So, Mass Effect 3 landed here in the UK on friday (9th March, 3 days after it launched in the US… don’t get me started there) and I’ve pretty much spent the whole weekend playing it to it’s conclusion (note there is more than one ending, but let’s brush over that for now – I’ll warn you before I get to the spoilers).
My savegame notes that I’ve spent almost 24 hours to do this, which is slightly less than the 30 hours it took me on Mass Effect 2, so either it’s a shorter game or Mass Effect’s 2 DLC really bumped up the playtime!
I played through with one of my ME2’s imported saves (‘John’ my goody-goody Paragon character).
I have to hand it to Bioware, the games looks and handles fantastically. It looks like they’ve taken Mass Effect 2 and really polished the graphics and interface whilst at the same time gone back to the original Mass Effect and reintroduced elements to the game that were sorely missing in the sequel – namely putting weapon mods back in and removing the awful ‘mission report’ end of mission screens that were in Mass Effect 2.
Something that’s really impressed me is the loading times. The game and the levels load so quickly it’s amazing!
The game also sounds awesome. The soundtrack is perfect and the voice actors really breathe life into the characters.
The story itself is also good, it sets itself up neatly and tensely and moves forward in the same manner, getting more and more gritty as it does so. There’s some nice character development along the way and some good story telling to boot too!
The galaxy seems more open and alive than it did in the previous games, even though it’s suddenly become a much more dangerous place – you can actually die on the galaxy map between missions… serious stuff!
At launch, there are a number of bugs, nothing game breaking – some broken side quests mostly, that and I noticed that a number of the NPCs in the game have developed the amazing ability to turn their heads more than 90 degrees when they talk to you… i’m sure these things will get addressed in a patch though.
All in all, it’s a great game and one that I loved playing and it serves as a grand conclusion to the trilogy.
Until, in my humble opinion, the last 10 minutes.
Beware, here there be spoilers. If you don’t want to find out about some of the things that may happen during the game or how the game may (read, probably will) end for you then please don’t read any further.
You have been warned.
I warned you.
Look, old fashion London red telephone boxes still exist in the 22nd century! Crikey! They hardly exist today!
Now the real spoilers, the endings…
It’s all going well (so to speak), your character’s been almost incinerated by Harbinger and beamed up to a Reaper controlled Citadel – your Shepard will have had better days – he’s also just had a run in with an indoctrinated Illusive Man and shot Anderson. Oops.
Up until this point, I had no qualms (apart from the fact that the only way it seems to break indoctrination is with a self inflicted pistol shot to the temple, see Saren in the first game, but i digress…)
Additional warning; this post turned a bit long… so just incase… tl;dr
Things then seem to fall apart from here on in as you are railroaded into a three (maybe only two depending on previous choices) way choice of how to ‘end the Reaper threat’.
Firstly, we’re thrown the curve ball that the Reapers aren’t the masterminds behind the great 50,000 year cycle of organic culling. It’s actually a VI that’s been installed in the Citadel all the time! Apparently this VI is the last survivor of the very first race in the galaxy that created AI and had it rebel and so it created the Reapers to come along every now and then and wipeout the advanced races in the galaxy so that they couldn’t create AI to do this again.
Wait, what? Is it just me, or does that make no bloody sense? Firstly, let’s look at what we’ve got here.
The Citadel was, in the first game, revealed to be the master connection in the Mass Relay network and a Relay itself that the Reapers could use to jump into the Galaxy from outside the Galaxy. They would do this by sending a signal to the Keepers, who would then open the Relay, allowing them in. Now we learn that there is a hidden VI who signals the Reapers to begin the cycle whenever the civilisations of the galaxy reach a certain point. So the VI (on the Citadel) signals the Reapers who then signal the Keepers (on the Citadel) to let the Reapers in. Riiight…
Secondly, that’s a very drastic way of ensuring AI doesn’t develop! Wouldn’t it have been a lot less hassle for the VI just to warn all the races who come to the Citadel not to develop AI? Although, the races in the current ‘cycle’ had already pretty much worked that out for themselves!
This just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And yes, whilst the whole revelation of the origin of the Reapers and the presence of the VI could be considered a ‘plot twist’ – it just comes too far out of nowhere and stinks more of “let’s do something radical that no one would suspect!”
Then there’s the choices themselves…
Choice 1 – ASSUME DIRECT CONTROL (sorry I couldn’t resist) – Basically Shepard can take control of the Reapers, implanting his will on all Reapers everywhere using the Citadel, Crucible and the network of Mass Relays. This results in the Reapers stopping their harvesting and ‘flying away’, oh and destruction of the entire Mass Relay network!
Choice 2 – KILL THEM, KILL THEM ALL – To bring a halt to this current ‘cycle’, Shepard can destroy all Artificial Intelligence in the entire galaxy. This means an end to the Reaper threat (who explode where they are), it also means an end to the Geth (who, in my game were now at peace with the Quarians and helping them rebuild their homeworld and on our side against the Reapers thanks to a noble sacrifice from Legion). It also means the end for EDI by the way, a character who has seen a lot of development throughout the entire game. Again, this is done via the Citadel, Crucible and the network of Mass Relays and once again results in the destruction of the entire Mass Relay network!
Choice 3 – IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM – To end the current ‘cycle’ and all future cycles, you have the choice of turning all life into an amalgamation of organic and inorganic – a kind of technoganic bastardisation it seems. This is carried out straight away, without any consensus or consideration of others. And once again, this is done via the Citadel, Crucible and the network of Mass Relays and once again results in the destruction of the entire Mass Relay network!
So, them’s the choices… you (the player) have spent three games and countless hours in this universe and now you can shape it to your desire with the ultimate choice.
Except – and it might just be me – none of those choices are the one I want to make. Yes, yes, yes life’s not fair and you can’t always get what you want. Except this isn’t life, it’s a game – that we (if i may be so presumptuous as to include you reader) have played for enjoyment. If I wanted life-like I wouldn’t be playing a Sci-fi based role-playing game (or ‘cover based shooter’ if you’re being a bit harsh)!
I want the option to save the peoples and civilisations of the galaxy (be they born or built) and destroy or otherwise end the apocalyptic actions of the Reapers, something that has been the driving objective of this series since the Reaper threat was first unveiled. Whether my character has to make the ultimate sacrifice to achieve this, so be it. But none of those choices fit this. All my in-game decisions have been based on this as this was what the game has been leading us towards… but then, those three options are what I’m presented with… ugh.
Also, take into account what these decisions actually mean, in universe.
Choice 1 – This is probably the biggest unknown. Shepard is seen to dissolve and then the Reapers just flying away. A bit weak really. We can presume the Shep is killed and has imparted his ‘humanity’ on the Reapers who see the error of their ways and leave for pastures greener. But no answers are given.
Choice 2 – We cause all Artificial life to end. We know that AI is effectively banned in the galaxy because of what happened with the Geth, so it’s not as if the galaxy is teaming with AI life, but the Geth ‘issue’ is something that can be resolved in this very same game! I spent a good chunk of game time getting the Geth to effectively forgive their Quarian creators for turning on them and forcing them to defend themselves just because they started to ask if they had souls! Our former squadmate Legion sacrifices his own life to bring freedom to the Geth in a moving scene at the end of this part of the story. It’s a big part of the plot and not seemingly given any thought here. Then there’s EDI, who’s given a lot of character time and development throughout the game, we’re going to be killing her too, again without any seeming thought.
There’s the bigger issue that the Reapers themselves have been shown to not just be AI, but partially constructed from organic material (see the entire plot of Mass Effect 2 in case you missed it). So we’re killing all cyborgs now too – indeed we seem to be because it’s pointed out that Shepard is partially technical now too. What about all the people who have biotic implants? Does this option kill all of them too? Who knows…
Choice 3 – Turn everyone into partially technological beings – whether they like it or not! I’m not quite sure why or how this stops the ‘cycle’ as presumably the new technorganic people will continue to create pure robotic AI. And whilst we see Joker with a technorganic skin (it hasn’t fixed his limping though) we don’t see EDI being partially organic…
Plus, all of these choices result in the destruction of the entire Mass Relays, the means of interstellar transport that the whole civilsed galaxy uses. Whilst it is true that most ships are capable of FTL travel, the Relay network enables fast transportation across the whole galaxy. Without this network, races will be limited to much smaller regions of convenient traval meaning a huge shift in galaxy’s economy if nothing else. Additionally it’s shown in the Mass Effect 2 DLC ‘Arrival’ that when a Mass Relay explodes, it takes out an entire solar system. So, if every Relay in the entire galaxy explodes? That’s a lot of destroyed star systems, including it seems the home system of every sentient race in the galaxy!
Whichever of the three endings I chose (using a hastily squirrelled away autosave before the big choice, i’ve only played the game once, not three times!) the ending seems to be very much the same. There’s a short cinematic of the Citadel emitting a green/red/blue ball of light through the Relays followed by the Reapers leaving/exploding/stopping followed by a sequence of the Normandy (now mysteriously in the middle of a transit between Relays instead of in a battle over Earth where we left it (wtf?) being knocked out of space by said green/red/blue energy ball and crashing on an unknown jungle world. We see Joker emerge from the wreckage along some of the rest of squad (including people who were definitely seen on Earth during the battle). And then the credits roll. No explanation is given as to why the Normandy had apparently deserted the conflict over Earth or how our squadmates mysteriously got back aboard (especially seeing as how two of them might have been seriously injured/burnt to a crisp by Harbinger earlier).
It just makes no sense!! I’m used to most video games have some holes in their plots these days (sadly) – but this just seems too serious a WTF moment.
Then after the credits we’re presented with a (presumably – again no details are given) far future snapshot of a man and child, the man has been telling the child stories of ‘The Shepard’ but admits that many of the details have been lost to time… and I kind of feel like that too except I only finished the game two minutes ago!
So where does that leave us? Well it seems to leave the Mass Effect universe in a very sorry state of affairs, that’s for sure.
But those endings are just… poor. I’m not hankering for a ‘happy ever after’ ending, I was quite expecting there to be a need for my Shepard(s) to be able to sacrifice themselves if need be to save the galaxy. But as it turns out, Shepard sacrifices himself to junk the galaxy in three different ways… hmmm.
The Internet is now seemingly ablaze with fellow Mass Effect fans with similar opinions to mine (hello if you’re reading!) and numerous thoughts are being put forward as to why and how this has happened (rushed ending / last minute changes / marketing for future DLC). Whatever the cause, the endings, as they stand, need further work as they just don’t make sense. And I would dearly love there to be options that don’t screw those poor survivors of the galaxy wide war even further.
In the meantime, I think I may just avoid replaying the last mission on my next play through!
I’ll leave you with a snap shot of Paragon John’s crew (on Earth, not the Normandy!) before the shit really hit the fan…