Video game trilogy sees tremendous finale to series

Video game trilogy sees tremendous finale to series

courtesy of Microsoft

Martin Chang, Opinions Editor

Mass Effect 3 tells an in-depth story with many great moments, from an alien race nearly wiped out by the horrors of war, to  the tragic deaths and unsung heroes that such a war brings, to more quiet moments between friends. In Mass Effect 3, these moments have an emotional impact that is unique in video games.

They have this impact because there is an attention to detail, a sense of craft that oozes from the game. The way the writing, voice acting and combat integrate into a fantastic story is a high watermark for games.

In Mass Effect 3, an alien race called The Reapers is attempting to wipe out all other life in the galaxy. It is up to you, the captain of the ship The Normandy, to build a coalition among the many races of life forms that could defeat the threat of The Reapers and then try to defeat this force that has you greatly outnumbered.

From the start of the game in which you watch the devastating Reaper attack on Earth, it is clear that you are playing a game of high quality. This starting moment makes a strong impression. It right away tells you how dire The Reaper situation is.

The rest of the big moments of the game have this same impact. In fact, the further you get into the game, the moments of the game, big and small, have a surprising emotional resonance.

From the quiet moments you share with your shipmates where you share hopes and memories of destroyed home worlds, to the epic moments of character sacrifice, these moments are touching in a way that is rare in video games.

These moments shine because of the quality of the writing and the voice acting. The writing emphasizes character development and storytelling techniques, like pacing, that you would expect from a great novel or movie.

The writing here is brimming with life. It is descriptive and the way that the different races talk seems real and true to life. The characters and races have distinct personalities.

You know that the Asari are quiet and thoughtful, that the Krogan are boisterous and aggressive, and the Salarians are intellectual and cold. When these races face the incredible losses of having their planet destroyed and their race nearly wiped out, you truly feel for them.

In fact, when I made a choice that killed off the Quarians, a sad, quiet race that I liked, I felt so bad that I just had to start over and make the other choice.  I felt the choice I made in a way that I never experienced playing a video game.

This all would fall apart if the voice acting was not up to the quality of the writing. But the voice acting never falters. The game handles the emotional moments with a sensitivity that is rare in games.

The larger moments are given the correct gravitas by its many actors. Many times the writing in video games are ruined by bad voice acting, so the quality acting stands out even more here.

The world of Mass Effect is extraordinary in detail and scope. The many races and many planets to explore, it’s all given life through the writing and acting. There is fun in simply walking around and observing the life and landscape of the many planets and interacting with the many races, in learning about the large world that has been created. Not all of it is gold, some of the side-quests can be a little boring, but you can ignore that content.

Much of the game is also third person combat such as the combat in Gears of War.  This even is a great experience. The combat is snappy and is given great variety with its attack and weapons options. Yet what really makes it great are the combat scenarios.

The places and obstacles you fight give the combat challenge and variety, even though you are fighting the same enemies in much the same way. The different areas are just well designed in terms of art design and giving you different strategies to employ and stuff to do, plus you care about the combat because it’s integrated in the story well.

The multiplayer part of the game is disappointing. It is a wave-based survival mode that is generic and not exciting. It simply does not have the same variety in the combat scenarios or attention to detail that the single player does.

Plus without the connection to the story, it just seems tacked on. It is not important though and, like the lower quality side quests, easy to ignore.

Yet this doesn’t get in the way of this fantastic world that has been created, a world this large, with this much emotional power and polish is an experience worth having.

5/5 stars