Mass Effect 3

I bought my Xbox so I could play “Mass Effect.”

I lusted after that system and saved up my change for a year to be able to finally buy myself one, and “Mass Effect” was the first game I bought.

It took me a bit to get used to the controls (I’m more used to fighting with swords, not guns), but when I finally finished the first game a few months after getting it, I bought “Mass Effect 2″ that very same night.

(spoilers on the jump)

So it’s not surprising that I eagerly waited for “Mass Effect 3.” I even paid extra to get the collector’s edition (it’s silly, but I wanted the FemShep art). And when you come right down to it, I was not disappointed in the game.

Jennifer Hale gives an incredible performance (as usual, but there’s nothing casual about her talent), and more than once I was a little choked up about where the story took me (Mordin!).

The fight mechanics felt a lot smoother than in game two (although this could be more from me finally, finally finding my perfect class, Infiltrator). The story is as compelling as always, and it was amazing to see how these little choices you made throughout the trilogy come back in game three, for better or worse (although since I play the ultimate goody-two-shoes paragon, it was mostly for the better).

And more than either previous game, the War Assets quest drew me into this struggle to save the galaxy more than either previous game. Sure, I made the *wrong* call on more than a few of them, but I didn’t know what would happen, so I got to pick what I wanted to (sure, it’s sounds simple, but it’s true; I read game spoilers a lot and it’s refreshing to be so continually surprised).

The new characters, especially James and Cortez, were just damn fun to hang out with. Helping Cortez with his grief was a quiet little journey for Shepard, but it paid off in the instant attachement I felt to that character.

And somehow, a macho guy like James ended up becoming my MVP for game three. I didn’t always pick him for fights (I tend to prefer Tali and Kaidan), but I never tired of having him around. He’s a manly man if there ever was one, and he also is an exceptional comic relief for all the tragedy enveloping Shepard (his extended conversation with Garrus was one of my favorite moments in the game).

Sure, I didn’t like Javik, but really, who did? I didn’t out and out hate him until he told me to throw Legion out the airlock (bastard!), but I understood him. He will never be my favorite, but he was well written enough for me to hate him without shame (high praise there).

But really, no one wants to talk about that stuff. For months, all anyone has talked about is the ending, and most likely, how much it sucked.

I loved playing this game, and I even liked parts of the ending. Sure, I thought the ending was quite abrupt, and I didn’t like that a five minute chat led to the ending.

But I loved the structure; most games end with a showdown against the big bad, and I really appreciate when games veer away from that pattern. I liked how the broken and battered Shepard still managed to fight off baddies with only a pistol. I liked the last scene with Anderson (although I wish I knew the right number to get him to live).

And I totally loved that this series that was all about choices and their consequences ended with a choice. All options kind of sucked, and well, it’s not easy being a hero. I wish my Shepard had lived, but while I may want the overly gooey happy ending, I would not respect it. I can respect a game that makes me make the hard choice, even when I don’t want to.

I didn’t go in for the scene of the Normandy landing on the distant Eden-like planet, but I understood it; I imagine the gamemakers wanted us to know that our teammates survived, which at the end of the game, I wanted to know that too, even if the scene made more emotional sense than logical sense.

And this will also forever be the game that made me make fun of Buzz mother-frakkin’ Aldrin. Once I knew who that voice was, I felt properly ashamed of myself, but still…the dude walked on the moon and I made fun of him. That’s on you, game!

But the one thing that really, really got me to love the ending was something that seems to drive everybody else nuts: the destruction of the mass effect relays. Hear me out for a second.

I’ve been a fan of “Star Trek” for a long time now, and I have lately found myself becoming a staunch defender of the Prime Directive and all its post-Colonialism influences, and at least in our own history, when a technological superior force has met with an inferior one, things don’t turn out too well for the inferior ones.

And when you think about “Mass Effect,” that’s what happened. A civilization got so strong and so powerful, they were able to get themselves to the stars and found this left behind technology that would let them expand their culture and influence even further, and they never looked back. They jumped ahead and never stopped to think about the people who built the relays. They never took the time to figure out how they worked. They just expected that the relays were there, they had always been there, and they will always be there.

They cheated, and now it’s back to the slow path. It’s a harsh lesson, especially for the ones stranded on Earth (or stranded anywhere), but it was bound to happen. You rely too much on what you don’t understand, and when it’s gone, you’re screwed.

That’s where the game leaves us; on a new world, forced to deal with whatever comes next, with only the tools we can understand and all the galaxy open once again.

Stray thoughts

  • What’s your favorite game ending?
  • Mine is “Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within.” I had a bad copy of the game when I bought it, and ended up playing chapters 1-5 over and over, thinking that I had done something wrong early on. Once I finally got the fixed discs, the ending was so good I felt the process had been worth it.
  • Fun fact: The game takes place mostly in and around Munich; when I went there I insisted on stopping at various places the game featured, including the setting of the final scene (the scene that makes it my favorite), Marienbrcke, the bridge across the way from Neuschwanstein.
  • Another fact: That bridge is terrifying. It’s over a gorge 200 hundred feet up, and the wooden planks are shifting underneath your feet as you walk across it, which wouldn’t be so bad, but you’re on this bridge with 200 other people, probably all wondering how stable this thing is. But really, that bridge is the only way you can see this, so…worth it!