Skip to content

[Gamer Diary] Mass Effect 3

2012 April 18

Yep. That Game. That Ending. And all that commotion. There’s very little need to introduce the game, or the franchise. I’m going to take a wild guess that you’ve all probably heard of it. I alone have mentioned it in almost every post I’ve done since the start of the year. If in doubt, check out the Mass Effect Wiki for all and every query you may have.

I will try not to be too exclusive in my content here, so I’ll try to avoid anything that you won’t understand unless you’ve played the game, and I’ll be focussing on the game through a feminist lens. That’s what we’re trying to do over here, after all, right? One last thing to say is… SPOILERS.

A red background with large, white, capital letters across the middle that reads: "Spoilers"

"Through me, into the city full of woe; through me, the message of eternal pain; through me, the passage where the lost souls go." Yep, that's what happens if you don't heed the warning of the Spoiler Klaxon... "all hope abandon, ye who go through me."

Enough with the dramatics! To the game!

Technology, mechanics & gameplay

I thought I’d get this out of the way as I reckon there’s very little feminist critique one can offer on this side of things. I played on a PC, so some of my concerns won’t be shared with console gamers, most obviously the power required in your machine to play the game. As a PC gamer, you have keep your technology up to speed with new titles, but console versions come as-is to the standardised specifications of the machines. My computer isn’t the fastest, or the most hardworking – it’s actually just a dual-core with one graphics card, several series behind the most recent, not for lack of will but for lack of cash. Keeping a PC up to date is expensive.

My reason for telling you that is so I can tell you how well my absolutely-not-top-of-the-range PC handled a brand new, heavy-hitting title like Mass Effect 3. “Not too bad” is the answer. At times, faces looked a mite too angular, but I had no problems running the game at all.

The game mechanics are almost the same as the were in the previous instalment, and although they can be a bit frustrating to get used to for the first time, they work well within the context of the game. I have heard complaints on the overuse of the spacebar – that it is assigned to far too many actions – and although I had no issues with it, my partner did, so I suspect it’s a personally variable thing.

Combat has been streamlined slightly since Mass Effect 2, and you still have to learn how to fight with each different class you can choose for Shepard. For example, I played through first as an Adept, who enjoys a lot of long-range Biotic powers, so you don’t always need to leave cover and use guns; then I started in a different class and had problems adapting to the new style.

Some Femi-Relevant Content

As much as I could, I shouldn’t spend my entire word count talking about mechanics and gameplay here, so we’ll move on. While playing the game I had a little list of things to look out for that I could critique or criticise, and honestly, there wasn’t much I could pick out. You don’t get treated differently if you’re a male or a female character. The only notable difference I found was in a conversation with the female Krogan, Eve/Bakara, in which she says “we’ll show these men how to do things!” (or similar) if you’re a ‘FemShep’, but not if you’re male.

The only sexism we see comes from the Krogans; Urdnot Wreav claims that Eve is his and that she is obliged to father all his children as he rescued her. Eve, however, is having none of it. That’s good. Eve is awesome.

One issue many players had with Mass Effect 2 was the fact that if you wanted the ‘Romance’ achievement you had to initiate a heterosexual relationship. This has been addressed – you can now gain the ‘Paramour’ achievement through any (albeit still sexual) relationship. There are a more visibly present non-hetero characters too: at one point you console your shuttle pilot who is upset over the death of his husband. It’s never shown in a “LOOK OVER HERE! I’M GAY! HAPPY NOW?!” manner; it’s much more realistically handled in that a character may mention something that discloses their orientation, but ultimately all questions of the personal kind are of little consequence in the face of the impending problem of Total Annihilation Of All Life In The Universe.

I was very happy not to have any feminist niggles or femirage over the game – perhaps that does somewhat diminish my options for what to write for this, a feminist, blog! The best thing that I can say is that it is quite feminist-friendly and the only things I could suggest improving would be the inclusion of non-binary genders and equal cutscenes-for-sex with all races/species (I got no sexy cutscene for my (F)Human-(M)Turian coupling, but one trailer shows a (M)Human-(F)Human sexy cutscene).

The Ending

Before I conclude, I was content and pleased with the ending. Apparently, I may be in a minority there. My partner, for example, hated it. Basically – EPIC SPOILERS, look away now if you don’t want this detail! – pretty much everyone dies. BioWare went to town on the deus ex machina mechanism here. Yes, Shepard pretty much dies no matter what you do.

I was happy with that. I thought BioWare were very brave to stick behind such a potentially contentious ending, and they enacted it beautifully. Many on the interwebs were in uproar, and appeared to successfully bully BioWare into announcing that they’ll be producing alternative endings. I suppose it was difficult to respond to fan requests for a FemShep trailer, then stonewall on the Ending Issue, but it would’ve been nice if they’d held their ground and kept a smidge of artistic integrity.

But in some ways, it turns out now, they did. As the ‘Extended Cut DLC’ has been announced, BioWare has made a new statement that clarifies this will not be “…a re-imagining of the ending or a new ending.” HOORAY!

I fear the pressure of BioWare’s pact with the evil giant EA was involved in their decision to cave, however partially: after all, EA like money, and undoubtedly they can see the potential for Extra Content that a fervent fanbase will definitely pay for.

The Verdict

If we ignore the Ending Issue, I’ll give it a solid 9/10. I’d still give it that with the ending, because I liked it, but I understand how others might knock it down because of it, which is a shame – it’s a great, well-constructed and well-told story that happens to be a game.

I predict that this will not be the end of Mass Effect, as BioWare have stated, but it probably should be. Shepard died and saved the universe; that’s a good ending. The last thing you see and hear before the credits roll is a young child asking their grandfather if they can have ‘one more story’ about ‘The Shepard’. And Grandfather says that it’s getting late, but agrees to tell one more story…

Screencap from ME3. A wintery landscape scene with two shadow figures of an adult and a child. The adult is pointing towards the sky. In the night sky there is a large planet and a smaller planetary body. Image (c) BioWare/EA, shared under Fair Use guidelines.

Just one more story...

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Alasdair permalink
    April 18, 2012

    Totally trivial nitpick, something I’m sure you’re aware of, but other readers may not be: it *is* possible for Shepard to live, it’s just bloody difficult, unless you play the online multiplayer. (In which case a few hours play of that should render it a reasonably easy task.)

    Personally, what bugs me about the ending isn’t the events, it’s that your choices have a negligible-to-the-point-of-being-laughable effect on what you actually see happening, despite the fact that the events in each of your three choices could easily play out quite differently.

  2. Russell permalink
    April 18, 2012

    A second trivial nitpick: I believe the ending DLC (at least) is supposed to be free, so EA making money out of it isn’t necessarily the primary driver. Retaining consumer goodwill might well be though.

    On a more general note, perhaps the reactions to ME3 and Dragon Age 2 will persuade EA that they need to allow Bioware more time to actually finish their games. Or perhaps not. These large faceless corporations rarely behave in ways that make even a droplet of sense.

  3. April 18, 2012

    Another trivial before-I’ve-finished-reading nitpick – if Wrex is still alive, his interactions with Eve are much more equal. They throw words back and forth, but he never questions her autonomy. Which I like, because Wrex is meant to be a true hope for a krogan future and Wreav is meant to be a complete douchebag.

  4. Stephen B permalink
    April 18, 2012

    Hate EA so much… so much… Apparently Origin is a ‘feature’ for our benefit. Or something.

    Anyway, great post! Cleared up a few questions I had (and I’m VERY glad to see they got it right from the feminist angle). Good to hear it runs well on not-new machines too!

    But I’m not buying ME3 until they make a happyhappy heroic ending.

    Because despite the gloom and ‘we must make hard decisions’ of the earlier games, there was plenty which suggested Shepard DID have it in them to save the day. And I play games to be a superhero, so I want my 100% success ‘grow old a hero with your romance partner and every single npc alive’ happy ending, dammit.

    And if I can’t have it, I’ll… not buy the 3rd game, and invent my own ending from 2. I just don’t want the fighting bits badly enough to buy it and have the epic story end that way. Which is… the first time that’s ever happened. I guess that’s a testament to the writing and cinematography of 1+2, but it means I’d genuinely rather wait for fan-made content than accept the official ending.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS