The galaxy is at war against an ancient race of machines. These machines have wiped out intergalactic civilization countless times in the past. That’s the plot in Mass Effect 3, a video game made by the Canadian developer Bioware for the Xbox 360 (reviewed), the PlayStation 3 and the PC.
The game starts with Earth under attack by the reapers (the ancient race of machines,) and you have to build alliances with other races in the galaxy to take Earth back and defeat the reapers. As the other races are also fighting the reapers, and they have disagreements with each other, this is no simple task.
You play as Commander Shepard, a soldier for the Human Alliance military. You choose whether Shepard is male or female and his/her appearance. Throughout the game, you make tough choices that affect who helps humanity.
If you’ve played Mass Effect 2, you can load your saved game and keep all the choices you made in the previous game(s) as well. For those who don’t, the game re-writes itself to ease you into the experience.
The different choices lead to so many variables as to how the story can play out. Can you unite a race with the robots they created and later had to leave their home world after failing to destroy them? Will you focus on trying to keep as many people alive as possible or on ruthlessly attacking the enemy regardless of the cost? While none of these directly affect gameplay, they will affect how ready you are to take on the reapers and it’s actually possible to lose this war if you don’t play it correctly.
The game has three play modes: RPG, Action and Story. RPG plays just like the previous games did. Action mode turns the game into an action epic by removing your story choices. Story mode makes the game very easy for those who only want the game’s story.
The graphics are excellent on the Xbox 360 version with detailed and atmospheric locations. The music and sound are both top of the line. The animation, while not flawless, expresses characters’ emotions very well. Occasional animation cause heads to turn further than they should or characters become invisible during conversations. Otherwise, the presentation is almost perfect.
The voice acting is universally strong. It features Martin Sheen, Keith David, Carrie-Ann Moss and Seth Green among many others. Female Shepard in particular is excellently portrayed by the veteran voice actor Jennifer Hale.
The story is epic but still has room for smaller moments between different characters. It is full of emotional moments, from self-sacrifices and worlds falling, to races gaining hope that they haven’t had in centuries. The final battle in the game might actually be the most epic scene ever created in any form of fiction. It’s halfway between Star Trek and Star Wars, yet it’s unique enough to feel like its own franchise. The plot twists are surprising yet believable. The game’s ending is neat in concept and will make you think, but it isn’t explained in the best way. Where the game truly shines is the journey and the characters within.
The gameplay is at least comparable to the best Third Person Shooter games. Enemy AI is smarter, weapons are more varied and you have more freedom of movement. You can customize weapons with different attachments on weapon benches. Even your class abilities are more customizable – each can be evolved in multiple ways. The only problem is that the A button does way too much for its own good.
The Kinect support gives you voice commands that allow you to use abilities, switch weapons and lead your squad. This feature is implemented very well and proves that Kinect has potential.
Mass Effect 3 is a massive success. From its excellent production quality to its deep story, this game matches the best sci-fi franchises in depth and in some ways, tops them. It eases new players into the experience while rewarding veterans of the series. While it’s not quite as good as Mass Effect 2 thanks to the animation glitches and an ending that could have been executed better, it’s a satisfying conclusion to this epic trilogy that started five years ago. I rate it 9.8 out of 10.