The End of Days
It’s all been building up to this. Members of the alien race known as the Reapers are launching attacks across the galaxy. Other alien races are crumbling, and the enemy is on humanity’s doorstep. Earth has little time before the Reapers deal the crushing blow. But not all hope is lost.
Commander Shepard returns in the final chapter of the epic sci-fi trilogy; the hero implores leaders of several civilizations to stand against a seemingly unstoppable force. While recruiting a squad to embark on the suicide mission in “Mass Effect 2” seemed to be a colossal task, the galactic war brewing in this installment dwarfs any comparison.
The team at Bioware has proven time and time again they can elicit emotions from players throughout the Mass Effect trilogy. The scale of this massive conflict unfolds throughout the story with the cinematography and musical score coalescing to create one of the most engaging experiences in video games to date. The soundtrack reinforces emotional moments to the point where every choice made imparts a sense of total regret or complete jubilance.
As Shepard travels the galaxy searching for methods to aid the cause against the Reapers, a surfeit of game-altering decisions is presented. Will players forsake honor and sacrifice friends for the greater good of the galaxy? Or will they stand up for what is right, regardless of the fallout in the larger scope of the cosmos?
Elite soldier squads, starship fleets and brilliant scientists can be recruited as war assets to join the fray in the galactic battle. These assets will improve the player’s overall galactic readiness, which largely impacts the game’s ending. Through a multitude of side missions, less obvious weapons can be obtained to save the alliance. Journalists will raise morale for troops dug into the trenches, while spies can impart useful information as to the activities of other enemy forces.
The plot is supplemented both by new squad members and nonplayable characters. Galactic leaders attempt to sway Shepard to different sides of the field, reluctant to relinquish old feuds with warring races, but these millennia-old conflicts between races must be brushed aside in order to challenge the Reapers as a single unit. Shepard plays arbiter to myriad quarrels, often resulting in decisions that seem wrong no matter what action is taken.
Detractors of multiplayer in a Mass Effect game can rest assured. Although not required to see the best ending the series has to offer, it is fantastic for those willing to give it a try. In a survival scenario reminiscent of Gears of War’s horde mode, a team of up to four players cooperates to survive waves of enemies interspersed with objectives.
These objectives reward the squad with additional experience to rank their characters up, or with credits to buy packages with. These packages act like trading cards, with randomized new characters, weapons, and equipment to entice addicted payers with.
Completing missions with friends allows the player to contribute to their single player galactic readiness rating, although single player purists will be pleased to know that multiplayer can be avoided completely if so desired. When played in single player mode, special ops missions and war assets can either supplement the cooperative mode or completely substitute for it.
The combat mechanics are as tight as they were in Mass Effect 2, albeit with a few flaws that have not been addressed. The cover system can still place Shepard in tricky situations. Using powers sometimes removes the player from behind barriers, and squad members will push anyone nearby into fire if there is not enough room behind a low wall. Aside from these minor nuisances, teammates are more active, eliminating enemies that attempt to flank the player with ease.