But itís still Mass Effect, right?
Though third-person combat has always been central to the series, the story side of things is equally important. Itís what separates a mediocre Gears of War
clone from a truly memorable experience. Like with the combat, ME3 does not change much from ME2 in the story-telling department. This was very welcome considering how BioWare screwed up Dragon Age
ís successful formula by trying to change it in the sequel, without realizing what they had done before was what made the original so great in the first place. However, Mass Effect 3
does go a step further by not only refusing to change, but by reducing itself to its base parts.
Neutral dialogue, which before was the middle option between Paragon and Renegade, is gone. There is no ambivalence in dialogue choices save for a few instances where the Paragon option is actually the Renegade one and vice-versa. This can be annoyingly frustrating during times where your choice impacts the game world. It would be fine if all dialogue wasnít categorized, or even if it referred strictly to ďgoodĒ and ďbadassĒ trees, but offering haphazard and sometimes misleading options is not how it should be done.
Whatís more, Renegade and Paragon interrupts feel less common and are less severe, which is sad because they were one of my favorite additions to ME2. There are no more hilarious scenes like interrupting a krogan monologue by shooting a gas pipe underneath him, tossing an uncooperative witness off of a skyscraper, or other moments of bad-assery. In fact, playing a Renegade Shepard isnít what it used to be: he/she is quieter, more reserved, less snarky, and plagued by PTSD. And my God, is the PTSD forced
At the beginning of the game (playable in the demo), a young boy will be killed by the Reapers. Shepard is sad because that kid represented all of the people he couldnít save. Okay. Cool. But then at the end of every act, Shepard has these vivid dreams of running through a dark forest, chasing after the little kid that died, as if all of the other deaths Shepard has witnessed and caused didnít matter. It just seems a cheap way for the writers to add some false tragedy to the story without really trying.
As it turns out, most of the story in ME3 plays out that way. What you saw in the demo is exactly the beginning in the full game, save for more a bit more clarification as to what happened in the past for those that didnít play the Arrival
DLC for Mass Effect 2
. As mentioned in our demo impressions
, the beginning leaves a lot to be desired. There is just no meaning to anything you do and the first few hours feel like youíre dicking around while Earth burns.
But then BioWare manages to masterfully probe that exact sentiment, experimenting with how everyone would handle a disaster like that differently. Some decry the situation theyíre in and demand to get back to the fight. Others party away like nothing is happening. One squad mate breaks down emotionally. Some try to act nonchalant but will frequently slipÖ And then there are the moments of triumph, where you win a crucial battle and everything goes as planned, only to see all of it stripped away at the last minute. Itís an emotional roller-coaster made entirely possible by the depth of the gameís characters and their voice actors.