Mass Effect 3: The Review (Abstract Spoilers)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

As it turns out, I only play videogame RPGs to have sex with people.  But it’s not shallow, I swear.  I just like to talk.
See, in Bioware’s videogames like Mass Effect 3, there are invariably romances to be had – which can only be unlocked by talking repeatedly to your “friends” at every turn, unlocking new conversation trees, finding out new things about your pals (who invariably have interesting histories).  And if you’re open for a romance, you can keep talking to various people, having them fall more in love with you, until eventually you unlock the side-boob sex scene in Act III.
This is the juice of the game.  Without this lure of finding out more about your friends, all the BioWare games are reduced to “Let’s enter another dungeon and kill baddies!”  The romance is what turns a bunch of wandering monster encounters into a story.
Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3 cockblocked me.
See, I spent all of Mass Effect 2 romancing [NAME REDACTED], a long and arduous romance that was actually the most fulfilling videogame romance I’ve ever had.  I actually felt protective of her, such was the magnificent writing of Mass Effect – yes, it’s silly to fall for a fictional character, but damn if they didn’t get me to do it.
So when Mass Effect 3 told me that [NAME REDACTED] was a romance possibility, and we could continue dating if we’d dated in ME2, I was thrilled!  I’d have more conversations with my sweetie!  We’d spend more time together!  I’d find more about her history, what she was up to now!  It was like a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew….
So imagine my disappointment when the “romance” consisted of “I meet her in a club, say ‘I miss you,’ we dance together once, and she goes off to a place where I never see her again.”
Worse, this “romance” barred me from romancing anyone else.  I didn’t realize this dance was an iron-clad commitment, but suddenly all the other romantic possibilities had nothing to say to me.  I’d go into their room and click on them, and they’d say nothing.
This is terrible design.  But it actually made me cry.
Because in Mass Effect 3, the whole story is about terrible choices and how your character, Shepherd, is the only one who can make them.  It’s implied heavily that this is a suicide mission.  And here I am, with all of my friends refusing to talk to me, alone and horrendously isolated as I’m reduced to a mindless fighting machine with no friends….
…It wasn’t what they intended.  But somehow, this lack of conversational options made me feel like the world was ending.  Which is sort of a genius misfire, actually.
The thing about Mass Effect 3 is that the game is top-notch, but the story is lacking. I won’t give (major) spoilers (though if you’re spoiler-allergic on all fronts, then walk away now), but the ending is craptastic for three reasons:
1)  The ending is utterly not dependent on anything you’ve done before.  It comes out of nowhere, and you’re given some choices, but if you’ve played Paragon the whole time and decide to fuck the world with a Renegade ending, sure!  Go ahead!  The hundred or so hours of history you’ve poured into all three games don’t enter into it.
2)  You don’t find out what happens to your companions afterwards.  Dragon Age did this right – you got to hear the history of all your pals and know whether your choices helped or hindered them.  The last you see of your best friends, they’re entangled in the Huge-Ass War that ends the series.  Are they alive or dead?  Well, I guess you don’t need to know.  (I am vaguely lying about one part of this to preserve mystique.)
3)  To get the “good” ending, you must either a) play a shit-ton of multiplayer, or b) pay Bioware $7.99 for the iPhone application.  This is bullshit EA practice, because winning at multiplayer gets easier – surprise! – if you pay EA money for the upgrades.
It does not help that BioWare is lying their fucking ass off on this one.  When I posted about this on Twitter, several people pointed me towards BioWare’s PR person saying, “No, you can get the good ending if you just play all the quests.”  This is untrue.  You can get the good ending if you come in with a 100% Paragon/Renegade save from ME1 and ME2 and do every quest in ME3.  Stutter a little at any point in this segment, and you will come up short.  I did every quest I could find, and still wound up 400 points short of the “good” ending.  (It doesn’t help that to get the “perfect” game, you have to be Manual, Dangit perfect.)
In other words, the only way to get the good ending is to have been obsessive for all three games.  Otherwise, shell out money, or play a game that you really didn’t want to play.  (And the non-good endings are sufficiently downers that there are online petitions with 10,000 signatures asking for BioWare to put out a DLC to get a better ending.  People are willing to pay to have a satisfying ending, which should show you how dismal it is.)
This is unfortunate, because whenever Dragon Age 3 comes out, you bet your ass that I’m going to see whether EA fucks me over by forcing me to jump through their hoops.  If they do, I’m not buying.  I dig they need alternative revenue sources, and I appreciate the add of multiplayer, but if I wanted fucking multiplayer I’d play Call of Duty.  There are better ways to encourage me.
So.  Mass Effect 3 is like Return of the Jedi – a little disappointing, certainly lacking the momentum of the previous films, but pretty good.  I liked a lot of it.  Sadly, the ending is the major disappointment, and the thing I’m most likely to remember.  So it goes.

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