Mass Effect 3 was the final chapter in the Mass Effect series of action roleplaying games developed by Bioware, released onto the Xbox 360, PC & Playstation 3 in March 2012, after being delayed repeatedly & significantly from its original planned launch date of December 2010.
Mass Effect 3 completed the story of Commander Shepard, & continues the trend set in Mass Effect 2 of using the players completed game save from the previous game to ‘lay out’ the world; with certain events happening, or certain characters being alive or dead, depending on choices the player made in the previous games. Impressively, it was reported that over one thousand different variables were imported into Mass Effect 3 from the first two games, creating a unique backstory for many players when compared to each other.
The game featured many well known systems, such as levelling up characters & purchasing new powers & abilities, & being able to buy & improve new weapons & equipment. The game also featured a Paragon/Renegade alignment meter, as used in the previous two games (similar to the Light Side/Dark Side meter in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games previously made by Bioware under Hudsons design) which reflected & influenced the way players roleplayed Shepard, either as a charismatic & heroic paragon, or a ruthless & merciless renegade.
The objective within the game was to acquire military resources in order to win the war raging between organic forces & the synthetic ‘Reapers’, which were attempting to end life in the galaxy. Throughout the Game the player must forge alliances with as many people & armies as possible in order to stand the best chance of winning in the end game battle.
Mass Effect 3 also featured a cooperative multiplayer mode for the first time in the series, with teams of up to four players working together to fight against increasingly powerful waves of enemies. Although simple, the multiplayer had a direct effect on the single player game in that it increased the effectiveness of military resources.
Although the game was originally released to considerable praise & immediately achieved top ratings from nearly every source, many fans heavily criticised Bioware (Hudson in particular) for the ending, which was far more limited & reflected the choices & paths the players had made throughout the trilogy, than they felt had been promised by Bioware. Many felt that there were many inconsistencies with the lore of the Mass Effect universe present in the ending, & little variation in the small number of endings which were presented. One member of the Mass Effect writing team, Patrick Weekes posted a message on gaming website Penny Arcade, criticising Hudson (& lead writer Mac Walters) saying that control of the ending was wrested away from the rest of the writing team towards the end. According to Weekes, Hudson & Walters locked the rest of the writers out of the endings production, & chose the ending they personally wanted to put in the game, refusing to listen to the input of the other writers as they had done in the rest of the game.
Weekes stated that the ending to Mass Effect 3 was “entirely the work of out lead [Mac Walters] & Casey [Hudson] himself” who decided that “they didn’t need to be peer-reviewed”; with Weekes concluding by simply stating “it shows”.
Sadly, first impressions have marred the games otherwise flawless reviews, as even with the release of an extended cut ending DLC for the game, which did satisfy many fans; many still feel betrayed by Bioware, particularly Casey Hudson, & feel cheated after going through the entire trilogy to find such a disappointing end. For Hudson’s sake, it should be hoped that in an industry where a designer is only as successful as the last game they worked on, people choose to only remember the good things about Mass Effect 3, & hope that the damage done by the originally released un-extended ending, isn’t terminal…