Is the Mass Effect franchise one of the best in a decade? Does the ending to Mass Effect 3 ruin the series? For what it’s worth, here are my brain droppings on these issues and more.
Despite the confusing, muddled “ending”, and the other numerous flaws found in the series, I love Mass Effect. The diverse characters, the politics, the lore, a looming threat that nobody seems to know anything about, the art design, the music, the atmosphere – I’m a sap for all of this. I found the writing to be overrated, but it’s certainly better than most games out there. The voice acting is also superb, despite some of the cliché dialogue and forced emotional moments. Regardless, it’s still one of the best video game franchises to have come out in the past decade (top five, at least).
The following is my (brief) take on each game in the Mass Effect trilogy. I won’t go into explicit detail on the game mechanics, story, etc. I’m just posting bullet points on what I feel are the best (and worst) aspects of each game. I’m concluding this piece with a small rant on the ending, and some pictures of sexy Mass Effect cosplayers (it’s what I do).
- Great introduction to the world and lore.
- Solid exploration, despite the horrible Mako controls.
- RPG elements are all there: exploration, leveling-up, weapon/armor modification, side-quests, different classes to pick from, etc.
- Soundtrack is brilliant and brings the world (universe) to life.
- Story is good. Typical sci-fi, but it works.
- Nice cast of characters, though some can be annoying.
- Dialogue is a bit cliché at times.
- “Reveal” towards the end of the game is a bit awkward, and occurs during a time when the characters should be chasing after the antagonist and not faffing about (actually, shit like that happens a lot throughout the series).
- Combat is mediocre but sufficient; could have been better.
- Final stage and boss fight are excellent, not to mention satisfying. Good ending.
Mass Effect 2
- Nice graphical improvements.
- Game world feels more alive.
- Lots of characters give plenty of options for party formation.
- Dialogue is a little better this time around, but still not where it should be.
- Better story with more meaningful choices than first game.
- Combat is vastly improved, but is predictable with the abundance of chest-high walls.
- Removal of planet exploration and the simplified weapon/armor system make the game less of an RPG and were unnecessary.
- Scanning planets is boring as fuck.
- Sidequests are better.
- Better DLC than first game. “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is one of the best DLC missions I’ve played for any game.
- Music is still stellar.
- Having Shepard die and become “reborn” was just insipid and pointless.
- Romances are still a tad unbelievable.
- Final stage is good, but the boss is fairly bland. The ending is great, though.
Mass Effect 3
- Combines the RPG elements of the first game and improves on the combat in the second game.
- Graphical updates make the game even more cinematic.
- Numerous decisions made in the first two games are reflected in the story, even with the DLC in Mass Effect 2.
- Romances are a bit better, but still feel lacking.
- Emotional moments are better but some still come out of nowhere and aren’t as poignant as they should be.
- Dialogue is still cheesy at times.
- Jessica Chobot. Gross.
- Cut down on the amount of squad mates, which provided for some better character development.
- All characters from previous games are featured, and all of them have some great moments.
- Planet scanning greatly reduced. Awesome.
- Awful ending. Doesn’t ruin the series, necessarily, but makes one less likely to play through the series again.
About the ending: it is truly bad. Now, most games have bad endings, or at least “meh” endings. However, because Mass Effect is so massive, and requires numerous hours and playthroughs to experience completely, the fact that the ending just happens and provides little closure is appalling. I actually liked the ending for thematic reasons; I understood what BioWare was going for. However, there is too much dialogue that is out of place, characters behave in ways that don’t make any sense, all three endings are essentially the same and there’s little to no closure. The worst part? All of the decisions made throughout the entire series only slightly effect the endings, and I mean slightly in the most pathetic way possible. An epilogue would have been nice, or at least glimpses of what the other characters did after Shepard’s final decision. I’m glad BioWare is going to attempt to remedy these issues with some free DLC this Summer, but that might be too little too late. That being said, the song that plays during the credits is fucking killer.
Mass Effect – 8.5/10
Mass Effect 2 – 9/10
Mass Effect 3 – 6.5/10*
*The low score (6.5 is still a playable game, and isn’t necessarily “bad”) is due to the lack of a good ending, or at least one that reflected all of the decisions that are made throughout the course of the series. If the ending was better, I’d give it 9/10 easily.