Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The third major entry in the Mass Effect series and the final installment of the Commander Shepard trilogy, it was first released in March 2012 for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. A Wii U version of the game, entitled Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, was later released in November 2012. Mass Effect 3 is set within the Milky Way Galaxy in 2186, where galactic civilization is invaded by a highly advanced machine race of synthetic-organic starships known as Reapers.

Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 Game Cover.jpg
Developer(s)BioWare
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Casey Hudson
Producer(s)Jesse Houston
Designer(s)Preston Watamaniuk
Programmer(s)David Falkner
Artist(s)Derek Watts
Writer(s)Mac Walters
Composer(s)
SeriesMass Effect
EngineUnreal Engine 3
Platform(s)
Release
Genre(s)Action role-playing, third-person shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Similar to Mass Effect 2, the player can import a completed saved game into Mass Effect 3 that influences the plot by taking previous decisions into account. In general, Mass Effect 3 revolves around increasing military strength by completing missions and gathering resources. As BioWare designed the game to be accessible to both old and new players, many of the series' traditional gameplay elements remain, such as cover-based third-person shooting, but new aspects are introduced as well, such as a multiplayer component. The game's score was written by a variety of composers, who aimed for a balance between the orchestral sound of Mass Effect 2 and the synthesizer-driven sound of the original Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 3 received critical acclaim for its art direction, characters, emotional story, improved combat, soundtrack, and voice acting. However, its ending was poorly received by fans, who felt that it did not meet expectations. In response to the controversy, BioWare released the Extended Cut downloadable content pack, which expands upon the original ending. The game received several year-end awards, including Best RPG at the Spike Video Game Awards and Game of the Year from Game Informer. In March 2017, it was followed by a stand-alone sequel, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

GameplayEdit

Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing game in which the player takes control of Commander Shepard from a third-person perspective.[1] Shepard's gender, appearance, military background, combat training, and first name are determined by the player before the game begins.[1] If the player has a completed saved game from Mass Effect 2, the character from that game can be imported.[2] By importing an old character, decisions from prior Mass Effect titles are carried over, which impacts the plot of Mass Effect 3.[2] Similar to previous installments in the series, the player is able to choose from six different character classes that each have their own unique set of skills.[3] For example, the Infiltrator class is proficient in stealth and sniping abilities whereas biotics-inclined classes possess psychokinetic powers.[3] By completing assignments and quests, the player is rewarded with experience points.[1] Once enough points are earned, Shepard levels up, which allows for the unlocking or upgrading of skills along a tree.[4]

Mass Effect 3 has three pre-set campaign modes: Action, Story, and RPG.[5] In Action Mode, conversations have automatic replies and normal combat difficulty; in Story Mode, conversations have manual replies and minimal combat difficulty; and in RPG Mode, conversations have manual replies and normal combat difficulty.[5] The game contains various role-playing elements,[6] such as the ability to augment guns with different ammo types, barrels, modifications, and scopes to improve their effectiveness in combat. If the player has Kinect, customization choices can be made verbally instead of selected using a controller.[7] Upon beating the game, a New Game+ is unlocked, which allows the player to restart with certain bonuses, such as the ability to further upgrade weapons.[1]

The primary mode of transportation in Mass Effect 3 is a star ship called Normandy SR-2.[8] From the inside of the ship, players can use a galaxy map to choose a destination point, scan planets for resources, or start missions.[9] To aid the player in managing tasks, the game automatically logs available missions in a journal; however, unlike previous titles in the series, the journal does not distinguish between main quests and side quests.[10] In general, Mass Effect 3 revolves around increasing "Effective Military Strength" (EMS) to prepare for its final mission.[11] EMS is calculated by multiplying "Total Military Strength" (TMS) and "Readiness Rating" (RR).[12] TMS is increased by acquiring "War Assets", which include accomplishments from all three Mass Effect games, whereas RR is increased by playing the multiplayer mode.[13]

Dialog and moralityEdit

Unless it is set to Action Mode, the player interacts with non-player characters in Mass Effect 3 by using a radial command menu where dialog options depend on wheel direction.[5] Most conversations are advanced by choosing either a Paragon (diplomatic) or Renegade (intimidating) option, which appear to the top and bottom right of the wheel, respectively.[1] By conversing with squadmates aboard the Normandy, Commander Shepard can develop friendships or, in some cases, romantic relationships with them over time.[14] Same-sex relationships for both female and male Shepards are available.[15] If Shepard was imported from Mass Effect 2 and achieved a love interest in each of the prior Mass Effect games, then both characters vie for Shepard's attention in Mass Effect 3.[16] During some conversations, the player is prompted with a context-sensitive interrupt option that offers a temporary alternative to what is available on the dialog wheel.[1]

On several occasions, the player must make decisions that impact the game's narrative.[17] For example, one mission asks the player to side with one of two species, which can lead to one of them being eradicated.[18] Over the course of Mass Effect 3, dialog and narrative decisions result in "Reputation Points", which are added together and unlock further decision-making and dialog options as they accumulate.[17] The conclusion of the game is influenced by accomplishments earned and decisions made throughout the series.[11]

CombatEdit

 
During combat, players can take cover behind objects on the battlefield.[19] The user interface includes ammunition, health bars, and powers.

Combat in Mass Effect 3 takes place in real-time but also allows for pausing to aim, change weapons, or use skills from a menu.[20] During battle, the player has direct control of Commander Shepard from an over-the-shoulder perspective, who can move around the map by climbing up ladders, combat rolling, or sprinting.[21] Shepard is typically accompanied by two squad members who are controlled by the game's artificial intelligence; however, the player can still order them into position or choose their powers.[22] Kinect users are able to issue these commands verbally.[7] If squad members die, they can be revived using the Unity power or an on-screen prompt if the player is in close proximity.[22]

Enemy encounters generally involve navigating opposing forces that work together and support each other with varying roles.[19] For example, a typical confrontation involves defeating suppressor-type enemies who shoot from afar while also managing more aggressive enemies that are constantly charging.[23] To avoid taking damage, the player can go into cover behind objects on the battlefield, but harder difficulties necessitate that players stay mobile as well.[19] If Shepard or the squad members are hit, damage is dealt to their shields until they run out, at which point a final layer of health is gradually depleted until the individual dies, health is restored, or shields regenerate.[22]

Opposing forces are damaged with gunfire, melee attacks, or specialized skills such as combat drones.[22] If desired, the melee system can be a vital aspect of gameplay.[24] For example, players can execute heavy melee attacks that vary depending on character class.[25] All enemies have protections that are susceptible to particular attack types, such as armor, which is weak against the Incinerate skill and weapons with a slow rate of fire.[22] Sometimes, the player is presented with alternate offensive approaches. For example, if the player encounters an Atlas Mech and defeats its driver without destroying the entire suit, Shepard can climb inside and take control of its heavy-duty weaponry.[26]

MultiplayerEdit

Mass Effect 3 includes a multiplayer mode called "Galaxy at War".[27] In this mode, up to four players join together to complete horde-style cooperative matches in which the participants must survive escalating waves of enemies and complete a series of objectives.[28] As rounds are completed, the player earns in-game currency that is used to buy randomly-generated packs of unlockables, such as new character types and weapons.[29] In-game currency is also available via microtransaction.[30] For the first year of the mode's existence, players could participate in BioWare-sponsored challenges with special objectives and increased rewards.[31]

In contrast to the single-player mode, where the player can only play as a human, the multiplayer mode has a wider variety of species to choose from.[32] Every race has unique powers,[33] such as a "Krogan Charge" for krogans. Combat is based on its single-player counterpart but has some differences such as no pause menu to change weapons; instead, weapons are changed by holding down a button.[33] Frequency of play and number of multiplayer missions completed affect the outcome of the single-player campaign.[34]

SynopsisEdit

SettingEdit

The Mass Effect trilogy is set within the Milky Way Galaxy during the 22nd century, where interstellar travel is possible through the use of mass transit devices called Mass Relays, a technology believed to have been built by an extinct alien race known as the Protheans.[35] A conglomerate body of governments known as the Citadel Council controls a large percentage of the galaxy and is responsible for maintaining law and order among races of the galactic community. Races that belong to the Citadel Council include humans, asari, salarians and turians.[36] Other alien races include the warlike reptilian krogan, the nomadic environmental suited quarians, and their wayward creations, a race of networked artificial intelligences known as the geth.[37]

Mass Effect 3 begins in 2186, six months after the events of Mass Effect 2.[38] The galactic community lives in fear of an invasion by Reapers, a highly advanced machine race of synthetic-organic starships that are believed to eradicate all organic civilization every 50,000 years.[39] Meanwhile, the krogan face extinction because of the genophage, a genetic mutation developed by the salarians and deployed by the turians as a bioweapon to contain the krogan;[40] the quarians prepare to retake their homeworld from the geth;[41] and the human supremacist terrorist organization Cerberus is regrouping after a temporary alliance with Commander Shepard to defeat the Collectors, indoctrinated and genetically modified remnants of the Prothean race who were abducting human colonies.[37] Shepard has been relieved of duty and is confined on Earth, awaiting court-martial by the Systems Alliance.[42]

CharactersEdit

 
Freddie Prinze Jr. joined the cast of Mass Effect 3 as James Vega.[43]

The protagonist of Mass Effect 3 is Commander Shepard (Mark Meer or Jennifer Hale), an elite human soldier who is Commanding Officer of the Normandy SR-2 starship.[43] While the exact roster can vary,[2] Shepard's squad members generally include Systems Alliance officers Ashley Williams (Kimberly Brooks) or Kaidan Alenko (Raphael Sbarge), Systems Alliance marine James Vega (Freddie Prinze Jr.), asari information broker and researcher Liara T'Soni (Ali Hillis), turian military adviser Garrus Vakarian (Brandon Keener), the Normandy's artificial intelligence EDI (Tricia Helfer), and quarian engineer Tali'Zorah (Ash Sroka).[43] The Prothean endling Javik (Ike Amadi) is included as an optional squad member by default with the Wii U version of the game.[44]

Other characters include Systems Alliance admirals David Anderson (Keith David) and Steven Hackett (Lance Henriksen), Normandy pilot Jeff "Joker" Moreau (Seth Green), Cerberus leader the Illusive Man (Martin Sheen), Cerberus assassin Kai Leng (Troy Baker), Citadel Security (C-Sec) Commander Armando-Owen Bailey (Michael Hogan), and asari crime boss Aria T'Loak (Carrie-Ann Moss).[43] Certain characters such as human Cerberus officer Miranda Lawson (Yvonne Strahovski), salarian scientist Mordin Solus (William Salyers), krogan leader Urdnot Wrex (Steven Barr), human criminal Jack (Courtenay Taylor), genetically engineered krogan soldier Grunt (Steve Blum), drell assassin Thane Krios (Keythe Farley), asari Justicar Samara (Maggie Baird), and geth mobile platform Legion (D. C. Douglas) may appear depending on whether or not they survived the events of previous games.[43][45][46]

PlotEdit

The Reapers invade and quickly overwhelm Earth. After being reinstated by Anderson, who stays behind to rally resistance, Shepard is ordered to Mars by Hackett.[47] On Mars, Shepard learns of a Prothean superweapon capable of destroying the Reapers, and recovers its schematics from the Illusive Man, who reveals Cerberus' desire to control the Reapers instead. With schematics in hand, the Alliance begins construction on the device, dubbed the "Crucible", while Shepard is ordered to recruit support from other species across the galaxy.[48]

Shepard begins by rescuing the turian primarch from Menae, a moon orbiting the turian homeworld, Palaven.[49] The primarch pledges turian support to Shepard if the krogan help defend Palaven. The krogan leader, either Urdnot Wrex or his half-brother Urdnot Wreav, refuses to help unless the genophage is cured.[50] Shepard and the krogan leader travel to the salarian homeworld, Sur'Kesh,[51] where they rendezvous with a salarian scientist, either Mordin Solus or Padok Wiks. After the salarian scientist formulates a cure from Eve, a fertile krogan female, he hatches a plan to disperse it using a tower called the "Shroud" on the krogan homeworld, Tuchanka.[52] Before landing on Tuchanka, Shepard is contacted by the leader of the salarian government. She reveals that the Shroud has been sabotaged to prevent the dispersal of a cure, and offers her government's support if the sabotage is left intact. Shepard must decide whether to allow the cure to proceed, in which case the salarian scientist sacrifices himself to deploy a counter-measure. Conversely, Shepard can stop the scientist by killing him or convincing him not to deploy the cure, which deceives the krogan into thinking that the genophage has been cured. If Wrex is the Krogan leader, he eventually uncovers the deception and calls off Krogan support, forcing Shepard to kill him.[53]

Following the events on Tuchanka, the quarians offer their support to the Alliance if Shepard helps them reclaim their homeworld, Rannoch, from the geth. Accompanied by a quarian, either Tali'Zorah or Admiral Daro'Xen, Shepard boards a geth dreadnought and rescues a captive geth unit, either Legion or a facsimile occupied by a geth virtual intelligence (VI), then disables the Reaper control signal over the geth.[54] Shepard then locates and destroys a Reaper base on Rannoch,[55] which gives the quarians an opportunity to attack the vulnerable geth. However, the allied geth unit reveals that it intends to sacrifice itself in order to upgrade the geth using Reaper technology, which will enable the geth to achieve true sentience and free will, making them capable of defeating the quarians. Either Shepard negotiates a ceasefire to gain support from both sides, or is forced to support one side, which results in the other being annihilated. If the quarians are eradicated, Tali'Zorah commits suicide.

Shepard is subsequently summoned to the Citadel by the asari councilor.[56] She reveals that there is a hidden Prothean artifact on the asari homeworld, Thessia, which may help Shepard identify the "Catalyst", an essential component for completing the Crucible.[57] There, Shepard discovers a Prothean VI called "Vendetta", but Kai Leng arrives and steals it as Thessia falls to the Reapers. Desperate to reclaim Vendetta, Shepard's follows Leng to the Sanctuary facility on the human colony world Horizon, where Cerberus has been secretly researching Reaper-control technology.[58] Shepard obtains a tracking device that leads to the Illusive Man's headquarters, and initiates an all-out assault on the Cerberus space station with the Alliance.[59] Accompanied by EDI, Shepard reaches the central base, kills Leng, and learns from Vendetta that the Catalyst is the Citadel itself, which the Reapers have captured after successfully indoctrinating the Illusive Man, who abandoned the station prior to the assault.

The Alliance and its allies launch an all-out assault on the Reapers in a last-ditch effort to retake Earth and activate the Crucible by joining it with the Citadel.[60] After a long and grueling battle in London, Shepard reaches a Reaper transportation beam to enter the Citadel despite being gravely wounded by Harbinger, the leader of the Reapers. On the Citadel, Shepard meets with Anderson at a control panel, who is taken hostage and shot by the Illusive Man. The Illusive Man is either killed by Shepard or commits suicide if convinced of his indoctrination, and Anderson is killed in the process regardless. Shepard attempts to fire off the Crucible, only to instead be lifted to the pinnacle of the Citadel, where a childlike artificial intelligence appears that declares itself to be the Catalyst and the creator of the Reapers. Having conceded defeat to Shepard, it presents up to three options for activating the Crucible, which will break the Reapers' galactic cycle of extinction:[45]

  • Destroy the Reapers and all other synthetic life, including allies such as EDI and the geth.
  • Control the Reapers as a policing force by copying Shepard's influence into a new artificial intelligence.
  • Synthesize all organic and synthetic life, which will result in both achieving perfect understanding of one another.

The ultimate fates of the galaxy, the Earth, the Normandy-SR2 crew, and Shepard depend on the option chosen and the player's final EMS score. In a post-credits scene, an individual known as the "Stargazer" tells the story of "the Shepard" to a young boy, implying that Shepard's legacy lives on far into the future.

DevelopmentEdit

 
BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk envisioned Mass Effect 3 as accessible to new and returning players alike.[61]

Mass Effect 3 was developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts (EA).[62] Similar to previous installments in the series, the game was directed by Casey Hudson, who originally created the franchise along with BioWare founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka.[61] Its lead writer was Mac Walters, who served as co-writer on Mass Effect 2 with Drew Karpyshyn.[63] Karpyshyn departed from the series after Mass Effect 2 to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic.[64]

Game designEdit

Early stages of development on Mass Effect 3 began before Mass Effect 2 was released.[65] Because Mass Effect 3 was designed for consoles that were nearing the end of their lifespans, BioWare focused more on optimizing gameplay and storytelling than pushing the technology forward.[66] Throughout the design process, the company referenced critical feedback to help guide their creative decisions, an approach they also utilized for Mass Effect 2.[67] For example, many fans complained that role-playing systems in Mass Effect 2 were oversimplified, so BioWare added back more character customization options.[68] Another major strategy was to make Mass Effect 3 more user-friendly for new players, something that BioWare felt they did a bad job of in Mass Effect 2.[69]

One of Hudson's primary goals for the single-player campaign was to improve combat, hoping to turn Mass Effect 3 into one of the best shooters on the market.[70] BioWare tried to accomplish this by improving enemy animations and diversity, including specialized enemies that would require players to utilize different tactics based on character class.[71] The company also aimed to make the battlefield less predictable by introducing unexpected events and redirects, such as the floor giving out and the player falling to a completely different level of the environment, so that enemy encounters would not always go as telegraphed.[72]

ProductionEdit

Hudson and Walters began the writing process by collaborating on a short story document that outlined all primary plot points.[73] These high-level ideas were then disbursed to the rest of the team, who were each put in charge of specific character and story arcs.[53] Staff members were also responsible for peer reviewing each other's work.[73] Because prior games allowed players to choose from different outcomes, the writers had to account for many possible variables; however, in anticipation of this challenge, they preemptively locked in certain story arcs to ensure that all Mass Effect 3 playthroughs had at least some commonalities.[74] The overall narrative and ending went through multiple redrafts before being finalized; one original idea revolved around the Reapers' attempts to stop organics from utilizing dark energy.[64]

Mass Effect 3 required over 40,000 lines of dialog.[75] By comparison, the original Mass Effect featured approximately 20,000 lines while Mass Effect 2 featured 25,000.[75] Because of the game's extensive voice cast, it was logistically impossible for BioWare to have every actor in a single location at one time.[76] Caroline Livingstone, who served as voiceover director, coordinated recording sessions from Edmonton while the actors worked remotely.[76] BioWare noted that this approach, combined with the sheer volume of dialog, made it difficult to consistently capture the proper intonation and volume of each line.[75] To help reduce these kinds of errors, they developed their own technology, such as the "Intensity Volume Matrix", which listed out each line and the appropriate tone associated with it.[76]

Mass Effect 3 was originally planned as a project that could be finished in under two years.[66] However, by March 2011, it was clear that more development time was required, so BioWare moved the game's release date from Q4 2011 to Q1 2012.[77] In order to meet this deadline, the company also made some story concessions, such as the removal of a new, Prothean squad mate from the base game.[66] In November, a private beta of Mass Effect 3 was leaked onto Xbox Live, which allowed players to access unreleased plot details, and forced BioWare to alter some aspects of the story at the last minute.[78] Mass Effect 3 was officially approved for distribution, making it effectively finished, in February 2012.[66]

MusicEdit

The music of Mass Effect 3 was composed by Sasha Dikicyan, Sam Hulick, Christopher Lennertz, Clint Mansell, and Cris Velasco.[79] Everyone except for Mansell was a returning composer; Hulick contributed to the first two games and Dikicyan, Lennertz, and Velasco scored some Mass Effect 2 downloadable content packs.[80] Jack Wall, the lead composer of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, had no involvement in the production of Mass Effect 3.[81] Each composer was allocated a specific area of the game to work on, and in total there were 90 minutes of music scored.[80] According to Hulick, the team aimed for a balance between the orchestral sound of Mass Effect 2 and the synthesizer-driven sound of Mass Effect.[80] Mansell, a Golden Globe Award-nominated composer, likened his role to that of a disc jockey, who is responsible for choosing the right music at the right times.[82]

Marketing and releaseEdit

Mass Effect 3 was officially announced on December 11, 2010 at the Spike Video Game Awards.[83] The following summer, the game was demoed and unveiled at conventions such as Comic-Con,[84] Electronic Entertainment Expo,[85] Gamescon,[86] and PAX Prime.[87] A multiplayer component was officially announced on October 10, 2011,[88] confirming longstanding fan rumors of a multiplayer mode dating back to 2010.[89] An official single-player demo was released on February 14, 2012, with early access granted to consumers who purchased Battlefield 3 and activated their online pass.[90]

Leading to its release, Mass Effect 3 was promoted with a variety of video content, beginning with a reveal trailer in 2010 and ending with a teaser trailer called Take Back Earth in 2012.[91][92] BioWare also utilized viral marketing such as fictional blogs and a weekly web series called BioWare Pulse.[93] For one promotional campaign, EA launched early copies of Mass Effect 3 into space using weather balloons that were equipped with GPS devices.[94] Fans were able to track the balloons online and then recover them once they landed, which enabled them to obtain early copies of the game.[94] Throughout its marketing cycle, Mass Effect 3 was subject to numerous leaks; most significantly, a private beta unintentionally became available to players on Xbox Live in November 2011.[78][95]

Unlike Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, BioWare promoted Mass Effect 3 with both male and female versions of Commander Shepard.[96] Colloquially referred to as "FemShep", the female Shepard had her own dedicated trailers and appeared on the cover of some versions of the game, including the standard version, which featured a reversible slipcase insert with FemShep on one side.[97] To help decide the official FemShep model, BioWare asked fans to choose between five prototypes on Facebook.[98] Ultimately, the fifth prototype won and a new fan vote was held to decide its hair color, which became red.[99]

In addition to the standard version of Mass Effect 3, players could also purchase a Collector's Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition, which included in-game bonuses and unlockable items.[100] The Digital Deluxe Edition was exclusively available through Origin, EA's online distribution and digital rights management system.[101] The game also came with various pre-order bonuses depending on where the order was made.[102] For example, those who pre-ordered the game from the PlayStation Network were granted the M-55 Argus assault weapon and Mass Effect 3 PlayStation theme.[103]

Mass Effect 3 was originally scheduled for release in late 2011, but its official release date was eventually moved to March 6, 2012.[77] Initially, the game was only released for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.[77] All new copies of the game came with an online pass that granted access to the multiplayer mode, but used copies generally required that a new pass be purchased.[104] In order to run Mass Effect 3 on PC, players were required to install Origin.[105] On November 18, 2012, a Wii U version of the game was released in North America, followed by releases in Europe on November 30 and Japan on December 6.[106] Along with Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 became backwards compatible with Xbox One on November 7, 2016.[107]

Downloadable contentEdit

A variety of downloadable content packs for Mass Effect 3 were released between March 2012 and April 2013.[108] The content ranges from minor in-game item packs to more significant plot-related missions.[109] One pack, Extended Cut, expands upon the game's original endings with an additional choice to refuse the Catalyst, which inevitably results in a Reaper victory over the current cycle of organics.[110] The pack also supplements each ending with an epilogue and elaborates upon other aspects of the conclusion.[111] For example, whereas the original ending shows the Normandy SR-2 trying to outrun the blast from the Crucible, it does not elaborate on why the Normandy is fleeing from battle in the first place. In Extended Cut, a scene with Admiral Hackett ordering an evacuation is added.[110]

Other major packs include From Ashes, which adds Javik as a squadmate;[112] Leviathan, which follows the crew of the Normandy as they investigate the Reapers' origins;[113] Omega, which involves Shepard retaking the space station Omega alongside Aria T'Loak, its former ruler, from Cerberus; and Citadel, which follows the crew of the Normandy on shore leave.[114] An interactive comic called Genesis 2 is also available for purchase and allows players to quickly customize important story decisions on the spot instead of having to replay prior installments.[115] The Wii U version of the game includes Genesis 2 and From Ashes.[44] Of all the packs, Citadel was the best-received, and both Leviathan and Citadel were nominated for Best DLC at the Spike Video Game Awards during their respective years of release (2012 and 2013).[116][117]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(X360) 93/100[118]
(PS3) 93/100[119]
(PC) 89/100[120]
(WIIU) 85/100[121]
Review scores
PublicationScore
1Up.comA[122]
Edge8/10[123]
Eurogamer10/10[124]
G45/5[125]
Game Informer10/10[126]
GameSpot9.0/10[23]
GameTrailers9.5/10[127]
IGN9.5/10[128]
OXM (UK)10/10[129]
PC Gamer (US)93/100[130]

Upon release, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Mass Effect 3 received "universal acclaim" while the Microsoft Windows and Wii U versions received "generally favorable reviews" from video game publications, according to review aggregator Metacritic. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game finished with scores of 93 out of 100, making Mass Effect 3 the highest-rated game of 2012 on both systems.[118][119][120][121]

Critics felt that Mass Effect 3 was a satisfying conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy. In a perfect review for Eurogamer, Dan Whitehead praised the game for providing a definitive close to the saga instead of something more ambiguous or open-ended.[124] Writing for Game Informer, Andrew Reiner proclaimed that BioWare had created one of the most "intricately crafted" stories in the history of video gaming.[126] Tom Francis of PC Gamer (US) remarked that the finale was a "mixed bag", but ultimately praised its scale and emotional impact, which he felt was more satisfying than its main plot.[130]

Reviewers highlighted the experience of playing Mass Effect 3 with an imported saved game. In a piece for Polygon, Arthur Gies opined that, while the game would be engaging without any previous context, it would be more meaningful for players who also played through Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.[131] Gus Mastrapa of The A.V. Club echoed these sentiments and praised Mass Effect 3 for allotting each player a degree of flexibility over their choices and the direction of the narrative.[132] By contrast, Edge felt that Mass Effect 3 relied too heavily on events from prior games, which stopped it from standing up as its own work.[123]

The combat system and multiplayer mode received praise. Discussing combat for IGN, Colin Moriarty observed that while changes from prior installments were minor, they were still evident, and anticipated that multiplayer would give the game added replay value.[128] While Game Informer noted that combat was not perfect, they were still positive and concluded that enemy encounters were more intense and interesting than in Mass Effect 2, due in part to a greater variety in environment and enemy types.[126] In an otherwise enthusiastic write-up for GameSpot, Kevin VanOrd recounted numerous glitches during combat, such as party members putting themselves in the line of fire by climbing onto crates and enemies getting stuck on walls.[23] Machinima also noted numerous bugs, but relented that Mass Effect 3 was still a memorable experience, citing the game's strong characters as compensation for its flaws.[118]

Other aspects of Mass Effect 3 to receive praise included its art design, music, and voice acting. GameSpot described the art design as "fantastic" and gave particular attention to its use of color and composition.[23] In that same review, the website complimented the game's voice acting for bringing its major characters to life.[23] PC Gamer (US) made special mention of the game's music, calling it "gorgeous" and observing that it significantly added to the emotional impact of the game.[130] The Verge went a step further and described the score as one of the most "powerful and memorable" ever created for a video game.[133] Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku felt that the score represented some of the best video game music of 2012.[134]

ControversyEdit

"I remember about a week or so after we had launched [the game], we'd seen all these excellent critical reviews ... then all of a sudden people were saying, 'I felt the ending was weak.' And someone would say, 'Yeah, I thought it was actually pretty bad.' And someone else would say, 'I hated that ending.' It just snowballed like crazy, and pretty soon the whole issue was on fire."

—BioWare General Manager Aaryn Flynn in 2016[135]

The ending of Mass Effect 3 was poorly received by fans, who felt that it did not meet expectations. Critics felt the ending rendered character choices inconsequential; a general lack of closure; lore contradictions and plot holes; character and narrative inconsistencies; the absence of a final boss battle; and inconsistencies between statements by BioWare staff during the game's development and the form the endings ultimately took.[136][137][138][139][140]

Displeased fans organized an internet campaign called "Retake Mass Effect" to demand a better ending to the game, part of which included a charity drive for the organization Child's Play.[141] The drive raised $80,000 in less than two weeks.[142] One fan took his complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that BioWare did not deliver on the promise of its game.[143][144] The Better Business Bureau supported claims by fans that BioWare had falsely advertised the player's "complete" control over the game's final outcome.[145] However, the UK Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, ruling that EA and BioWare were not guilty of false advertisement since the endings were "thematically quite different", and the choices and Readiness Rating reflected in the ending content were significant enough to avoid actionable misleading of consumers under existing law.[146]

On March 22, 2012, BioWare co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ray Muzyka said that the company planned to address the criticism, with an announcement to be made in April 2012.[147][148] On April 5, BioWare announced a free downloadable content pack that would expand upon the ending.[149] The expansion, Extended Cut, was released for most platforms on June 26, 2012.[150] In a piece for Kotaku, Mike Fahey observed that fan reaction to the pack was generally mixed.[151] Video game publications were similarly divided, with some critics such as Joe Juba of Game Informer describing the new additions as a "substantial improvement" over the original ending,[152] while others such as Paul Tassi of Forbes felt it was "too little, far too late."[153]

SalesEdit

EA originally shipped 3.5 million units of Mass Effect 3 in its first month.[154] It sold 349,000 digital copies on the PC alone by the end of March 2012.[155] The game sold over 890,000 copies in its first 24 hours.[154] According to The NPD Group, it sold 1.3 million physical copies in its debut month,[156] which amounted to twice the total of Mass Effect 2 during its opening month in January 2010.[157] In May 2012, EA reported that Mass Effect 3 grossed over $200 million during Q4 FY12.[158]

AccoladesEdit

Following its release, Mass Effect 3 received a number of year-end awards, including Satellite Award for Outstanding Role Playing Game,[159] Best RPG at the Spike Video Game Awards,[160] Game of the Year from Game Informer,[161] Best Overall RPG from IGN,[162] and Best Co-Operative Multiplayer and Best Game Cinematography from Inside Gaming Awards.[163]

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref
2011 Game Critics Awards Best Console Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated [164]
Best Role Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
GameSpy's Best of E3 2011 Awards Overall (and Multiplatform) Game of Show Mass Effect 3 Nominated [165]
Role-Playing Game of Show Mass Effect 3 Nominated
IGN Best of E3 2011 Awards Best Overall Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated [162]
Best Xbox 360 Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best PC Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best Role-Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Won
Best Trailer Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Most Anticipated Game Award Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Spike Video Game Awards Most Anticipated Game Mass Effect 3 Won [166]
2012 Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Mass Effect 3 Nominated [167]
Best Narrative Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Game Informer Top 50 Games of 2012 Game of the Year Mass Effect 3 Won [161]
Best Role-Playing Mass Effect 3 Won
Best Downloadable Content Mass Effect 3 Won
Golden Joystick Awards Best RPG Mass Effect 3 Nominated [168]
Best Gaming Moment Mass Effect 3 – Tuchanka Choice Nominated
The Golden Joystick Ultimate Game Award Mass Effect 3 Nominated
IGN Best of 2012 Awards Game of the Year Mass Effect 3 Nominated [169]
Best Xbox 360 Role-Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best Xbox 360 Graphics Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best Xbox 360 Multiplayer Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best PS3 Role-Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Won
Best PS3 Game Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best Overall Role-Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Won
Best Overall Music Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Best Overall Sound Mass Effect 3 Nominated
Inside Gaming Awards Best Co-Operative Multiplayer Mass Effect 3 Won [163]
Best Game Cinematography Mass Effect 3 Won
PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2012 The Game of the Year 2012 Mass Effect 3 Won [170]
Polygon's 2012 Games of the Year Game of the Year Mass Effect 3 Nominated [171]
Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Outstanding Role Playing Game Mass Effect 3 Won [159]
Spike Video Game Awards Game of the Year Mass Effect 3 Nominated [160]
Best RPG Mass Effect 3 Won
Best Performance by a Human Female Jennifer Hale Nominated
Best DLC Mass Effect 3: Leviathan Nominated
Game of the Decade Mass Effect 3 Nominated
2013 Spike Video Game Awards Best DLC Mass Effect 3: Citadel Nominated [117]

LegacyEdit

In the years following its release, Mass Effect 3 has received retrospective attention, with much of it focusing on the ending controversy. For example, a 2017 article by James Davenport of PC Gamer opined that the game's ending received an "inordinate" amount of criticism, and while he agreed that the ending was "problematic", he also noted that fixating on the ending could distract players from other aspects of the game.[172] In 2018, Lucy O'Brien of IGN posited that BioWare's cooperative response to "Retake Mass Effect" contributed to a paradigm shift in how consumers influence video game developers. She ultimately concluded that the movement "helped lift up the velvet rope that once stood between gamer and game-maker."[173]

Despite the criticisms aimed at the game, some publications have cited Mass Effect 3 as one of the greatest video games of all time and as one of the best or most important games of the 2010s. In November 2012, the game was included in Time's list of the top 100 video games of all time,[174] and in 2018, it was named among the greatest games of all time by Game Informer.[175] In 2019, Mass Effect 3 was ranked as one of the best of the 2010s by VG247,[176] Forbes,[177] and Den of Geek,[178] and Eurogamer listed the character Mordin's final scene as one of their favorite moments of the decade.[179] Mass Effect 3 was also identified by VentureBeat as one of the defining games of the 2010s due to the "firestorm of fans, press, and developers converging into an absolute mess of internet culture" over its ending, and its multiplayer mode, which ultimately became an unexpected monetary success.[180]

SequelEdit

On March 21, 2017, a sequel called Mass Effect: Andromeda was released.[181] The game takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy during the 29th century after the end of a 634-year journey.[182] It introduces a new protagonist, either Sara or Scott Ryder, and revolves around finding a new homeworld for humanity.[183] Upon release, the game received generally mixed reviews from video game publications.[184] As of June 2018, BioWare has announced no official plans for another sequel, but Casey Hudson has mentioned that the studio intends to eventually return to the series.[185]

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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit