Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were far from great games. Oh I know, they have high scores on a certain mathematically broken review aggregation site, but in our Fringe equivalent of a parallel universe, they’ve been rightly called out by critics who saw past the pretty graphics to the awful shooter-ing, laughable writing, spasmodic pacing and zealous fanbase’s complacent “but it’s the only hardcore sci-fi roleplaying game we’ve had since Buck Rogers: Matrix Cubed!”
Not so Mass Effect 3, BioWare’s great big galaxy-galloping finale. Mind you, I’m still slogging through Mass Effect 2 (at the 40+ hour mark), so I can’t speak to Mass Effect 3′s worthiness, but even the guys who shared my disdain for the first two games seem surprised (in a good way) by what BioWare’s wrought with its hyped up three-quel.
Take my favorite 10-points reaction, Tom Chick’s “official Mass Effect 2 haters guide to Mass Effect 3,” Chick’s Mass Effect 2 dislike list is from his smart, sadly defunct SyFy Fidgit blog. It’s reproduced in full here.
Two years ago, I wrote up Mass Effect 2 as a list of ten things gone terribly wrong. I dismissed it as “a confused attempt to streamline an RPG, flesh out a shooter, cram a story between space dungeons, and pick up the loose ends from the first game”. But then you people bought it in droves, said adoring things about it, and put it on your various Best Game Ever lists. Nice move. Now we’re all going to get more of the same in Mass Effect 3.
Surprise, surprise, I really like Mass Effect 3. Mostly as a game, but even a bit as a story. Bioware spins a grand saga about uniting squabbling nations to fight the greater threat, which they then proceed to do for a big finale. We’ve seen it all before because it’s timeless and effective. Dragon Age, Babylon 5, Lord of the Rings, Europe. And Bioware certainly knows how to add the requisite space porn.
Okay, that’s actually my sole critic-in-the-hole who didn’t like the first two games. Everyone else pretty much loved them, and they’re surely rolling out the plaudits for Mass Effect 3.
Take Joystiq’s 4.5 out of 5:
You’ll be pleased to hear that BioWare doesn’t blow it. The trilogy’s spectacular conclusion hits hard, having built momentum across a tremendous universe, and alongside a legitimate player history, preserved in a huge list of variables and decisions spanning three different games. You’re railroaded by some of the big, expensive outcomes from Mass Effect 2, but the little creases in plot and dialogue still grant a sense of ownership and tight continuity. That long, personalized thread is what truly sets the Mass Effect series apart from other science fiction.
Overall though, the less-than spectacular combat does little to diminish what is ultimately a spectacular experience. As a finale to Shepard’s quest it’s fulfilling, engaging and packing enough depth to keep you very much on the edge of your seat and wanting more from the world BioWare has built; it’s not the perfect game, but it’s close to the perfect ending.
Everything you’ve done in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 has led up to this moment, a weight that Mass Effect 3 bears with grace and pride. Everything you do feels important – every side quest, every scan, every conversation, every shot fired feels like it impacts your likelihood of success in a very real and tangible way. You never lose the sense that you’re fighting for the survival of all life, everywhere, but it also never feels overwrought or excessively dramatic.
So yes, plenty of love to get your wallets started, and probably all the reason you need to pick it up — even if you skipped the first two (adds Chick: “It goes without saying that the story will obviously please fans of the previous games. If there’s one thing Bioware knows, it’s fan service. But what surprised me about Mass Effect 3 is that the story also works for people who might not care about the previous games”).