11 July 2012

"It's the end of the world as we know it"

...and I feel fine, fine.

Now I too have finally brought commander Shepard's mission which started way back in 2007 in the first Mass Effect to a conclusion. It took few months before Mass Effect 3 hit the bargain bins. I was afraid to buy it full-price because of all the nerd rage the game received upon its release. Silly me, you shouldn't believe everything you read, especially in message boards...

I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment in ME3. To me, Mass Effect 2 is a perfect video game, arguably the best in the trilogy. I won't go into detail as to why as you can easily read all about it by clicking the tag "Mass Effect 2". In pure comparison though, why is the new, supposedly more advanced graphics engine actually worse? Where is the beautiful dynamic lightning which lit up the scenes so effectively in ME2? Now lighting is flat, making most of the scenes visually undramatic. Cut scenes aren't of a movie quality anymore in terms of direction, "camera work" and editing either. Sometimes they are too video-gamey for their own good, meaning stiff compositions and awkward movement. And the PS3 version I played is horribly choppy and glitchy in places, just like some bad PC game. And the sloppy analogue sticks of a PS3 controller doesn't help in some of the shittiest fights!

Those were the main technical issues. And then the missions. In ME2 they were intriguing and diverse, offering a wide variety of approaches and situations. In ME3 most of the missions play out like glorified shooting galleries, even the most important ones. The worst of the bunch were N7 missions played in drab multiplayer maps. Characterization was better in ME1 and ME2, new faces introduced here aren't as deeply written or that ambiguous either. Yes, they are interesting but something is missing, especially when part of the conversations aren't presented as a cut scene dialogue but as flat lines in the environment. And why didn't they keep any of the ME2 cast as squad members here? Sure, they all have bigger or smaller cameos or even important triggers here but I would have preferred some of them having a squad member status. For me it wasn't the same in the field without Kasumi and Jack. I'm happy though that Kasumi, despite of her DLC status, makes a fun cameo. But we have Garrus, you can't find more loyal friend and brother in arms than him.

 Though not playable, Mordin has one of the bigger roles of ME2 cast here.

Oh, along the line there was one encounter which marked the first time in Mass Effect series that I have laughed at it. Not that kind of laugh "oh, how funny scene" (there are those, some of the lines between characters you can't help but laugh heartily at) but more like how unintentionally laughable it was. But a good asset to the war effort nevertheless!

The start of the game is really dire. It almost makes you not wanting to continue. But it's Mass Effect so you have to play it and it does pick up the proverbial pace the farther you advance. The scenery gets more beautiful and grand, and the events start to make even the player nervous, not forgetting poor Shepard herself (I have always played fem-Shep and always will) who has unbelievable odds against her and an immeasurable burden on her shoulders. The romance aspect is tender and touching (at least with the person I chose), played out in various scenes thus having more importance here than ever before. Previously you practically just got laid and that was it and you were free to end the relationship and start hitting someone else. In ME3 the romance is to last.

 Even Shepard needs some comforting words.

And then the beginning of the end starts. Most of the mission Priority: Earth is a drag; endless battles repeating themselves one after another. It almost wears you out, but in a sense that literally puts you under Shepard's skin. Doesn't it never end? But when you start making the final stretch for that infamous beam of light, it all plays out perfectly from there on. A stellar way to end nigh perfect series.

The huge flak Bioware received from the endings themselves was plain unnecessary. It really blew out of proportions. The way I see it Bioware's solution was gravely misunderstood by the gaming public. From what I have read the main reason why players rebelled so loudly was that they claimed the choices you make during ME3 don't play a role in the endings. Wrong! So very wrong! In fact, everything you do either increases or decreases Effective Military Strength. The more EMS you have scored, the more satisfactory the ending of your preference will turn out. I'm not going to argue about different endings as to which of them is the best or which the worst because there are none such things. It's all up to you. Each ending has their own justifications, their own rights and wrongs. Don't forget, we have a choice! A choice to choose an ending we want (more or less). That's the only way Bioware could do it and it's way better than some predetermined conclusion which arguably would lead part of the players unsatisfied. And I can't stress enough how big an impact the choices you made in ME2 have in ME3. For all newcomers to the series it's more than recommended to play the previous games first (well, if you have PS3, you can only start from ME2). There are so many variables between the games it's bewildering!

You wouldn't believe it by my red eyes and crackling skin but I'm a good gal here...

The most important factor in recent "Extended Cut" DLC is that it lowers some of EMS requirements for certain consequences which is good for those who don't want to play multiplayer to rack up the EMS score. Storywise it doesn't add anything so important you couldn't live without. Oh, the new refusal ending! It's so completely pointless I think anyone who chose it must curse it afterwards.

Mass Effect 3 concludes one of the greatest trips in science fiction in a bravado that will have you thinking and reeling long afterwards, even though all the details don't make sense no matter how you twist your brain around them. But hey, it's science fiction! And it doesn't come much better than the Mass Effect trilogy.

Nerd gamer: Hey dude, why didn't you mention anything about Kai Leng, you know, the kick-ass cyborg ninja villain who's like so cool, huh-huh?
Me: Because he's the biggest coward in the whole galaxy as we knew it and who I wouldn't have even mentioned hadn't you asked it. Even though I enjoyed the every second of finishing him off with a renegade interrupt!