This month marks Mass Effect’s tenth anniversary! On November 20th, 2007, the game was first released in North America. And what a ride it’s been for fans since then. Join me here as I share some of my memories from each game of the original trilogy. This is the final post of the lot in which I sweep through Mass Effect 3. For the previous posts in this series, click here and here.
So. Um. That ending, huh?
Look, I’ll get this out the way up front. I am the absolute last person with whom anyone would want to discuss ME3’s ending, because I really don’t have anything to say. I neither liked the ending I chose that first time (destroy the Reapers), nor did I hate it. By the time I finished the game, it was late 2012, and I was well aware of all the controversy and backlash and BioWare’s DLC “fix.” As far as I was concerned, the game’s ending was the game’s ending. Good? Good.
Back to the beginning…upon starting Mass Effect 3, I imported the only character I had available, my paragon, Vanguard Alexandra Shepard. The game’s initial events quickly ensued. I’m back in the thick of things as an Alliance officer. I’m reacquainted with the Reapers and (former) Captain Anderson on Earth, which is a right mess. I meet back up with Kaiden, meet a new and very friendly fellow named James. Liara’s back, and so is the Illusive Man. The situation in the game, with the creation of “The Crucible,” a weapon that would surely take out the Reapers for good(?), hearkens back to the urgent nature that saturated the first game. The stakes seem drastically more important than simply gaining the loyalty of a few teammates. This time…it was about obtaining armies and banding together to save the universe.
However, as with Mass Effect 2, most of my first playthrough of ME3 is fuzzy. I know I made it through the main story, and I know that I completed most but not all of the side quests. (Whatever my military readiness was at the end, I was only given two choices with the Reapers – control or destroy.) Also like with ME2, the game didn’t really claw into my senses as the first game had. Well…it did in one regard: relationships.
Mass Effect 3 featured a lot, and I mean a lot of death and destruction. Entire planets and populations were leveled by the Reapers during the game. This lent well to the game’s story and that sense that Shepard had to act, and act now to make a difference. But despite that clamoring, Shepard could still pursue relations with a chosen teammate. While the game made it quite clear from the get-go that Alliance marine James Vega would be more than happy to fill that role for my Shepard, I was still all about Garrus.
And then, Kaiden showed up. And he showed up professing nothing short of latent love.
In ME1, I jilted Kaiden for Liara. In ME2, Kaiden could barely stand the sight of Shepard as a Cerberus agent. And then, in ME3, he suddenly wanted to know where he stood with Shepard, like, romantically.
Guys, I know I should really have something more profound to say about my first experience with Mass Effect 3, because it was a game that, for some, broke the whole series. It was a game that was supposed to be the culmination of one of the greatest space adventure series of our time. Yet, here I am, (still, to this day), hung up on the fact that the game made me play through what felt like a pre-written and poorly staged “emotional” scene with Kaiden that didn’t make any sense in light of what had happened.
But maybe that’s where a little insightfulness could come into play. Because there was more than one moment in Mass Effect 3 where – and this is probably the most common yet truthful gripe about the game — it felt like the choices you had made during the previous games just didn’t matter. The Council? Oh well. Ambassador Anderson? Nope, he’s got to fight for the resistance now so that we can set up for sad times at the end (which are sad, truly). The Illusive Man as more than just a Reaper pawn? Aw, it was nice to hope.
Mass Effect 3 didn’t let me down so much as it didn’t build up much of anything. When I was done with it, had zero desire to replay it. Maybe that had a little to do with the fact that I didn’t have another Shepard in tow, but it was mostly because that need to see how things might have panned out differently with different choices just wasn’t there. What did it matter, anyway?
Putting aside all the pomp that wasn’t, I enjoyed Mass Effect 3 about as much as I did Mass Effect 2 but not as much as Mass Effect. I remember enjoying combat quite a lot in the third game. Firefights felt tight and intense. Though, I do recall that I didn’t like the shotgun as much in the third game. No matter which model I used or how I modded it, the shotguns all seemed terribly inaccurate, even when I was mere inches away from my enemy. Granted, shotguns usually are, but as the game progressed, I found myself using my shotgun less and less. During the latter half of the game, I relied almost solely on my SMG.
If you might be wondering why I’ve not mentioned biotics once while speaking about my Vanguard…um…yeah. I nearly always forgot that she had those abilities, from the first game to the third. I also always used a biotic teammate, so utilizing those powers for myself never came much into play. (I rectified this awful oversight in later playthroughs.)
All in all, I had a good time during my first playthrough of Mass Effect 3. The game contained some really amazing scenes that will always stick with me: Thresher Maw vs. Reaper Destroyer, that heartfelt ending before the “ending” with Captain Anderson, the amazing space battle at the end (how I love a good space battle!). Sure, there were parts that I wish had played out better, and no, the game didn’t want to make me immediately play it again, but it still soundly closed the book on Commander Shepard and the Reapers.
Lede image by BioWare [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons