Home > Games > Thoughts on Mass Effect 3 (spoiler-free)

Thoughts on Mass Effect 3 (spoiler-free)

I recently finished Mass Effect 3, so I figured post a list of comments about it. I’ll organize them by spoiler level, so that people who haven’t finished the game can still read parts of this post without learning too much.

I’ll refrain from talking about the ending, because that has already been done to death and I have little to add to it (ending spoilers for all links). All I’ll say is that the ending is so terrible that it mades me reluctant to play through the game again, which is something I did for the first two games.

Most of these comments are negative, but overall I enjoyed myself and feel like this game was worth playing, though I think Mass Effect 2 is easily the better game.

The combat mechanics have improved.

ME3 weapon loadout screen

The less weapons you carry, the less cooldown on your skills.

In ME3, the combat has been overhauled in many ways, including a rebalancing of powers/weapons, an improved cover system, a better implementation of grenades and the addition of much more useful melee. Weapon mods have made a very welcome return, and I like how the weight system gives a valid reason why certain classes are more heavily armed than others. I really like how the updated mechanics allow you to customize your character towards your given style of combat. I now only have one major gripe with the revamped combat…

The PC cover controls are awful.

The spacebar does everything!

It does everything! And it's not a good thing.

In terms of controls, the PC version of ME3 is obviously yet another awful console port. In the console version, the relative scarcity of buttons on a gamepad force developers to make certain buttons context-sensitive. That’s fine for consoles, but it absolutely does not need to be the case in the PC version, where you’re using a keyboard and mouse. When use, roll, run, change cover, climb on top of cover, jump over cover, and roll between cover are all mapped to the same key, you needlessly create a level of clunkiness that renders your “improved” cover system nearly useless.

Throughout my playthrough, far too many of my deaths could be attributed in some part to me struggling to make my character do what I wanted him to:

  • I dove into cover when I was trying to run past it.
  • I rolled out of cover when I wanted to shuffle around it, run out of it, or climb on top of it.
  • I couldn’t react to sudden threats like grenades or flanking maneuvers because I was stuck to cover in some way or did the wrong action to escape.
  • I couldn’t aim properly because I wasn’t facing the right direction while in cover.
  • I couldn’t aim down sights because of camera issues for aiming while in cover.
  • Charge weapons do not allow you to charge while in cover, meaning that it is safer to use charge weapons without using cover at all.

The list goes on and it is very, very frustrating when you find yourself in situations where you know what to do, but die repeatedly anyway because you have to struggle with the controls.

The problems with the controls are further exacerbated by the fact that ME3 features increased difficulty in a move to complement its improved combat (and probably look more “hardcore”). Normally, I would be fine with a difficulty increase, but the controls have not been improved to match it. When the controls are not responsive enough to accomodate the maneuvers demanded by the increased difficulty, then you only make the game more frustrating. In my playthrough, the game became much easier when I customized my class and playstyle to outright ignore most of the cover system instead of trying to use it. That shouldn’t have been necessary. When the game becomes more playable by avoiding a core game mechanic that was designed to help you, then you have a serious problem.

The worst part of all this is that ME1 actually had properly ported PC controls and played just fine. With ME2 and ME3, EA simply ignored the PC crowd, slapped in keyboard equivalents to controller buttons and shoved the game out the door.

Day 1 DLC.


Mass Effect 3 has a very detailed, well-done portion of the game that has a strong significance in the overall story locked out of the disc and packaged as Day 1 DLC. Not much else needs to be said about this.

Simple logic is repeatedly ignored to force dramatic moments into the game.

Female Shepard in a cutscene

Shoot, but don't hit anything important - it's a cutscene. source

One of my favorite things about the Mass Effect series is the fact that it does a great job in giving its story impact. Although some cutscenes can be cheesy, many are very moving or interesting, and the endings of the first two games do a great job at making you really feel like the hero of the story. That’s great. ME3 tries to continue this trend, but sadly falls on its face in many of its attempts to do so.

My issue with ME3’s cutscenes is that the they are often dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. The game designers evidently had no problem creating incredibly contrived situations just to get one dramatic camera shot, or have something cool happen. For the sake of drama, extremely skilled teammates suddenly become incompetent, enemies suddenly become infallible, and things suddenly happen for no reason. I understand that movies also do this, but once you cross a certain line, the player (or viewer) simply loses the suspension of disbelief, sits back and goes “why the hell did that even happen?”

Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3’s cutscenes tried too hard to be “epic” or “cinematic,” and ended up crossing this line far too many times.

I like how the game makes self-references without overdoing it.

Garrus and calibrations

This is amusing to anyone who has played ME2.

It’s a refreshing change from certain crappy movie sequels that do it so much that it’s as if they think the entire movie can have no substance and instead be carried on nothing but self-references alone.

Why Jessica Chobot?

Diana Allers/Jessica Chobot in Mass Effect 3

Who are you and what are you doing in this game? source

For some reason, Bioware inserted IGN staff Jessica Chobot as a reporter named Diana Allers in ME3. Allers plays a minor role in the game as someone who gets a ride on your ship throughout the course of the game and reports on your adventures. The idea of a reporter riding with you during your final fight for survival is already strange, but why Allers in particular? Not only was she never mentioned in the game series before ME3, an existing character that was perfect for the role – Emily Wong, a reporter you met in ME1 – was killed off on Twitter to make room for Allers.

Not only is this cheesy, but isn’t this also a gigantic conflict of interest? Why sneakily kill off a perfectly good character and replace her with the face and voice of someone who works at a game review website? Doesn’t that make both the developer look bad while as making said game review website’s 9.5 review of their game look rather suspect at the same time?

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