It has been quite a while since I visited the Mass Effect series. So much so that I had forgotten the fact that I had written about my experience with Mass Effect 2. With Starfield out now and me spending quite a bit of time in Fallout 4, I found myself looking for my space RPG fix, esp. one with solid gunplay, not the V.A.T.S. assisted gameplay I was going through with Fallout. So, I set my eyes on Mass Effect 3.
Having been a while since I played, I found myself right in the middle of things trying to understand, where I was at with the story. I had started Mass Effect 3 as soon as I finished Mass Effect 2 and in some ways, the stories blended together in my memory.
At the Beginning
The game begins with the Reapers attacking the galaxy and we find Shepard right in the middle of an invasion on Earth. This game is leading up to a war with Reapers, a foundation laid by the previous games in the trilogy.
Not only does the game pit you against the primary antagonist, the Reapers, who seem to be slowly progressing through the systems. But the game also sets a secondary antagonist in the Cerberus. It is surprising that Cerberus is on the wrong side having backed you in the fight against the Collectors in the previous games.
How do you set an RPG in the middle of a galaxy scale war?! Let's explore.
Like every Mass Effect, and RPGs in general, this game also features the recruitment of companions. However, unlike the previous games, just a couple of new companions are introduced in this game (one of them being a part of the DLC). The rest of the members are companions, who were already a part of your team in the past. I am including EDI in this list as even though she just gets a body in this game, she has been a part of your crew since the last game.
So, because the companions have already been a part of the team, this game does not feature any loyalty missions. The brevity of the war and the motivations of your team are clear. Further, Shepard having established herself, is focused on the war effort. This creates a better narrative by keeping everyone aligned on the one main quest.
As with war, you would need alliances to have the best of odds. It is hard enough to unite a single race against a global threat, but in this game, Shepard is faced with the behemothian task to get a range of alien races together against the oncoming threat, navigating the politics and their rivalries.
Every choice you make is impactful and gains or loses an alliance especially in the Priority Missions. These missions are the main questline leading the war with the Reapers.
There is also the threat of the Cerberus and considering they have vast resources and have the best of minds at work, it is imperative to take them down and get many of their people on your side.
Planet Exploration during a War
Another landmark feature in the Mass Effect game is the ability to travel across the galaxy. You can explore a range of systems on your spaceship using the Mass Relays.
Hailed as one of the greatest achievements of the now extinct Protheans, a mass relay can transport starships instantaneously to another relay within the network, allowing journeys that would otherwise take years or even centuries with only FTL (Faster Than Light) drives to occur in only a handful of days, or even hours.
Mass Effect is, after all, the effect that allows for FTL travel in game. So, surely the game would not neglect the aspect of space travel, esp. if you also account for the fact that your main mission is to gain support of alien races. Visiting their homeworlds/settled colonies becomes crucial.
Unlike the previous games, where galaxy and systems exploration was for mining resources, in ME3, most of the explored planet contribute in some form towards the assets for the war. Thus, if you do choose to go out of your way looking into planets, you would find yourself benefited in the bigger picture.
The Choices in the Trilogy
The most amazing part of the Mass Effect trilogy is how much your choices matter. It has far reaching consequences, starting from the choices you make in the first game. I had played the first game on PC and Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox One. When given the option to import my save, I couldn't do it. So many of my finer choices were lost. One of the collateral damages was Wrex, who was not part of my Mass Effect 3 playthrough.
When I started Mass Effect 3, EA had already released the Legendary Edition. But, despite the urge to upgrade for better graphics, I chose to stick to the Xbox 360 version of the game so that I could import my ME2 save. If you have read my article on ME2, you would have seen how much I struggled to keep my team safe on the suicide mission and that my complete Paragon playthrough still missed the mark because I hit the occasional Renegade choice. I learnt the hard way that you either be a Paragon or go full Renegade, never in between (no matter how good looking the scars look).
This time around I am focusing to keep my Paragon points and bring the galaxy together at any cost in the fight against the Reapers. My save from ME2 did give me a kickstart, for which I am really glad. It was the game's way of rewarding me for the time spent in previous games. I can think of only one other game who pulled this off and that was Witcher 3, but again I do not believe it was at this scale.
Whenever, I come across my companions from the previous games, it feels so good to see them. It feels as if I am catching up with long lost friends. Almost all of the missions I got to do with them were great, and some being really heart breaking.
The Heart Wrenching Moments
As with every war, there is loss and as a leader, you get to see and deal with it firsthand. But with all the responsibilities you hold, it is crucial you do not brood on it and focus on the bigger picture. But at the end of the day, you are only human.
Mass Effect 3 features some of the most heart wrenching moments in game, esp. with the weight of bonds formed over time. I had the feels multiple times and I know that there is more in store as I move forward through the game.
I am not ready, but I have to move forward. For the galaxy, and for the sake of life.
I am enjoying my time playing Mass Effect 3. It is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for their fill of space narratives, filled with impactful characters, a range of divergent alien races and a solid story. I am yet to finish the game and will definitely share my thoughts once I am done.
I am grateful that Bethesda release Starfield only on the current gen consoles (still can't believe the Xbox One is last gen), which brought Mass Effect 3 bac on my radar. It is 2 for 2 so far with Fallout 4 and Mass Effect 3, pulling me back into the whirlpool of gaming.
Until I discover the secrets of Cerberus and defeat the Reapers, stay tuned.
Originally published on October 1st, 2023