My first BioWare game was Baldur’s Gate II. I loved it so much that I went and got Baldur’s Gate (along with Tales of the Sword Coast) and there was no question that I would buy the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack when it came out. I even stopped my current game in Baldur’s Gate II so I could go back and create a character to import and play through from the beginning.
Baldur’s gate was a true epic roleplaying saga. Yes, it involved high fantasy and was set in the established Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. But the storytelling of the three games is what made it so great.
You started off in the first game at the very first level. You had an entire world to explore, but hints at a dastardly plot and bigger threat were given to you bit by bit in the game, only to be more fully fleshed out at the ending. This too hinted at a bigger story and struggle going on, that was then expanded upon further in the sequel.
Baldur’s Gate was originally intended to be a trilogy, but BioWare didn’t have the resources a decade ago, so they condensed the third part of the game into Throne of Bhaal expansion pack. Even with those limitations, the Baldur’s Gate saga came to a spectacular conclusion and all the choices you made along the way came to a head.
Unfortunately, even though Mass Effect 3 is a full title, it doesn’t live up to the legacy of Baldur’s Gate. Where the other series finished strong, Mass Effect 3 falls just short enough to leave a bitter taste in your mouth at the end.
Why are these guys so pissed? Probably the taste of vomit in their mouth after playing Mass Effect 3.
And it isn’t because of Day 1 DLC, or crappy endings. Those are just symptoms of the larger problems of the game. Then entire game seems to show a lack of care and detail.
Let’s take the multiplayer component of the game first. Its actually the part of the game I enjoy the most. And that’s the sad part. Not that the multiplayer good, but that the single player game is overshadowed by it. All of the enemies in the single player game are the same ones you face in multiplayer (with the exception of the game’s longeboss Kai Leng).
Otherwise the entire game is based on fighting the same units, over and over again. There are no bosses, no variation. And it become mindless after awhile. Which sucks because the combat has been improved again for this third iteration.
Combat is great in Mass Effect 3. Just wish it wasn't against the same enemies, over and over and over again.
The combat is pretty fluid in Mass Effect 3. The cover system works well, each gun works differently and uniquely. The rock/paper/scissors system of ME2 is dumbed down a little, ammo and weapons don’t seem to have the strengths weaknesses versus health types anymore, but the combat is still fun and engaging.
And that’s why multiplayer shines. Since you face the same enemies over and over again in the single player campaign, you can simply come up with a winning strategy and weapons load-out you use for each level since you can control you AI companions in single player.
In multiplayer you have to adapt to a squad of human companions and work together to beat the level. Even facing the same enemies over again is different based on your fellow players. Trying new strategies can be fun and frustrating in equal amounts. But Mass Effect 3 is the end of an epic story, not random cooperative matches of multiplayer.
The story of Mass Effect 3 is lackluster. It starts out strong, but quickly peters out. There is much more story in the first act than the second, and the third act has even less.. Its very depressing to realize as you play that things speed up and you care less.
You can see this everywhere. Side missions in the previous two Mass Effect Games may have involved fetching something or finding someone, but they required you to explore the galaxy map, and fight through some kind of enemy. At the end you usually got a choice and there was at least some kind of a decent story to the whole mission, no matter how small.
Mass Effect 3 loves fetch quests, and makes them the most boring thing on the planet. Instead of getting a tale about why you need to fetch something and the quest giver imploring you to finish the task, you randomly overhear a someone on the Citadel whining how they need an item for the war. You then go and send out sonar pings in star system map until you find the object. Then you bring it back for a quick reward and go find the next random item.
Conversations with squad-mates are also less filling. Instead of full conversations each time they have something new to say to you, Mass Effect 3 decided to have many of them be ambient where you “overhear” the conversation. Makes it easier to write dialogue if you aren’t allowed to make any choices, but definitely isn’t as filling.
Also your choices have no impact, or very little. Every single character that you chose to live or die has a filler replacement in Mass Effect 3. With the exception of Kaidan and Ashley. Those characters are still fully fleshed out and you feel like you actually made a choice that matters there.
If you killed Wrex, his cranky brother takes his place. Having Wreav instead of Wrex affects some lines of dialogue and is harder to persuade than his brother, but otherwise fills the same role. The most hilarious and blatant abuse of this was the “Geth VI” that looks exactly like Legion and takes his place if you never activated him or he died in Mass Effect 2. Talk about a slap to the face.
Even the major decisions have no big impact. Killing the council or saving them only affects some numbers assigned to war asset units in the game and a couple of lines of dialogue. There are no major repercussions for gutting galactic government in the first game. And while saving or destroying the Collector Base has some ending repercussions, it has no effect on the game. It makes one wonder why they bothered playing through the first two games more than once.
You can tell the writers were sloppy with the story. Its little things like talk of ammo capacity popping up in weapon descriptions (even though the universe canon shows that guns still shave little pieces off a an ammo block, thermal clips aren’t really ammo), to major canon violations.
You can call me a mad fanboy all you want, but Mass Effect 3 was billed on its story. One of the main plot points that made Legion and the Geth memorable in Mass Effect 2 was the conversation where you learn that the Geth distance themselves from the Reapers philosophically.
Legion brings up a quote by Sovereign on how the Relays and Reaper technology force civilization to evolve in ways the Reapers themselves have determined. The Geth denounce this, and refuse to use Reaper technology in order to evolve on their own.
Mass Effect 3 ignores this completely. Legion (or the Geth VI), refuses to give up the Reaper tech advances in order to evolve the Geth consciousness centuries ahead, despite the fact that they become more like the Reapers. This kills the plot and the point of one of the major (and popular) characters in Mass Effect.
BioWare managed to make an imposing and threatening enemy into a two-dimensional baddie. Way to go!
And what the hell happened the games’ main enemy, the Reapers? You fought against Sovereign in Mass Effect, battled Harbinger and his army of Collectors in Mass Effect 2. Other than a couple of cryptic lines from an unnamed Reaper in the game, they are just a monolithic enemy in Mass Effect 3. You don’t even get to blow Harbinger out of the sky. And don’t get me started on the bare bones artificial life versus organic ending thing the game had.
It’s a shame, but it seems when Drew Karpyshyn left Mass Effect, the quality of the universe went downhill. The novel Deception was the just the start.
There is also less Mass Effect there for you to experience. The first Mass Effect took 25-30 hours to beat. Mass Effect 2 was a little longer. These are efficient numbers since I have played through Mass Effect games a lot. I did everything in Mass Effect 3 in my first playthrough in 15 hours.
Quality over quantity is a useful adage, but there has to be some meat to what you are playing. And Mass Effect 3 lacks meat along with flavor. Mass Effect 3 might get the same size as the first two games, but only after you drop a lot of money into the game with DLC. Something I don’t plan on doing myself.
Despite the combat, design, and story writing flubs, Mass Effect 3 is still a good game. Its better than a lot out there. But we weren’t promised a good game. We were promised a great final chapter of a beloved series of games.
And we didn’t get that. And it probably means I won’t buy another BioWare game or DLC for Mass Effect 3. I’m getting older and I have to take care what all I buy since I don’t have time to play anything but the very best anymore. Sad that BioWare has slipped on my list of great game publishers.
Just a personal shot at Colin Moriarty. Baldur’s gate II was $49.99 when I bought it in 2000. That is $65.80 in todays money. Still less than it cost to buy ME3 and From Ashes, and you got a way bigger game back then too.