Review: Mass Effect 3

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In almost any other circumstances, it would be easy to proclaim Mass Effect 3 to be a triumph. But these are not ordinary circumstances for the science fiction saga.

Mass Effect 3 is a tremendously entertaining game that provides moments of exhilaration, humor, horror and even heartbreak as players experience the story of a desperate war being fought across the Milky Way.

Indeed, Mass Effect 3 could have earned a place as one of the best games of all time, but these are unusual times for Mass Effect fans. Although the game has much to praise, some questionable business practices on the part of the developers at BioWare and publishers at EA Games may result in the game being remembered more for the sudden fan backlash that has overshadowed news of its release.

At this point, it’s impossible to review Mass Effect 3 in a vacuum and ignore the anger the game’s conclusion has aroused among many of it’s fans. I don’t want to spoil the ending in this space, and I think much of the anger is overblown, but the reaction is understandable given that fans expected Mass Effect 3 to provide a conclusion to one ambitious stories to be told in the history of video games.

Instead, BioWare provided an open-ended climax that has many fans expressing worry on Internet forums that the developers and publishers plan to charge players extra to download a “real” ending. Other fans are even petitioning the game’s makers to rewrite Mass Effect 3′s climax.

The reaction to the game’s conclusion follows the discontent that greeted news that players who did not buy the game’s more expensive Collector’s Edition would have to pay an extra $10 to download “From Ashes,” content that previously was said to be only available to those who bought the Collector’s Edition.

Players and publishers have yet to reach a consensus on where to draw a line between deciding how much content should be included in games’ retail editions and what can be withheld as downloadable content, and the circumstances of Mass Effect 3′s release have highlighted how strongly many players object to publisher’s embrace of DLC.

Those issues, important to the future of gaming as a business, should not obscure the strong evidence in support of Mass Effect 3 being a very good game. As in the franchise’s previous chapters, Mass Effect 3 boasts well-developed human and alien characters and players assuming the role of protagonist Commander Shepard will have to make occasionally painful decisions that determine the fates of beloved characters and entire planets, including earth.

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