Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rayboy's Review: Mass Effect 3 [Spoilers Possible]

The controversy over the Mass Effect 3 ending(s) is growing to become the largest backlash a game has ever earned. Sadly, the response of Bioware personnel hasn’t helped much either; there’s only so much damage control to be gleaned by intentionally being vague in the wake of unintended beta story leaks or by offering ridiculous spin that flies in the face of known facts that the company itself clearly established in the lore of their popular universe-smashing game franchise. And for a trilogy that was specifically marketed to reach an actual conclusion (this is the end of Commander Shepard’s tale after all), Mass Effect 3 still leaves fans with major cliff-hanging questions that truly come out of left field: Why was there was a god-child on the Citadel that looked like the child from the beginning of the game, how did the squad-mates that you took with you on the final mission to Earth end up back on the Normandy, where was the Normandy going when it leapt through that Mass Relay before the big blowout, and just how did Joker survive the crash or avoid serious injury with brittle bones disease????

Customers paid real dollars [$80 for the Collector’s Edition and $60 for the Mass Effect 3 standard edition] not to mention the heavy emotional investment through interactive choices made over five years and three games, all to see how those gut-wrenching decisions and romance options affected the finale. Bioware engaged fans in that discussion, and at least tacitly promised through ongoing media promotion, regular online forum management, and teasing Twitter feeds to tell what would happen now that the trilogy was over. This was massively advertised as their big 'take back Earth' ending that everyone had been waiting for. Well, at the conclusion it is simply "forget that", just push one of three buttons for minor variations on the same theme. The  end! The whole universe is boned regardless, the relays are kaput, fleets of every description are stranded without life-sustaining provisions far from home, newly formed and fragile stellar alliances prove to be pointless, and let’s say that you managed to amass sufficient assets to get the most beneficial outcome – yes go ahead and laugh out loud – a post-credit sequence of mere seconds shows the injured torso of Commander Shepard taking a breath.  What was that all about??

Originally meant for holiday 2011 release, Mass Effect 3 was publicly delayed until March 2012, which begs another question; for what purpose? To enhance the games multi-player component (really impressive), but that is certainly secondary to the grassroots outcry over the severe limitations placed on the whole concept of choice that this franchise is well known for. Why, why, why?
Most egregiously of all, the controversy overshadows a terrific game that the Bioware team obviously put a tremendous amount of work into. The sounds of weapons are intensified for the first time, the environments are opened up in a dramatic way that allows for more fluid movement of your character to take full advantage of, and don’t rest on your laurels during a play-through. Enemies aggressively come after you, and you had better fight for your life and take nothing for granted. Plus, the introduction of  a default official Female Shepard was great. Surprisingly I’m finding that the diminished roles of Mass Effect 2 squad members didn’t ruin the new game for me (I had worried about that). Each gets their moment to shine, often for extended periods, so other than if they were your sweetheart of choice, this isn’t too off-putting in ME3.

If only the kneejerk visceral reactions of the most vocally outraged fans would lessen and if Casey Hudson/Mac Walters//Bioware would step up and forego the degree of disingenuity that’s been on display at their end, perhaps this unfortunate stain on the Mass Effect franchise could come to an acceptable end. Without equivocation!

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