Home > Games > Thoughts on Mass Effect 3 (end-game spoilers)

Thoughts on Mass Effect 3 (end-game spoilers)

These points do not cover the ending itself, but contain spoilers for the overall game.

Cerberus strength makes little to no sense.

Sovereign from ME1

Apparently Cerberus in ME3 is a greater threat than this thing and a Geth fleet added together. source

In ME1 and 2, Cerberus was this shadow organization that was resourceful, but had limited size and reach. So how did it go from that to some gigantic army that could fight the rest of the human race head-to-head? At one point, they even take over the Citadel in a head-on attack, which is something the main antagonist of ME1, a huge Geth fleet and a full-sized Reaper could not accomplish at the end of ME1.

Mission quality varied wildly.

Multiplayer map in single player

A multiplayer map used in a side quest.

It’s obvious that certain missions had far more thought put into them than others. Personally, I felt Tuchanka, the Geth dreadnought, and Rannoch were the best levels in the game. The level design, cutscenes and dialogue of these missions were all top-notch, with both hilarious and touching moments interspersed in between bouts of combat. It is levels like these that make Mass Effect such a memorable series.

However, this level of quality is not at all consistent in ME3. The missions in this game run the full gamut in terms of quality, ranging from the abovementioned excellent missions to filler content that literally consists of multiplayer “horde mode” maps played in single player. It makes sense for the developers to focus on the missions that were the most critical to the plot, so I understand giving the side missions lower priority, but what I don’t understand is why some of the main story missions were so clearly sidelined in favor of others. Why pay so little attention to the asari and salarian populations and so much to others? Why didn’t Shepard try harder to bring other races on board? These omissions were pretty noticable in the main story of the game.

I didn’t like the portrayal of the major villains.

The Illusive Man

He wasn't mysterious anymore. We just wanted to shoot him. source

In ME2, The Illusive Man was this mysterious character that you couldn’t really figure out – he’s probably crazy and you didn’t want to trust him, but some part of you entertains the thought that maybe he really does just want to help humanity in his own way. The mystery added depth to his character. In ME3, nothing was done to build on this. Bioware simply made him say “I want to control the Reapers” and made him ride that reasoning all the way to the end of the game. What started off as a mysterious character of dubious motivations became a simple delusional psycho.

Because ME3 is the conclusion of the series, I was hoping there would be some further development of him as a villain. After all, he and the Reapers are the two main antagonists in the game. But there was no such thing; there is no further development to his character or his actions. There is no backstory, and no explanation for why he became the way he is. Strangely enough, Bioware seemed most reluctant to add story development or lore to the Mass Effect universe when people expected it most – at its conclusion.

Kai Leng
Kai Leng's Plot Barrier

"You cannot stop me. My barrier is powered by THE PLOT."

Leng is supposed to be an extremely skilled adversary and a huge threat to Shepard, but the problem is that Bioware repeatedly undercuts this portrayal. The first time you see him, he nearly loses to Thane, who is terminally ill and should have died six months ago. It’s hard to take Leng seriously after seeing that, but it gets worse. Throughout the game, it is obvious that Leng is actually easy to defeat, but the problem is that the game keeps preventing you from beating him.

Leng succeeds both at being an effective adversary and at being a villain that you are supposed to hate on a personal level, but only because the plot dictates it. Every chance that Shepard has to defeat him, a cutscene shows up where Shepard and company suddenly become incredibly incompetent and Leng casually escapes. On multiple occasions, Shepard helplessly shoots at Leng while Leng simply holds up a biotic barrier.  Shepard should know how to deal with a barrier – he has fought many biotics throughout the series – but he doesn’t do anything useful because the plot needs Leng alive for the story to continue as intended.

That’s the problem. Kai Leng is infuriating, but you are not furious because of Kai Leng; you are furious because the game does not let you kill him. Every time you fight him, you’re not fighting Leng but you’re fighting the plot. You’re not thinking “I’m gonna kick this guy’s ass,” you’re thinking “is the game finally going to let me kill him?” It is immensely satisfying when you finally do kill Leng, but his overall portrayal is so contrived that all your emotions regarding him come from the game’s treatment of him rather than from his character.

Harbinger
Harbinger in ME3

Harbinger's only appearance in ME3 - 10 minutes before the game ends. source

In ME2, Harbinger was presented as the “head” villain of the Reapers – the enemy that directly talks to and taunts Shepard, and fights him through the use of Collector soldiers. Aside from Sovereign, Harbinger is the only Reaper with a name, and the only one that has a personal interest in Shepard.

Since ME3 is the end of the series and the chapter where the Reapers finally arrive, you’d think that Harbinger would return and have some sort of plot development with Shepard. This never happens.

In fact, Harbinger is never even mentioned in the game except in the ending sequence, as if it’s an afterthought. The Reapers basically have no voice in the game aside from the downed Reaper that talks to Shepard near the end of the game. I would be okay with that, except ME2 had implied that there would be another meeting between Harbinger and Shepard.

Instead, Harbinger shows up in the last 10 minutes of the game and fires a beam like any other Reaper. You wouldn’t even know it was Harbinger if you weren’t told that it was coming a minute before.

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