Here’s something that you may know; People complain about the ending to Mass Effect 3. A lot. And loudly. But, if you listened to all of that rabble, here’s something I bet you didn’t know; There’s still 40 plus hours of game to find stuff to complain about contained on those two discs. And, to me, there are much more severe grievances that occur within those 40 hours.
Bioware did a great job of fleshing out their characters through this series. And the characters brought back really show this off. Liara has, through her experiences, grown into a very capable and powerful ally. But, still being relatively young, gets surprised by things that wouldn’t affect some elders of her race, and is still naive. Garrus has become a confident leader, but when he gets around his friend Shepard, he comes down to earth and takes away the commanding barrier he puts up with his people. Ashley, in my game, was once a lover who now has to deal with being “just friends.” And it is written very well, coming off as a relationship similar to Elaine and Jerry from “Seinfeld.” Yes, they slept together, but they are mature enough to understand that their lives moved on, so now they can shoot the breeze with one another.
Then there’s the best character ever, Drunk Tali. She’s not around much, but it’s gold when she is. There’s no need to do a character dissection for her. She’s Tali. She’s drunk. It’s pretty awesome. Go watch it if you like that character.
That brings me to James Vega, the new guy to the squad. He’s a soldier. He likes to fight. He randomly says Spanish lingo to remind you that he is of Hispanic decent. That’s pretty much it. There’s some times where he hints he may be a little afraid, but other than that, there’s no nuance to his character. He just seems forced. I could understand that the writers wanted to try to interject new blood into the cast. However, this deep into a series, it’s not about giving us new characters, it’s about showing us how the old characters grow and refining them. They could have easily replaced the character with one of the much more interesting characters from the previous two games. They could have scrapped him entirely, too. More attention could have been given to the other characters who did manage to stick around.
I was much more disappointed in James that I was in the ending. The ending lasted maybe 20 minutes. James is in the game from start to finish. And it wasn’t like in the second game where you could have let him die and felt some sort of redemption for having to put up with him. You just have to ignore him and find ways to get away from him, like he was that one co-worker that you can’t stand who always wants to talk to you and tell you bad jokes that they think are funny.
Gears of Mass Effect
The second game started to take heat because the game play started to divulge into “Gears of War” territory. You found a chest high wall, ran to it, and camped. Chest high walls were all that really mattered. If you couldn’t find one, the entire enemy squad picked you out and turned you to swiss cheese. But behind the wall, you were undetectable and invincible. You were god like.
The third game tried to fix this issue. But only by a little. You still can’t survive without your precious walls of pre-determined height. However, the enemy can find you now, and will hunt you down. And not all walls are made of 6 inch indestructium. Some walls are porous, so they can be shot through. And some can be destroyed. These little fixes helped keep my mind off of the comparison between the two games. That is until I got to the final series of battles. The final battles pit you against wave after wave of monsters and really take away any hope you have for a strategic vantage point. So, the focus of the game play goes from methodically picking your spots and readjusting when the enemies maneuver, to running around and shooting while you are hoping that you don’t die. The Gears game play doesn’t lend itself well to this style. While you are running, a function activated by the A button, Shepard will attach himself to a chest high wall like his back was made of super-space-science-velcro, a function that is also controlled by the A button. Because of these mechanics that were “inspired” by the Gears series, I found myself cursing the name of Gears of War. They indirectly mucked up my final battle as Commander Shepard.
Also, another problem of comparison that I noticed during the final approach was the scenery. The final battle grounds are all dark and mono-tone. I understand that the final series is supposed to be dark and slightly depressing, but dammit, let me see what I’m shooting! This also reminded me of Gears of War, with it’s two tone color pallet that inadvertently gave everything instant camouflage. And with all of the toppled buildings and the post-apocalyptic look, I couldn’t help but think of the similar designs of Gears.
Lack of Steady Krogan
This may be one of my smaller complaints, but still one that stuck with me through the game. There’s no Krogan in your group. You had Wrex in the first, Grunt in the second, and nothing here. Which is a shame. The Krogan, though very tough and skilled warriors, seem to be the most comical of all the races. There’s something comforting and humorous about a giant lizard that just says what he wants, when he wants.
I will give Bioware credit, though, for making the best story section in the game revolving around the Krogans and their home world of Tuchanka. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but those who have played the section know what I’m talking about. When you escorted that cast of characters through that gauntlet to the tower? Then that character went up? And did that? And that visual scene? With that music? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. And you know it was awesome.
To be fair, one of a rational mind could make the argument that James Vega is the replacement for the Krogan in your group. Just some big, dumb character that occasionally spurts from his mouth quick quips that are meant to be humorous. But then if I, a hopefully somewhat rational mind, were to accept this hypothesis, would have a stroke due to anger.