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Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) review

"Fans have been railing on BioWare for phasing out certain elements – the side quests are virtually nonexistent at this point, and dialog options are more limited as Shepard speaks quite a bit on his own – yet in my mind, Mass Effect 3 is where all of the things that I truly love about this series come together."

Mass Effect 3 is an awful lot of fun. That should, by all means, be the biggest takeaway from the hugely anticipated conclusion to BioWare’s epic space opera. I love the original Mass Effect to death – ask me how many times I’ve beaten it – but it was a game in which you select an option in a radial menu to make a particle effect appear. This third installment borrows the refinements that the previous game brought to the combat, and it’s all the better for it. Cover-based shooter fare is standard these days, so getting the basics down has allowed BioWare to incorporate its own distinct edge, with the game’s six classes all offering their own unique tech trees, specializations, and powers. My Infiltrator had the ability to snipe in slow-motion while invisible, in between curving fireballs around corners and rewiring synthetics to fight on my side. When I completed a playthrough with him, I’d effectively only experienced one-sixth of the game.

This was all true in Mass Effect 2, and now that BioWare has figured out how to make the combat work, they’ve spent the last two years figuring out how to make it better. New enemy types abound; heavily-armored soldiers advance with shields and smoke grenades, engineers set up automated turrets, and ninjas with biotic barriers advance swiftly under cover of cloak. With EA’s budget backing what’s already proven to be a million-selling franchise, BioWare’s art team churns out the most breathtaking set pieces I’ve ever seen in a game. We’ve all watched the demo of Shepard engaged in a fierce battle while a colossal Reaper stomps about overhead just before being attacked by an enormous Thresher Maw, and those are the sort of production values you can expect here. Mass Effect 3 is never less than exhilarating to look at, let alone to actually play.

This is by far the series’ most action-packed entry to date, and the fact that it’s also the longest – clocking in at over 30 hours – yet never once manages to drag is a testament to how much of a blast Mass Effect 3, at its basest, is. In fact, I’ll do you one better. BioWare finally incorporated a multiplayer mode into this series, and it’s that same old cooperative, endurance-style, hold-off-waves-of-enemies fare that was popularized by Horde and has more or less become standard for modern action games since. And you know what? It’s actually really good. Since the variables in combat builds lead to players all developing their own play styles, triumphing over the mode’s challenges feels like a genuine team effort rather than four players shooting at things. Couple that with a single-player campaign that’s at least as fulfilling as the previous two – fans will be arguing for ages about which Mass Effect is the best, but this is at least the most well-rounded of the three – and Mass Effect 3 is precisely what every video game should be: pure, wall-to-wall fun.

But you know as well as I do that there’s far more to this trilogy than that. We get “fun” games all the time, but they’re certainly not all marked as major events on serious gamers’ calendars.

Mass Effect 3 asset

This is it. The galaxy-wide invasion that BioWare has been teasing since players raided the lab on Virmire in 2007 is finally here in full force. Mass Effect was a game about preventing an apocalypse. Its sequel was about delaying it. The third and final entry is about surviving it, as the Reapers have already seized a fair portion of Citadel Space even before the opening cutscene is over. We’ve walked through the ruins of civilizations wiped out by the Reapers, and now we get to fight that same fight, and discover how this war is won (if it even can be won). In a broader sense, Mass Effect 3 finally brings BioWare’s experiment in inter-game connectivity to a close. This trilogy tells a story that’s always going more or less in the same direction regardless of your decisions, but the Shepard you import in Mass Effect 3 is a composite of hundreds of variants – choices, actions, failures – and they’re all so heavily represented in the dialog that you can’t help but feel that no matter how scripted much of it is, this is your personal adventure.

The best example, for me, is Ashley. My Shepard had a fling with her just before the final mission of the original game, and then became separated from her – for two whole years – at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. They bumped into each other later in the game, and the reunion was bittersweet. Ashley felt betrayed to see Shepard working for what most perceived as a terrorist organization, but she was glad to see him alive and even confessed that she loved him at one point. My Shepard finished that playthrough without romancing anyone, and just before the game’s finale, at the point where the sex scene would usually go, I was instead shown a brief clip of Shepard staring at a framed picture of Ashley on his nightstand.

So while Shepard teams up with a lot of familiar faces in Mass Effect 3, reuniting with Ashley during the opening sequence had the biggest impact. While speaking with Liara early on about how this war has changed his perspective and forced him to fight for the things he cares about, Shepard gave a split-second glance at Ashley, who was standing on the other side of the room. I had to wonder: Did BioWare throw that in there for people in my shoes, or does Shepard always do that, regardless of his history? Doesn’t matter, because either way, I’m experiencing a major dynamic in the story that only a small fraction of Mass Effect players get to see. For many, Ashley’s just another squad mate. For some, she didn’t even make it out of the first game alive.

I mentioned that Mass Effect 3 follows the template of its predecessor, and that includes the relatively bizarre manner in which it’s structured. There’s a much-hyped “final mission,” and everything that precedes it has you preparing for said mission at your own pace. The difference is that Mass Effect 3 benefits from a far more focused narrative. Instead of running errands for your teammates to gain their loyalty, everything Shepard does here has a bearing on the eventual fight to take back Earth: rallying forces, gathering war assets, and forging allegiances. Bringing the civilizations of Citadel Space together pulls you even deeper into the series’ expansive mythology than the previous two games did. You’d think uniting against a common enemy would be easy, but how do you convince the krogans to ally with the two races that have been slowly sentencing them to extinction for over a thousand years? It’s rich stuff, and Mass Effect 3 has three whole games’ worth of lore assisting in making its frequent themes of sacrifice, loss, and hope ring true even when most of the characters aren’t human.

Mass Effect 3 asset

I continue to be floored not only by the consistent quality of the storytelling – the excellent writing aided by voice actors who are more than comfortable with their roles by now – but the sheer volume of it. You could spend an hour in between every mission exploring your ship and the Citadel, engaging in conversations that didn’t need to be there and have no effect on the story beyond simply strengthening the relationships of people in a fictional world. Several years from now, when I think back on this trilogy, I guarantee I’ll be thinking less about whether or not I chose to preserve the Collector base and more about that one time Shepard and Garrus went on a joyride to the top of the Presidium as a way of spending some time together once more before the final battle. Fans have been railing on BioWare for phasing out certain elements – the side quests are virtually nonexistent at this point, and dialog options are more limited as Shepard speaks quite a bit on his own – yet in my mind, Mass Effect 3 is where all of the things that I truly love about this series come together.

That’s why I’m cool with the game’s already-unpopular ending. It does that Deus Ex thing where it forces you to make a choice with incredibly far-reaching consequences and then leaves you to ruminate over the aftermath, and I can see how players caught up in the Search For Answers would be underwhelmed by the conclusion’s abruptness, but we knew from the beginning that this wouldn’t be the end of Mass Effect. This trilogy is about Shepard, and his story ends here. That’s not to say that he dies, or that he lives. It simply means that from the perspective of Mass Effect being a character-centric narrative, this finale closes the gaps, completes the arcs and leaves me – a diehard fan of this franchise – feeling fulfilled. (Incidentally, I felt the same way about Lost’s ending, so I expect to be in the minority about this for a long time to come.)

What a phenomenal trilogy this wound up being. Three games, all flawed in their own ways, all masterpieces for unique reasons, all coming together to tell one of gaming’s greatest (and, frankly, most epic) stories, and making audiences feel more personally invested in the protagonist, his comrades, and their battle than any other medium could. I’m sad that it’s over, but I couldn’t realistically imagine myself being much happier with the way they sent it off.


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (March 14, 2012)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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SamildanachEmrys posted March 15, 2012:

It's nice to hear a more positive reaction to balance out the unrelenting negative that I've been hearing since ME3's release. I won't be playing it for a while yet, but at least now I'm no longer expecting it to be dire.
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zippdementia posted March 15, 2012:

The truth can never live up to years of build up, right? Fun to hear Suskie come from another direction and point out that, to him at least, the game did live up to expectations, just not the fake expectations people put on it.
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Suskie posted March 15, 2012:

Unrealistic expectations are precisely the problem here. People had this idea that Mass Effect 3 would have a multitude of branching endings reliant on the choices you've made. But that's not how storytelling works. When you write a story - particularly a three-part epic space opera - you don't say, "Okay, here's the beginning, here's the middle, and here are the dozens of ways it can end." You have a specific direction in mind. Not only that, but you take pride in your work and you WANT your story to end in the best way possible (as opposed to, say, Shepard dying before making it to the final area because you killed the rachni or whatever).
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Genj posted March 17, 2012:

Spoilers obviously.

I wanted to hold off on my thoughts until I finished the game and saw one of the controversial endings (I went with the 'synthesis' one). I loved the combat. There's tons of variety to the enemies. It's easily the best playing Mass Effect, but the story/writing I felt was the weakest in the series. This one was at a disadvantage in that its whole overall plot was focused on building an army to take on the Reapers (with too much "You're so awesome, Shepard!"-esque dialogue and being sad that the Reapers are killing people) and a fairly predictable Cerberus/Illusive Man story arc attached. ME1 & 2 had the advantages of building a whole game world and character development. The final bit on the Citadel itself was very silly and brief. I'd say the conclusion itself was more awkward and weird if anything.

I actually found myself most disappointed with the squad. I was happy to have Garrus, Tali, and Liara back. Didn't really care about the new whoreish-looking Ashley (I'm guessing I'll be getting Kaiden with my female Shepard). EDI as a squad member looks ridiculous. James is boring and totally unnecessary. The one thing I really wanted in ME3 was Wrex back in the squad, and that didn't happen. Pretty annoyed that none of the new squad members from ME2 were playable in ME3. They just pop up to fill Shepard in on what they've been up to and then either become a war asset or die. I would have taken Thane, Legion, Miranda, or Grunt in my squad over James. And honestly the $10 price tag for Javik was a sleazy move (because when you hear about a Prothean character, I don't know how a long time fan could pass on that). Despite this big paragraph though, I enjoyed the game a lot because when it comes down to gameplay, it was fucking awesome.
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Suskie posted March 17, 2012:

Yeah, honestly, the reason I jumped right into gameplay with this review is because, all things considered, ME3 is still just really fun. Amazing how "fans" are convincing themselves that a disappointing final ten minutes somehow devalues what's otherwise a ridiculously entertaining 30-hour game.

I just played ME2 last night to finish up a playthrough I wanted to import to ME3, and the combat actually felt pretty dated. Some of the tweaks they made for ME3 are subtle, but they make an impact.

I agree with some of your points, Genj. James is a generic meathead who adds nothing to the story (though I did like the bit about him sacrificing his squad for some intel that he didn't wind up needing to begin with). And while I got Javik with the Collector's Edition, I agree that it was slimy to charge for him. And while I didn't miss most of ME2's cast as squad members, it was a little strained that Shepard just happens to run into every single one of them anyway.


The one thing that I absolutely loved about ME3's finale was the supervillain-esque standoff with the Illusive Man at the end, because you just knew you'd confront him directly at some point and you didn't even get the chance to do that when you stormed his freaking base. One of the novels focuses specifically on the Illusive Man's experiments with Reaper technology, so seeing that arc unfold was kind of a thrill for me. The only problem is that they recycled from the Saren encounter from the first game. Convincing the central villain of a game to kill himself is an awesome idea, but they already did it.
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zippdementia posted March 18, 2012:

By the way, I also like LOST'S ending. Even though we tend to enjoy different games, Suskie, I think we have the same taste in story. It's one of the reasons I'm holding off on playing Mass Effect 3 until I either decide to break down and pick up an xbox or a PC gaming computer. I just feel that I would agree with you, that the real joy of Mass Effect would be telling MY story from start to finish and being so emotionally involved in that.
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WilltheGreat posted March 19, 2012:


Unrealistic expectations are precisely the problem here. People had this idea that Mass Effect 3 would have a multitude of branching endings reliant on the choices you've made.

To be fair, people had those expectations because BioWare had promised everybody that ME3 would have those things.

Of all people, Suskie, I didn't think you'd be drinking the Kool-Aid on this one. I'm amazed that you felt fulfilled after the ending. Did you decide to actually cure the genophage, or did you kill Mordin and lie to Wrex just to get his support alongside the salarians? Doesn't matter, because now all the mass relays are destroyed and the krogans couldn't overrun the galaxy or seek revenge for your deception even if they wanted to. Wrex won't be telling stories to his children and making the name Shepard mean hero, because the krogan/turian armada probably won't return to Tuchanka in his lifetime.

Did you sacrifice the geth so the Migrant Fleet could live, or were the quarians obliterated in the return fire? Or did you end a centuries-long war and leave Rannoch with the geth and quarians working together to rebuild their world? Doesn't matter now, what's left of the Migrant Fleet is now stranded in orbit around Earth, where they'll eventually run out of supplies and die because they can't eat human food. Heck, depending on which ending you picked even the geth might not exist anymore.

How about the rachni queen, did you save her back in ME1? Did you know that if you didn't, the Reapers bring back the rachni and send them against you anyway?

During the attack on Earth, where were the krogan battlemasters charging into enemy lines alongside Alliance marines? Where was the Destiny Ascension firing its main gun into a Reaper's ugly backside in the space battle? Where were those quarian liveships we were told were retrofitted with dreadnaught-equivalent guns launching broadside after broadside at Reaper formations while geth fighters provided cover? Where were the geth primes dropping from low orbit to cover your charge through the no-man's land? All the work we did building up these war assets, and the final battle plays out the same regardless of who we recruited - compare and contrast with ME2's Suicide Mission through the Omega-4 relay. And no matter what choices we made in the last two games, by the time the end credits roll none of them ultimately made a difference. Save the rachni or don't, hold a gun to Conrad's face or not, nothing we did made a difference in the end. No matter what we do, the mass relays are destroyed and galactic civilization as we know it collapses.

And that's to say nothing of the massive plot holes.

Seriously. The Catalyst's "solution" itself rings especially hollow if you managed to get the quarians to back down so the geth could help them rebuild rannoch. IN PEACE. Besides, it's been hinted at since the start and out-right confirmed when Legion takes Shepard into the geth mainframe that the geth-quarian war was started not by geth rebelling against their creators, but by quarians freaking out and trying to exterminate them. Heck, EDI goes out of her way to ensure that she'll never be able to harm the people she cares about - if she and Joker hook up she'll rewrite her core programming to to give herself the capacity to save his life at the expense of her own.

And speaking of Joker, why was he making a relay jump at the end? Did he chicken out and abandon the fight in enough time to reach the Sol relay before Shepard activated the Crucible? That doesn't sound like Joker. And how did he manage to pick up two random squadmates from down on Earth along the way? And how come he gets to hook up with your love interest at the end and play Adam and Eve to a new world? In my ending Tali doesn't even seem to notice or care that Shepard is dead, which was especially impressive given that she was killed by Harbinger during the dash across no-man's land.

What makes this especially disappointing was that, up until the magic platform whisked Shepard away to meet Deus ex Machina (funny you ought to mention Deus Ex in your review, by the way), the game was fantastic. All the little things that had been set up over the last five years got brought back out and dealt with, all leading up to a some great climactic ending. The confrontation with the Illusive man I especially liked, for much the same reason I liked the "final boss" fights of Planescape and Fallout. But then it all goes tits up, DeM feeds us some circular logic and Shepard, the man who made a career out of defying the odds, the man who teamed up with the devil himself when the Alliance wouldn't save its colonies against the Collectors, the man who literally defied death itself, just accepts the bullshit the Catalyst feeds him. Where were Shepard's retorts that synthetics don't have to kill organics, and everybody can get along? Where was his climactic speech about standing together united and overcoming adversity? Hell, I'd have settled for a Renegade interrupt to put a bullet through that ghost kid's skull. It's so bloody out of character, which just comes right back to none of the choices we made in the series ended up making a difference. Quote contrary to some of the things that had been said leading up to release:

"There is a huge set of consequences that start stacking up as you approach the end-game. And even in terms of the ending itself, it continues to break down to some very large decisions. So it's not like a classic game ending where everything is linear and you make a choice between a few things - it really does layer in many, many different choices, up to the final moments, where it's going to be different for everyone who plays it." - Casey Hudson again

What happened to all that promotional material for the series touting that your choices matter and your decisions have consequences? In the end, the only choice you have that matters is whether you want a red, a blue, or a green explosion.

Are you starting to see it now?

Let me answer my previous question: Here's what happened to the "choices matter" line of thinking.

Oh, and for the record, I also liked the ending of Lost. I liked it because it provided closure for the characters. Battlestar Galactica had that too, if slightly more heavy-handed. Mass Effect was conspicuously closure-free.

(Also, I'm slightly pissed that the big reveal of what Tali looks like under the helmet was little more than a poor photoshop of a stock image. But that's another matter entirely.)
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espiga posted March 19, 2012:

Somewhat back on topic: Hi Suskie, this was a pretty nice review that somewhat, kinda makes me want to play Mass Effect 1 through 3. I've only ever played the first part of 1, didn't care for it, and haven't touched the series since. Perhaps I'm approaching it from the wrong angle or something, but I loved the first Dragon Age. Maybe Bioware has just lost it's "oomph" for me over the years.
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2012:

Now I want Will to turn that into a review. That's an awesome counterpoint, Will, and is something I've heard said by others, but never with such good backing explanation. Usually people were just ranting and it felt awkward. From your response I see where the ire is quantifiably coming from and it makes me wonder which experience I would feel more in line with.
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Suskie posted March 19, 2012:

Or he could just link to this article, from which he's borrowed quite a bit. That right there is a perfect example of how utterly out of proportion this issue has been blown, that a guy who claims ME3 is otherwise an "exceptional" game would nevertheless feel the need to write a six-page rant on why the last ten minutes are terrible. (See also: Will comparing me to a member of Jonestown for not taking up a pitchfork.)

It's amazing. People big up the Uncharted series for being some masterwork of interactive storytelling, yet they lead you in a straight line from one set piece to another with no input from the player. Everything is scripted. Everything is predetermined. It's the same experience for every player. And I like the Uncharted games, but compare that to Mass Effect, in which BioWare creates a rich new world and allows us to explore it in ways no other medium could, and tells a complex story while letting us put our own personal spin on it, and just because the last ten minutes failed to live up to people's expectations, the entire series can go to hell.

You said it yourself, Will:

What makes this especially disappointing was that, up until the magic platform whisked Shepard away to meet Deus ex Machina (funny you ought to mention Deus Ex in your review, by the way), the game was fantastic.

See, even if I did hate the ending, I wouldn't let it devalue the 70-80 hours of wonderful entertainment that the trilogy otherwise provides. The final scene isn't even that important to me, hence why I didn't spend much time talking about it in the review. What I did find important was that little bit just before the final mission in which Shepard walks around and talks to all of his friends individually and relationship arcs are completed. He and Ashley shared a final kiss in my game. Javik shook hands with him, which he refused to do when they first met. That sort of thing. I meant it when I called Mass Effect a character-centric piece, meaning I'll devote more attention to reminiscing about the time I spent with them than to ripping the game apart because BioWare didn't bother to explain what one of them was doing in the Normandy during the final cutscene.

To be clear, Will: I don't like everything about the ending. I hate the cheesy post-credits epilogue, and the scummy DLC pitch that follows. I think the entire idea of the "synthesis" choice is ridiculous, and I wish they'd given Shepard the option to simply walk away and take his chances battling the Reapers.

As for the "synthetics designed to save you from synthetics," yeah, that explanation has holes. The reason I have no trouble accepting it is that I've always seen the Reapers as a religious allegory. I liked it more when they were mysterious, all-powerful beings -- gods, basically, or at least that's what they consider themselves. BioWare should have simply stuck with the explanation that their purpose is to rigidly control organic life. Do their newly-revealed motivations make sense? Not really, but are they supposed to? They're the freaking villains. They wouldn't be very good villains if the explanation for their evildoing has you nodding your head in agreement, as if the execution of an entire civilization could ever do so. I don't know what people were expecting in that regard.

Like I said, this whole idea that ME3 was supposed to go in a million different directions is preposterous, and make no mistake: BioWare is absolutely at fault for promising it. But if I judged games entirely by much they live up to what their developers promised, Fable would have been the worst game ever made (which, unfortunately, some people actually think it is).

I understand why people don't like the ending. I understand that it's important, and I think people should voice their displeasure. Hell, if I was dissatisfied with the ending, I'm sure I'd be pretty verbal about it as well. But where fans have crossed the line is in demanding that BioWare actually retroactively change the ending, with the defense that they're somehow "owed" better. Christ, all that uproar when Roger Ebert said that video games aren't art, and now legions of Mass Effect fans are treating the series like it's a household appliance or something. No one has to like the ending, but they need to respect that it was BioWare's artistic direction. I thought Dragon Age II was half-assed, and I've even told BioWare that they need to regain my trust before I care about that series again. But it never would even have occurred to me to demand that BioWare make an entirely new Dragon Age II to replace it. That's absurd.

And really, who are the true Mass Effect fans: those people, or the ones who still see the trilogy as 70-80 hours of extraordinary gaming regardless of how the final five or ten minutes stack up?

That's why I can't sympathize with this relentless picking-apart of everything that happens in ME3's final cutscene, even when I agree with parts of it. Had it not been for the rampant discussion all over the internet, ME3's ending would barely be on my mind. That scene I cited in my review with Garrus is a perfect example of the sort of thing that did stick with me, because I see Mass Effect as a journey, and a rather personal one at that. By the end of ME3, that journey felt complete.

One last thing:

In my ending Tali doesn't even seem to notice or care that Shepard is dead, which was especially impressive given that she was killed by Harbinger during the dash across no-man's land.

In my ending, neither of my squad members were in the final cutscene. If that happened for you, fair point, but I can only base my review on my own experiences.
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WilltheGreat posted March 19, 2012:

Well, even though I disagree I can see your point.

EDIT: Actually...on re-reading your post, Suskie, you sound a bit like this guy in a few places:

Not in choice of words and demeanour, obviously, you're a lot more pleasant than he is. But a couple of specific positions, namely that consumers of video games are not entitled to demand they get what EA and BW told them they were buying. I'll refrain from commenting further for now, as I don't want to straw man you into a position based on some similarities to an opinion video on YouTube, and if I've done so already feel free to call bullshit.

My apologies for the Jonestown crack, it was intended to be a lighthearted jest rather than to imply you're some kind of mindless cult zombie.
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2012:

I do get where Will (and others) are coming from. Note that this is from somebody who hasn't played any of the Mass Effects, so I'm not trying to point to one of you as right. I do remember Mass Effect 3 being lauded as a game which pretty much created a unique ending for you based on your actions across all three games and I've heard a lot to the contrary. One of the things I liked about Suskie's review was that he claims the uniqueness is all in the player-character connection. That and that he basically said, who cares about the ending, the game is really fun.

At the same time, I don't think Will's point is wrong, which to me was saying that it's not right for a video game developer to blow their product way out of proportion to the deliverables. It was, as Suskie fears, the first reason I hated the Fable series (really poor quests and a stupid setting being also high on the list, but that's another review). The main reason I picked up Fable was to experience the then intriguing idea of forging your own path through a story with very different endings. LIES.

I was also disappointed in Deus Ex 1 and 3 for that reason, though I was prepared for it in Deus Ex 3 (and they never really advertised the game as having branching story paths). Oddly enough, Deus Ex 2, which was otherwise terrible, so far has been the one where your decisions mattered the most.

I'm digressing. Anyway, I'm not mediating this argument or anything, it just interests me and I think Will (regardless of where he got his material from) has a point which shouldn't just be shot down and ignored. Which, to his credit, Suskie hasn't done while defending his position.
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WilltheGreat posted March 19, 2012:

Suskie(and anybody else), if you're interested here's a review by the California Literary Review that takes a position opposite to yours, namely, that the ending does matter to the whole experience.

I don't know if it ruined the entire experience for me, but it was pretty damn close. I do know that when I finished 1 and 2 it wasn't long before I fired it up again to see where some of the different choices got me. I have absolutely no desire to replay 3 upon finishing it, or even to go back to 1 and 2, just because I know that none of the decisions I make will get me a different ending. And I think that says a lot.

I think I'm more massively(pardon the pun) let down than actually outraged at my experience being ruined, because, as I said and you pointed out, I did enjoy the rest of it up until the last ten minutes. It's just that those last ten minutes stick out and should, I think, have been a lot different. It's sort of the narrative equivalent of getting blueballed.

Anybody else who's finished 3, do you think you're going to replay it soon?
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Genj posted March 19, 2012:

I'm replaying it as a female Sentinel and I'm having a lot of fun, but I felt a little melancholy when I started thinking about how at the end of my replay it would turn into Xenosaga.
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2012:

Genj = hilarious.

Or maybe it's just that Xenogear/saga references always make me laugh because I instantly feel oppressed.

I can sympathize with an ending making a game feel flat. I felt that way about God of War 3. What an incredible game for almost no purpose. Really, the ending was completely blase. Compare that to the first game, which was a fully self contained epic with a truly appropriate and satisfactory twist to its final scenes. Or even the second game. Though the second game doesn't really end it has a very satisfying finale where you feel like the stakes have just been raised.

Raised for what, I now ask? God of War 3 tries so damn hard to raise the stakes again that it practically shits itself in the process, and it is a very fun game, but it's also the only God of War I have yet to replay.
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Suskie posted March 19, 2012:

Will, you'll have to excuse me, because fan response to ME3's ending has at this point made me genuinely upset. Not only that, but embarrassed. The next time an elderly film critic attacks our medium, who's going to take us seriously? We were so let down by ME3's ending that we reported it to the FTC.

I said this already, but I want to make it absolutely clear: Not liking the ending is fine. I'm only arguing with you because, well, damned if I'll let a long angry rant slip by me without a long angry rant in retort :)

But fans have taken it too far, to the point that it's just sickening. I guess if you view video games as products and nothing else, there's nothing I can do. But for the many ways Mass Effect has demonstrated the potential of video games as an artistic and storytelling medium, its crazed fanbase has pulled us right back.

If nothing else, that people can be so emotionally devastated over this confirms just how fantastic the Mass Effect series is as a whole, and how completely it's absorbed people over the years. I mean, if Gears of War 3's ending had sucked, no one would've cared.
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Suskie posted March 19, 2012:

Also, Zipp, I can't really sympathize with your God of War comparisons because that trilogy's story did nothing for me. (If you're dumb enough to get "tricked" into murdering your own family, you really shouldn't be blaming anyone else.) On the subject of raising the stakes, though... honestly, no game I've ever played does that better than Mass Effect. The entire plot revolves around the revelation that incredibly powerful machines are coming to rid the galaxy of all advanced life, and you believe it, because present civilization is based around the technology left behind by those who were already driven to extinction by said machines. The first two games have a phenomenal sense of impending doom, and the third game (when they've finally invaded) is incredibly downtrodden.

That's another thing I like about the way ME3 concludes: There's no happy ending. (And Zipp, it seems like you've read everything there is to read about the ending at this point, so I assume you don't care.) ME3's plot revolves around building an unfinished weapon that can supposedly be used against the Reapers, but a one-step, no-hassle solution would be a unfitting method of overcoming such a formidable enemy. I don't like all of the choices we're presented at the end, but I do like that none of them are easy to make.
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WilltheGreat posted March 19, 2012:

If nothing else, that people can be so emotionally devastated over this confirms just how fantastic the Mass Effect series is as a whole, and how completely it's absorbed people over the years. I mean, if Gears of War 3's ending had sucked, no one would've cared.

On this I agree completely. When fans are so upset about what they feel is a bad ending that they launch a coordinated protest and raise over $30,000 for charity to get the media's attention, that speaks a lot to how brilliant the series is. I've never seen a game that got me so emotionally invested.
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jerec posted March 19, 2012:

I haven't finished ME3 yet but I am so looking forward to reading this topic when I'm done with it.
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2012:

Yeah, I'm not going to call the spoilers card at this point, Suskie. Mostly, my unfamiliarity with the plot of any of the games or their science fiction elements makes any talk about the details of the finale the oral equivalent of someone trying to read The Great Gatsby to me in Latin.

And yes, Kratos is a humungous fuck head. I talk about that in my review of God of War III and how that doesn't entirely work for me, either. It worked for me in the first game, though, because the fulfillment of his destiny is to fully become that which he hated. It's a nice little bit of "making your own bed."
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dragoon_of_infinity posted March 21, 2012:

This post comes a little late, but will asked if anyone was planning on replaying the game soon.

I'm already half way through a second playthrough, because the game is just that good. Yes, the ending is disappointing, whatever. The characters, the writing, the everything up until the last five minutes of the game is some of the most fun I've ever had with a video game ever.

Perhaps I just have thick skin because of more than 10 years of ending disappointment in RPGs, but the ending didn't even really bother me that much.

Also, to be a nitpicking nerd, Krogan live hundreds of years, and the reapers fly into the galaxy from deep space under normal FTL drive in only a handful of years. Wrex would make it home.
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Suskie posted March 21, 2012:

Hey, has anyone read this theory on the ending? It's almost certainly not true, but various details he points to were obviously intentional and the whole concept... kinda blows my mind, to be honest.

If it is true, everyone who ever complained owes BioWare a formal letter of apology, as far as I'm concerned.
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WilltheGreat posted March 21, 2012:

I'd stumbled across it myself.

If it is true, then on the one hand BioWare deliberately shipped an incomplete game and planned to tack on the "real" ending as a paid addition(as opposed to a 'fan service' add-on, like Bethesda did with Broken Steel), which opens up a huge can of worms for the future of gaming and DLC.

On the other hand, holy christ that would be ambitious from the standpoint of pure narrative. I've seen books and TV shows that relied upon the Unreliable Narrator/Protagonist to misinform the viewer, but to indoctrinate not just Shepard, but (effectively) the audience themselves? Talk about interactive storytelling. Chalk me up in the "mind blown" column.
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Suskie posted March 22, 2012:

It's so brilliant that I seriously think BioWare should go with it even if this wasn't their intention.

Which, of course, it wasn't. I mean, they'd be giggling themselves to sleep right now over these reactions if this had been the plan all along.
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WilltheGreat posted March 22, 2012:

Also stumbled across this on Twitter.

This is probably my favourite thing about social media.
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Halon posted March 23, 2012:

I saw the ending (or at least one of them) online and honestly didn't think it was nearly as bad as everyone is making it out to be. The biggest offense to me is how the plot barely progressed since the first game. I haven't played 2 or 3 and don't feel like I missed anything content-wise.

This probably has a lot to do with these so-called "game journalists" hyping the series up as something that is supposedly bridging the gap between games and film. I never really bought this so even if I was a fan of the series it really isn't anything that I would lose sleep over.
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zippdementia posted March 23, 2012:

Suskie, I should say that your constant talk about how good the game is aside from story is a real hook for me. I am going to hold out until Summer, when I'll have some more time, but then I'll pick up Mass Effect 2 and 3 and the first game be damned. And it's all because of your convincing reviews, my friend.
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Suskie posted March 23, 2012:

Thanks, Zipp, and I'm glad to hear it. Though if you're skipping right to ME2, I'd urge you to take Genj's advice and look up a Let's Play of the first one. ME1 hasn't aged well in comparison to its sequels, but its story is still pretty phenomenal and you really don't want to settle for a half-assed version of it (which you'll be getting if you download the interactive comic that comes with ME2).

Sportsman: Yeah, that's what I was getting at about people having unrealistic expectations. I do think that the series explores ways of telling stories that other mediums couldn't, but stories are linear by nature.
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zigfried posted March 23, 2012:

The comment about not aging well surprises me, since most people tell me that Mass Effect is way better than part 2.

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Suskie posted March 23, 2012:

Complicated answer, Zig. ME1 is still my favorite game in the series. It's got the best story, the broadest scope (ME1 has always felt like a playable science fiction novel to me, and a big part of that is how expansive its universe is), and the most distinct visual style. On the other hand, it's also the least polished of the three, with certain elements either not holding up by today's standards (like the combat) or just not working well to begin with (like the horrible vehicle controls and the overambitious uncharted planet missions associated with them). BioWare's frantic struggles to correct these issues have sent the series in a different, more action-centric direction, and while the series has improved mechanically, they've also cut down on some of the elements that made ME1 so special in the first place.

The simplest way I can put it is that while I love all three games, ME1 is the one that feels the most distinctly like an RPG. It'll always be my favorite for that, regardless of the many changes BioWare have made for the better.
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WilltheGreat posted March 27, 2012:

This deserves a thread bump, trust me:

Apparently the next stage of the ReTake campaign is to send BioWare lots of cupcakes.

The plan is to have them be in three different colours, but all the same flavour. XD
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Suskie posted March 27, 2012:

Heard about that. Whether or not I agree with it, this is the sort of protesting I can get behind.

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