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Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) review

"The end of an era"

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

Mass Effect 3 paints the bleak picture it ought to. Commander Shepard returns to Earth, only to watch as the Reapers tear his home to bits. Whole settlements all over the Milky Way crumble and submit to the maniacal machines from the depths of space, and the Citadel's loading docks overflow with refugees. However, a worse enemy threatens to tear the galaxy apart: discord. The Reapers benefit from various political situations that have placed whole races at odds with each other. The Krogans still resent the Turians and the Salarians, the Geth and the Quarians remain at war, Batarians mantain their hatred for everyone--especially humans...

With a galaxy rent asunder, Shepard must accomplish the impossible and unify all sentient life under a single banner to destroy the Reapers. Isn't that typically the case with the final act? The heroes pull themselves together and struggle against slim odds to perhaps eke out a victory. You know as you witness the destruction and understand the galaxy's desperation that Shepard's story arc is drawing to a close. Subplots will end, characters will perish, coming events will shape the franchise's future and you will determine the grisly or glorious fate of your own Milky Way.

Because Mass Effect 3 depicts a desperate struggle, it eschews a fair number of features from the previous installments. For instance, the game doesn't even bother you with unlocking mini-games or most rogue skills. You don't have to pick locks, and you can't revisit side locales once you've completed their relevant missions. On top of that, most of Mass Effect 3's side quests are little more than fetch tasks or opportunities to bolster Shepard's influence. The game offers a handful of quests that showcase firefights and explorable stages, but most of them are straightforward and streamlined. The Normandy's crew doesn't have time to rescue everyone's missing sister or scan for mineral deposits these days.

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

However, side quests are no less exciting. Their set pieces offer nicely designed battlefields with plenty of cover and a handful of open spaces, along with pylons that boost enemy shields and troublesome turrets. You're constantly on the move, gunning down grunts and picking off snipers, while using your biotic skills to stymie mechanical menaces or mitigate damage at the hands of hulking monsters. You can run for cover, but it isn't long before your foes discover how to smoke you out with grenades and sneaky killers.

Mass Effect 3 places a greater emphasis, though, on its main campaign rather than the side stuff (although some of its DLC, especially Citadel, is no slouch in regards to offering exhilarating material). There you join grander battles accompanied by allies across numerous worlds, fighting off contingents of abominations created by the Reapers, indoctrinated Geth or soldiers on Cerberus's payroll. Whole set pieces seamlessly blend into one another, as hordes of opposing warriors pour onto the scene. At times, you think the battle is too much for you to handle. You take out the grunts in the crammed walkway of a besieged space station, only to watch your shields deplete time and again due to sniper shots raining down on you. As you crush the snipers, worse threats burst through windows or leap down from balconies. Screaming banshees and massive Geth primes penetrate your defenses faster than you can blink, leaving you scrambling for shelter. Phantoms sneak in at close range and nail you with devastating stealth techniques that just about kill you.

And yet you soldier on while worlds fall to ruin. You hear the panicked cries of platoons and pilots just before a Reaper laser annihilates them, and witness Asari and Turian and human homes get blasted into dust. No matter how much of an edge you gain on the Reapers, you question whether or not this war will end in your defeat. However, you also know that victory, if it's even viable, will come with a cost...

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

This is where negotiation and diplomacy play a huge role. Although Mass Effect 3 doesn't offer the depth of conversation that its predecessors boasted, it still provides enough to make for a satisfying adventure. Shepard is already familiar with damn near everyone in the galaxy, so there's no need for him to grill everyone. However, you still need to find ways to strengthen your reputation and become more persuasive if you're to win this war. Your silver tongue or intimidation could convince someone to forgo catastrophic plans or talk down a suicidal or homicidal character. A dire situation could be boon for you, especially if the survivors of those encounters decide to aid you in the closing fight. With each alliance you forge, asset you acquire, decision you make and subplot or side quest you complete, your armada grows more powerful. The stronger the fleet, the greater the chance you have against the Reapers in the final conflict.

All I will say is that the more work you put into the first three Mass Effect games, especially this one, the more satisfying an ending you will receive. However, your voyage will not conclude without hardship. The final phases of Mass Effect 3 thrust you into some of the brand's toughest fights and most stressful moments. You'll eventually hit a point where you dramatically creep as if mired in mud, while horrific events unfold around you. The closing segments, if you were diligent enough to amass an impressive army, offer riveting cutscenes that perfectly cap off the experience.

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

Never mind that some of Mass Effect 3's side quests provide vague clues for progression. Forget about other minor qualms you might have, such as Cerberus soldiers' annoying fetish for smoke bombs. Sure, developer BioWare excised even more of the original installment's features, but did you really need to carry an entire armory's worth of useless machine guns and rifles on you? Or play the same mini-games ad nauseam just to unlock doors or chests? Mass Effect 3 cuts the bull because it's the frantic end of a story arc, and no one has time to constantly fly to the Morlan's shop. Sacrifices have and will be made, but in the end they add up to pleasing finish.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 29, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Great battles, interrupted by middling chatter.


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