Bitter Sweet: Final Mass Effect 3 DLC Packs Are Announced

91

BioWare has finally announced the two final DLCs for Mass Effect 3. The first pack named “Citadel” will be a single-player expansion. The second pack, “Reckoning”, is a multiplayer DLC featuring new weapons, maps, and skins. “Reckoning” will actually be completely free just as the last multiplayer DLCs were. However, “Citadel” will cost $14.99 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Unfortunately, there has been no mention of the Wii U version at this point. We will be following this particular bit of information closely and informing you guys as soon as we find out.

“Reckoning” will be introducing new character classes to the co-operative mode and “Horde-esque” multiplayer portion. The character classes are impressive with the release of the Krogan Warlord, Geth Juggernaut, Female Turian Raptor, Talon Mercenary, and Alliance Infiltration Unit. “Reckoning” will have new weapons and equipment modifications as well. The multiplayer portion will release on February 26th.

MassEffect3Citadel

“Citadel” will have players traversing through the galactic space city of the Citadel. Long time Mass Effect fans will be in for a true treat in this pack. Citadel is about searching and investigating a massive conspiracy targeting Commander Shepard. The highlight will be reuniting with old team mates from ME1 and ME2, providing they survived all three games that is. After the DLC story is completed, gamers will still have access to new areas in the Citadel that were never opened before. One area will be a casino floor, while another will be a combat arena. The coolest section will be Commander Shepard receiving his own bachelor pad in the Citadel. The Citadel will be a hefty DLC taking up about 4GB on your console or PC. “Citadel” will release on March 5, ironically just a day short of the game’s one year anniversary.

We’re all looking forward to the final chapter, in what has easily been one of the most defining franchises of this generation.

Tantalus Media is the Developer Behind Mass Effect 3 for WiiU

Tantalus Media, the studio behind the conclusion to The Legend of Spyro series, Dawn of the Dragon, will be handling the WiiU version of Mass Effect 3. Given what we’ve seen so far (meager as the selection has been), it’s safe to say that the conclusion to the series is safe in Tantalus’s hands. With any luck, we might even get a look at the upcoming WiiU port. Stay tuned as we continue to cover this story.

BioWare: Thanks for the DLC, Now Fix the Bugs

BioWare released Mass Effect 3’s Earth DLC pack July 17th, and now that I’ve had the chance to unlock and play around with a few of the N7 classes, I’ve got to say it’s awesome. The new maps are cool, the classes are game-changing, and the new weapons are a welcome addition to the already-blistering array of guns available. BioWare’s been expanding on the available multiplayer content pretty rapidly since Mass Effect 3’s release back in March, including the Resurgence and Rebellion packs, arguably as a way to placate the large, angry mob some of the fanbase has turned into over many of the game’s perceived problems, such as the controvertial ending (which has been – hopefully – fixed).

The only problem is that the game the DLC is built upon is inherently broken, and not enough has been done to fix it.

A multitude of bugs have existed since the game’s release and have yet to be fixed. Here’s a few examples that I ran into on the Playstation 3, both back when the game launched and within the last week:

  • Large FPS drops on PS3, especially outdoors
  • Enemies disappear (like the Banshee that was right in front of me)
  • Camera anomalies (erratic movement when leaning out of cover
  • Sound cutting out
  • Voice chat stuttering
  • Black screen / freezing after mission ends
  • Getting stuck in cover / unable to move
  • Bouncing / Teleporting after revival in multiplayer
  • Continuous weapon firing effect, even when not shooting

A lot of these issues are being experienced by players on other platforms, and some of them are downright game-breaking. It’s alarming that they haven’t been fixed for over four months after the game’s release. BioWare, you fixed up the endings, and you’ve given us plenty of DLC to hold us over. Now it’s time to roll up the sleeves and figure these bugs out. The DLC is nice, but if the game they’re built on has flaws – and major ones – it’s going to impair our gaming experience no matter how many new maps, guns, or classes you give us to play with. “Assemble your team” and squash these bugs, even if you need to pull members off of your DLC development teams.

If you’ve experienced any bugs not mentioned above, please let us know in the comments below. We’re looking to compile a complete list of bugs, and with your help, we can inform BioWare on what to do to make Mass Effect 3 a perfect gaming experience.

“Leviathan” DLC for Mass Effect 3 Confirmed By Voice Actor

It seems BioWare has chosen to remain silent on the issue of the highly rumored DLC for Mass Effect 3. Shockingly, voice actor Anthony Skordi has told numerous websites that he has, in fact, provided voice-acting for the rumored “Leviathan” DLC.

Information on the recently released “Extended Cut” points out lines of dialogue focusing on a lone Reaper named “Leviathan” that the player would be tasked locating.  Here is a very brief description of the DLC according to Anthony:

“The add-on, set before Mass Effect 3′s ending, will centre on a traitorous Reaper named Leviathan. Leviathan has been separated from the rest of the Reaper forces after killing one of its own kind. Shepard meets Skordi’s character after being sent to rescue scientist Ann Brynson. She’s being held at the Reaper-indoctrinated mining facility that Leviathan controls.”

BioWare has hinted that any news regarding their next rumored add-on content would be revealed at the San Diego Comic Con, causing many to think that an official showing will happen then. Besides the new content, the storyline will reportedly give more insight to the history of the Reapers. This would definitely be a much welcome addition for long time fans of the series. In addition to the rumored DLC,  gamers will receive a new update for Mass Effect 3 on July 17 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The update will bring the fight to Earth, with the addition of new maps.

Stay tuned to GamersXtreme.org to find out the latest news on this, as well as any other content. Until then keep reading and “Game On!”


Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut Analysis

***SPOILER ALERT!***

This article will discuss the changes made to Mass Effect 3’s endings due to the Extended Cut DLC. It will contain spoilers, and will explain the endings in detail. Reading this before beating the game yourself is HIGHLY discouraged. You have been warned!

***SPOILER ALERT!***

Bioware released the long-anticipated Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3 today, promising to provide a better, more thorough explanation to the game’s three endings. The player’s choices will apparently now have more poignancy; the ending doesn’t simply affect what color beam fires from the Crucible.

Let me begin by highlighting a secret extra feature: there is now a fourth “refusal” ending choice, allowing Shepard to ignore the Star Child and simply do nothing, allowing the battle to play out. While I appreciate Bioware giving players an additional choice that frees them from the forced nature of the original 3 endings, it truly proves to be the WORST ending of all four. The Star Child repeatedly warns Shepard that inaction will not end well for the galaxy, and in spite of his or her continued speeches about freedom and choice, the galaxy loses. Big time. Everyone dies, and the cycle continues. The Reapers continue to lay dormant for 50,000 years, waiting to harvest another civilization while killing off everyone else in the galaxy. And the only extra content we’re treated to is a holographic message by Liara T’Soni, warning future generations not to repeat the same mistakes they made, and chronicles their war with the Reapers. And that’s it. Truly the least satisfying ending of the bunch, even if you liked breaking free from the Star Child’s restrictions. It really is Shepard going out with a whimper instead of a bang.

On the other hand, the facelift given to the three original endings turns out much, much better. I have to admit, expectations were low going into the Extended Cut, given the God-awful mess they had to clean up. But they accomplished what they failed to do the first time around: to provide answers and to give closure. Whatever action you supported, the game cleans itself up nicely and gives you a sense of hope that the future will be bright; not in a rainbows-and-unicorns kind of way, but in that the galaxy has survived, and will recover. Note that the reviews given here are based on my playthrough; any number of variables, including characters present in the ending, may vary depending on your choices.

The Destroy Ending

After Shepard destroys the conduit, we see the Crucible begin to power up. Admiral Hackett orders all fleets to pull back, prompting a difficult choice for Joker as Garrus reminds him that they need to go. Joker reluctantly turns the Normandy around and begins FTL travel. As the red energy wave begins to emanate from the Crucible, we cut to the battle on Earth below. Soldiers are still fighting the Reapers on the ground, and after they are hit by the red wave, the Alliance soldiers stand up and cheer. Next, we see a new scene where an injured soldier is rescued by his ally, helmet absent, gunning down a swarm of Husks as they try to survive against the onslaught. Things get dicey as a husk attacks one of the soldiers, but as the red wave passes over them, the husks are utterly destroyed and the two soldiers stand together in awe. The scene then cuts to the Mass Relays, as they fire the Crucible’s energy wave across the galaxy. This time, the relays remain mostly intact, but their rings break off, rendering them useless. We see several scenes of battle across the galaxy next, first with the Asari. Two of them embrace as the Reapers fall in the distance. Next, we see the Krogan giving a hearty cheer as the Reapers are destroyed. The scene cuts to the crew on the Normandy, all tense as they try to make their retreat from the Crucible’s energy pulse. The camera cuts to black as the Normandy is about to be engulfed. Next, we see the Normandy crash-landed on the mysterious jungle planet, with the crew leaving the Normandy to survey their new environment. This is the one area in the ending that remains mostly unchanged. Finally, Admiral Hackett describes the aftermath of the war with the Reapers, celebrating their victory. He explains that the victory was not due to one fleet, one army, or even one species – this victory was possible because of the strength the galaxy achieved by working together. Though there was massive destruction and the Mass Relays are heavily damaged, Hackett remains optimistic that the galaxy will rebuild everything – their homeworlds, their lives, and their defenses. Hackett closes by honoring the sacrifices it took to win, while showing brief images of your crew that have died. Finally, we see Shepard’s party members gathered around the Normandy’s memorial wall, with Garrus holding a plaque bearing Commander Shepard’s name. The team looks sad and wistful, but Garrus can only hold onto Shepard’s plaque, unable to bring himself to place it on the wall. The Normandy, now fully repaired, flies off the jungle planet and warps away, bringing the ending to a close. And returning from the original ending, we see Shepard in the rubble, taking a breath. Whether or not this is reliant on your Effective Military Score, I’m not sure of. But it certainly brings hope to know Shepard is still alive.

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the new ending. The original left too many questions – what would the galaxy do without synthetic life? What happens to Shepard? And what of the Normandy and its crew? But to know that the situation after the war is still salvagable, that the galaxy will rebuild, and that the crew might find Shepard alive and reunite again is certainly a more optimistic ending than we could have expected. Though it’s sad that EDI is lost due to this decision, she is honored on the Memorial Wall, and the issue isn’t really brought to the forefront – though I’m sure Joker would be extremely emotional over this development. All in all, it ties everything up very nicely, and doesn’t punish the player for his or her choice.

The Synthesis Ending

Note that there will be a lot of similarities between the separate endings. After Shepard jumps into the central beam, he/she begins to change immediately. Hackett orders the fleets to retreat as the Crucible begins firing a green energy wave. On the ground, the Reapers stand still and the Alliance soldiers are bewildered at what just transpired. The two isolated soldiers stand in awe as the Husk that was attacking one of them stops in its tracks and looks around with a sense of self-awareness. After the pulse is transmitted through the Mass Relays, heavily damaging them, we see Turian soldiers holding out against a Reaper onslaught. Again, the Reapers stop their attack and the Turians look at each other, eyes glowing green with green lines flowing over their armor. The Krogan appear in the same awestruck state. From here, we see the Normandy trying to escape the pulse. After crash-landing on the jungle planet, we see Joker and EDI emerge from the wreck, with similarly-glowing green eyes. They embrace amorously as they stare off in the distance. Next, EDI describes the aftermath of Shepard’s decision, speaking in a manner that sounds more Human than ever. She explains how she is now “alive”, and the line between organics and synthetics has begun to disappear. The Reapers are actually helping rebuild, and providing their entire knowledge of the civilizations that came before the galaxy’s current inhabitants. The Crucible’s changes creates a new, exciting opportunity for all life in the galaxy – the chance to become more than they ever have been, and perhaps to transcend mortality itself. Like Hackett, EDI honors the fallen for their contributions to making their current situation possible. And again, we see the crew in front of the Normandy’s Memorial Wall, showing the same changes in appearance as everyone else thus far. This time, Garrus sadly places Shepard’s plaque on the wall above Admiral Anderson’s. Garrus then looks over at EDI, and in an emotional moment, she hugs Garrus and cries, then smiles as she pulls away, aware of her newfound humanity.

Though this ending brought about huge changes to the way the player perceives the game’s universe, it paints another optimistic picture that the galaxy will learn to cope with its new way of living, that they will rebuild, and perhaps become more than they ever were before. The Reapers helping to rebuild is a surprising twist, but the high point for me was seeing EDI’s new behavior and attitude after having gained her humanity. The certainty of Shepard’s death is truly a loss, but knowing that he/she died for a greater future for the galaxy is comforting. The civilizations of the galaxy appear to have embraced their new situation and are moving forward, and ends the trilogy on a good note.

The Control Ending

After grabbing onto the control modules, Shepard begins to cackle with energy and turn black. Ships begin to retreat, and the camera cuts to the battle on the ground. The Reapers are enveloped by the blue energy pulse and fly away, leaving the Soldiers on the ground cheering in victory. The two isolated soldiers are shocked when the wave hits the Husks and they begin to retreat. The Asari and Krogan celebrate much as they did in the Destroy ending, as the Reapers fly away. The Normandy crash scene remains unchanged. Next, we hear Shepard reflecting on his or her choice, speaking in a new, almost god-like tone. They describe the [person] they once were, the choices they made, and why they made them. Shepard explains that his/her former self needed to become “something greater” to give everyone in the galaxy a hope for the future. Shepard describes the wisdom in harnessing the strength of the enemy, and how he/she will use this power to rebuild what was lost. Shepard proclaims that he/she will also act as a guardian to protect and sustain the galaxy’s inhabitants, paving the way for a better future. And should anyone threaten this new future, Shepard will use the Reapers’ power to destroy them. And through it all, Shepard will never forget the ones who sacrificed themselves for the good of the many. The final scene is similar to the Synthesis ending. The crew stands around the Memorial Wall as Garrus places Shepard’s plaque above Anderson’s, though EDI does not display her emotional side like she did in the Synthesis ending, only standing at attention.

While this was my least favorite ending of the new bunch, next to the new refusal ending, it still does an admirable job of closing everything up nice and tight. Under Shepard’s guidance, the Reapers help the galaxy rebuild and prosper, and protect their new future. While it isn’t quite as clean-cut whether or not Shepard has “died”, there is no doubt he or she has changed forever. We must also hope and assume that Shepard, with his or her new god-like power, will not abuse it; like Light Yagami from Death Note, who began with good intentions but quickly turned into a power-hungry madman, Shepard could easily use this new power to enforce peace in the galaxy in his or her vision. We can only hope Shepard doesn’t fall to that point.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that not everyone will approve of the new endings; Bioware has stated that. But I, personally, found the new endings a tremendous improvement over the originals. You could bring up some points that are not addressed, such as the Quarians no longer having the Geth’s support in the Destroy ending. But all in all, it answers more questions than it doesn’t, and leaves the player with a nice sense of closure, something a good trilogy should do.

Well, unless you chose the new ending. Sorry if you did.

What are your thoughts on the new endings? Vote in the polls (coming soon) and leave a comment below!

BioWare Announces Free “Extended Cut” DLC for Mass Effect 3

To anyone who felt Mass Effect 3’s ending lacked closure, answers, or was just plain bad, you might like BioWare’s announcement on their official Mass Effect 3 news feed today. Mass Effect 3 will be getting an “Extended Cut” DLC package this Summer to “offer extended scenes that provide additional context and deeper insight to the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s journey.”

While this will be welcome news to most of the detractors to the ending, it’s inevitable that BioWare won’t be able to please everyone, especially those who wanted to see a completely different ending to the trilogy. The DLC will only seek to answer questions and tie up any loose ends left open, but not to provide a completely new ending. “BioWare strongly believes in the team’s artistic vision for the end of this arc of the Mass Effect franchise. The extended cut DLC will expand on the existing endings, but no further ending DLC is planned.”

All in all, this should please most of the fans who took issue with the ending. BioWare made it clear, however, that they are very proud of their work, and will not completely change it because of critical review. “Are we proud of the game we made and the team that made it? Hell yes. Are we going to change the ending of the game? No. Do we appreciate the passion and listen to the feedback delivered to us by our fans? Very much so and we are responding.”

Do you feel this move by BioWare is enough of a response to the overwhelming fan outcry, or do they still have more work to do? Sound off in the comments below!

The BioWare Situation

It seems that BioWare, the studio behind such beloved titles as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the more recent Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect, have been under a lot of fire as of late. Fans have noticed a certain change in BioWare’s philosophy since its acquisition by Electronic Arts, and many might say it isn’t for the better. Dragon Age 2, while toted as an excellent title with superb gameplay and an engaging story, still fell short in the fans’ eyes. To them, DA2 represents the conversion from true gaming as art to a mass audience appeal. One might think that they would factor these experiences into the release of the much-anticipated Mass Effect 3, but it would appear that BioWare might be getting themselves into an even deeper hole.

The aim of this article is to keep our readership up-to-date on BioWare’s status, the controversy they find themselves in, and what their responses have been to fan outcry. This is *not* for discussing whatever flaws fans may think Mass Effect 3 has, including gameplay, story, etc. We’ll also offer polls so that you, the reader, can voice your own opinions as well. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Day-One DLC

One of the larger issues facing the game is the fact that the Day-One DLC, From Ashes, was intended to be included with the game but was removed and released as DLC for initially uncertain reasons.

The issue was blown wide-open when a video began to circulate, demonstrating that a simple modification of the game’s configuration files unlocks the Prothean squadmate without having any DLC installed. The video demonstrates Javik’s presence in the squad selection screen, movement in a level, and his power selection menu; it’s all there. And it would seem to be damning evidence.

However, BioWare’s response seems to indicate that the only things the video demonstrates are Javik’s “framework” included in the game: “From Ashes is a 600 MB+ download with all new content, including the mission on Eden Prime, new dialogue options and conversations with Javik, new cinematics, the Prothean weapon, and new appearances for all squad members. All of the above content was completed while the main game was in certification and are not available on the disc. … As stated previously, in order to seamlessly integrate Javik into the core campaign, certain framework elements and character models needed to be put on disc. We did something similar with Zaeed and Kasumi in Mass Effect 2.”  The video definitely doesn’t prove anything to contradict this…

…however, new information may be putting BioWare back in hot water. According to the recently-released “Final Hours of Mass Effect 3” iPad app, journalist Geoff Keighley goes into lead writer Mac Walters’ and Executive Producer Casey Hudson’s long-term plans for the game. Specifically, there is mention that the gameplay portions included in From Ashes was intended to be included with the game, but due to time constraints “needed” to be excluded and developed separately as DLC. On its own this information isn’t too controversial, but when BioWare has been insisting that From Ashes was never meant to be included with the game, it’s a pretty clear sign that they were lying.

The Ending

Possibly one of the biggest problems BioWare is facing is over the way the trilogy was ended. I won’t write about the ending here, since there are at least a million other places to read up on it, but at the end of the day, a lot of fans are very upset at it. It felt like a cop-out and didn’t make any sense in regards to the choices you’ve made in the past and the context of the situation Shepard is in. And for all the time you spend raising War Assets and improving your Galactic Readiness, there really isn’t much to show for it in the end.

For the most part, BioWare has stayed quiet on the issue, save for a post on Mike Gamble’s Twitter page, encouraging fans to “hang on to their ME3 saves”. No apologies have been issued, no explanation was given, and fans are being encouraged to come up with their own theories on what the ending means. And the responses have been pretty wide-spread, from simply being bad and nonsensical to go as far as to say the final moments are a hallucination, and represent Shepard’s attempts to break Reaper indoctrination, going as far back as the beginning of the game.

Other fans have taken different action; some have demanded that BioWare develop and release “ending” DLC to either explain the endings in a more coherent, complete fashion, or to provide a completely new ending. Another beleaguered fan, a former employee of a PR damage control firm going by the name “atghunter” on the BioWare forums, has broken down and analyzed EA/BioWare’s strategy to contain the fan outcry. An entire transcript of his posts can be seen here. At the end of the day, atghunter wants to encourage everyone to stay civil, but not to relent.

UPDATE, MARCH 19, 2012: It appears that the fan outcry has finally garnered a response from BioWare, but it’s probably not what they hoped for:

“We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending. 

We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending. 

Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused. Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.”

It’s likely that the fight won’t end here though, and that the fans won’t give up until they’re given a fair deal.

False Advertisement / Empty Promises

BioWare has made some promises leading up to Mass Effect 3’s release that some fans feel they just haven’t lived up to.

First, and probably most important in fans’ minds, is that their decisions from the first two games would have a huge impact on the events of the third. The official Mass Effect web site states that players can “experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.” As stated in the ending section above, many feel that just wasn’t the case. It could be that these decisions are more subtle than fans expected, or perhaps it really does tie in with their disappointment in the ending, but BioWare has yet to release an official statement on this issue.

Many fans are also dismissing the promise that you can “choose your own ending” to Mass Effect 3, citing that there isn’t any fundamental difference between the three choices and that no consequences follow them. It’s even gotten to the point that fans are voting to file a claim with the FTC and BBB against BioWare. As the author claims, this isn’t a “big legal issue” but simply an attempt to keep BioWare honest. At worst, they might sustain a small fine.

Miscellaneous

Everything posted here is just fact, and isn’t meant to be debated.

The weekend of March 16th, 17th, and 18th, BioWare is holding a special Multiplayer weekend event titled Operation: Goliath, where players can attempt to beat a special challenge to earn unique equipment. Unfortunately, the event is only for players who own the PC or Xbox 360 versions of the game; PS3 players have been left out, with BioWare’s Chris Priestly only citing “technical difficulties” for a reason. No official word has been given as to whether or not PS3 players will be compensated for being left out of the event, or if future events will include them.

Many fans are criticizing the reveal of long-time crew member Tali’Zorah’s face in Mass Effect 3. As seen here, her face is just a stock photo from the Internet given the 5-minute Photoshop treatment. For such a beloved character from the entire series, fans seem disappointed that such a huge issue to them was considered an afterthought.

UPDATE 3/21: After the news hit that Amazon.com was offering refunds to customers who purchased Mass Effect 3 through them, EA’s Origin service is apparently beginning to offer the same service. According to this article, not all customer service representatives know about EA’s stance, but it’s a big step in their admittance that the fans’ concerns should be taken seriously.

Mass Effect 3 Review (PC/PS3/360)

Few game series have had such an incredible impact on the gaming industry as Bioware’s Mass Effect series. The unique blend of third-person shooter action, RPG elements, and interactive storytelling is unlike anything we’ve seen this generation. The second game in the series, Mass Effect 2, refined on the first’s rough-around-the-edges gameplay elements to promote faster-paced action, more mobility in combat, and a step up in personal storytelling. The multitude of DLC packs released only added to the universe’s depth and personality, and helped set the stage for the inevitable final conflict. It’s no surprise that the company’s third and final entry in the series, Mass Effect 3, has such high expectations. When a game is considered the best, its strongest competition is its past iterations. So the big question is, has Bioware surpassed itself with an example of gaming perfection, or have the previous games set the finale up for failure?

Story: 4/5

The final entry in the Mass Effect 3 trilogy represents the culmination of all of Shepard’s efforts in the first two games. The Reapers, sentient starships who harvest or destroy all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to invade, and Shepard has the daunting task of uniting all of the races of the galaxy to fight this massive threat. Along the way, Shepard will unite with old friends, and reach out to the leaders of the galaxy to put old grudges aside to come together as a single united force. However, the best elements of Mass Effect 3’s story aren’t necessarily the bigger ones, but the smaller situations you find yourself in. These personal moments define Mass Effect 3’s emotional delivery, and are played out better than most Summer blockbusters. It’s also these smaller arcs that build on your purpose in the game, acting as a means to unite the different races of the galaxy against the Reapers. Mass Effect 3 is more of a personal journey than any previous installment, and Shepard will have to rely on his friends and allies to keep him focused while facing possible galactic extinction. It’s these moments that make the story extremely personal, and help to show Shepard’s Human side. He’s not just a legendary soldier, but an ordinary Human as well, with his own fears, convictions, and vulnerabilities. Shepard learns to lean on his friends to keep these fears at bay, and never give up his fight for the galaxy.

The only sour note in the game’s story is the way that it ends. I won’t spoil anything, but at this point it’s just about impossible to visit a forum or gaming site and not hear about Bioware taking flak over the game’s ending. Despite this, the game’s story is excellently done, and the final 15 minutes aren’t enough to ruin it. If anything, you will be able to make your own judgements about how the game ends, and when the fight is truly over.

Gameplay: 5/5

Mass Effect 3 presents the purest, most refined mechanics in the series to date. The team at Bioware has taken cues from Gears of War, the third person shooter every other is destined to be compared to, and improved the player’s mobility around the battlefield to promote a more believable, fast-paced system of combat. Shepard can now perform combat rolls, vault over cover immediately, and turn corners without leaving the safety of the wall you’re behind. Players can now blindfire out of cover as well; by simply pressing the fire button, Shepard will lean out slightly and take shots at your crosshair, which is now always visible outside of aiming. It presents a safer option when your shields are down, allowing you to lay down suppressing fire without fully exposing yourself. This helps do away with the “shoot, lose shields, stay in cover until they recharge, repeat” mentality of the first two games. Most classes also have access to unique Grenade powers; these babies pack a punch and sometimes have unique effects, such as clustering into several grenades on landing or lifting your opponents in the air in a biotic blast. Like thermal clips, you’re limited by how many you can carry at once, and can refill your numbers by finding more grenades in the field.

A key element in this installment is the refinement of melee combat. It’s no longer a last-ditch move when your clip empties and enemies are closing in, but rather a viable method of combat for dispatching your foes. Each of the game’s six classes has access to a unique melee attack, with some boasting unique effects (such as flame or electrical properties). You can also sneak up on enemies on the other side of your cover and perform a grabbing assassination for an instant kill. Mashing on the melee button also allows you to perform a three-hit combo, which is usually enough to wound or kill all but the largest of enemies.

Bioware hasn’t forgotten about the guns, though; the weapon system has been completely overhauled, with several new weapons in each of the five categories for players to experiment with. Each weapon feels unique and has a purpose; for example, the Carnifex hand cannon is no longer a clear upgrade to the Predator pistol you start the game with. While the Carnifex does pack a much bigger punch, its slow rate of fire means that the Predator wins in longer fire-fights where Shepard can lay down a lot of shots over time. Many different weapons behave differently as well, ensuring that every player will find his or her niche gun collection to use each mission. Players can also fit their weapons with up to two attachments with varying effects, from increasing damage and penetrating power to improved accuracy and ammo capacity. All classes now have access to all weapon categories as well. Want to play an adept with a heavy shotgun? Go ahead! You have the freedom to customize your loadout however you see fit. In order to balance this new choice, every weapon has a “weight” rating, which contributes to an overall weight score. The heavier the weapons you’re carrying, the less frequently you’re able to use your powers. It presents an interesting dynamic that lets players decide their balance between using weapons and powers, and opens up a lot of possibilities for character building. Whereas a Soldier who wants to focus on damage might load up on weapons and use his powers less frequently, a survival-focused Soldier can pick lighter weapons and make frequent use of defensive powers to take the heat for the squad.

Speaking of character builds, the third game plays host to the most refined RPG elements seen in the series so far. Whereas the first game had a lot of abilities available with little substance to some of them, and Mass Effect 2 had more focused but fewer options, Mass Effect 3 finds a happy medium between the two. Classes have access to more abilities with meaningful impact on their gameplay experience. All powers have more ranks and customization options as well; ranks 4-6 of a power now have branching paths, allowing the player to specialize their powers or cover all the bases to be ready for any situation. All classes also have access to the “Fitness” power, which enhances their melee damage and health/shield strength, essentially allowing any class to be a hand-to-hand machine.

For the first time in Mass Effect history, the game includes a cooperative, Horde-style multiplayer mode. Players can pick from all six classes across several of the races present in the Mass Effect universe, including Humans, Krogan, Asari, Salarians, Quarians, Turians, and Drell. Each boasts their own unique abilities, so a Human Vanguard will play differently from a Drell or Asari one. Rounds play out in waves, with special objective waves at 3, 6, and 10, requiring teamwork and cooperation to succeed. Players can also face off against three different groups of enemies, including Cerberus, Geth, and Reaper enemies. Players are rewarded with experience, credits, and Galactic Readiness (which ties into the single-player campaign) based on how well they perform. Level-ups are rewarded at a brisk pace, and credits can be used to buy Equipment Packs, which contain randomly-awarded power-ups, weapons, and characters of varying rarity. This TCG-esque booster pack system is interesting, and always presents you with something new to try, ensuring the longevity of the multiplayer mode’s popularity. And it’s a lot of fun to hop into a match with a few buddies and cooperate to win.

Graphics: 5/5

Those of you who decided to play Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 were treated to an early preview of the new Mass Effect engine, but it simply doesn’t do the graphics in Mass Effect 3 justice; the game, simply put, looks pretty. Whether moving through the corridors of the Citadel, complete with reflective surface and scintillating lights, to the war-torn streets of London on Earth, the graphics are simply incomparable to previous games in the series. The most noticeable element of the new engine is the facial animation; the engine uses a new modeling system where each model has a muscular “under-layer” beneath the skin, showing realistic creases and facial movement during dialogue. Character presentation is the most realistic to date, and Mass Effect 3’s campaign will show Shepard’s full range of emotion, from elation to anger to despair and everything in-between. Though texture load issues are inevitable with the Unreal engine, these events are few and far between and shouldn’t break the player’s immersion.

Sound: 5/5

A big part of the reason Mass Effect 3 pleases on all levels is the high quality of the sound work put into the game. DICE, the studio responsible for titles such as Battlefield 3 and Mirror’s Edge, have lent their sound engineering talent to make Mass Effect 3’s sound effects more realistic than ever before. While guns still maintain that sci-fi feel that Mass Effect is known for, they have greater impact and a realistic feel that truly connects you to the weapon in Shepard’s hands. Bullets whiz past you and large, heavy rifles produce thundering noise with every pull of the trigger. The game’s soundtrack is written by Clint Mansell, and although worries were high when previous composer Jack Wall was removed for the third game, ultimately Mass Effect 3 has a unique feel compared to the first two games, and the soundtrack fits this new theme perfectly. Mansell’s ability to combine epic scale and emotional connection in his work is one of the big contributing factors to Mass Effect 3’s deep immersion. Finally, the voice work is a big step up from the previous two games. Whereas previously it was easy to find lines with out-of-place tones or flat delivery, you’ll be hard-pressed to detach the voice from the character on-screen. The stars of the show are Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, the actors behind the male and female voices for Commander Shepard, and the extra time and care put into their roles really shows. More than ever, Shepard feels more like a personality than a character in a video game, and it’s a true accomplishment.

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10


Mass Effect 3 isn’t just an amazing game – it’s a chapter in gaming culture, a Paragon of an Action RPG that other games should be measured against. Combining fluid controls, a plethora of character customization options, a deep and gripping story, and fun multiplayer content, it pleases on all fronts, and presents the final template that many other games will be compared to for years to come.

PROs:

+ Refined, intuitive controls

+ Character customization is as perfected as ever

+ Gripping story and soundtrack

+ Voice work is excellent

+ Multiplayer component is fun, and a nice break from the campaign

CONs:

– Questionable ending

SECOND OPINION

By: R17

In 2007, BioWare set a fire to the hearts of all gamers with a story so bold, mammoth and explosive that it could only be told as a trilogy. From the beginning, our hunger and yearning to explore other worlds, discover new races and ultimately preserve the peace of the galaxy was an instant captivator. Mass Effect 3 has qualities entrenched in it that make this entry one of the finest in the series. In order to understand Mass Effect 3, one must understand the past from Mass Effect 1 and 2 as your decisions affect the conclusions of your story. Your character was troubled with moral predicaments and choices to make. Every act your character made had direct or indirect ramifications on the outcome of your game. This is what the Mass Effect universe came to be about and was essential to progressing beyond each game. Your choices in the past titles continue to be felt throughout your present playthrough in ME3. Basically all your actions and choices you have made over the course of the past still hold true to the effects of the future. Mass Effect 3’s story is literally in your hands and it is up to you how you will shape the future. This is the excellence of BioWare and superior quality of gaming that we have come to love and respect them for. From the beginning of Mass Effect 1 till the end of 3, the gamer will have witnessed and played through something so complex, explosive, riveting and downright phenomenal that words can only scratch the surface of this universe.

ME3 is by far the series’ most action-packed title in the franchise. It is also worth noting that ME3 is the longest one clocking in at just around 40 hours for my first play through. Immediately, the game gets off to an apocalyptic start with a massive reaper invasion on Earth. Shepard and Captain Anderson are both thrown into a firefight, narrowly escaping with their lives. From here, the game follows a pace quicker than we have seen in previous ME titles. The threat is now realized and it has never been greater or more cataclysmic than now. The difference between Mass Effect 2 and 3 are noticeable. The plot and story have a far more focused narrative and I will explain. Instead of running countless errands for your teammates to achieve their loyalty, everything Shepard does here has a bearing on the final fight to take back Earth. Rallying forces and gathering war assets while forging allegiances will become addicting and engrossing. Combining the forces of all the diverse races and civilizations of Citadel Space together pulls you even deeper into the series. The entire mythology that Bioware has created for all of these species and their histories cannot go unnoticed, and in ME3 they delve even deeper than before. One example in the game comes when you are trying to unite the Krogans to ally with two other races that are directly responsible for a fatal genetic Krogan disease known as the Genophage. The situation becomes tense but the objective of uniting former enemies to become future allies in a war against an outside enemy that can wipe out all of their races combined makes the goal pivotal.

Visually and musically, Mass Effect 3 is an awe-inspiring production that had me captivated throughout my entire playthrough and that is one heck of a challenge to do with a game of this length. From the opening sequence on through all the major missions, the music in Mass Effect has never felt more emotional and moving as it is here. The excellent voice acting must be noted due to Bioware’s great direction and an all-star cast of actors such as Martin Sheen, Keith David and Freddy Prinze Jr. to name a few. Graphically, the improved character animations and polish really shines through, easily differentiating itself from its predecessor. Large reaper drones loom in the background releasing inconceivable damage to cities and planets, while your team traverses through their own mission, stresses the epic scale of the war. The action looks and sounds high-tech and fierce sprinkled with some grisly scenes of mass murder and chaos that all add to the visual war painted theme.

Three separate games in one profound franchise. While they were all flawed in their own ways, they were all masterpieces for distinctive reasons, coming together to tell one of gaming’s greatest and most epic stories, and making gamers feel more personally invested in the protagonist, his comrades, and their battle than any other game could. As with any game that ventures to be aspiring there are flaws, (as I stated earlier) but were few and far between to really impact the overall experience. Looking back on the entire trilogy, there were numerous flaws in the previous two as well. Taken as a whole however, this is perhaps the first truly modern epic; a game that surpasses the confines of the genre of previous games and takes what it needs from across the gaming specter in order to finish its story in the most gripping, electrifying, and touching way imaginable. Very few gaming sagas come to an absolute close, but Mass Effect closes off in stunning grace.

SECOND OPINION SCORE: 10


Radio Xtreme – Episode 25: Mass iPad Effect 3

Topics Glacier928 and R17 discuss in this episode:

– iPad 3 Thoughts
– Mass Effect 3 First Impressions

Mass Effect 3 Official Launch Trailer Released

As if there wasn’t enough hype built up for Mass Effect 3, BioWare has just released an official launch trailer, featuring some provocative and surprising previews into what we can expect from the game when it’s released in just four days, on March 6th. Check the video and sound off in the comments below!