It’s hard to talk about the end of the Mass Effect trilogy without overly dissecting the ending, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
At first I wasn’t too crazy about the original Mass Effect, not being an RPG gamer didn’t help. However, the blend of narrative, action, characters, sheer scale of the game, and its vision, was too strong to ignore. Slow start or not, Mass Effect is a brilliant game. By the time Mass Effect 2 came about and seeing how my choices in the first game did indeed change the direction of my character’s journey was one of the greatest achievements any series had ever done.
Now, we’re finally here – Mass Effect 3. It’s visually breathtaking; heavy shadows, deep colors, and enough lens flare to give J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek a run for its money. The frame rate might not be as consistent as ME2, but still fairly solid throughout.
The voice acting and music is top notch, easily servable to a big budget Sci-Fi epic film. The game play, while not on the same level as a Gears of War in terms of its shooting mechanic, plays better than 90% of games that uses shooting as its one and only mechanic — the Uncharted series could learn a few things from Mass Effect. Mixing the shooting with tech powers is just pure awesomeness.
The keystone of Mass Effect’s success is its story. It’s a space mythology that is to video games what Lord of the Rings was to books, Star Trek to TV, and Star Wars to film. I say this because gaming has never had a series as deep and realized as Mass Effect. While there might be some flaws in the delivery of that story, it still stands as a remarkable piece of storytelling.
The dialogue tree made famous with the original is still here, perhaps not as robust as the first two games, but again, still very much ahead of the story telling curve. This is my Shepard, and these are my choices. I’ve been a bad ass, a choir boy, negotiator, and a dictator; while the overall arch of the story is still very much the same (i.e. save every organic life) it still feels like my story.
As to the ending: no it didn’t reflect my character. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that Ridley Shepard would’ve told the mystery guest to go fuck himself. I’ll explain more if I’m ever in a Mass Effect 3 spoiler podcast.
In the end, Mass Effect 3 is just an amazing game. While maybe not as good as Mass Effect 2 it’s still an experience every gamer should have. In many ways Mass Effect is the beginning of what’s to be expected of game going forward, where story and character are just as important as graphics, sound, or online multiplayer.
It would be easy for me to give Mass Effect 3 an almost perfect score and say “brilliant but flawed”, but I’m not. Maybe it’s the rose tinted glasses of playing the entire series from the beginning, the fact that my Shepard is modeled after my first son, or the many moments of absolute awesomeness be it action or character driven throughout the game. Mass Effect 3 (and the series) is a triumph. We shouldn’t null and void over 100+ hours of wonderful gaming for its last, poorly conceived, 60 minutes.