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Critical Reception: BioWare's Mass Effect 3

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to BioWare's Mass Effect 3, which reviewers describe as featuring "one of the most intricately crafted stories in the history of the medium."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

March 7, 2012

6 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to BioWare's sci-fi trilogy conclusion Mass Effect 3, which reviewers describe as featuring "one of the most intricately crafted stories in the history of the medium." Mass Effect 3 currently earns a score of 94 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scores Mass Effect 3 at 10 out of 10, describing the narrative as a high point. "While the universe's fight for survival is the backbone of this drama -- a masterfully written examination of war and the toll it takes -- Shepard's humanity is often reflected in key moments along the way," Reiner explains. "In a few sequences, BioWare even breaks free from traditional storytelling conventions to artfully illustrate Shepard's state of mind." Reiner continues: "As bleak as this story is, it's offset by war sequences so large in scale and beautifully animated that you cannot help but look upon them in awe. [...] Space battles consist of hundreds of vessels, gigantic volleys of laser fire, and cinematic shots that owe a debt to both Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. Almost every shot in this game, whether it's showing the finesse of a ninja-like foe or a simple conversation between Shepard and a crewmate, is beautifully framed." Combat is similarly refined. "Squadmate AI is more independent, moving freely on the battlefield and engaging enemies intelligently without waiting for orders," Reiner notes. "This is a great thing, since the enemy forces are often greater in number and coordinating their attacks. Shepard can no longer sit back in one spot like a sniper and pick off an entire battalion." "Off the battlefield, Shepard rounds up troops and resources to fuel the war effort," Reiner writes. "Don't worry, scanning isn't the time-consuming nightmare it used to be. BioWare clearly listened to complaints people had about Mass Effect 2 and trimmed the fat – I didn't endure one hacking minigame or awkward vehicle segment." "I guided Shepard across three massive games spanning over 100 hours, and feel BioWare has delivered one of the most intricately crafted stories in the history of the medium," Reiner summarizes. "After getting to know these characters so well, it'll be hard to leave this universe behind, but it's been one hell of a ride." Ray Carsillo at EGM rates Mass Effect 3 at 9 out of 10. "Part of what's made Mass Effect so amazing as a series is how much the direct choices you make as a player not only affect you in game, but beyond," he begins. "And the concluding chapter in this tremendous trilogy doesn't let up at all in that regard, as choices made in the first two games come back to reward or haunt you in unforeseen ways as you continue to fight against the Reapers." Carsillo explains: "ME3 is all about cultivating the relationships from the first two games in order to best prepare the galaxy into forming a united front against the Reapers, who now even pester you in the galaxy map, which adds a new layer of danger to the previously mundane process of probing planets. Every task you complete and planet you successfully probe will affect how much military strength you can muster." Mass Effect 3 seeks to accommodate multiple player bases. "The weapons, armor, and RPG leveling-up system have also been streamlined so that players who want a more action-packed experience are doing less item hunting and navigating menus," Carsillo notes. "Plus, there's also a 'narrative' difficulty option that really fleshes out conversations and the customization for those players who'd prefer the more traditional RPG experience." The new multiplayer component isn't as successful, however. "Mass Effect 3's greatest problem is its new multiplayer system," Carsillo asserts. "And it's not the fact that it's an amalgamation of Battlefield 3's class system with Gears of War's Horde mode, as I love both of those games' multiplayer options. No, my problem lies in the fact that you're pretty much forced into playing the multiplayer in order to unlock the best possible ending in the single-player mode." "Mass Effect 3 is still an awesome game overall, of course, as the few negatives just happen to stand out against what is an otherwise mostly blemish free experience," Carsillo admits. "The conclusion to the story is phenomenal, the action's great with legions of new and old enemies alike, and the multiplayer's fun and addictive, even if I don't like how it affects your single-player campaign." Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann gives Mass Effect 3 4 out of 5 stars. "It's unreasonable to expect it to exceed every possible aspect of its predecessors, and I've tried to keep my own personal expectations in check," he begins. "Mass Effect 3 certainly isn't a bad game, and ultimately I'd recommend that anyone with an importable Shepard from Mass Effect 2 should check it out. But even after making a real attempt to be pragmatic about Mass Effect 3, I've come away from it feeling a little disappointed about the way this trilogy closes out." The carry-over data from previous games works well, for the most part. "It's great that the game takes so many of your previous choices into account, and it can feel like magic when that works out in a memorable way," Gerstmann says. "Some of the interactions feel a little light, but it's generally pretty cool. "Love interests, which have been a part of the previous games, often come off a bit strange, though. Since the game's built to handle a wide variety of potential outcomes and partners, it occasionally flip-flops between heartfelt dialogue that makes sense when talking to someone that you've gotten with in the past to terse, 'just friends' sort of lines. Perhaps it's a bit much to ask the developers to record each line multiple times to account for the different subtexts that can be hidden behind the script, but it sticks out just the same." Multiplayer is another weak spot. "Even though it has some interesting ideas, it's hard to get excited about yet another take on wave-based survival, especially one that uses the occasionally-clumsy Mass Effect combat as its base," Gerstmann notes. "Once you start thinking about how most of the campaign's side content either uses these same multiplayer levels or has you performing extremely basic retrieval tasks, it's easy to start feeling slightly indignant about the whole thing." "At the end of the day, Mass Effect 3 is a game for people who liked Mass Effect 2 so much that they absolutely need to see how it all ends," Gerstmann concludes. "Despite claims to the contrary from the game's publisher, I really don't think newcomers will get much out of it at all. [...] The value in this story is from seeing characters you adore dealing with a continuing situation. Even though it doesn't come together quite as successfully as it did in the previous games, those of you with an attachment to the Mass Effect universe should still play it."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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