Review Price £39.99
Mass Effect 3: Narrative and choice
Mass Effect 3 - CombatThere are some new melee moves to buy you breathing space when the Reapers’ zombie grunts get in too close, and there are new slick, streamlined options for equipping both Shepard and the two crew members he can have with him at any one time. The one downside is that the use of one button for running, finding cover and vaulting out of cover will occasionally have unwanted effects. ‘Ta-da!’ says Shepard as he hops over the barricade straight into the oncoming turret fire, or finds himself cowering in front of a ruined wall when he really should be running from the behemoth behind. These are irritating and reasonably frequent occurrences, but not bad enough to make you hate the game.
The use of insta-pause radial menus for casting ‘biotics’, issuing orders and switching guns means that Mass Effect 3 hasn’t completely lost its RPG lineage even when you’re fighting. All the same, this is the first Mass Effect 3 that could be enjoyed purely as an action game. In fact, you can switch off all the RPG and interaction gubbins and play it in that vein, though – frankly – you might as well play Gears of War.
Mass Effect 3 - A game of choicesOtherwise, there are a couple of things that strike us about this sequel. While it’s by no means linear, with a central ‘save the universe’ mission that can have you either tackling a Cerberus base, rescuing a lost alien platoon or running diplomatic errands on The Citadel at any one time, there’s definitely a greater focus on the main story this time around. The loyalty missions of Mass Effect 2, where you earned a character’s trust by taking on a mission on their behalf, have been replaced by a series of Galaxy at War missions, success in which will have effects on the heroic alliance’s strength as you near the end game, and so the possible outcomes.
The missions we’ve sampled are certainly fun and challenging, with the kind of difficult ethical decisions we expect from Mass Effect. All the same, they don’t have quite the variety or the emotional draw of the loyalty missions. In fact, if Mass Effect 2 was a game about making new friends, Mass Effect 3 is more about getting closer to – and even saying goodbye to – old ones. A handful of new characters are thrown in, but they don’t quite have the same magic as the comrades you’ve fought with through so many hours before. At times you also miss the prequel’s slightly lighter feel and – if we’re not mistaken – it’s more difficult in these dark times for Shepard to pull. It’s no wonder he spends so much of the game frowning.
On the subject of ethical choices, Mass Effect 3 pulls off some really interesting moments. In the past, as in most Bioware games, the morality could seem a little binary. As always, every interactive cut-scene has a selection of dialogue choices, which branch off in Paragon (goodie) or Renegade (not so goodie) directions. Mass Effect’s split has always been a little different from, say, the light side/dark side split in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but in most cases you could take the Paragon path and feel secure in your place on the moral high ground. In Mass Effect 3 the situations aren’t always so clear, and on more than one occasion we’ve found ourselves taking the Paragon side, but unsure that we haven’t created a worse long-term result.
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