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Mass Effect 3 completes the trilogy by raising the stakes and improving the mechanics. By enabling us to bring our previous save games, we will all be treated to another unique dress-up experience.
Seeing Mass Effect 3 again felt like the return of an old friend, or friend even, back for more adventures that would surely lead to fascinating tales of wonder and heartbreak. This series is unique for me. More than simply playing, I am sharing the lives of my captain and crew.
Like watching The Empire Strikes Back, the end of each episode of Mass Effect fills me with a desperate need to understand and come to terms with outcomes. But unlike film, here the decisions are mine and this is my crew. Moving into the final chapter the stakes are raised again.
Mass Effect 3 pits Commander Shepard and his crew against the enemy of every living thing in the universe - the Reapers finally show their hand and they bring their destruction to Earth. Whilst not reinventing the alien invasion plotlines, Mass Effect just seems to present it better than any game since it all began with Space Invaders. Whilst the pixelated alien's inexorable March to the bottom of the screen may have been iterated on a thousand times, but no other games have provided Solomon like decision making and the branching outcomes of Mass Effect.
This time there will be no resetting of Sheppard's abilities.
Mass Effect 3 promises to continue, improve and evolve mechanics whilst maintaining production values that delivered story and dialogue in gripping fashion so far. I saw pitched battles where Shepard could now move more fluidly around his environment, sliding between cover like Uncharted 3 - seamlessly leaping over objects and adding both tactical advantages and the possibility of more dynamic strategies. Shepard also receive a one-hit melee ability, which (from their grins) the developers obviously enjoyed every time it was used. Even though Mass Effect 2 felt like a competent shooter, the solidity of the weapon exchanges here felt extremely satisfying in a way I hadn't previously associated with the series.
For those that felt that the stats and the inventory systems had been diluted too far, the promise here is for a more extensive, but still easy to use, set of systems that promote customisation. I also saw a weapons bench that allowed you to effectively build a weapon tuned to the way you play with the usual combination of sights, stocks and other enhancements available.
This time there will be no resetting of Sheppard's abilities, but your enemies will be matched to your starting level - the fact that this time its all-out war, a frighteningly powerful hero seems almost a pre-requisite. The zombie like husk creatures moved with great purpose and were matched by other enemies with shields that needed flanking. This was rounded off with large mechanical suits that could be captured and piloted, provided you could first neutralise them.
I still have to deal with the decisions I made that led to her painful loss.
More polished combat, higher polygon counts and customisable weapons all add to the series, not to mention the Kinect voice commands, but this is not the reason that I am excited for Mass Effect 3.
"You had me at Sheppard." I just want to continue that great story and get back to this role I love. You see although these cut scenes were impressive, they weren't mine. No, in my version there is no Miranda to cover my back. I still have to deal with the decisions I made that led to her painful loss during those last scenes of Mass Effect 2. Whilst tempting, it felt like cheating to replay those moments and make different decisions.
This is the real strength of the Mass Effect games and the embodiment of Bioware's skill -- the differences are big enough to make our journey unique. I crave the opportunity to make amends for past failings, but unfortunately I will have to wait until March 2012.
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