old fashioned, looking for good companion gear is the norm for me. Does it hurt the game really? Not really, just differing design decisions is about it. There are also universal upgrades, you find a Mod upgrade such a Barrel III, and you are automatically using Barrel III and Barrel I or II is permanently gone. I also don't really like this. A friend of mine implied that it’s just simpler for him to "get into combat" without having to remember to check all your gear. I have to agree that jump into combat is much quicker in ME3, BUT I enjoy tweaking my characters gear and armor. Much like driving a Stick vs. an Auto: you are driving the car vs. driving the car.

Game-Sub Score for Inventory: 7 / 10


Journal / Menu:
While the Menus were functional as far as the PC goes, the Journal was atrocious if you wanted to find anything. The game may have been better off leaving it out of the game entirely. That would just piss people like me, who are completionists, but I am not sure what they were thinking. I touch on this more in the conclusion.

Game-Sub Score for Journal: 5 / 10


Audio:
Music and audio bytes were great. They spent a lot of time with a lot of talented voice actors and a great composer who deserves a lot of praise for capturing this space operas emotion to the fullest. There was only one minor complaint and that there are times when the sound is not synced to the lips or the lips are not "mouthing" what’s being said very well/believably. I don't believe it’s that much of an issue and its only noticeable on a few scenes in all honesty. Full 10/10 on this job.

Game-Sub Score for Audio: 10 / 10


Graphics:
Graphically, this game is borderline identical to ME2. The engine is still the Unreal engine (I think its based off of 3 although I am not too sure.) There have been a few tweaks in lighting and some more HDR style effects, as well as character/level designs. Levels are a lot busier, and the enemies while not as varied, are lot more detailed. There are even a few different skins of the same model to allow recognizing enemy difficulty level. Unfortunately, there are 3 enemies, Cerberus Troops, Geth, and the Indoctrinated/Husks (some use the term "Reapers" to encompass them but to me, the only thing that is a Reaper is the actual Reaper / Ship AI.) Something interesting is that this game greatly expands on other races getting husked out. Human husks are only the beginning this game. biggrin.gif

Gets a point off for not trying to do more on the PC version in the year 2012. This is a strict console port and it’s kind of annoying to me. We do get a better experience than consoles, which goes without saying, but its minimal effort at best and it shows. Another small issue which will appear time to time are the NPCs eyeballs/eye’s focus, and it’s just blatantly scary fugly or just wrong. For example the iris have rolled almost to the back of the head while facing forward or looking to the left during a cinematic.

Game-Sub Score for Graphics: 9 / 10


Side Missions / Minigames:
There is very little in the way of side-missions, they do exist, but there are not too many that are external to the plot. Core concept is to increase EMS and pretty much all costs, and these little side missions and item hunting is essential to this point. There are no minigames and there are no decrypting/hacking foot lockers. Another feature removed from the game to "simplify" things I suppose.

Along the central plot was the inclusion of the EMS / Battle Readiness system. It basically consists of you collecting resources and allies in a united front against the Reapers. The tie-in to multiplayer was uncalled for, as I love single player far more than any multiplayer game ever, I think this was a shameful "force" multiplayer to essentially aid getting a high EMS or high enough EMS. The games "extra" bonus ending is only visible post 5000 EMS, which IS achievable through SP, but its just easier to put a good hour or two into multiplayer for most people. Multiplayer review is at the end.

Game-Sub Score for Extra Content: 6 / 10


Story (Excluding the Ending):
The story in Mass Effect 3 is quite good. I know this review is starting to sound anti-ME3, the story is not a weakness for any of the titles thus far, and ME3 really delivers. As mentioned in character development, noticeable in all the characters, you see much more mature and developed characters than before. The same goes for the story. It's dark, grittier, and deadlier. There were a lot of memorable scenes from the game such as: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Man handling a Reaper using a laser targeting painter and joint Quarian low orbit tactical strike.

That is something I won't ever forget. The story is centered on suspense building and you get a lot of tension leading up to what you know to be the final confrontation with the Reapers. A lot of ties into psychological war fatigue… which makes sense since Shepard has been virtually in direct combat for going on 5 years. He also: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
DIED once.

As far as experience goes, this was an exciting journey, one that compels you to finish it once you have started.

Game-Sub Score for Story: 9 / 10


*SPOILER* THE ENDING *SPOILER*
The ending…. The ending that has set the internet a blaze with anti-Bioware feedback, including an FTC lawsuit against the developers. What's worse, all the rage is so loud, actual constructive criticisms from the fans can't even be heard. The ending was so bad for some, they created a new fictional (thus far) ending by piecing together odds and ends that they believe are related and connected (its called Indoctrination theory and you can find TONs of people not just agreeing but wanting to believe that.)
The truth is, as much as it hurts people to accept, the ending IS what was released. It doesn't matter what pre-development notes and scribbles say, it doesn't really matter how its gets patched later, the game is out and finished NOW. It’s time to accept that the ending does kind of suck. It’s not terrible as far as video game endings go, however, its sub-par for Bioware, and sub-par for Mass Effect.
The rest of my comments are in spoiler mode: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Shepard is dead, and that’s it. UNLESS you work your butt off raising your EMS AND your final choice of 3 options is blow up the Reapers/Citadel, you get to see a second of what looks to be his body/armor TWITCH. That doesn't even prove he is a live, quite frankly not even worth the effort if you have ever heard of YOUTUBE, you could watch it.

The second option being to merge all synthetic creations and biological life to an all new level, basically everyone is a living microchip. You die in the process. Quite frankly, doesn't make much sense, even for a video game, let alone Mass Effect. Its essentially magic, when everything in the previous two games has been explained with codex or back story on how it sort of works. For instance the Mass Relays.

Third option is to take control of the Reapers, Illusive Man Style. You die in the process... hooray.

My issue is that they lack in quality, the length of ending, and quite frankly they weren't very conclusive. Watching the endings side by side, they are near identical.

IF you want to see HOW similar the actual footage of the endings are, despite having 5ish choices, check out this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPelM2hwhJA

It reeks of laziness or time constraints or both, who knows.

Game-Sub Score for Ending: 7 / 10


Multiplayer:
This is about the only thing I actually have no gripes about. I HAD no interest in this development, I am core single player RPGer, I very much liked Mass Effect, KOTOR, Jade Empire, Morrowind etc. Simply put, its arena combat of cooperative play against waves of NPC enemies encountered through the game. Matches can be random or configurable; there are only 6 maps unfortunately with, more than likely, a map pack DLC in the future. The game play is quick and fun though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience up to my first level 20. I haven't played much more as I am running back through Mass Effect (numero uno) but I am sure I will pick it up again. Your EMS/Readiness percentage does decay over time forcing you to keep fighting the good fight. I still think it does suck to get people forced, in a manner of speaking, to play MP if all they want to do is SP but I took off points for this in another section. The Multiplayer was tacked on, seems to be an obvious stab at enhancing game replay ability, but it is actually fun. Multiplayer is a credit to this game.

Game-Sub Score for Multiplayer: 10 / 10


Final Thoughts & Conclusion:
Bioware’s stance (not verbally announced but observed through their releases; DA2 included) has been screaming one mission. That is to "simplify." It’s getting to the point at times in ME3 of where you are either shooting or pressing the space bar and that’s it for the gameplay. Biotic players focusing on powers of course will be "casting" those. If you are not a gifted Biotic, the game is relatively simple as aiming for the head, shoot, and repeat. Don't get me wrong, I played the Soldier class my first time through and enjoyed the story, but it’s an easy game. If you are a Call of Duty / Battlefield / Halo Pistol Whipping champion of yester year, this game will be a breeze.

The ending limits the games replay ability. It’s hard to put in effort now that we know the outcome and how unsatisfying the resolution is. Multiplayers purpose was to keep this game alive and replayable, although I am not sure why… keep people involved in the universe I suppose or to make money off of future DLCs… I am not sure.

Game-Sub Score for Gameplay/Controls: 8 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Inventory: 7 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Journal: 5 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Audio: 10 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Graphics: 9 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Extra Content: 6 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Story: 9 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Ending: 7 / 10
Game-Sub Score for Multiplayer: 10 / 10
Overall Score is an 81 / 100

Note: While price is not considered in normal reviews, I included it with every decision. The launch price was 59.99$, which is what I paid for it. The scoring may have been better at 49.99$ and 39.99$ for example, or worse at 69.99$. While the price does not receive an individual score, it IS considered heavily upon for the duration of the review.
Bioware's Mass Effect 3 (Standard Edition)
Description:

Mass Effect 3 plunges you into an all-out galactic war to take Earth back from a nearly unstoppable foe - and how you fight that war is entirely up to you. Groundbreaking interactive storytelling drives the heart-pounding action in which each decision you make could have devastating and deadly consequences. You are Commander Shepard, the only one who can save Earth from annihilation. But you are not alone. At your side is a team of elite, battle-hardened soldiers ready for your command. Flank enemies with your squad or take them down lone wolf. Use cover or go in guns blazing. Unleash tactical assaults from a distance or go toe-to-toe with enemies using devastating melee assaults and the deadly omniblade

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