It’s hard to believe that I hated Mass Effect when BioWare announced it back in 2005. But that was before, when it was still an exclusive game for the Xbox 360. I was later appeased when BioWare released its PC version in 2008. And when Mass Effect 2 came out, I thought it was one of the best games I’ve ever played. Now, with Mass Effect 3, a game that is more epic than its predecessors, the franchise ends not only as one of my favorite games but also as a beloved space opera.
Mass Effect 3‘s story is centered on pushing back the invasion of ancient sapient starships, known as The Reapers. During their first wave of invasion, The Reapers strikes Earth and the planet falls quickly, causing a lot of casualties –including a little boy. This opening scene is powerful, very emotional. It’s probably one of the best moments in gaming. It made the Reaper attack so relevant and personal, giving you the drive to do your mission: Rally the whole galaxy to your cause, shoot Reapers and reclaim Earth.
How this game was presented is the foremost reason why I love Mass Effect 3. BioWare showcased the story with such cinematic flair that, sometimes, I forget I’m playing a game. It’s also equal parts action and conversation. So, the game never really gets monotonous. If you’re sick of shooting Reapers, you can cavort with your crew when you’re on shore leave. If the conversation starts to bore you, then you can jump in on a mission and get back to shooting Reapers.
The mechanics in Mass Effect 3 is also streamlined to perfection, making the game less tedious than most RPGs. The weapons loadout system that was placed in Mass Effect 2 is still around, much to the chagrin of role-players. I do like this system, however. Because it leaves me more room to shoot Reapers instead of managing the contents of my inventory. Combine this system with hour-long episodic missions and you’ll be enjoying this game more often than wasting your time in it.
The inventory system isn’t the only RPG element that’s been toned down in Mass Effect 3. The side-quests system took a hit as well. Earning them doesn’t require you to interact with NPCs. Instead, they’ll be added into your journal by overhearing an NPC talk. Normally, I would make a big deal out of this. But since the core role-playing mechanics –character creation and development, decisions with consequences, control over the story– are still present in the game, I’m just gonna let this slide.
Perhaps the most surprising feature in Mass Effect 3 is the addition of a multiplayer mode. While unnecessary, the multiplayer is actually quite fun. It’s a co-op game that pits four players against waves of Geth, Reapers or Cerberus Agents. Surviving a mission will net you experience points and credits to buy equipment packs. Playing and winning multiplayer games will also increase your Galactic Readiness –which slightly determines the outcome of the war in your single-player campaign.
Mass Effect 3 is a stupendous game, an epic culmination of a great science fiction trilogy. I haven’t played a game this cinematic, this sublime since Mass Effect 2. What little doubts I have for BioWare have also been completely dispelled now. So, hats of to them. No other developer could do something like this. Like I said earlier, the Mass Effect franchise will forever linger in our minds. Not only as a great game but also a space opera.