With the DLC out and the Mass Effect adventure officially over, there’s no better time then now to talk about the series as a whole, the impact of the ending, and what the DLC does/didn’t do.
Note: The post will be organized into impressions about the game itself (no real spoilers), my reaction to the ending (spoilers), then a section regarding the DLC (spoilers).
Regarding Mass Effect 3:
Going into ME3, I have to say that I was as hyped up about the game as anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed my escapades in the first two iterations of the series, small flaws and all, and seeing Earth burn in the trailers was just getting me more and more pumped up. As such, ME3 got the distinction of being the first game I ever pre-ordered. And well, I have to say it was a great game overall. Sure, the ending was a bit controversial, but the game itself otherwise was pretty much spectacular.
For one, the gameplay itself was the most fluid of any of the three iterations. It was fast-paced, smooth and typically without any semblance of lag, and was basically a great hybrid of the best parts of ME1 and ME2′s gameplay. Grenades from ME1 were added back for some classes, the awesome omniblade added for melee, the cover system kept from ME2. But most notably was the fact you could add various shield/health bonuses that allowed for you to not use cover from time to time, an ME1 relic. Remember, ME1 didn’t use the cover system, so this was a nice “re-addition” and one that allowed for the maintenance of the great pacing and adrenaline of the battle. Combined with a somewhat improved AI that would smoke you out if you camped in one place too long and better team AI as well, it pretty much eliminated the gameplay issues from ME2, where one would find themselves hiding behind cover and spending a while there just sniping away people and watching your teammates occasionally do some ridiculously suicidal maneuvers. Oh yeah, there are some damn crazy enemies to fight this time around too.
Moving on, the storyline takes a more focused turn compared to ME2. For most of the beginning portions, you have the minimum party members to choose from to embark on your missions. This gradually grows as time goes by of course, but for the most part you won’t have nearly the expansive party you did in ME2. As such, this allows the story to show more from each individual member’s standpoint and thus give you more of an immersive experience, as you end up really feeling for the respective members of your team. As for the main storyline itself, it’s pretty much as advertised… for better or for worse. You’ll spend most of the game undergoing various missions in an attempt to recruit allies to your cause, going through Reaper infested systems to do so, and choosing between some optional quests to rescue people or obtain war assets. And well, war assets are pretty much the determinant of whether or not you’ll succeed in the end game for the most part.
Multiplayer is pretty much a must in order to raise up a statistic called the “Galactic Readiness Rating” as it serves as a multiplier for your war assets total and is pretty much the only non-crazy way to obtain enough assets. The mining probes from ME2 have been taken out (YES!) and replaced with a scan of the general vicinity via right click. Quick and painless compared to ME2, it also ties in with a new gimmick where Reapers will literally appear on your map if you stick around scanning too long. Getting caught gives you a Mission Failure screen and a proportional loss of money. You’ll be returned to the same galaxy afterwards. If you succeed in avoiding them, doing missions will slowly reset the alertness rating of the Reapers, allowing you to safely traverse the area again.
Overall, the story’s just great and exceptionally solid, and it really gets you going. Sure, depending on how you react to the controversial ending will play a part in your impressions, but for the most part there’s nothing to complain about regarding the story… or really, any other non-ending part of the game for that matter.
But alas, with the end of all games (and especially when it involves such a big series and one where you’ve made hundreds of decisions of the course of the series), comes the need to also take into account what happens in the end and how it ties everything together. And well, I’ll go into that in detail in the next SPOILERS-INCLUDED section.
Regarding The Ending:
Needless to say, the ending to ME3 was pretty much one of the most controversial ones in recent gaming history. I personally didn’t find as much fault with it initially, but did realize afterwards that there were some slight inconsistencies and strangeness in some of the events of the end. This eventually led me to the “Indoctrination Theory” floating around where it was said the entire ending was an illusion made by the Reapers in an attempt to indoctrinate Shepard… which was a pretty well founded explanation to say the least. As such, I found myself wondering whether or not I should take the ending at face value (that each ending led to you saving the galaxy in some way) or whether or not there was a lot more to it. And well, normally this would be something acceptable and even good in some cases, as people wondering so long and hard about the ending just showed how many people played and loved the series to give so much effort into it. But this case had me straddling on the borderline of whether or not it was acceptable.
See, I didn’t have that much qualms with the endings because I took them at their face value… but I also understood a lot of the complaints many of the gamers had. I mean, it really did kind of nuke a lot of the decisions you made prior, randomly introduced a new character in the “star child”, and provided three endings that were pretty much almost identical except for the color of the blast from the Citadel and whether or not Shepard lived. As such, even though I was pretty much satisfied, it did leave me wondering if there wasn’t a better way to give it a more comprehensive ending… one that provided more closure. Eventually, rumors of the extended DLC popped up and I figured I’d hold off on my final, final impressions until then. I’ll discuss the DLC in the next section.
Regarding the Extended Cut DLC:
Surprisingly, the DLC released a bit earlier than expected, so that was nice. But the end result… didn’t change much to say the least. There were only a few minutes of added cinematic sequences, which were pretty much identical across the three endings. Basically, the added sequences hammered in the fact that the endings were in fact endings… and each of them save the galaxy for the most part. Sure, it helps distinguish more clearly which ending was meant to be the good one (destroy) and solves a little bit of the inconsistency of your party members ending up on the Normandy again… but that’s about it. There was also one additional ending added where you could shoot the starchild, leading to the Reapers winning and a brief showing of Liara’s capsule and the subsequently result that a future civilization succeeded in destroying the Reapers. Arguably, this was the best addition by far in the DLC, albeit a bit “trolling”.
In the end, the DLC didn’t change much, which makes me somewhat disappointed. I reckon there’ll definitely be renewed calls for new endings, but I’d think at this point they’d be more likely to make another game in the ME universe than do that. As such, I reckon it’s time to say my final impressions on the series…
And well, I guess it’ll have to be what I said earlier. Regardless of the ending, the game was a truly amazing experience and one that will last in my memories for quite a bit. Sure, the ending could’ve been somewhat better… but like I said, I feel it’s not as terrible as some people make it up to be. It wasn’t perfect/ideal and it didn’t encompass nearly as much of our decisions as I hoped it would, but it does at least give us some semblance of an ending and that’s all I asked for. I guess I’m pretty lenient compared to most gamers in this respect though, but in the end, I have to tell it exactly how I feel… and this is how I feel about it. In the end, it’s just so hard to end a game like this in a way that satisfies everyone, and it just goes to show how great the series is as a whole. As such, I’ll wrap it here by just saying: “Just because the ending wasn’t what everyone expected, doesn’t erase the fact the series was a spectacular ride, and one worth playing by everyone at some point in time.”