Column: Massively Affected

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I have played a lot of games in my time; I’ve played good, bad, long, short, easy and difficult games. But only one has made me second guess putting my time and effort into video games. Four years ago, on March 6 2012, Bioware Entertainment, released the third and final game of their space-opera RPG/shooter series, Mass Effect 3. As the final in the planned trilogy, Mass Effect 3 was to be a culmination of all the decisions made throughout the first two games (of which there were many), leading to what was promised to be a unique finale for every player. That was a lie.

Before I get into a huge rant, it is worth noting there was lots of good about the game. The first third of the game was tense and action-packed, with only a few hiccups in the story (like the introduction of a random child). The Eldritch-esque Space-Cthulhus appeared on Earth and decimated the city where Commander Shepard happened to be stationed, and from that opening segment of the game it was clear this was going to be a huge finale. Just because the story fell to pieces after roughly the half way mark doesn’t mean the first part was not surprisingly emotional.

The new combat mechanics were far and away the best in the series, and the cover mechanics were now responsive and made sense. The addition of a melee attack for most classes was slightly silly, and each character archetype being able to perform a combat roll was obviously intended to add some Gears of War style movement to the series. The choice between skills added both replay value, and new approaches to combat scenarios, and the partner AI was improved dramatically so each ally was more useful than just a bullet sponge for enemies. I was always a fan of the Infiltrator class, which used small bursts of invisibility to get into position for a powerful sniper shot.

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The new combat mechanics were potentially included because, for the first time, the Mass Effect series had a new multiplayer mode — and it was pretty damn good. I would actually go as far to say that the multiplayer was better than the base game. In a team of two-to-four real life players, all using similar classes to those available in the main game, the goal was to survive against waves of enemies. It was basically just an expansive ‘horde mode’, but the tight mechanics made it surprisingly enjoyable.

But, unfortunately, there is not much else to praise. As mentioned, after the half way point, the story loses it’s steam. Choices from the first two games, which were touted as important and (literally) game changing were thrown to the side. The worst offending example, to me, was the Rachni Queen’s appearance, after the option to kill it or send it away from the first game. If you choice to send it away, it appeared brainwashed and hostile in this third game. If you chose to destroy it in the first game, then this was simply ‘another Queen’, after it was explicitly stated there was only one left. New characters were introduced (after the half way point of the third game!) whom were positioned as Mary Sue best-in-the-galaxy style self inserts, and the game utilised the standard (and horrible) “defeat the character in a fight, but the cutscene shows you getting your ass kicked” technique. In the place of a proper, decisive battle, the game used quick time events or ‘survival’ battles, culminating in a single-option “decision” which entirely defeated the purpose of the game series built around player choices.

But all of these misgivings could have been forgiven if the endings were even at least remotely based on your previous decisions, but they weren’t. Instead of a final boss battle, a quick time event FORCING you to play the bad guy and kill someone (where nearly ever other situation could be handled diplomatically) was treated as the final showdown. Dialogue was cut from this scene which would actually add some emotional weight to the moment, and from this point the game turned into a simple choice between three pre-set endings. None of your decisions mattered — did you kill the Rachni Queen or let her live; did you broker peace between two warring alien factions; which of your squad mates were even still alive — and the endings were simply different coloured filters of the same cinematics.

I feel horrible even reminiscing about this game, because after all of the hype, the fantastic release trailers and the fact I must have played the first two games upwards of twenty times altogether, this final entry should have been an unparalleled experience. I don’t want to sound bitter when I say that this game was one of the worst I have played; maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe I just placed too much faith in the developers to send the trilogy out on a high. Without sounding jaded, I won’t be giving Bioware any more of my money. I didn’t get the DLC for this game, and I am under the impression there have been new additions to the game which remedy a handful of these issues, but that is too little, too late.

And then the final thing you see is an advertisement to buy DLC.

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Okay, maybe I am bitter. Fuck this game.

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