Much like Commander Shepard himself, the weight of the world has rested on BioWare’s shoulders for some time now. The task of topping Mass Effect 2 is an entirely unenviable assignment; the job requiring such a Herculean effort to even meet that game’s standards, let alone surpass them, that such a feat seemed unlikely.
That was before Dragon Age II came along as well, an enormous disappointment which significantly impacted the studio’s reputation as the best RPG creator in the business, or EA’s determination to showcase Mass Effect 3 in its gravest light, eagerly pushing the gunplay side of Mass Effect in every demonstration and marketing push prior to release – the bit, of course, that almost everybody considers to be the worst.
But we shouldn’t have worried. Mass Effect 3 exceeds expectations in almost every way. It’s the most spectacular science fiction story ever told across any medium. It’s a game that you simply must play, one of those titles that will be remembered alongside GoldenEye, Metal Gear Solid, Halo and Ocarina of Time as one of the greatest games of all time. BioWare hasn’t just raised the bar; it’s sent it thundering into orbit.
Mass Effect, of course, is the modern-day equivalent to those Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 1990s, each step of the narrative dictated by you, the player, via decisions made throughout the campaign. The story is effectively a science fiction reimagining of Adam and Eve, a tale that details the cycle of a recurring galaxy-wide genocide that wipes out all sentient life every 50,000 years. ME3 offers up the final chapter, telling the story of the galaxy’s last push against those committing the act, the Reapers, and Shepard’s efforts to unite the galaxy’s various races.
As ever, the narrative is the highlight – an opulent, multi-layered space adventure that’s often heartbreakingly poignant, and yet so remarkably heroic, outfitted with some spine-tingling scenes of space combat that would make even George Lucas blush. The superb cast of characters helps make the narrative the best in the series yet: a combination of familiar faces, like Garrus, the too-cool-for-school turian sniper, The Illusive Man, and exquisite asari Liara T’Soni, and new, including the brutish yet not-as-annoying-as-you-might-think Alliance soldier James Vega and a sexy, socially awkward cyborg.
It’s here, in the superb characterisation and backstory where BioWare has really invested into making its universe truly believable, offering up a diverse range of alien worlds and species each with their own politics, agendas and mannerisms for players to explore and interact with. Unlike the previous games, improved cinematography helps make conversations feel like actual, full-blown cut-scenes rather than static, unanimated exchanges, and you’ll genuinely care about each character and race you encounter, with some superbly orchestrated scenes of friendship and rivalries adding a layer to the characters that so many other games often oversee.
Tags: Mass Effect 3
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