15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Let down by some key mistakes,
This review is from: Mass Effect 3 (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)Reviewing ME3 is a challenge; hence this review is quite lengthy (there's a summary at the end), and from the perspective of a player who started in Mass Effect 1. Looking back, it feels like perhaps 70-75% of the game had an incredible amount of love, passion, blood, sweat & tears poured into it, creating a truly wonderful game experience to round off the trilogy. The other 25-30% is lazy, buggy, badly designed, and just should never have seen the light of day. Hence the conundrum; the latter part really drags the rest of the game down no matter how you play it. Lets' get the multiplayer out of the way first.
Simply put, this is a survivor mode with 11 waves of enemies of increasing difficulty, over a few maps, earning XP & credits for a given multiplayer character, set up as three levels of difficulty, bronze, silver & gold.
Make no mistake. This is baby's first multiplayer. Bioware have never done it before, and it shows. The essence of the concept - stand your ground against wave after wave of enemies as a team - is an excellent one used by many developers over the years. It's just that the execution is so lacklustre.
Perhaps the greatest flaw in design is that without playing multiplayer, you cannot advance the readiness of your singleplayer environment, likely yielding poorer endings. Multiplayer characters can be promoted into the singleplayer environment as a small war asset gain (more on assets later). In short - if you want to experience the 'best' ME3 singleplayer, you have to play multiplayer. It smacks of desperation & self-promotion, rather than simply creating a great MP experience that people want to play anyway. Unfortunately, the experience isn't that great.
It begins with a UI that spends every second promoting competition in a cooperative game - it completely hides the true reward system, which is where xp & credits earned by all players are split *evenly* between players, in favour of leaderboards, individual bars, medals, etc; the result shows. Players typically don't work as a team at all, preferring to individually gain kills and rush ahead of others to get their hits in. It's a rare treat indeed when a team actually operates tactically, setting up sniper fields of fire and so on. This in turn contributes to large numbers of players never going beyond bronze challenges, so you end up with massively powerful players who aren't playing the more challenging content.
Getting into a team can take ages, and the matchmaking is terrible, usually dropping you into aforementioned teams that are so far ahead of you that by the time you've reloaded they've finished the wave - not very engaging gameplay. EA don't host any games themselves; you are entirely at the mercy of the host's Internet as to whether you will get a low-lag game. Sniping in some cases simply is impossible as you rubber-band around the base, assuming the game doesn't glitch and have you fall through the floor.
Advancing your character is directly done via XP in the same way as singleplayer, and indirectly done through unlock packs to add weapons & characters. These can be bought either by credits (earned in-game) or Bioware points (purchased with real money) in a classic pay-to-win setup, with a twist. Unlock packs are entirely gambles, producing random items. Bioware have managed to create the worst of all worlds, where once you've observed powerful characters rampaging through the lag & suitably envied their progress, you have no path to follow to compete because what you unlock is entirely random.
Ignoring all the design flaws, which may not put off everyone, there's bugs & glitches just to make sure. Beyond falling through the floor, missing enemies due to invisible lag, or losing your entire (possibly paid for) progress due to a server glitch (theoretically now fixed though not refunded), there are things like skill reset bugs or partial purchasing of unlocks.
It's hard to be positive about ME3's multiplayer, but it does have potential. The map design for example is generally excellent. Personally, I would not have made the lazy cash grab, and instead released it as a full Mass Effect Survival game, with enough polish, back end server support, and better UI to make it a fun experience. The concept works. It can be a lot of fun. It's enjoyable enough that if it had all been done properly, I could have seen myself occasionally dropping Bioware points on it. As it is, it's hard not to cynically label it as something that took resources away from the rest of the game, which also clearly needed them.
On to the meat of the game, singleplayer. As one might expect this is a fight to save the galaxy, recovering war assets in the culmination of a project to defeat the invading Reapers. Assets can be gained by scanning, completing the major missions, and side missions. This then has a readiness factor applied (50% by default so halving your in-game assets, increased by playing multiplayer). From a pure gameplay perspective, the action is very much similar to ME2.
Perhaps the most frustrating issue with the game is that facial import from ME1 doesn't work at all, and import from ME2 yields quite different looking results. Having spent an entire playthrough being irritated by the altered nose of my Shepard, I'd label this the top reason to avoid the game until it's fixed. A patch is apparently in the works, but no ETA, nor any indication as to how much has been fixed. On that subject, a large number of NPCs have altered looks and often not for the better - the attractive Kelly Chambers for example changed to Generic Female NPC 2 from ME1. It's as though someone took the vast array of options in ME2 and filtered them down for ME3. Very disconcerting for any long-time player of the ME series. The animations are lower quality than ME2, and the lipsynching is dire at times. I've had numerous occasions where I mistook my Shepard for the Lawnmower Man, it's that bad. Almost all humans run or walk as though they are having some serious bowel problem.
The next painful issue is 'that button' & cover. Cover has been extended since ME2 to include rolling from the carefully placed boxes, ledges, and other obstructions that litter the landscape. Unfortunately, we still have just one button to sprint, take cover, roll from cover, leave cover, use objects, and talk to people! This makes for some awkward moments where trying to sprint for your life away from a giant melee enemy trying to one-shot kill you causes you to take cover two millimetres away instead. Perhaps most frustratingly, this was pointed out countless times during the pre-release demo, but nothing was changed.
A few things have vanished - more complex dialogue options and indeed sometimes options being present at all. There were numerous occasions I just wanted to yell 'but my Shepard isn't like that!' as the game dragged me through yet another unalterable cutscene. In most cases, you'll get two choices of things to say, and that's pretty much it. Bonus powers are no longer earned but unlocked through conversations with other characters - which means tough luck if said character is dead, and can be quite irritating if you've spent the preceding two games used to having certain powers. Minigames for bypass & hacking are gone entirely - apparently today's gamer can't cope with the concept. Vehicular combat is entirely absent, and considering that ME1 had the Mako and ME2 had the Hammerhead, having nothing at all in ME3 is conspicuous.
Your choices from preceding games are often mere minutes of altered content, if anything at all. It was disappointing that some of the best outcomes to sidequests were only available if you'd obtained & played through the paid DLC for the preceding games (I do, but I'd deliberately left one playthrough with no DLC completed to see what happened).
The ending. Controversial, impossible to explain without spoilers, all I can say is that to me, the ending took a wonderful game trilogy and tossed it out the airlock. It felt about as consistent as the boss fights of Deus Ex HR, as though someone else entirely had designed it. That your ending is entirely determined by the number of assets you obtain, rather than the decisions you have made throughout the playthrough or even your Paragon/Renegade score, speaks volumes as to just how forced it ends up feeling (and how your decisions are encouraged to gain as many assets as possible, rather than reflect your choices). I'd suggest players enjoy the game, exit just before the ending, and believe whatever you wish to believe. Meaningful reflection of choices, my ass.
Also, Origin sucks.
The environment of ME3 feels so much more alive, particularly your companions. From moving around for their own conversations, to having their own opinions of the last mission, to their own desires & projects, they round out what could otherwise be a sterile depressing environment of the wartorn galaxy. The game is filled with some lovely humour, in-jokes, and enough sidequests to keep you busy. Whilst your squad is primarily the cast of ME1, there will be lots of cameos from ME2; no key NPC is left out, although I would have preferred some take a larger role than they did.
Refreshingly, ME3 has undone some of the dumbing down in RPG-style weapons, bringing back mods for weapons and an increased range to choose from, so you get more opportunity to tailor your squad. It's a shame that other parts of the game were simplified further from ME2, but this feature at least found the right balance I feel. The levels you fight in are quite varied and pretty well laid out, and graphically speaking the game is lovely. Some neat innovation in missions finally featured, with something other than simply disembarking and shooting along a corridor turning up occasionally.
The voice acting is stellar, as we have come to expect from the ME games, though two characters stand out as being quite different compared to preceding voiceovers. The scoring by Clint Mansell, whilst lower key than Jack Wall's efforts, is excellent, although I would have liked some more rousing themes to contrast the melancholy. Coupled with the plot, these all conspire to create a real sense of loss as you watch the galaxy burn and try to save it. The theme is grim and the game makes it feel that way. I found myself caught up in it, racing against time, wanting to save what cannot be saved, and the stark harsh decisions that must be made actually gave me pause. The game always keeps the pressure on; it's rare to drift into that old RPG style feeling of a mission being urgent yet knowing that in truth, the game will wait forever. This is aided by some missions not waiting, which is not done enough to cause true frustration, but enough to keep you on your toes and thinking 'if I delay, something worse is going to happen'.
Given the sheer scale of the plot & enemies, the Reapers and their purging of the galaxy are handled extremely well. They are presented as tough, relentless, ruthless, and killing just one feels like a huge victory. The organic impact (that would normally be human impact) is palpable. From screams and moans of the dying in the background, to touching psychological stories, to repeated news of the state of the galaxy, to the concerns of your companions, the game never lets you forget what you're up against. It's a thrilling ride. In that, ME3 rounds off the ME trilogy nicely.
My congratulations on your stamina, dear reader, for getting this far.
Had the ending made any sense, had some key horrible bugs never made it to release, had there been more of a sense that it was still your Shepard saving the galaxy your way, instead of the One True Bioware Choice, ME3 would have been a game worthy of marking in the calendar as closure of a true gaming space opera epic, taking the best of ME2 and resolving one heck of a challenging set of plotlines. As it is, the game is excellent in places, and severely let down in others, and to me, it marks the end of Bioware's great days. Either they bit off more than they could chew, or they were not given the time needed to create the game ME3 needed to be. It won't stop me from playing through the series again - I have three other ME1 characters lined up - but that will be for the journey, not for closure. Pity.
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Initial post: 15 Jul 2012 18:34:47 BDT
Origin and now the `Multiplayer to get a good ending in Single Player` has ruined it for me. Sad. The whole thing feels like a shoddily disguised rip-off of the Player. Feels like marketing suits had more sway in this than the programmers.
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