Developer BioWare did a great job of telling an epic scifi tale, spanning three games, that could be shaped by the player, even if all the tales moved through a lot of the same events and ultimately ended up in the same place. A giant roster of interesting and mostly likeable characters followed you along, their number growing as you progressed, some of them falling by the wayside as a result of decisions you made. Sometimes these decisions were made in an earlier game, meaning a serious investment of time if you’d want to go back and correct them. I was lucky in that the only comrades I lost all went by way of noble sacrifice rather than anything simply tragic. (For which there is ample opportunity, which I only realized after watching different possible outcomes of events on YouTube.) To be fair, the third game doesn’t add a lot of new characters, mostly reintroducing the survivors from the first game as playable ones and giving all – yes, ALL – of your surviving former squad mates from the second game a cameo and providing satisfying closure to their stories in one way or another. As I didn’t lose anyone from that second game, it turned into quite the reunion in my version of the story, familiar faces popping up at every turn.
A new multiplayer mode lets you fight with friends against hordes of enemies from the Mass Effect universe. As I tend to have zero interest in multiplayer unless it’s local split-screen, it was annoying that BioWare linked these modes to the single-player campaign. To get the highest score and therefore the ‘best’ ending to your tale, it helped to either play the multiplayer or to play one or two not-all-that-great side games available on the iOs operating system. Doing this gave you a score-multiplier in your single-player game. I can see how a developer would want to give players a gentle nudge to try out all aspects of their franchise and acquire add-ons, but it seems very wrong to practically force players into a multi-platform experience and to fuse a multiplayer element into their singleplayer game. I do hope that this mixing won’t become a trend: I mostly like my games to be a solo experience and presented as a complete, self-contained package.
With Mass Effect 3, as with most other games these days, it seems that most loyal, eager fans actually got the worst deal. It’s common for gaming companies to reward early buyers, to make sure they buy the game full-price, rather than wait a few months to get it massively priced down (as generally happens with games). But it’s becoming pretty much standard practice that releases are rushed out the door while still containing a fair amount of bugs, which may do things like corrupt your game-saves or crash your game, requiring downloadable patches to be installed to fix them. In the case of Mass Effect 3 there was a bug that caused people who created their own look for the lead character in Mass Effect 1 and then carried it over to the other games, being unable to import ‘their’ face. (An odd oversight, considering that bringing along ‘your’ character through the entire trilogy was a big selling point.) I also ran into this problem and though it possibly shows how much of a nerd I am, I put off playing the game until the issue was (mostly) fixed, not willing to play on with a character who didn’t look like ‘my’ Shepard. By the time BioWare corrected the error, I could have bought the game a lot cheaper. The most logical thing gamers can do to not support this pay-the-most-get-the-worst system, is to wait out the inevitable bug fixes and then buy the game for less. However, as hype tends to rule and people are impatient, I don’t expect the system to change.