The Mass Effect series is one of the greatest video game series of all time; an achievement in game-play, design, and storytelling. I’m sorry if that sounds biased at all, but those are just facts. And as the culmination of the original trilogy story, Mass Effect 3 is the best of the trio.
Following on from the events of the hugely popular Mass Effect 2, the third game returns players to the role of Commander Shepard (Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer) who have returned to Earth to face the consequences of their actions after going rogue to save the galaxy in the previous game. Having worked to warn the galaxy about the oncoming invasion of ancient machines designed to destroy all life in the galaxy, Shepard’s time is finally up, as within the first minutes of the game the Reapers arrive at Earth, destroying everything in their path.
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From here players have to battle their way off the doomed planet, heading out into space to bring their team back together, setting out on a mission to build alliances, complete daring missions, and preparing the galaxy for the biggest war in history with the fate of all sentient life hanging in the balance. Along the way you’ll be able to rekindle old romances, decide whether or not to undo a genocide, and bring centuries long conflicts to an end all in the hope of strengthening your alliance.
Having been building towards this moment for the previous two games, Mass Effect 3 is very much the culmination of the entire series. In the first game players learn the truth about the Reapers; in the second you stop their advance vanguard; and here you face their entire might. The stakes have never been higher, and the game reflects this. With stirring music, huge battle scenes, and moments that are designed to bring you to tears, it feels like playing through an epic blockbuster movie with scores of lore and world building to back it up.
As with previous entries in the series, Mass Effect 3 is built upon player choice. Whilst the overall story will very much stay the same, the details will be different for every player thanks to the things they decided to do across the previous games, and the way they’ve shaped relationships. If a squad-mate didn’t survive the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2 they won’t be here now; if you ended up romancing a certain person you get the chance to rekindle that relationship; and if you let the wrong people die or chose the wrong solutions way back in the first game you’ll find fewer allies available to you here.
Story is important in Mass Effect 3, and the player is given multiple opportunities to shape dialogue and make their own choices, but this game also had a bigger emphasis on action over the first two, and several game-play tweaks were made to reflect this. More focus is given to cover and needing to think through the various routes to take in a level, and using squad powers feels a lot more important as certain enemy types are designed to be harder to take down without things like tech or biotic powers. Thanks to the streamlining across several of the combat elements, the game played much more fluidly, and became much more dynamic, especially in comparison to the combat from the first.
Upon its release in 2012, Mass Effect 3 received universal acclaim across many major publications, quickly racking up scores of 9/10 and above. A lot of critics praised the game’s new mechanical updates, but also for providing a definitive conclusion to the story, rather than leaving it open ended for future possible sequels. That being said, some fans complained about the final moments, claiming that it was unsatisfying and ill thought out (a complaint I did not share myself). An update for the ending, expanding upon certain elements and adding new cut-scenes was released for free soon after, along with several pieces of DLC that added new story elements and side quests that further expanded the game.
Almost ten years after its release, Mass Effect 3 was re-released onto the next generation of consoles along with the first two games as part of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, which was given updated and improved graphics.
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The Mass Effect series is my favourite video game series of all time, and the third game is my favourite of them. It’s a story that I love, with characters that I genuinely adore and enjoy spending time with whenever I replay the game. The story is incredibly well written, filled with hundreds of hours of details and lore, and moments that bring absolute joy. Even a decade on, having played it multiple times, the game can reduce me to tears multiple times. It fills me with awe, wonder, and joy in ways that a simple video game shouldn’t be able to. It’s a genuine joy to have had this game in my life for the last decade, and if you’ve never played it before you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.
Mass Effect 3 was released in the UK on 9th March 2012.