Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through ‘Mass Effect’ again (Part 3 of 3)

Warning: This is part three of a three part series. You can check out part one of this series here, and part two of the series here. Due to the nature of this feature, this will contain numerous spoilers for all three titles in the Mass Effect trilogy. Read on at your own risk.

You’ve read about my distaste for the first Mass Effect. You’ve watched as I shower praise upon Mass Effect 2. Now, read on to see me examine the assertions that I made about Mass Effect 3 in my review, and see if I finally come to realize that the 5 out of 5 I gave it should really be dropped down to a 2 out of 5 because the last 0.05% of the game doesn’t go as some would have liked. Join me as I take the most posthumously beaten horse and punch it until I can’t lift my arm anymore. That’s right; we’re opening up the Mass Effect 3 can o’ worms one last time!

Mass Effect 3 (2012)

When I started Mass Effect 3 again, I knew full well what I was getting into. The game, of course, has an infamous controversial ending that I fawned over in my review and the accompanying podcast, but it was necessary for me to experience it again with a new perspective and the knowledge of what the complaints were.

Let’s get one of my biggest praises out of the way: the presentation. BioWare truly did a phenomenal job with making the game look, feel, and sound excellent. The mini-cutscenes that come seamlessly throughout gameplay, such as the ones that occur during the opening attack on Earth, do wonders for BioWare’s mission to make the story a cinematic one, and there’s no denying the immersing nature of the storytelling. Even if you despise the ending, the game’s overall narrative is spectacular, and presented in elite fashion.

20111030074510Reaper fleet 630x340 Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through Mass Effect again (Part 3 of 3)

I think at this point, Shepard is missing the days of Saren being his biggest nuisance.

I never noticed how much darker Mass Effect 3 was than the first two entries until I played them back-to-back-to-back. Sure, I knew the fight was desperate and the enemies fiercer, but this title took the series to the next level. Banshees are absolutely horrifying, and the startled sense a player gets when completely pinned down with low shields as a Banshee makes its way towards you is unrivaled. One thing I did notice, though, was that when Reapers indoctrinate different species, humans really get the short end of the bargain. Turians become Marauders, Asari become Banshees, Batarians become Cannibals, and Brutes are comprised of a Turian/Krogan hybrid. Meanwhile, humans get stuck with being the zombie rip-off known as Husks. We don’t get weapons or any sense of self-preservation; instead, we throw ourselves at our enemies all willy-nilly in hopes that one of our allies will kill them before they thrust their heel through our brittle skull. We may now have Spectres, but the Reapers still give us no respect.

Speaking of a divine lack of respect, I got the same genocidal wild hare that hit me in the original Mass Effect when I wiped out the Rachni, and when the time came to implement the cure for the genophage or sabotage it, I decided that I had tolerated the Krogan for long enough. I went all out, though. Not only did I withhold information from Mordin about the sabotage, but when he found out about it, I blew him away with a single shot of my pistol (it was actually kind of sad seeing the little guy bleed out just before the Shroud facility explodes). I thought I had fooled the Krogan, but boy was I wrong! Just as I was leaving the Citadel one day, my old pal Wrex decided he was going to kill me. He had found out the Salarian Dalatrass pleaded for me to sabotage the cure, and he opened fire on me. While I hesitated to kill Wrex on Virmire in Mass Effect, I wasted no time in ending his life on the Citadel. Man, diplomacy is hard!

As I already mentioned, the game was much darker than its predecessors, but there were also some very humorous moments scattered throughout. One such moment came when a Yahg ran out during an early mission, killing Cerberus troops. You hear Shepard remark to be careful because that’s the next Shadow Broker; a nice callback to the outstanding “Lair of the Shadow Broker” DLC in Mass Effect 2. Also, when I went down to engineering, I noticed that BioWare had thrown in some self-deprecating humor, making fun of my biggest complaint of the first Mass Effect 1, the Mako. One of the men in engineering remarks that it handled “like a drunk rhino,” which brought a real smile to my face. The final humorous moment that comes to mind is finding Tali completely alone and drunk, just smashing Miranda for being genetically modified. In my first run-through, I encountered a wasted Ashley laying on the floor, but since she didn’t make it through the first game this time, I guess Tali had to take one for the team. It’s little things like that which make Mass Effect 3‘s story that much better, and its characters that much more real.

MassEffect3 Javik Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through Mass Effect again (Part 3 of 3)

I guess when his people have been extinct for 50,000 years, you can’t exactly expect him to be pleasant.

In my first playthrough, I didn’t get Javik until after I had finished the main story, which led to me only having limited time with the Prothean sqaudmate. Nevertheless, it was still enough time for me to get the impression that he was kind of a jerk. I wanted to give him a second chance, so I not only got him as soon as the game would let me, but I also brought him along on every mission just so we could try this friendship thing again. As I played through, Javik actually did drop some incredibly interesting insights, but he was still pretty rough on the manners. One of my favorite remarks from him came on Thessia when Shepard states that the Prothean beacon is recognizing him as Prothean. Upon hearing Shepard say that, Javik responds: “Or maybe it’s the Prothean standing right next to you…?”

I went into this playthough of the Mass Effect series knowing how things end up for Shepard in the end, so this time, I went all in with the girls. Starting out, there were four that I had my eye on: Traynor, Liara, Miranda, and, for the story, Jessica Chobot.

First, I invited Traynor up to my room for a game of “chess.” After she beat me, I tried to convince her to “play other kinds of games,” but she would have no part of it, stating that she wasn’t into men and that I was pretty much barking up the wrong tree. Off to a rough start in my conquests, no?

After telling both Liara and Miranda, who BioWare still loves showing from behind, that they were the only ones for me, I proceeded to betray both of them. I first set my sights on Miranda, my romance from Mass Effect 2. After only a little bit of convincing, Miranda was down for anything once again, and the person monitoring the Citadel security cameras got a nice show.

I then went straight from her to Jessica Chobot, whom I had made passes at in previous interviews. I invited her to my private cabin for an interview, which ended with us participating in extracurricular activities. I then immediately went down to her area of the Normandy and kicked her off my ship. The Normandy has no room for those kind of shenanigans.

Jessica Chobot Mass Effect 3 Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through Mass Effect again (Part 3 of 3)

I heard she was quite skilled at licking PSPs, so what was I going to do, not invite her on my ship?

I tried to complete my romantic conquest by getting back with my Mass Effect 1 romance, Liara, but she immediately blocked me by using the “f word.” That’s right, she called me a “friend.” Upon hearing that, I moved on and never spoke to her again. Come on, I’m playing as Renegade Shepard here… I don’t have time to waste with “friends.”

Just like the first Mass Effect, there was a moment where I doubted my mission to complete the trilogy would ever be accomplished. This time, it wasn’t thanks to the save functionality being antiquated, but rather a glitch that caused my mission on Gellix to freeze at random times. Finally, after several attempts, I completed the mission and never looked back. There were a few other glitches, such as when a random Turian decided to box me in on the Citadel, only to force me to restart my console, or when multiplayer began spawning invisible turrets in one of my matches, but Mass Effect 3 remains the most polished entry of the trilogy, by far.

There were actually two times in my first playthrough where I wondered if I would ever have the chance to see the story through to the end: the final battle with Kai Leng, and the last sequence where Mass Effect 3 pretty much decides it’s going to emulate an old-school arcade game and throw every enemy you ever fought during the game at you back-to-back (alright, maybe it was just every Reaper you fought back-to-back, but still). This time through, the battle with Kai Leng gave me the same amount of trouble, and I began questioning how I would ever defeat him again. Luckily, I adapted to his speed and eventually vanquished him, avenging the death of my buddy Thane. Oddly enough, I didn’t have the same trouble with the final battle as I did my first time through. I could probably attribute this to my increased preparation and stockpiling of Medi-Gels, but still, this playthrough left me wondering why I ever had such trouble with it in the first place.

me3ending Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through Mass Effect again (Part 3 of 3)

The final approach serves as a climax to a well-executed story.

I wanted to get my Galactic Readiness rating up prior to finishing the game, so I made sure to play a large amount of multiplayer before storming the Illusive Man’s base. I played until my readiness rating was at 100%, and that equated to so much multiplayer that I began hearing Lou Bega’s “Ahhhh!” from “Mambo #5″ whenever my Human Adept character did a heavy melee. It was infuriating.

It was difficult to judge the consequential nature of the ending when I had only completed the game once with one type of character. By using a completely different kind of character in this playthrough, I had hoped to see how different my ending would be. Honestly, after seeing it a second time, I stand by my convictions that it is one of the best endings I can remember. Sure, the final cutscene could’ve used a bit more influence from individual choices, and yes, I’d love to see more of what happened to my crew and squadmates, but counting the ending as the final battles along with the actual story itself, I would argue it’s difficult to complain.

The ending sequences featured some incredibly difficult moments that accurately portrayed the desperate struggle the entire galaxy was facing. It gives players the true feeling of what it’s like to be an underdog and, if you’re good enough, what it feels like to overcome those impossible odds. As for not enough choices being worked into the ending, it may surprise you to discover that I agree. I will defend BioWare in this regard, however, by stating that so many choices from previous installments showed their consequences throughout the entire game, and as such I find the ending excusable. The constant references to my decisions in the Arrival DLC, or how the Shadow Broker situation in Mass Effect 2 went down never failed to bring a smile to my face, and when you play through Mass Effect 3 a second time, you understand how intricately placed these decision points were, along with how well BioWare implemented them during the game itself. Feel free to disagree with me if you’d like (and I know you will), but that’s the beauty of it all: we can have different opinions! By the way, I got the green ending! HELL TO THE YEAH!

Banshee Kiss 630x348 Reboarding the Normandy: Playing through Mass Effect again (Part 3 of 3)

If BioWare advertised “hot Asari-on-Asari action” and gave us this, maybe then I would agree that we should complain to the FTC

So, there you have it. I replayed the entire Mass Effect trilogy for your entertainment. While some of my original assertions were challenged, I found that overall, I was more thoroughly convinced of the reasons for why I love this trilogy. Sure, there are some imperfections here, or a plothole there, or even an entire game with antiquated gameplay, but BioWare truly deserves to be commended for what they accomplished. The series flowed incredibly well, and forged a path that many others are sure to follow. I really hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did, but if you found this third and final piece to be a monumental letdown, please note that I will not be releasing any DLC to amend it, nor will I be issuing any refunds.

Unfortunately, the playthrough of these three games wasn’t all fun and games. I wanted to take a moment to remember those we lost along the way:

Ashley Williams, Rachni Queen, The Entire Original Council, Saren Arterius, The Original Normandy, The Shadow Broker, Tali’s Dad, Maelon Heplorn, The Entire Collector Population, 300,000 Batarians, Eve (the Female Krogan), Mordin Solus, Donnel Udina, Future Generations of Krogan, Kai Leng, EA’s Better Business Bureau Rating, Wrex, The Reapers, The Illusive Man, 10 AA Batteries

They will be missed.
About Brian Shea

Brian Shea is VGW's Editor-in-Chief and one of the founding members of the site. In addition to leading the team at VideoGameWriters.com, he contributes such regular features as “Shea’s Say,” "Eleven Things," "Commercials from the Past" and “Essential Gaming."
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  1. FamilyManFirst says:

    It didn’t bother you that the dramatic and literary climaxes were split? When I played the ending, I was getting impatient with (what turned out to be) the final battle, as I wanted to get past it to the battles that were clearly(?!) coming afterword on the Citadel and to the climactic ending sequence! As it was, I got … Marauder Shields and a conversation with TIM. Riiiight.

    It didn’t bother you when Star Child calmly informed you that “the created will always rebel against their creators … without us to stop it, synthetics would destroy all organics” while RIGHT OUTSIDE YOU COULD SEE Geth and Quarians fighting together in the peace you just forged between them? After learning that the *Geth* had been more preservative of organic life than the Quarians had been? Or did you get a different Rannoch experience since you were playing Renegade?

    It didn’t bother you that, with the green ending, you were essentially finishing Saren’s work from ME1, shoving Synthesis down the throat of every sentient being in the galaxy, will they or nil they, on the word of an AI you just met 15 minutes ago, who somehow pulled the image of a child you had been having nightmares about from your mind?

    If not, then you are a much less critical game player than I. I expect my game stories to have a satisfying dramatic ending, to make sense, and to follow the Dramatic Arc if that’s the kind of story that they set out to tell (which BioWare did). Shepard may live or Shepard may die, but let him/her go out with a bang, not a whimper, and certainly not with a “Huh?”

  2. Yeah- I sort of agree with FamilyManFirst. Whenever I hear someone argue that this ending was really satisfying, I can’t help but think “but how?!”.

    I don’t need to rewrite his opinion. Happy they’re putting out an extended cut. Disappointed it won’t change what seems to me like a rushed and/or lazy conclusion.

    I will say, however, that I otherwise loved the game. I still show friends Leaving Earth- one of the most amazing game opening scenes ever.

  3. While I loved all three games of this series, after playing them all back to back, I found the third instalment to be the laziest. While it had some great epic scene it lack other areas. I always thought the conversations with Kasumi and Zaheed were lazy because of the one sidedness. They continued that into the third game with several of the characters there (Kaiden and Ashley being the worse to do this with). The other thing is what I call creep missions (Where you creep around listening to everyones conversations then run out and get what they are looking for) There was a ton of them in Mass effect three. Quite a few of these could have actually been mini missions instead of hide and go seek missions. Out of all three games Mass Effect 3 took the least amount of time to complete.

    I considered the whole Mass Effect three game as the ending. In Mass Effect two you ran around and collected a squad, then you ran around and made them all happy and loyal. In Mass Effect three you run around and say good bye. However I found the actually ending of the game lazy. I really didn’t mind the choice getting there and the last ten minutes was tedious and boring. I called it the long walk. Honestly I expected (the first time through) some interesting time with Harbinger since he did leave the attack to come to Earth. I was think yes, finally a final confrontation with the nemsis that Bioware took a whole game to build. I got a beam of light and then sent to a hallway where I had to walk/limp through slowly (I killed time shooting the keepers) A silly conversation with Tim and I still cant get him to shoot himself no matter what I try. I loved the scene with Anderson where he tells me he’s proud of me then dies, but then after that it simply just a choice. I really wanted that show down with Harbinger, or any reaper for that fact.

    I was a bit dissapointed with the ending.

    I did like the game but in hindsight it was lacking in many ways. It was definately the laziest of the three games. I had also hope that you one would have the decision of happy or depressing ending (I wanted little blue babys with Liara). I won’t ever go so far as to say I will never play again (Hell I’ve done five play throughs) and I will keep buying Bioware games cause there are no others like them. I really do not think the extended cut is going to make anyone happy but we will see.

  4. CallmeWorm says:

    well said family man….i definitly thought i was gonna have a real battle once i got up the beam to the citadel…..extremely let down

  5. Brian, I’m sorry I wasted time on your article. You know, a Forbes writer did the same thing you did in going through all three games. Maybe I am biased, but while his articles were a bit more gratuitous, they felt more thoughtful.

    Obviously there would be progression in fluidity of gameplay and graphics overtime. Going backwards is bound to expose the wonkiness of the first game’s combat mechanics. Even the second game is awkward in comparison to the third. So where is the insight?

    And then…. You know, I could go on to state all the things your article lacked, but I have other stuff to do. I am not going to put more effort into critiquing your three-part series than you did.

    Let me sum up by saying that you still thought the end was awesome. Great. After all that you say “Honestly, after seeing it a second time, I stand by my convictions that it is one of the best endings I can remember.” Really? One of the best you can remember? Wow. That’s a bold statement.

    Whenever somebody starts with “honestly” it usually means they are about to feed you a bunch of crap. So because you are lying, have incredibly bad taste, have short memory, are mentally lazy, or some other reason I don’t have the time to contemplate, you wrote a bad article that added nothing to the conversation.

    Basically, you phoned it in. And you bored me.

  6. Maybe Renegade players don’t feel the burn from the ending as much? Since Renegades probably destroyed either the Quarians or Geth and might actually agree with the StarKid about organics/synthetics. But most people play as paragon, and paragon Shep believes everyone can get along, and he PROVES that they can. The StarKid is wrong, but Shep has no chance to say so.

    Besides, that ending is not original in the slightest. It’s Matrix Revolutions with a hint of Deus Ex. They couldn’t even bother to come up with something new? And they call this such an artistic and wonderful ending? Please. They’re not fooling any of us.

  7. Paperghost says:

    (Submitting again, because the site gave me no indication if my comment had been accepted or not. Apologies if you have this twice).

    the green ending? the one where you arbitrarily rewrite the genetic code of everybody in the galaxy into a……I don’t even know what. you end up with glowing circuitry on your body, joker’s hat and the trees have it – are they half AI too? only a small portion of the mass relays have been discovered by the time the game ends. so we can assume anyone on an undiscovered planet but near to a relay has had their mind, body, soul rewritten without the faintest idea what took place. how does the space magic differentiate between what its changing. can it tell the difference between a robot and a statue of a robot? are satellites silently screaming in space? is my toaster now singing? did the geth grow bits of flesh? what happens to reproduction? how is EDI even getting off the ship when we’re told the ship houses her mind while the body is just a shell (applicable to all endings). Finally, the question of why melding everybody into this “new” species will somehow prevent them from going off to make more synthetics in the future is never even considered.

    blue ending….we spend the whole game telling TIM you can’t control reapers, then you go and do exactly that right after shooting him. uh. this is shepard, who can’t even stop morinth from killing him with her mind meld. and you’re dead, but you control them. somehow. the only way this remotely makes sense is if you don’t think about it.

    red ending….which is the only logical choice, except the writers know this so you’re arbitrarily told this will kill the geth and EDI, to make the choice more “difficult”. except EDI shows up in
    destroy endings, so…yeah.

    whatever you did, you blew up the relays and doomed all the species to float around the earth and kill each other. wrex can’t lead the krogan, the turians and quarians will die out, earth will be torn to shreds in the ensuing battle. why was the normandy even flying away? how did the team mates on the ground end up on the normandy?

    why did the reapers put the citadel next to earth, when they knew shepard was coming to kill them all? how did they even take it (offscreen, at that!) when the only way they could have killed everyone inside was with their ground troops? the citadel is filled with turians, krogan and asari. good luck with that.

    why didn’t they switch off the beam? turn it off, job done and shepard can’t win. shepard can’t even turn the crucible on by himself, and the only reason he gets to the starchild – ugh – is because the starchild RAISES the elevator himself. then in the last ten minutes of the game, a new character appears out of nowhere and something like 14 lines of dialogue – that you can’t even debate – turn the very nature of the reapers into a nonsense (“We are each a nation, independent” – no just kidding, we obey this clearly insane AI to save organics from synthetics by killing them), and shepard – the most argumentative hero of gaming in how many years?…can’t even point to the geth and organics fighting side by side.

    let’s not get into the kai leng plot armour, the fact that shepard is plagued by cutscene incompetence (let’s stand around while thane dies), or that the deadliest killer in the galaxy decides to go close quarters with a guy swinging a sword when he has a *gun*), or that half the missions are do-overs of earlier games (help miranda with her sister – again! kill or free the rachni – again! a final battle on the citadel….again. we don’t even get to talk to harbinger because it seems they didn’t want to confuse or scare off “newcomers” to the game. who strips out as many references as possible to earlier pieces of a trilogy to appeal to newcomers?

    all of that, before we realise we spent most of the game fighting cerberus instead of the reapers themselves. 1 was a great game but a buggy mess. 2 was a polished, dynamic, wonderfully tense piece of entertainment. 3 needed another 6 to 12 months to ship without the plot holes, bugs and contradictions. the fact the writers were seemingly trying to come up with an ending as late as november confirms it, because as interesting as the third game is to play in spite of the screwups throughout the title those last ten minutes tank everything into the ground.

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