As most RPG gamers know, the Mass Effect series has been fantastically thought out and highly rated in its execution. I was not surprised to see that the next game in Commander Shepard’s legacy has held up to such high expectations. Not only is the combat precise, varied and satisfying, but the storyline is also well thought out. There are splashes of humour, strong emotional ties with believable characters, surprise situations, as well as a deep and foreboding seriousness that comes with the tide of war. Everybody’s experience is different, as the plot changes depending on the decisions one makes while they play. Additionally, people who played Mass Effect 2 can carry their old Commander Shepard character into the new game. The writers accounted for everything about imported characters, including character deaths, past romances and peripheral grudges, which makes a playthrough with an already established character in Mass Effect 3 a seriously satisfying treat.
In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard had fought and destroyed a Reaper, which is a massive sentient star ship that is part machine, part organic material. Shepard predicted more would be coming, but regardless of the heavily casualties, politicians from all races were quick to dismiss the idea. In Mass Effect 3, it seems Shepard was correct. A huge cluster of Reapers appear suddenly and everyone is unprepared. The Reapers are intelligent, merciless, and highly weaponized, and they quickly vaporize a good chunk of the population of Earth. Their presence is felt through the entire galaxy, as characters Shepard meets are often talking about casualties on their home worlds, such as missing family members and the struggling war effort. All of the species and their war efforts are disjointed, confused, and panicked. Shepard’s job is to unite everyone in space together for a tiny sliver of hope of defeating the Reapers.
As is with the previous Mass Effect game, your decisions will affect whether or not Shepard is successful in defeating the final threat. This delivers a great attachment and sense of responsibility to the player. I found myself consistently searching for useful resources, physical or political, everywhere I went. When Shepard makes a tiny step in the right direction, it feels satisfying, because you know every little thing will make a difference in the outcome.
Shepard can also start a romantic relationship with certain crew members, depending on the sex the player chose for Shepard and the orientation of the crew member. The Mass Effect series is LGBT friendly, and that hasn’t changed in Mass Effect 3. Some characters don’t openly speak about their orientation, and will only do so when Shepard has gotten to know them first. Others are very open, such as the shuttle pilot Lieutenant Cortez, who lost his husband in the previous game.
Mass Effect 3 has unfortunately drawn a lot of criticism for its rushed ending cutscenes. Spoiler-free complaints include unexplained illogical happenings, the lack of a feel-good ending, the lack of variation between endings, and the lack of reference to Shepard’s previous game-changing decisions. It feels like a slap in the face any route you take, which is why fans are now petitioning for an ending modification.
EDIT: Bioware has taken the hordes of fan criticism to heart and have repaired the endings with more content in the summer of 2012. They are now available for download for free.
Mass Effect 3 is Kinect compatible, but only for voice commands, which is very understandable. The commands work surprisingly well with casual combat, but I would not recommend them for use in harder modes. This is because the skill and weapons wheels are much faster to execute actions on the battlefield with, and every second counts on harder modes. It is also worth noting that those who have not played the previous games can still hop right in and understand what’s happening, but they’ll miss a ton of extra emotional content aimed at players who already know the lore and have made friends with the already established Mass Effect characters. I would recommend picking up at least Mass Effect 2 before diving in if you want a more fulfilling narrative experience.