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E3 2011: Mass Effect 3 (Impressions)

Posted by: Tina at 6/12/2011 5:52 PM
Game: Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare
Release Window/Date: March 6th
What works: Mass Effect 3 looks fantastic. BioWare has a knack for designing creative, almost overwhelming environments and cities. Now that the Reapers are finally making their invasion, all of this is offset by explosions and destruction. Random moments in the game will draw you in and play with your emotions.
What needs work: During the demo, we saw the camera pan out to reveal a massive Reaper invasion on Earth, and I couldn’t help but be reminded by H. G. Welss’ War of the Worlds. I’m hoping that the Reapers will end up separating themselves from that particular alien invasion. Although the new omni-blade provides for some gratifying strikes, there wasn’t much to be seen in terms of combat.

Mass Effect 3 is a game that I will not be missing, simply because of my dedication to the franchise. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that everyone else will feel the same level of excitement as I do for the title to release. From what I saw on the E3 floor, I’m thinking many of you gamers will be able to relate.

In this final act in the Mass Effect series, Shepard has to rally all the military forces and resources in the galaxy to fend off the Reaper’s invasion and threat to all organic life.

Playing as Shepard, you get to play with both traditional style combat - weaponry, grenades, and melee combat - as well as the unique abilities given to you based on the class you choose. The new omni tool in ME3 features a prominent knife-like design that lets you tear through enemies in a gratifying mini scene. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be said for combat, as most of what I saw was in line with the more traditional fighting style of taking cover to aim at enemies. Casey Hudson showed off the new feature to jump from cover to cover, thereby allowing you to play with a more effective stealth style. You can also use armory benches to customize your weapons (both functionally and visually), and use specialized ammo like incendiary ammunition for even more customization.

Combat will also be taken into vehicles, with Cerberus’ new Atlas mech enemies being a powerful new addition.

What really held my attention on the showfloor, however, was the storyline. We got to see fragments of what must be extensive plot lines that will undoubtedly be fleshed out during the progression of the game. Beyond the main plot line of the imminent doom of Earth by the ancient machines known as Reapers, there were others parts of the storyline that were alluded to in the demo. A Krogan in Shepard’s possession indicates another conflict in the midst of a full scale galactic war, and other returning companions and characters will be prominent in your ventures to save the Earth.

By far the best part of the demo was running into a little boy hiding out in the ventilation shafts. You have to make a decision to help him or warn him to run as the Reapers are settling on Earth to harvest all organic life. He’s clearly scared, and your actions could make a drastic impact on what happens to him. The music turns a very familiar somber, and a beautifully directed cut scene feels like it’s tugging at your heart. BioWare has a very powerful flare for creating moments that the gamer can connect with and feel emotionally invested in. Especially if you’ve played the first two Mass Effect titles, you’ll experience a setting riddled with decisions you have made that make an impact on the storyline as you progress. A quick demo on the E3 showfloor can’t do it justice, but it did give us a peak at the kinds of scenes and difficulties we will be facing when the game releases.

The demo also reminded me of how fantastically the music complements the gameplay and cutscenes. Reapers bellow a harrowing sound (again, similar to the War of the Worlds), and touching, emotional cut scenes have somber music accompanying them. Impressive voice acting adds to this roster of impressive aspects of Mass Effect 3. Although, being used to a female Shepard, I couldn’t help but notice how significantly more convincing her voice acting is than male Shepard’s. My only hesitation to the release of ME3 is that I know I will have to go through another playthrough of ME2 to ensure all my characters are alive and healthy for endeavors against the Reapers.