So I just finished playing through Mass Effect 3 and thought I would write up my thoughts on this last in the first Mass Effect trilogy (not counting the mobile games). I am still decompressing a bit from a very intense gameplay experience, so there will be a lot of stream-of-consciousness typing here. Pardon me in advance. I will start this review by summing up Mass Effect 3 like so:

Mass Effect 3 is 40 hours of incredible story, ending with 10 minutes that invalidates the entire experience and will anger you. A lot.

I will save the seriously-spoiling details for after a warning below, so sit-tight. After firing up the game on my three-monitor PC gaming rig, I discovered that Mass Effect 3 does not support my widescreen resolution of 5760×1080. The menu and UI elements were all stretched in a strange way and it was not playable because of this. I turned my resolution back to 1920×1080 and finally got to begin my gaming experience. I don’t recall having this problem in Mass Effect 2, but I digress.

Mass Effect 3’s gameplay has been infused with a cover system which, on the consoles, works very well. Using keyboard and mouse on the PC, however, it seems that the developers believed that computer gamers like to use their spacebars for doing everything. Spacebar controls using things, engaging cover, jumping over objects, and sprinting. Hit spacebar too close to an object and you will duck behind it. Double click the spacebar while holding a direction key and you will Kirk-roll in that direction – unless, you are standing too close to cover and you have a good chance of utilizing it. Problem is, that you don’t always want to move to cover. Sometimes you want to run to a position or dodge. Using the spacebar for so many controls makes accurately-predicting what your character is about to do problematic when the heat of battle and fog of war take hold.

Graphically, Mass Effect 3 is just as nice to look at as Mass Effect 2. Not much has changed in this area. Sound design is also more of the same. Additionally, all the voice actors do a nice job of reprising their characters.

What positive things can be said about the game? Well, you will have a great time playing through Mass Effect 3 – awesome story arcs, character interactions, dialog choices. Just phenomenal. Seriously, a great gaming experience. Until the end.

The disappointing part of Mass Effect 3 is that you spend so much time planning out your dialog options, squad choices, etc that all of it ends up being practically meaningless. After about 40 hours of intense and exciting gameplay, no matter what you do, you end up with 3 possible endings. Endings which re-use the same cut-scenes (minus a few details in each iteration) and leave you feeling used and abused in a not-so-nice way. BioWare and Electronic Arts touted this game series as being all about player choice and character interaction. The last ten minutes of Mass Effect 3 completely ruins not only all of your choices in this game, but also your choices in the previous two games. This is a huge bait-and-switch on the part of BioWare and left me wondering what happened in the dev cycle to cause this.

 

*********SERIOUSLY-ANGERING SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!*********

 

In Mass Effect 2, you had a really well-crafted, choose-your-own-adventure end campaign of selecting crew members to do specific tasks and getting a great resolution showing the outcomes for each of them (despite the melodramatic “human reaper” thingy). So, gearing up for the final assault on the Reaper transport beam I found my first squad selection. I thought for several minutes – who shall I choose? What are the possible outcomes of doing so – fully-expecting another riveting end campaign sequence where these characters that I had grown to care about could survive or not. I selected two squad-mates and began the assault towards the beam. I kept waiting for more decisions – tasking crew members with certain things, action involving them were, depending on who I had brought along, they would live or die or affect the mission on a serious level. It never happened. Instead, I just kept fighting. Fighting and defending areas in some very intense combat. Enjoyable, but straight-forward. I reached my final run towards the beam in the face of a huge Reaper firing its beam cannons and, surprise, everyone is dead – including my two squadmates. You live, barely, and in a Modern Warfare 3 style moment, hobble towards the beam and get sucked up into the Citadel. There you meet Andersen, who also got into the beam, and the Illusive Man. No matter what you choose to do in the next five or so minutes, you finally get to the end…

You finally get to meet the entity controlling the Citadel. This entity takes the form of a child who is killed in the first portion of the game and haunts Shepard’s dreams. The entity claims it is the Citadel and created the “cycle” system where young races get to flourish and older races are killed off and turned into Reapers who then go lie in wait for another 50,000 years to go by – only to start the process over again. The reason this entity crafted the cycle system is because, given enough time, synthetic life will wipe out all organic life in the galaxy… So it created synthetic Reapers to kill organic life every 50,000 years… Hmmm…

So in order to stop synthetics from killing organics, you create synthetics to kill organics?!?

This is the part where your head should explode like it just got read “the Chewbacca defense”.

Then, you are given three choices: Kill all synthetic life, merge with the synthetic life so that organics and synthetics become as one, or try to control the Reapers and lead them away. All of these lead to the same basic cut-scenes, and there is no happy ending for Shepard (even in one where he seems to have possibly survived in a Crank-style moment). Worse yet, you get no real update on the outcomes of your squad-mates and NPC associations. Additionally, the Mass Relays are blown up in ALL of these choices. This means that, while FTL travel exists, there is no feasible way to jump across the galaxy and visit other planets. Additionally, there is this strange cut-scene of the Normandy getting chased by an energy field and breaking up, only to crash land on a jungle world. Why is this happening to the Normandy? Why are they not fighting Reapers in orbit like the rest of EVERY fleet in the galaxy (I rallied all of them). It just doesn’t make sense. I am so damned confused as to why I invested 40 hours into this experience – not to mention countless hours in the first two games.

Now, before you get all “the GEEK is taking this way to serious” on me, hear me out (and I appreciate your reading this): If Mass Effect 3 were billed as a shooter game or developed by the makers of “Extreme Rodeo”, I could overlook the whole mess of an ending. No problem. But, BioWare has gone to great lengths in touting that Mass Effect is all about player choice and character interaction. And, in large part, the game is! I was very happy with the game until the last twenty minutes or so. It actually feels like it becomes another game. I don’t know if this was an issue with development time or what. It just feels tacked-on and poorly thought out – worse yet, it invalidates all my choices I made over the 40 hours of playtime. I am very disappointed with this.

Here is the next rub…

After doing one of these three endings. Shepard is most-likely dead, Mass Relays destroyed, Normandy crashed and no word on the fate of your friends. You then find yourself back on the ship as if nothing happened. You get some cheesy “don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine” style message about continuing the adventure in multiplayer and DLC. But… Why would I want to do that?!? I know what happens. The character is dead, species cut-off from themselves, and no fricken updated on how my squad-mates turned out after taking so much time to help them through the adventure?!? There is absolutely no reason to spend money on a DLC knowing that there is no hope for the endgame.

Anyhow, thanks for reading my review/rant on this game which, if you shut the computer off right when Shepard makes it to the Beam, is pretty damned good. Just don’t play past that point and pretend that  what you are doing matters in the game’s storyline. Make up your own ending – it will be light-years better than what BioWare cooked up for the last ten minutes of the game.

the author

Editor-in-Chief and Founder of GamingShogun.com

24 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Chris on 2012/03/10

    Thanks for the review, sums up what I feel completely. I don’t even want to replay any of the trilogy now that I know none of it matters. Amazing game marred by a poor ending.

  2. Victory on 2012/03/10

    You know, I was waiting for people to review the actual damn ending of this game then just to say I played it 10/10 before they get there. The ending was so terribly done – it didn’t show really ANY effect whatsoever about your choices of fleet [Minus the few edits you mentioned] Its like wtf was I gathering them up for?

    • boothby on 2012/03/10

      Yeah it is such a letdown. I just wanted to find out what became of my squad mates. I think they should have ended it with…

      SPOILER

      Shep and Andersen sitting together, two soldiers reflecting on things as the crucible fired. They don’t make it but then we see a memorial and get updated on our comrades.

  3. Wally on 2012/03/10

    That’s why the smart people didn’t buy this DLC craptastic milking game and said FU Bioware and EA.

    We told you so.

    • Iron on 2012/03/12

      So, people who purchased ME 3 are unintelligent? Your comment is worthless because it assumes that everyone who purchased the game is an idiot.

      I am an intelligent person and I purchased ME 3. Was I disappointed in the endings? Yes. Did I enjoy the game up until the last 10 or so minutes? Yes. Did my IQ drop several points because I gave money to EA and Bioware? No.

      Take your underdeveloped thought-processes and keep them to yourself. An intelligent person would have gone after just the developer and its parent company rather than attacking the consumer. You’re only adding to the problem, and that problem is moronic internet people like yourself who can’t seem to figure out right from left and which group they need to focus their argument on.

      While you’re at it, do yourself a favor and make sure you don’t sound like a total idiot next time you decide to hit the comment box. Oh, my bad, you can’t.

      Have a good one,

      Iron

  4. Davif on 2012/03/11

    Nice to see someone who’s part of a gaming news site actually have the balls to point out how shit the endings are. It’s blown my mind how much corporate cock is being sucked on sites like IGN, Kotaku, and so forth as they try so very, very hard not to upset EA and get on their shit list. What the hell ever happened to being able to call a game maker/publisher out on their bullshit?

    I mean, we see it in films all the time, a studio or director makes a shit film and every news/critic site jumps at the chance to roast it or at least offer constructive criticism. But, with games (which we’ve trying to get recognized as an art form on par with any film) the media sites that are entrusted to be open about the pros and cons of any game go to great lengths to stroke the “egos” of every major game maker/game publisher, the bigger the game the bigger the tug.

    Why? because they don’t want the envelopes full of money to stop, or because they don’t want to loose exclusive coverage rights? What the hell is wrong with just calling a game out as having something shitty about it? ME3 is a freaking brilliant game…until the ending. There, that’s all you have to say. Seriously, they’re afraid to say that?!

    • GamingShogun Author on 2012/03/11

      Thanks for that, Davif. Truth is we have had good relations with EA and BioWare for a long time. Generally speaking we have enjoyed that relationship; There are some really talented people working at both places. However, I think the handling of ME3’s end is just shoddy and poor. Those talented people need to know this so that they can do better in the future. If reviewers just tow the line, developers won’t know that people didn’t like this or that. I think we owe it to gamers and the industry as a whole to do nothing less.

  5. Gray on 2012/03/11

    Agree completely. Finally someone not getting money shoved up their ass by EA giving an honest review. There is no, NO EXCUSE, for that sham of an ending. At the very least, we deserve an epilogue to find out if people made it home okay. We were fighting to save and protect these people, and they all come to our rescue and…what? Everyone gets screwed? Everyone is saved? Everyone is stuck in space forever? Everyone makes it to earth somehow and builds a melting pot Utopia? Turians and Quarians suddenly learn how to eat real food? WE KNOW NOTHING. And their confirmation of no post-game DLC means we never will!

    I’m adamant, I will never buy another Bioware game again. Not even if they fix the endings or clarify them. If they change anything, it won’t be because they want to, it will be because people bitched them into a corner and forced their hand. That’s like saying “We didn’t want to do the right thing, but we will so you’ll hate us less.” Not the kind of people I want to be in bed with. Enjoy your alliance with S(E)ATAN, Bethesda and Projekt RED ftw!

  6. Roark on 2012/03/11

    Every professional reviewer in the gaming and mainstream press industry is giving this game a 10/10 or a 5/5.

    From now on, I’m looking at PC Gamer for the pretty pictures and coming here to read my reviews. Nice job in actually playing the game and getting the review right.

  7. Davif on 2012/03/11

    Thank you for saying so, and I agree. Outside of some forums like the BSN or 4Chan many of the major gaming media sites are just trying to play everything off like it’s all Sunshine and Rainbows, when it’s really not, even going to so far as to pass off the number of “shipped” copies with the number of copies actually “sold.” I mean, there’s Facebook petition with 7000 likes and a petition with several hundred signatures asking BioWare to fix the endings at least with DLC. I think I’ve seen, maybe, one site post about it. How the hell is that possible? Even Dragon Age 2 didn’t get *that* kind of dedication when it was lambasted by much of the IP’s fanbase. Still, as you said, it’s just nice to see some reviewers/journalist have the integrity to stand up front and shout, “You, sir, messed up.”

    P.S. https://www.facebook.com/DemandABetterEndingToMassEffect3

  8. Kyle on 2012/03/11

    Yes, thank you as well for publishing something that isn’t confusing the heck out of the fanbase. However, whether out of desperation or not, there is a “Hallucination Theory” being proposed on the Bioware Forums. I’ve tried to start a thread on there to help compile evidence for/against. It would be an extremely audacious move on their part to try something like this, though if they had been able to manage it without all the genuine angst people are feeling that *might* have been a bit better… :-/

    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/323/index/9788465

    That thread will prolly get locked down fairly soon.

  9. Soubhik on 2012/03/11

    This just about sums up how I feel. With the renegade ending..u get to see a cutscene where Shepard is breathing again…although it doesn’t give a clear idea of his/her surroundings. If Shepard is in the Citadel then (s)he is definitely dead because the citadel explodes moments after letting out that energy pulse.(doesn’t matter whether its red, blue or green)
    I don’t mind Shepard dying if the rest of the galaxy is truly saved…but I can’t accept his sacrifice when it pushes the entire galaxy into another stone age.

  10. Nathan on 2012/03/11

    Actually, the endings aren’t endings, because they are not the end, IMHO. There is a reason that Shep only “lives” if you choose the Destroy ending with 4000+ EPS. It’s called the Indoctrination Theory. A lot of people are rallying behind it, and it makes the “endings” so much easier to swallow. Basically it states that everything between getting blasted by Harbinger to “Shep Living” in the best ending was all in his head as Harbinger tries to indoctrinate him.

    http://paragadeshep.tumblr.com/post/19099827322/alternate-explanation-for-the-me3-endings

    It’s honestly VERY cool, and it has been rumored that Bioware will release the actual endgame free once ME3 goes global (which is in 4 days, since China/Japan get it last). This either means Bioware is seeing all of us rally and will do it because they made a mistake…or this is the ballsiest attempt to avoid spoilers being data-mined or leaked for people who haven’t played…

    • GamingShogun Author on 2012/03/13

      That’s an interesting take on the whole thing! We have heard many rumors of a “rescue DLC” pack in which he will comeback as well. Who knows at this point – only way to be certain is if they announce it.

  11. Joren on 2012/03/11

    If you take a look over at this poll on BSN – http://social.bioware.com/633606/polls/28989/ – you will notice that 88% of voters (that’s 19.000 !!) want a new ending. I actually hope the bunch over at BioWare and EA fix this issue via the release of a (near-)future DLC or patch (prefferably free but no problems if it will cost).

    Only about 500 of the voters (2%) consider the endings as being fine and the rest (10%) are so-so.
    Well now, that should signal something serious here, no ? Only 2% of fans finding the endgame satisfying ?? I’d say they’ve seriously messed-up in the worst possible way.

    The higher you climb the harder you fall – same situation with ME3. You can’t not feel angry after all the series has accomplished. From epic experience to catastrophic disaster – it’s a great shame. No, it’s a complete insult to the fans, to themselves and to the game universe itself.

  12. Katie on 2012/03/11

    In my opinion (just a pc gamer here) the merger of Bioware/EA has ruined Bioware. I’ve always told people “Bioware always puts out great games so just buy one of them” but that was before DA2 and MA2. It seems like lately they are dumbing their series down. I enjoyed MA2…really enjoyed it when Garus showed up but It didn’t feel like a Bioware game until the Liara DLC came out.

    MA3 didn’t deserve its high scores and honestly they deserve every single bit of criticism and fan blasting they are getting and will get in the future for this game. The replay value is terrible now and all of there promises are hollow. From now on I’ll think twice about purchasing a game from them just because of what I was promised but they failed to deliver with this game, and DA2 (which isn’t a bad game but it shouldnt of been called DA2)

  13. Helr on 2012/03/11

    Totally agreed.. this end left nothing in me.. just blank feelings and wtf look.

  14. Romidar on 2012/03/11

    Well said. I’d played ME1 at least 4 times (every single achievement), ME2 three times… wore my Mass Effect hoody while playing ME3… and loved the game up to the last 15 minutes or so.

    I expected a bittersweet ending… but I also expected the chance to have multiple endings. The ending was just nonsensical in so many ways and lacked an emotional payoff. The last time I felt this level of disappointment was The Matix sequels….

    My wife was lined up to play after I finished (I’d been raving about it since release)… but she could totally read my disappointment. Won’t be playing it for a while if at all….

  15. Tim on 2012/03/11

    I can’t agree with your review anymore.
    BioWare had be better come up with a solution. This is terrible.

  16. chipochipo on 2012/03/11

    Finally an honest review of this game from the gaming press! The ending was an absurd deus ex machina and poorly executed to boot.

    I will now get ALL of my reviews on this site and this site only.

    Only trustworthy game site on the net: GamingShogun.com

  17. DrMad on 2012/03/11

    It is very heartening to see that there is at least one game review website that has some integrity. The fact that you are the only review website that I am aware of that actually takes ME3 to task for it’s bad ending makes me very sad. That being said, you have earned a customer to your website because of this.

  18. Brock on 2012/03/11

    I am with the author on this. I loved the game up to the ending. I mean wth was the devs thinking on the end?

  19. Molly on 2012/03/11

    Not going to get into the grand debate about the ending as a whole, but regarding the purpose of the Citadel and the Reaper cycle:

    The being that speaks to Shepard did not say that the Reapers were created to prevent synthetic life from destroying everything. It said that there is inherent chaos in the galaxy and inevitable conflict between synthetic and organic life. That *conflict* is what would erase every last trace of life from the galaxy. The Reapers were created so that life would go on, in the grand scheme of things anyway – in effect bringing order to the chaos.

    Not saying if I like or dislike that element of the story, but just wanted to clarify so that you all can see it’s not some glaring plot hole as indicated in this piece of writing.

  20. SorrySeerSucker on 2012/03/14

    I agree with you on the ending. It was a big disappointing. After I finished the game I played it again immediately thinking I did something wrong. My Galactic Readiness was only at 50% when I beat it the first time. When I beat it the second time I had every conceivable army I could get, and a galactic readiness of over 90%. Same basic ending. If you add all the time I spent playing the first and second game I would say this ending was a slap in the face. I guess bioware was trying to say that we are all screwed no matter what we pick. I was also disappointed with the Illusive Man situation. I thought he was something more than an indoctrinated terrorist. When did he become indoctrinated. In the last game he was instrumental in Shepard stopping the Reapers now he is working for them. And if he was working with them why was Cerberus and the Reaper forces fighting on Sanctuary.

    The Normandy situation and the fact that you don’t find out the fates of any of your squad mates and the effective destruction of the Mass Effect Galactic Civilization was all just to much for me. It was very disappointing. I agree. Why would you continue to play in a Universe where you know what happens in the end and the end SUCKS.