It’s very dark in the future.
Metaphorically, this is true, but in the case of Mass Effect 3, it’s quite literally true. Cerberus is a pretty dark institution, however, they were much bigger fans of lighting on the Normandy. It’s either that or the Alliance broke a couple of the overhead light panels when they were painting and is having a hard time finding replacements at the Home Depot.
But how bright can you be when the focus of your story is the destruction of Earth and potentially all sentient life in the galaxy?
Such is the beginning of Mass Effect 3, when the reapers, long thought to be bogeymen hiding in the dark between galaxies, show up right on humanity’s doorstep and attack Earth. And it’s not even a fight. The reapers are unchallenged by the Alliance and the only course of action our super star hero has… is to run. He flees the destruction of his homeworld, the place he fought for two games to protect, because the fight cannot be won there. I’m not very far into the game yet, but I’m starting to suspect that by the time the pieces and parts are in position where the fight might actually be capable of being won, Earth will long be dust.
I’m not sure if I want that or not, either. From a story perspective, I wonder how depressing an ending to Mass Effect 3 that I could bear given all the enthusiasm I put behind this game. I have been anxiously awaiting this installment since I finished Mass Effect 2 in February of 2010. That’s two years of waiting for the second coming. I don’t want it to cheat for me, to placate me with a cheery end just because that’s a popular route to take. But on the other hand, I really want Shepard to finally feel victorious, instead of the half-measures he’s had to deal with over the last four years.
But I’m not sure where things are going yet, we’ll see what happens a few dozen more hours in.
So far, I’m really, really loving this game though.
First off, the actual fighting in this game has finally become great. I feel like ME1 and ME2 suffered some bland to mediocre combat gameplay that were bolstered by a superb story. This time, though, I feel like they got it right. I was scared, given the comments from BioWare last year, that they were going to backpedal away from the ME2 fighting (which I saw as a vast improvement over ME1), but what they actually did was refine it. Shepard is slightly quicker on his feet, slightly better with his guns, and much smoother with biotics. You can finally use biotics and your guns together in combat and not feel like your compromising or doing it just for the achievements.
I had already known things were better from the Multiplayer demo that was released a few weeks ago. But that was a slightly limited view with only a few weapons and modes to explore. With a the full game at my hands now, I’m pretty satisfied. I may actually come back and play this game just for fun when it’s over, something I rarely do with ANY game, let alone the online multiplayer portion of a game.
Graphics-wise, the game visually darker, by a considerable degree. I’m not sure the rationale behind this, but the Normandy really is much darker lit than before. Some hand waving is done with respect to the ‘retrofit’ that the Alliance did to the cruiser once Shepard turned it over to the Military. There are scattered cables and scrap all over the ship now, since it was clearly only partway done with the refit before the Reaper attack. It has a very cobbled together look now that it never had before. The sleek lines and smooth interiors of the Normandy was always very evident.
Not anymore, though, not with existence on the line. Rough edges is good enough as long as it works.
And it does work. The ship’s basic structure remains the same (it IS the same ship after all) but there has been some tooling around. So it’s familiar and yet new at the same time. Crew actually acknowledge you from time to time as well, and we’ve replaced almost all of our Cerberus officers from ME2 with some new people and a lot of old folks from ME1. It’s pretty nostalgic.
The whole game is, in fact. In many ways, ME3 is about tying up the loose ends of the previous two games (and assorted DLC) in the series. Almost everywhere you go you run into one or two people you’ve met before. Well, I should amend that. If you import a game you will run into people constantly.
Which is perhaps the biggest complaint I’ve heard so far: if you start a new game from scratch, it sucks. Almost nobody knows you and all of the ‘bad’ scenarios are assumed. BioWare really, really wants you to play the previous two games and import your progress. You simply aren’t getting the whole experience if you don’t. Given how many options are imported from ME1 and 2, it’s not terribly surprising this is the case. If they tried to work that into ME3, you’d have to fill out a 150 question sheet just to reach parity with the things you did in ME2, let alone the first game.
So, yeah, you HAVE to import a character. There is no other way to play this game with meaning.
Though good luck with your face. For some reason, my face did NOT import from ME2, and I’m not sure why. It sucked, too, because I had to recreate my Shepard from scratch and while I got pretty close, it’s not perfect, and I keep thinking someone recast the lead character in my favorite show. There’s a Shepard walking around in my game who has the same history as the Shepard in the previous games, but he’s just not my Shepard. It’s kind of depressing.
But not nearly as depressing as seeing how the galaxy is falling apart at the hands of the Reaper invasion. There is literally no place that I’ve gone to so far that isn’t falling into chaos as a result of either Reaper attacks or people getting petty now that they feel the end is neigh.
But I have faith. I think BioWare will turn this around. I still think I’m going to get my rewarding ending that doesn’t cheat just to give me a smile. They’ve invested so much in this game, in this STORY, that I have to believe they have the respect to carry it through to the end.
I’ll let you know either way.