We might as well just give up now. The future isn?t going to be full of happiness, world peace and Back to the Future-inspired hoverboards. If BioWare has anything to say about it, we?re all in for a world of hurt. In Mass Effect 3, things go completely off the rails and straight to hell. A nasty alien race called the Reapers are heading to Earth, and you return to your role as Commander Shepard of the Normandy space vessel just as these bad boys begin their invasion.
Of course, it was planned to be chaotic and apocalyptic from the beginning. BioWare had always referred to Mass Effect 2
as its ?Empire Strikes Back
? episode of the sci-fi trilogy, so I assumed this final chapter would have something of a ?Return of the Jedi
? style approach. As massive Reaper ships land on Earth and tear open your HQ, your Shepard (of either the male or female variety) has to escape the chaos and reach the intergalactic counsel in order to seek help for your world.
It?s very fair to say that the first hour or two of Mass Effect 3
has a very action-based focus. As you try to escape the Reaper attack in the opening segment, you?re introduced to a lot of gameplay mechanics that centre on taking cover, melee attacks and shooting controls. If you were worried that the Mass Effect
series may be leaning away from the original?s RPG elements, this might not do much to quell those fears.
You can still earn skill points as you progress and defeat Husks, Cerberus soldiers and other enemies, and they can be spent on a skill tree so that various abilities and power-ups can be upgraded. Your AI-controlled squad can also be levelled up in the same way, and each space squaddie has their own skills that are dependent on their character class. Kaidan is able to use a Barrier technique which can help shield your approach, as well as an Overload function that can take out enemy armour.
But, while Mass Effect 3
does feel like a further step towards a more action-oriented experience, that doesn?t mean that its lost any of its impact. Where the first few hours of gameplay really impress is in the unfolding storyline. The graphics and atmosphere are, as always, absolutely spectacular, and the iconic Mass Effect
spectrum of colours and use of lighting is put to fantastic use in your first interplanetary mission.
After a few scenes back on Earth, which sees Shepard get reinstated as Commander and leaving the planet on the Normandy against a backdrop of cityscape-humping Reaper ships, your trek to the counsel is distracted somewhat by a jaunt on Mars. Apparently, Liara T?Soni may have found a way to stop the Reapers? attack on Earth. This early in the game? Surely you jest.
You go there anyway, and realise that - as expected - things aren?t quite so simple. Cerberus soldiers have taken control of the Martian station, and to add complications there?s a Doctor Eva running around sabotaging the research that T?Soni has been banking on to hand over to Shepard.
A multitude of shooting sequences and standoffs later, and you realise that a familiar face is behind the mysterious deletion of station data - Illusion Man. The playtest ended with Shepard betrayed, on a serious back foot against multiple enemies and a serious incident that changes the shape of your squad irrevocably.
Although what I played seemed very focused and linear, I?m told that the game truly opens up once you pass this segment of the game. This is just the taster for the vast expansive universe that presents itself to you in Mass Effect 3
- and if the role-playing and gameplay elements remain just as gripping as the story, we may have the perfect conclusion to a truly epic BioWare space opera.