For me, this week was all about completion. A lot of the games I get to review I only get to play halfway because there are so many to get through. But they have ends to them, so they haunt me until I get the chance to go back to finish them. "Mass Effect 3" was the game that haunted me this week. It’s a franchise well-known because of its protagonist, Lt. Commander Shepard, and it appears in every title Shepard is trying to save the galaxy and is always near death at the end.
A little background, if I may: "Mass Effect" was released on Xbox 360 in late 2007 and later released for PC in 2008 by developers Bioware, under publisher EA (well-known for its sports division). In this action role-playing game, you take control of Shepard, who is a unique, elite soldier aboard the signature fleet ship, SSV Normandy. The mission is to explore the galaxy; simple enough, you would think. But it wouldn’t be an action-adventure without some action. So not to spoil it, but let’s say Shepard has to save the galaxy, even if he has to die to do so.
What makes the "Mass Effect" franchise so unique is after you’ve completed the game, your saved data can be carried to over to the next installment of the franchise. That means all the decisions you make in the game effect the story in the next title. Nothing goes to waste. Now, that’s not to say you had to have played the previous title to play the current one -- the game will just assume certain events took place in a certain way. For example, if you don’t play the previous "Mass Effect" titles, the Rachni Queen is presumed killed and a synthetic Rachni Queen will show up in its place in the storyline of "Mass Effect 3." The decision to kill or save the Rachni Queen will determine the death and destruction of your war assets later in the game. Little things like that change the current game's outcome, and it makes you want to go back to play the series from the beginning, if you haven’t already. If you choose to go back, know that "Mass Effect" started as an Xbox-exclusive franchise and was later made available to PS3 players with the release of "Mass Effect 2."
When I started playing "Mass Effect 3," I came into the game with no previous saved data, so the previous storyline was all predetermined for me. That’s what happens when the "Red Ring of Death" takes your saved data and the cloud wasn’t available yet (for games like this, you should always save using cloud). But the lack of saved data didn’t stop me from playing "Mass Effect 3," which appears to be the last title in a trilogy, although no one knows for sure. The ending leaves you wondering if there’s another title to be made or downloadable content to be added. Rumors of a DLC pack with cut scenes to further the "Mass Effect 3" story are floating around, but I wonder if they’ll make a playable DLC instead.
With all the rumors about how the game ends, I was nervous before finishing the game. I didn’t want it to be ruined, based on a lot of factors, but mostly because the war assets you collect during the game will determine your choice of possible endings. Everyone gets the red ending (destroy) or the blue ending (control). And if your war assets are high and certain decisions were made, you can even get a third ending, which is green (synthesize/combine).
Each ending gives you its own short story. But the end of this game left a lot of people upset -- me included. I wanted to see more and didn’t understand the need to be so abrupt and vague with the story. There were too many, “What happened to?” questions for events and characters in the game. But I will say this: The controversial ending cannot take away the fact that "Mass Effect 3" was an amazing game to play.