This can be considered as a sequel to the post that finishes Mass Effect 2.

I finished playing this late last night and so I’m writing this whilst the experience is still fresh in my head. I know, I know, it took me awhile given that it’s been out a month already. And looking at the played time, completing all the critical paths and side quests took me a little over 43 hours. Obviously, a second play through won’t take as long but then will a second play through be required? Ah, that’s the question isn’t it? But I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’ll start by pointing out that I did not play this through as fresh character which brings me straight to the character import. Full marks to making the ability smooth and not having to run a configuration utility like we had to for Mass Effect 2. However, where this fails utterly is its inability to import what the character looks like. Given that depending whether you went the full paragon or renegade path in Mass Effect 2 dictated whether or not Shepard had perfect features or deep scars and glowing eyes. Not to mention that I’ve sunk literally days into playing that particular Shepard and now, apart from the actual statistics, I can’t play with the same Shepard? Come on!

As a professional software tester myself I can say with some certainty that a defect like that would have been flagged but someone higher up the chain determined that that particular part wasn’t critical. That ‘higher up’ needs to be fired. I’ve completed Mass Effect 3 but it wasn’t with my Shepard.

Moving on, how gorgeous is the game? Very! Even my partner who doesn’t play games at all said in passing “Is that the movie game?” and there are parts that just take your breath away be they scenery, dialogue scenes, characters or combat. There are a couple of obvious glitches but they’re not completely off-putting.

The story, for the most part, was simply awesome. Again, I’ll come to the ending in a bit. I admired how the question of how Shepard accrued all these disparate crew members in Mass Effect 2 and how that was going to play out in Mass Effect 3 was answered. Even more admirable was how they were not forgotten but given stories of their own with where they were now and what they’ve been doing since the events of Mass Effect 2’s Arrival.

With one exception. Emily Wong. It would have been far better to have had her as the onboard reporter instead of Diana Allers for two reasons. The first is that she is a known face to both myself and Shepard and secondly, the voice actress who played Diana Allers can’t act.

Continuing with the story, I don’t think the writers could have made some of the decisions more heart wrenching or agonising! I’m emotionally invested in both crew mates but I have to pick one. Oh, that hurt. But then, that goes all the way back to Virmire when the decision was between Ashley Williams and Kaiden Alenko. The difference being back then, it was just a squad mate. In Mass Effect 3, an entire population will feel the effects of the decision made.

But whilst some of the story was agony, other parts were down right hilarious! A drunk Ashley Williams (because I saved her on Virmire), EDI’s humour, Garrus versus Shepard’s shooting contest, a drunk Tali (“emergency induction port”! Ha!) had me in stitches. And those are just a few examples.

A final point about the story is that there seemed to be a lot, a hell of a lot of dialogue scenes. Both Mass Effect 1 and 2, from memory, had a dialogue scene at the beginning and at the end of a mission. With Mass Effect 3, there now seems to be one or more during the mission as well, depending upon how long the mission was. This is not a complaint but I think they came very close to having too much.

Whilst I’m the subject of missions, I played on normal and the combat was tough. Very tough. A good kind of tough, though. Some of the fights were just so intense but only two had me swearing. The first was fighting Kai Leng in the Cerberus base. It’s a good job EDI is a forced squad mate because her decoy in that fight is essential. As are grenades. And the M99 saver which can pretty much one shot stuff. The second fight was in London defending the missiles. Five brutes?! Five! Mother f*&^%r, that hurt. Thinking about it as I write, I should have switched to disrupter ammo for that fight and not used cryo. Oh well.

I didn’t understand the necessity for weapon upgrades and add ons, though. Those didn’t seem to made any difference whatsoever other than for somewhere to spend credits. The only difference that mattered to me was the difference in the weapons themselves. For example, do I play with the M99 Saber or the Geth Pulse rifle? One has a one shot kill but if you miss, you could be in trouble whereas the other has a much higher fire rate but lower damage.

Whilst I’m on the subject of arms and related to the earlier subject of what happened previously, did you get extra DLC that gave you different suits of armour? I did. Well, fear not because that’s all in game as well. For a price, but it’s there.

And now I come to the ending and the answer to my question of whether Mass Effect 3 is worth a second play through. In the two previous games, there were clear cut ending based on decisions that I made. Did I save the council or not? And did I put Anderson or Udina in power? And in Mass Effect 2 it came down to saving the Collector station or not. For the record, my paragon Shepard saved the council, put Anderson in power and destroyed the base. My renegade didn’t save the council, put Udina in power and saved the base.

Mass Effect 3’s ending comes down to making a decision between…blue, green or red. Irrespective of which of the three (assuming that you have a high enough war effort rating to gain all three) the end result is the same which some have argued completely invalidates all the decisions that have come before. I can understand that. After all, this is a game we’ve invested days in, making difficult choices along the way, carefully cultivating relationships and for what? Nothing? Well, thanks. And what of any future DLC?

The counter argument, of course, is that it’s not the destination that’s important but rather how we get there and what we do in the journey that defines us, or in this case, defines Shepard. So whilst saving the council or saving the Collector base may have no impact in the grand scheme of things where all paths lead to the same point, they do make those paths sufficiently different to be worth investigating, I think.

So yes, I’ll certainly be taking my renegade Shepard (without glowing eyes and scars. Grr!) for a spin.

And finally why, oh why after the ending, the credits and the final “The Shepard” scene (which I though was sublime, by the way) does the game take the player back to immediately prior to the assault on the Cerberus base? That just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, there is a save file just before Shepard walks into the beam so I didn’t have to go through all THAT again.

Overall, a worthy finale to the Mass Effect trilogy but certainly not without its flaws.