First, no spoilers here, or at least none that haven’t been spoiled for a long time. I pre-ordered Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition back in December and got my hands on it yesterday. I’ve played about eight hours worth of the game so far. I’d like to share my impressions below. One thing I should note – when my X-Box was stolen last year, I lost my saved games going all the way back to ME1. While I kept saying I’d play all the way through, I haven’t yet, so the game I’m currently playing is a brand new, non-import character.
Let’s start off with the good. As always, Bioware delivers. ME3 has a great story that really grabs you and yanks you along. One nice thing this time is that you can often be sarcastic about things that seem to happen every time. For example, the Council, the ruling body of the galactic alliance, once again doesn’t back you despite ample evidence and the fact you’ve saved the galaxy twice now. Later on, you and Joker (played by the ever-awesome Seth Green) talk about it, and Joker even offers to open a channel to the Council so you can hang up on them, for old time’s sake. There’s also a lot of old familiar faces, which is nice. By this point, Shepard has established a pretty extensive network of folks he can call on, and to not see them would be…disappointing (see below).
The graphics are much improved over ME2, which had a kind of flat look to it in several places. ME3’s graphics can be defined by one work – shiny. The armor shoulder bells are shiny, leather is shiny, the Normandy is shiny. It looks really good. Meanwhile the characters are generally even better animated than in ME2, which was already a vast improvement over the “action figure” movement in ME1.
O.k., praises sung…let’s dish a little mud.
First, I want to talk about ME3’s “improved” combat system. Clearly Bioware didn’t test this enough. Putting all actions on the A button, including diving for cover AND rolling out of cover, tends to make you jump directly into the path of the enemy’s fire. And there are a lot more enemies this time, which is fine – increased difficulty is not at all a bad thing, but when you feel like you’re fighting the controls the whole time, it’s bad. ME2 had a much more fluid feeling combat where you weren’t constantly rolling and jumping because you can’t get your damned character to get into cover. This is one of those cases where monkeying with the controls didn’t bring about improvement.
Second, while I do love the story, it feels a bit forced that Shepard, faced with literally his worst nightmare, wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY contact his pals from ME1 and ME2. I understand some of them were off doing their own thing, but you’d think considering the whole point of ME2 was to assemble a team that could pull off an impossible mission, he might start by looking those folks up. Instead, you spend a great deal of time “stumbling” into your old buddies. As one person on a forum said, “Come on, Bioware, do we really have to put together a crew AGAIN? Didn’t we do this twice already?” The answer to that is yes, we did, and we shouldn’t have to, at least not for several hours into the game. You should be able to make the call and they come running, those who can, anyway. Someone at Bioware, however, seems to think assembling your personal “Magnificent Seven” over and over is fun.
My last and final complaint is that whoever built the new interior for the Normandy should be shot. Most of the levels of the ship are fine, but the level 2 CIC/War Room/Bridge layout is just horrible. Even worse, after most missions you end up in the comm room, and have to go through lots of twists and turns (and a weird scanner set up in the middle of the ship for no apparent reason) to get back to the bridge to move on to the next mission. That’s just bad game design there, folks.
All in all, I’m not going to say anyone should not pick up ME3. It’s a hell of a game, but compared to ME1 and ME2, it feels like some of the polish in terms of game mechanics and design has been lost.