In May of this year I began this series Replaying the Classics by replaying Mass Effect 2. Immediately thereafter I was confronted by the question of whether or not I would also replay Mass Effect 3. I kind of wanted to, but it would have been a substantial time commitment and there were quite a few other games that I felt a stronger desire to replay, so I put it to the side. As I got closer to my departure for Asia it became clear that I wouldn’t have time to complete it before leaving and as I published the Vanquish edition of Replaying the Classics in August it looked like it just wasn’t going to happen. When I got back from Asia, however, I started to feel this urge to replay Mass Effect 3, like I had an obligation to do so. Somehow I needed to replay this game before I could move forward and start playing games that had come out more recently. Leaving it behind was no longer an option. Thus I fired up the PS3 and began my ascent of the final mountain in this first season of Replaying the Classics. If you’ve not read my Replaying the Classics entry on Mass Effect 2 I highly recommend doing so before going any further, but if you’re up to date then let’s take a seat in our comfy chairs one more time while I tell you about Mass Effect 3.

We were not ready for them. Despite Commander Shepard’s best efforts the galaxy was still woefully unprepared for when the Reapers arrived. Mass Effect 3 begins on Earth where Shepard is under arrest for his/her actions in Mass Effect 2, primarily the destruction of a Mass Relay that wiped out an entire alien world. Shepard’s ship, the Normandy, has been taken from him/her and Shepard’s crew has mostly disbanded and returned to their various walks of life. Hardly anyone seriously listens to Shepard’s warnings about a race of sentient machines that harvest organic life… until the Reapers suddenly show up. Within the opening minutes of Mass Effect 3 the Reapers arrive on Earth, wiping out everything in their path. Reinstated to his/her former position and given back command of the Normandy, Shepard is ordered to flee Earth and get help from the alien races. As Shepard soon learns, however, the Reapers have arrived in-force all across the galaxy and the other species are also in a desperate fight for survival. Somehow, Shepard must find a way to unite them into a cohesive force—a task made more difficult by the longstanding feuds that some of the alien races have against each other. At the same time Shepard must unravel the secrets of the Crucible, an ancient device whose schematics were left behind by aliens that the Reapers destroyed thousands of years ago. The Crucible just might be the weapon that turns the tide of the war, but Shepard has more than just the Reapers and bickering aliens to deal with; Cerberus, Shepard’s employer in Mass Effect 2, has reared its ugly head again and it’s leader, the Illusive Man, has his own ideas for how to handle the Reapers. Facing enemies without and traitors within, Shepard’s struggle to unite and save the galaxy grows continually more urgent. Even with the victories Shepard experiences in his/her journey across the galaxy, millions perish with each passing day. Time is not on Shepard’s side, and no one knows if the Crucible will even work. Shepard has beaten the odds twice before, but this time the mission might truly be impossible.

Ok, so maybe I’m overhyping it, but you got to realize what a big deal Mass Effect 3 was to me and many other people. It was the sequel to my overall favorite game of the PS3/Xbox 360/Nintendo Wii console generation and wrapped up a storyline that has been appropriately described as a galactic space opera. Whether or not Mass Effect 3 met expectations depends on whom you ask. For my part I liked Mass Effect 3. I’m also not as harsh as some other people are about the way it ends, but before I talk about the game’s ending there’s a few other things I’d like to discuss.

One very important thing that I should note is that I played through Mass Effect 3 and all of its single player DLC packs. While you can certainly play through the base version of Mass Effect 3 and experience the main story, the DLC packs make some major additions that are worth the extra investment. Allow me to give a quick synopsis of each DLC pack. From Ashes adds a new squadmate in the form of Javik, a very angry Prothean who has some of the best dialogue in the game. Leviathan gives interesting insight into the origin of the Reapers. Omega ties up a plot thread that was left hanging in the main game. Lastly, Citadel brings together Shepard’s crew for a fun side mission that culminates in a house party where everyone reminisces about the journey they’ve all been on. If at all possible I’d highly recommend anyone playing through Mass Effect 3 to also invest in these DLC packs.

Being the final game of a trilogy, there are a lot of things you say goodbye to, including several characters whose storylines come to an end before you reach the game’s conclusion. Three of them—Mordin, Legion, and Thane—stand out among the rest. All three are tales of heroism. Mordin, the Salarian scientist who in years past had modified the Genophage virus to keep another alien species close to sterility, went down curing the very same virus. Legion, the Geth envoy who showed Shepard that the Geth were not the machine demons everyone had assumed they were, sacrificed itself to give all Geth the gift of full sentience. Thane, the terminally ill former assassin looking for redemption, was mortally wounded saving an important alien politician from a Cerberus assassin. The loss of Thane hit my Shepard particularly hard because in this playthrough of Mass Effect I had Thane and Shepard in a romantic relationship. Now, in the interest of full disclosure I will say that I had my Shepard get into a rebound relationship with Kaiden, seeing as how I had always killed off Kaiden in my previous playthroughs. Note to anyone who is reading this and hasn’t yet played any of the Mass Effect games: Always kill Kaiden. Always.

Jokes about Kaiden aside, in this playthrough of Mass Effect 3 I made a serious effort to mix things up and experience more of the game by doing things I hadn’t done in the past. For example, I tried to frequently put characters into my squad that I hadn’t used much in the past. Kaiden obviously made the cut since I had never had him in my game before, and EDI and Tali also became more common squad mates. The plot of Mass Effect 3 still plays out the same regardless of who you bring with you on missions, but it was interesting to hear the different dialogue those characters brought to the situations they were in. Other things I branched out with were my equipment and bonus powers. For the first time in any of my playthroughs of Mass Effect I chose Shepard’s combat outfit not by the buffs that each piece of armor gave but purely by how each piece looked in order to make a more aesthetically pleasing character. Being the Soldier class, I was all about the guns, and gave just about every weapon in the game a shot, (pun intended) and by the end I had settled on a few favorites like the Revenant and the Lancer. My bonus power this time around was Dominate, which completely changed up the game in that it gave me the ability to temporarily cause enemies to switch sides and fight for me. As a Soldier I technically wasn’t adapted to heavy power usage, but Dominate was so handy that I employed it as frequently as possible.

Earlier I mentioned that Mass Effect 3’s ending is controversial. For those who don’t know why, allow me to summarize it. After a long trek across the galaxy talking to a lot of characters, completing a lot of objectives, and killing a lot of enemies, Shepard is back on Earth for a final, desperate gamble to win the war against the Reapers. Shepard blasts his/her way through London and is then transported to a certain place where he/she has a final confrontation with a certain character. Emerging wounded but victorious, it appears the game is about to end, but then Shepard is taken to another place where a massive plot twist is thrown into the mix and Shepard has a final choice to make. That decision will result in the player getting one of Mass Effect 3’s four endings. The controversy arises in that the plot twist seems incredibly contrived and these four endings appear to complete invalidate all of the choices you’ve made throughout the games up to this point. Player choice is one of the central pillars of the Mass Effect games, so you can see why it would be a big deal if it looked like your choices didn’t actually matter in the end. Three of the four endings also have a giant plot hole in them, though you might not know of the plot hole if you’re not aware of the details of Mass Effect 2’s Arrival DLC. A very vocal chunk of Mass Effect 3’s playerbase flipped out at Mass Effect 3’s ending. Personally, I’m not as harsh as some other people, but I can completely understand where they’re coming from. The journey was great, but this wasn’t the ending we wanted.

Speaking of ending, it’s now time to end both today’s post and this first season of Replaying the Classics, and I think you’ll agree that it’s fitting to go out on a game like Mass Effect 3. Is Mass Effect 3 perfect? No, far from it, but it is still a wild ride from the start up until the last few minutes before the game ends. Everything from the first two Mass Effects has been building to this point and even with Mass Effect 3’s problems it was still satisfying to see all the characters and plot threads from the previous games coming together and working themselves out in Shepard’s final mission. It took a long time to finish Mass Effect 3, partly because of the game’s inherent length and partly because I have a job and life outside of gaming, but it was time well spent. This was my fourth time playing Mass Effect 3. It will likely be a few years before I play it again, but I look forward to the day, whenever it may be, when I boot up the PS3 again and take once more to the stars. In a similar manner, I look forward to the day when we’ll once again pull out the comfy chairs to sit down and discuss games like this in the next season of Replaying the Classics.

One day, we’ll save the galaxy again

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