Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Mass Effect 3: Stunning Graphics, Disappointing Story

Posted in video game, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on March 19, 2012

I’ve played all three of the Mass Effect games from start to finish.  I just finished Mass Effect 3 and I’d have to say I’m quite a bit disappointed by the conclusion of this trilogy.  Note, spoilers ahead so stop reading now if you haven’t played this game yet.

Story Inconsistencies Abound

So, Shepard is off saving the Galaxy at the Citadel and about to pull the kill switch on the Crucible and where is the Normandy?  Careening through Mass Effect hyperspace heading some place random.  Ok, so this part makes no sense at all.  Why would the Normandy be galavanting around the Galaxy at the most important time of all…. when the Crucible is being activated?  It makes absolutely no sense.  Not to mention, Shepard is the commander of that vessel.  So, why would it be off running around on its own without Shepard, anyway?  The Normandy should be right there front and center to see the fireworks display, not off running around in Mass Effect Hyperspace.  I shake my head at whomever thought that story line up.  Yes, I realize that Shepard’s team was overrun by a Reaper.  But, Shepard has seen worse odds then that. Why would the Normandy suddenly decide to split?  So now, Joker and Cortez exit the Normandy and the rest of the crew, who mysteriously do not exit the crashed Normandy, end up on some random planet stuck there without any way home.

Disappointing ending

There are two paths at the end for Shepard.  Unfortunately, neither of them are particularly pleasant endings for him.  However, once Shepard chooses one of two paths, the endings are pretty similar in his final outcome.  Humanity, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily spared either way.  The Reapers are gone for the moment, but they could still come back again based on the ‘entity’ who lives in the Citadel.  But now, the Mass Effect relays are destroyed either way when the Crucible is activated.  Without the Mass Effect relays, there is no way to fast travel anywhere in that universe.

Unfortunately, the two paths are way too convenient and similar in outcome.  Why isn’t there a non-action path or other paths?  Seriously, why does Shepard have to choose one of two paths?  He could simply walk away and let the Reapers do their deeds or find another way.   Clearly, he hadn’t gotten that far into it to just walk away, but why isn’t there more than two options?  Further, why is it that Shepard has to die anyway?  Although, we don’t know specifically that he’s dead, it strongly implies as much.  Once the ending cinematic ceases, it cuts to every place other than the Citadel.  So, we really don’t know what became of the Citadel.

Rescuing Shepard?

Getting back to the Normandy issue, this raises another concern.  Shepard’s love interest that is fostered during the game, why doesn’t this person stay and try to rescue Shepard?  In fact, why isn’t that person even there.  Seriously, a love interest that just leaves and goes somewhere else?  The Normandy and its rescue shuttles should have been there as soon as Shepard pulled the trigger and, at the last minute, fished him off of the Citadel platform.  In fact, the shuttle itself could have triggered what was necessary (at least for one of the endings).

Plot holes abound here too.  If Shepard is to be the ‘savior’ of the Galaxy, there would have been prophecies foretold in at least one alien culture.  Specifically, I’d bet on the Asari.  But, no prophecies existed.  In fact, they should have.  In fact, Shepard should have been roped into a meeting with a seer of some kind who would give him ‘bad news’ about his ending, but also given hope that he has a choice.

Elusive Man

Another issue that just pokes at me for inconsistency, the Elusive Man’s sudden appearance on the Citadel + Crucible when Shepard is trying to find the controls to open the Citadel for the Crucible. He has never appeared in person at any part of the game other than in his round control room.  Granted, Shepard and enemies make short work of that room leaving it as a disaster.  But, he should have other bases.  Also, what’s with all the black all over the Elusive Man’s face?  I get the distinct impression that the Elusive Man on the Citadel was not, in fact, the Elusive Man.  I believe it was either a carefully crafted AI Robot or a remote controlled clone of the Elusive Man.

Game Play Changes

With this game, the game is about 50% gameplay and 50% cinematics.  Bioware/EA has also opted to add a ‘cinematic’ play mode which, I personally believe, ruined the whole gaming experience in all modes.  Worse, the whole army readiness thing is a severe joke.  You spend a ton of time trying to find ‘war assets’ and at the end it doesn’t appear to make any difference.  I was at least expecting some kind of tactics simulation like Dune or Halo Wars.  So, you could pick troops and make them go after Reapers to see how effective they would be.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, that whole part of the game was, as far as I can tell, a total waste of time.  This game leaned so much toward cinema, I’d barely call it a shooter and it’s definitely not an RPG.  Yes, Bioware left the leveling up and powers in there, but there was so little to do with them.

The Crucible is the only way?

So this device, thing, gadget, just didn’t really work for me.  I mean, there have to be other means at destroying the Reapers than the Crucible.  Sure, the Crucible is definitely one option that Shepard (and troops) should consider, but there should have been at least two or three other options available like some other super weapons discovered in a remote planet.  In fact, there should have been scientists out there devising a means to kill the Reapers through a virus, bad code or even the Geth.  In fact, depending on which fleets you end up having as allies, the method of Reaper destruction should change based on those fleets.  The tactics and methods of destruction should also be available.  This is supposed to be an RPG, so let’s treat it as one.  Alas, didn’t happen.

Best Part of this Game

Basically, you play it for the eye candy.  The characters look amazing.  The environments and lighting are perfect.  The player movements from motion capture, outstanding.  The voice acting, the backstory of the characters and the sheer character interaction is perfect. The music fits very well and works quite well in the game.  When you do get gunfire gameplay, it’s trivially easy, but it is quite fun.  However, there’s just simply not enough of it.  The questing part of the game, of which there’s far too little if this is supposed to be an RPG, is also fun. Don’t go into this game expecting an outstanding storyline.  That’s not where this game shines.  This game shines in how the gameplay unfolds.  Mostly, the interactions between the crew and Shepard is where this game shines and is the most satisfying parts of this game.

Ending

The ending of this game was a complete disappointment on so many levels.  For me, the ending completely ruined the fun I was having with exploring the Milky Way, the Citadel and various other worlds.  The impending threat is always there, but you can safely ignore it until you get to the end. Leave it to EA to mess this one up. The gameplay is, well, what game play?  You’re sitting there watching a cinematic unfold at the end.  That’s it.  No bosses, no battles, nothing.  Just watching a movie.  I didn’t buy this game to watch a movie.  I realize cinematics are a big part of games today, but that was just too much.  On top of that, the story (based on the above) just makes little sense.

Shepard is either dead, consumed or heavily incapacitated.  The Mass Effect Relays are completely destroyed throughout the galaxy (choosing either path) and the Normandy is inexplicably stranded on some random world somewhere remote. Worse, once the deed is done, all you see is some text that says ‘Shepard is now regarded as a hero’.  Wait, what?  Seriously?  You can’t even show a celebration from the troops, a commendation animation, a memorial service, a world rebuilding animation or even a news clip from the news anchor who was on board the Normandy nearly all of the time?  Clearly, the ending was rushed and the game’s story wasn’t that well thought out.  There are way too many loose ends here to call this a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy.  I hope they are planning for Mass Effect 4 because this ending leaves me saying, “huh?” and desiring a whole lot more fitting conclusion to Shepard’s life and celebration of his life.

Oh, and what’s with the severely bad voice acting of the father and son storytelling clip at the end?  Is that supposed to suggest that the whole thing was made up by some guy just to amuse his son?  Seriously?

Randosity Related Article: Analysis of Mass Effect 3’s Ending

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