Mass Effect 3 bring the conclusion to quite an epic end, with the invasion of the Reapers that was foretold throughout the first two entries happening within a few minutes of starting the game. While watching the massive aliens descend to Earth and begin to obliterate everything in sight, you once again play Commander Shepard as he escapes on board the Normandy. With Earth falling, it is up to you to travel to the far reaches of the galaxy to bring together the different species and war assets needed to bring the fight back to Earth and finally stop the reapers. But with the same thing happening all over the galaxy, how easy will it be to win allegiances and get everyone to get along nicely?
The answer is not very. There are a couple of really big decisions to make that affect the narrative a hell of a lot more than they have in the other games. Sometimes it comes down to offending an entire species to have your way, and it's up to you to weigh the consequences and how they can affect your readiness for the impending final battle. Missions are a lot more detailed than in the previous instalments, although there are fewer than before, and a lot of old faces will be popping up to assist you in your fight against the reapers, and also Cerberus agents with a shady agenda.
As always, Mass Effect 3 rewards exploration, mostly through the planet scanning minigame. While it certainly isn't as involved as in the first game, it significantly improves upon the resource hunting seen in Mass Effect 2. There's a progress bar for each galaxy you enter, so you know when you've found everything that will help you. Everything you find, and every allegiance you form will contribute to your overall readiness for the final battle, which in turn will affect the ending you get.
But therein the trouble lies. In order to obtain the "perfect" ending your readiness score needs to be very high, which involves either making perfect decisions throughout all three games and finding pretty much every hidden resource in this one, or by playing the online mode to raise the multiplier on your existing score. I'm not normally one to play multiplayer, but I found myself having to play for a few hours in order to get the score I needed to continue with the final mission, which really put a big stopper in my gameplay experience. Even so, the ending does leave something to be desired. There's plenty of anger flying around the internet regarding the endings, enough to provoke a response from Bioware themselves. While I do agree with some amount of what is being said, I didn't find the ending too bad, although perhaps more of a variation would have made things a lot better, and put some weight behind the decision making that is seen throughout the rest of the series.
But it's still the same Mass Effect. Combat is immersive and fluid, with the ability to chuck powers all over the place to dispatch foes. While at times you can get rushed by many strong enemies, there are certain methods that you'll learn to make their defeat easier. Still, there does seem to be an awful lot more combat than anything else, with most side missions being fetch quests for people on the Citadel. It can get a bit tedious at times, but the main missions and primary side quests are much improved over the previous titles, and that's where the meat of the gameplay lies, so it's not too bad.
Despite my unwillingness to play multiplayer on most occasions, I have to admit it isn't too bad. It plays much like Horde mode from Gear Of War, with several waves of enemies converging on you in several locations. You choose your class, complete with their own powers, and as a team of four you can work together to kill everything that moves, with three difficulty levels to mix things up. While it does get quite repetitive, I can't say I was overly bored while playing it, although I only did for a few hours.
Overall Mass Effect 3 is a strong finale to the series. The characters, gameplay and decision making all carry over very well, and I found myself very drawn in during the story, and quite shocked at the consequences of some of the decisions presented to me. Sure, it's not perfect, as many angry nerds around the internet will confirm, but I sure enjoyed the journey before the ending soured thing a bit for me. Hopefully Bioware can go some way to fixing it with their upcoming DLC, and being the series the ending(s) that it deserves.
My rating: 4/5