I finally got around to playing through the Mass Effect Trilogy, and absolutely loved it. I love the characters, I love the world, I love the narrative. It is now up there in at least my Top 10 video game series ever, maybe even Top 5.
Having the ability, with the newly released Legendary Edition on PS5, to play the games back to back was what felt like a privileged experience. Mostly because apparently the loading screens were cut significantly compared to their original counterparts, but also because it allowed me to see the growth of each title extremely clearly. Playing through Mass Effect 1 felt exactly like what it was - a 2007 Xbox title. Making the step from 1 to 2 absolutely BLEW me out of the water, from everything to graphics, gunplay, narrative, you name it. Mass Effect 1 crawled so that Mass Effect 2 could sprint. The leap from 2 to 3 was not as severe in my opinion, but it was significant still and there were some things in particular that really stood out to me - some better than others.
And that's what I want to talk about! This isn't as indepth as my previous reviews but I mostly just wanted to focus on what I think are the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of Mass Effect 3.
First big change I loved seeing was the guns. The face-lift they got in this game is almost breath-taking. Yes it's still a third person cover shooter, but everything from their sound design, to their visuals, to how they felt was absolutely top notch compared to the previous two games. Tacking on the fact that you can actually add customizations to them, and organize your arsenal however you like was a welcome surprise that I was not expecting. I ended up sticking with a sniper rifle and handgun for most of the game, and that simple setup helped make my experience of Shepard feel even more personalized to how I had developed her character over the three games.
The second big change which I wasn't actually expecting to enjoy was the lack of mini-games. Matching shapes on circuits, picking out code snippets to match the prompt to gain access to a variety of things; through the first and second game these various mini-games that would act as barriers through the story. They were never something I outwardly liked or disliked, as they were just a part of the game so I played along. It was actually a few hours into the third game before I realized that they were nowhere to be found, and once conscious of it, was actively relieved that was the case. I didn't realize until afterwards how they were mostly just time-sinks that didn't really add much to the overall game experience.
One of the main things I love about Mass Effect 1 and 2 is the dialogue. The conversations and relationships you have with your crew mates are one of the biggest draws of the Mass Effect series as a whole. Growing your bond with your crew, and romancing (almost) anyone of your choice play into so much of the narrative, that's arguably what the entire second game is about. Mass Effect 3 however left me a little sour once I had put some time into it. No matter how many times you spoke to someone in 1 and 2, you would always be greeted and prompted with a menu. You would always begin a one on one conversation with them that brought the screen into a more intimate framing even if you were just saying hi and bye. The third game however was not always the case. Especially in terms of romancing Liara, I spent a lot of time checking in with her between missions, just to be greeted with one or two lines that would just then repeat if you kept speaking to her.
To be devil's advocate, where 3 lacked general dialogue options, I do believe it made up for in its cutscenes. Many of Liara's romance scenes had my heart filled with so much joy and excitement, that in that moment, it made up for the hundreds of times I checked in with her, only to be greeted with "Shepard." or "Thanks for stopping by.". It would feel unfair to also not mention that some dialogue would automatically happen when you enter rooms with crew members after certain narrative points had happened, but overall, it felt like the intimacy I had grown to love in the first and second game was somewhat overlooked in the third.
My next point feels like somewhat of a hot take so I’ll just say it. The quest tracking in 3 kind of really sucks. Now I'm not saying I want them to hold my hand until the finish line each and every time, but especially for the new quest type they added... it would have just been a really nice quality of life addition. I'm talking specifically about the missions where you would essentially catch ambient conversations with people around areas like the Citadel, and be tasked with going out and finding something when flying out in space. In a nutshell, you travel around what could be the wrong galaxy, pinging your radar until you either a) find something pretty useless or b) get chased out by Reapers. For a map as large as ME3’s, combined with the extremely vaguely-worded descriptions for said missions, it was just too much. Especially when you factor in what I talk about next...
Dear. Sweet. GOD. Like I said, I could talk to you for hours about this game. Blah blah blah, the characters, the narrative, the world building, you know it all. This game is arguably a masterpiece, and yet, what in the ever loving GOD is that MENU SYSTEM???
Ok, 1 and 2 weren't anything to write home about, but at least they broke it up (relatively) between Main Missions and Side Missions. You had your main story missions, and anything pertaining to your teammates in one menu, and any other smaller side content in another. That was it. Simple. Easy. Graceful. Minimal, yet just effective enough.
3 on the other hand, stuck everything into one god damn menu and called it a day. Story Missions, DLC, Character Quests, Scanning Missions like I just talked about above. It's just... one... big... list. Even writing this weeks after having put the game down does it still get me heated to talk about. Who decided that was a good idea?
The Scanning Missions were the biggest culprit of making this an issue but don't get me wrong, it's not the missions themselves that I don't like. It's the fact that there are a lot of them and they are mixed up interchangeably with so many other mission types and no possible way to filter them. It was honestly so overwhelming, that the fact that I even managed to handle it until the end of the game is a testament in itself to how much I truely loved it. If it was any other game I would have probably ditched out early on because staring at that menu made my anxiety rise severely.
That is it! Have you played the new Legendary Edition of the Mass Effect Trilogy? How do you think Mass Effect 3 compared to the first two? Let me know over on twitter at @atlaspolara!