Perhaps the best way to sum up “Mass Effect 3” is with an allusion to another recent sci-fi extravaganza. When “Battlestar Galactica” wrapped up its final season, fans were expecting a spectacular ending to the beloved franchise. For years, fans poured their hearts and souls into the series, hoping to be rewarded with a blockbuster ending. Instead, in its final hours, the series decided to throw in quasi-religious references and completely change the dynamic of the show. Fans felt mortified and betrayed, as if they’d lost a loved one, full of grief, some even feeling physically ill.
Sadly, “Mass Effect” fans will very likely suffer this same fate when picking up the end of the trilogy.
That isn’t to say “Mass Effect 3” is a bad game: In fact, it is likely one of the best games released this year, if not one of the best games this writer has ever played. However, years of waiting, hundreds of hours of enthralled playtime and an incredible connection to the story are all tossed aside with what will likely become a case study of how to ruin a story. Perhaps 99 percent of “Mass Effect 3” will leave you breathless, and the last 10 minutes will as well, but for entirely the wrong reasons.
The ending is truly a travesty because so much of the game is superb. The latest iteration of combat in the series is by far the most intense, high-energy, tightly tuned thrill ride fans will encounter in most games out today. The introduction of co-op gameplay, which felt strange and unnecessary before launch, has actually become one of the game’s strongest selling points. Gamers will likely put nearly as much time into the cooperative multiplayer as the single-player portion, though this may be because of the game’s oddly short length.
The story, excepting the final 10 minutes, is also truly spectacular. Few games will take players on an emotional roller coaster ride the way “Mass Effect 3” will. Particularly strong moments with a few key characters will leave all but the most cold-hearted in tears. Even though the story seems to be shorter than previous games, with an estimated game time of 20-40 hours depending upon how much of the side content the player completes, nearly every minute of that time will keep players on the edge of their seats.
However, it all falls apart at the end, in what feels like one of the most rushed and frankly half-assed endings ever. With plot holes galore and uncertainty abound, it is as if BioWare has completely forgotten the most basic plot structure taught in elementary English: no falling action or resolution can be found.
Likewise, the ending tosses aside nearly all the decisions players have made throughout the course of the three games, leaving players feeling disrespected and dishonored. For a series that has been a shining example of allowing its players to create their own fates, the ending of the trilogy is ham-fistedly forced upon the player. Gamers will likely have no desire to replay the game or its predecessors after ending the journey once; a shame, as replay value has been a strong selling point of previous games.
Overall, “Mass Effect 3” is a very good game; if BioWare had not bungled the ending so horribly, gamers on the Internet would be singing its praises from the digital rooftops. New players with no experience of the previous games will find the game an absolute blast. However, to the long-time fans of the trilogy, the ending may sour any enjoyment delivered. Players will be incredibly entertained and find every penny of the price worth it until the very end.
However, on principle alone gamers should wait until BioWare gives some sort of reasoning for how devastatingly poorly the conclusion was handled, and how they plan to rectify the situation. It is hard to justify paying full price for a game from a developer that seems to find it so easy to betray its fans in its newest releases.