And so after seven years I have finally managed to finish Mass Effect 3 and conclude the original Mass Effect trilogy. As anyone reading this site will have quickly come to realise I can often be pedestrian progressing through my games but to say I have made very slow progress on this game is an understatement. A journey that has lasted multiple Xboxes and twelves years since I first played the original 2007 release.
I don’t want to write a review of Mass Effect 3 simply because it has taken me so long that the time passed has likely affected my view of the game. In short though it was a solid entry although it felt like it never quite fully built upon the phenomenal sequel, or indeed had the impact of the original. The overall story made sense with Commander Shepard trying to save the galaxy and various story arches being finalised. The DLC added to my playthrough duration but I felt there was a lot of filler in the game. Obviously the ending caused much debate and criticism at the time and whilst I had the benefit of playing the Extended Cut version, I can still appreciate where some of the complaints originated from. The conclusion seemed to skip over a lot of the detail the trilogy has spent so long trying to set out.
However the Mass Effect trilogy is a series I greatly enjoyed though. Arguably dumbed down from earlier Bioware classics and more casual friendly, it was still a solid third person shooter with some RPG mechanics. Often these RPG elements weren’t that satisfying. For example no matter how much I upgraded certain skill trees there are never any wow moments unlocking new more powerful skills. And hours and hours of sometimes tedious and inane conversations that weren’t always successful at expanding the lore or background of the characters. Also I noted that the Citadel DLC has some difficulty spikes (particularly the final fight which was stupidly cheap).
In my view Mass Effect’s greatest strength has been telling one of the most epic stories in gaming that I can remember. From the second half of the first game onwards the series really had a rich story, characters and lore. This epic space opera compelled me to play through to the end. It is the story and some of the stunning set pieces that helped make Mass Effect 2 a standout game. Arguably a defining game from the seventh generation of video game consoles.
All of that said it has been difficult progressing in this game because it is showing its age a bit. Mechanically the combat improved with the second game and notably the game’s performance on Xbox 360 improved massively from the second game onwards (although backwards compatibility on Xbox One largely remedies that situation now). I wrote recently about how some games age badly and there is no doubt in my mind that the original Mass Effect games are showing some of those signs. They feel clunky at times. Particularly in comparison to more modern third person shooters. It feels like the entire trilogy is ripe for a modern remaster with all the DLC included. And I know I am not the first person to have written that. I firmly believe these are still well worth a playthrough, although with lots of DLC that really adds to the experience it means ideally owning those too. I imagine the PC versions do improve the experience as well.
One feature I believe Bioware and Electronic Arts deserve praise for was the ability to use the save file of you character from the original game all the way through the second and third games (provided you remained on the same platform). It means that the outcome of certain decisions had consequence even if my memory was hazy from making those decisions years ago. It gave the games a connection that makes them much more of a complete journey. Without that feature I wonder if the games would feel as impactful. It is something that even now developers should think about when releasing sequels. So many developers simply don’t bother to connect their games. So bravo to Bioware and EA for that.
Anyway now is time to move on and play some more recent games. Somewhere along the way I need to give Mass Effect: Andromeda a look, even if I’m well aware it wasn’t anywhere as well received. I also hope that that isn’t the last we will see of the Mass Effect games. As the first trilogy proved, it is simply too rich a universe not to be continued in someway.