Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mother Gamer Plays The Mass Effect Trilogy Part 3: Mass Effect 3

Author's Note: This is going to be a chock full of spoilers post, so if like me you have never played the Mass Effect games before don't read past this unless of course you don't care about spoilers. Enjoy!

I just finished playing Mass Effect 3 and I took every aspect of the ending in especially since I downloaded the extended cut. By now, I'm familiar with the story and thanks to my imported save I saw my female paragon Shepard again this time on Earth and it seems she's been relieved from duty because of that whole working with Cerberus thing (I kept saying it was a bad idea!) and that was just for starters. At least Anderson was in her corner because he knows everything Shepard has done has been to protect everyone and that includes those ungrateful Council jerks on the Citadel. Then everything goes to crap with a Reaper invasion. Fun times! Anderson reinstated Shepard and there we were trying to survive and get out of there so everyone could be warned.

Reapers are such jerks. 

This introduces you to the gaming controls tutorial and apparently Shepard can jump and slide over things which is kind of fun. It's also nice to be able to adjust the game's difficulty settings easily in the user menu. This also introduces you to a new character, James Vega and I thought his voice sounded familiar. Turns out it was Freddie Prinze Jr. doing his voice (Iron Bull in Dragon Age Inquisition) and I thought that was interesting. There were moments of amusement as I found out that a friend's wife was playing and lamenting the fact that James Vega is not a romanceable character for Shepard and wished he was because as she put it, "He's really freaking hot!" Every time she had a chat with James, she would wonder again why the heck her Shepard couldn't romance him.  Yes, a female Shepard can playfully flirt with him and even have a sparring match with him where he gives the nickname Lola to her, but that's it. 

James Vega, not just eye candy for the boys and girls. 

Here's the thing. I didn't mind that Shepard couldn't romance him because after all the conversation options I had with him, I found I liked and respected the character. I liked him as a person and as a soldier. He was pretty well rounded and he actually felt like a good friend to my Shepard. He was an ally that Shepard could fully rely on and I liked the friendship between the two. Shepard meets her old friends also while doing various missions throughout the story such as Garrus, Liara, and Kaidan to name a few. I was a little disappointed that Zaeed and Kasumi were only available as war assets because I really liked their skills in Mass Effect 2 and it would have been nice to have them as part of my squad. You have to add to your effective military strength while you build a weapon known as the Crucible that is rumored to be a weapon that can defeat the Reapers. And how do you do that? By running around all over the galaxy doing missions of course!

There's even more to see and do in Mass Effect 3 with side missions especially with the DLC missions of Leviathan, Omega, and Citadel which I purchased and added. A lot of the side missions for the main story seem to be fetch this or that item which wasn't exactly thrilling for me. The fighting Cerberus side missions were relatively interesting and gave some cool weapons and weapons mods. The main story has a lot of great missions too, but I think my favorite ones were luring a Thresher Maw to eat a Reaper on Tuchanka with my Krogan pals Wrex and Grunt and kicking a Reaper's butt with Tali on Rannoch. 

Shepard showing a Reaper who's boss. 

There were sad points in the story as well with some emotional character deaths and I thought it was such a bummer because they all seemed to be Shepard's friends. Mordin was one that I felt awful about, but I understood. He felt he was the only one who could cure the Krogan's disease properly and that it was his responsibility so he sacrificed himself to save them. Then we had Legion and again, this was another death I understood because Legion wanted to help the Geth and get them their upgrade. Sadly, he had to sacrifice himself to do it. I had Tali with me for that one and she gave him some comfort about whether or not the Geth had a right to existence. It was very touching. When I got to Thane, I was already emotional because he was already dying because of his illness. I loved his character. He was a complex interesting person that had so much depth to him. He was Shepard's good friend and while he died protecting his friend from a complete buffoon of an assassin (more on that in a minute), I was not ready to say goodbye to him at all. I actually found myself weeping for Thane as I watched his death scene and while that seems silly; that's how well his character was written. I actually found myself caring about him and what happened to him and I was genuinely touched by the prayer he said for Shepard at the end. 

Oh Thane, you will be missed. 

Shepard is trying to save the galaxy and of course The Illusive Man shows up so many times with all his posturing nonsense. I was glad to see that Martin Sheen did the voice acting for him again however, because he plays a great villain. It seems he's a bigger and bolder flavor of crazy trying to convince Shepard that what he's doing is right and that he can totally control the Reapers; you know those giant killing machines that are imploding the universe upon itself. Right. He can control them. He never seems to get his hands dirty naturally and sends his minions to do it and that includes the ever annoying Kai Leng. He just didn't scream oh scary assassin to me. I mean, look at him. 

Batman called.... to laugh at  your ridiculous outfit. 

All he did was irritate the hell out of me and in a universe with assault rifles and laser pistols, I'm supposed to believe this guy runs around with just a sword? Then he doesn't even really do anything. He just dances around calling for Cerberus soldiers to attack your team on one mission and a gunship on another while yelling insults at Shepard that sound like a six year old wrote them. This guy is scary? Please. The fact that Thane, a dying Drell could kick his butt makes me think the Illusive Man was not getting his money's worth. It just showed me how badass Thane was and what a joke Kai Leng really is. One of the missions doesn't go so well for Shepard because of Kai Leng interfering and he actually sends an email that is essentially trolling Shepard again with insults that look and feel like they were written by a six year old child. I wasn't afraid of this guy. In fact, I wanted Shepard to throat punch him and whup his ass. They could have made him great and instead I felt like this guy was so not worth my time and the furthest thing from terrifying Cerberus assassin. Honestly, I cheered when I went with the renegade option and Shepard stabbed him telling him it was for Thane. It was a little for Shepard too because that guy was such a jerk. 

There are romance options or continuing romance options. I stuck with Kaidan because I did like him and his feelings for Shepard were very sweet. I do have a bone to pick though. I had two saves one where Shepard was with a different love interest and one where Shepard didn't have anyone after Kaidan.  I played it both ways to see if what a friend told me was true. I'm annoyed to say that it was in fact true. With male Shepard there's no dialogue about cheating. Consider this. The love interest of Ashley/Kaidan breaks up with Shepard in Mass Effect 2 and with male Shepard Ashley lets it go if they were with someone else in Mass Effect 2. With Kaidan if female Shepard was with someone else you get the, "I understand why you cheated on me, but I forgive you." line. To quote Ross from Friends, "WE WERE ON A BREAK!" You mean to tell me they allowed male Shepard a free pass, but female Shepard basically gets slut shamed? 1. That's so messed up because it shows a blatant double standard. 2. When you basically tell someone that it's over and LEAVE, you don't get to dictate whether or not they hook up with or date someone else. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I really wondered which writer thought that was acceptable. Look, I get why Kaidan was so upset in Mass Effect 2. Someone he loved died and he thought they were dead until he sees them standing in front of him and they haven't let him know at all so of course it's a shock. Being upset and angry is totally the right response and an understandable one. However, he did break it off with Shepard and sent an email about how he grieved and how he still cares about them and maybe they can talk. Maybe. While yes, he stated that he cared about her they were not a couple and when Mass Effect 3 starts, they're not a couple. It really irritated me because Kaidan is actually pretty reasonable and this was an uncharacteristic jackass move on his part for which I blame the writer who put that in there. After that I loaded the other save (the one where Shepard was "faithful") and had quite a lovely and sweet romance with Kaidan. 

Kaidan's lucky my Shepard loved him.

The romance with EDI and Joker for me, was a bit creepy. That being said, I gave it a chance and spoke to both of them a lot about it and came to realize that I thought of EDI as a person not just an AI and Joker seemed to feel that way too. Eventually it seemed to be like a normal romantic relationship, but I felt kind of bad because I was determined I was going to destroy the Reapers and I figured that meant she might go away for a little while. The funniest and cutest one for me was Tali and Garrus. Shepard walking in on them kissing was hilarious because of their stammering and banter to each other. Those were a pleasant distraction and added to the story by showing what Shepard is fighting for, a variety of people who want the same things; peace and a way to win against the Reapers.

When I got to the Leviathan missions, I was pretty impressed with how much they added to the main story and to the lore about the Reapers. It did have a Lovecraftian vibe to it which I found interesting and when Shepard finally found them and got to communicate with them I thought it was great that you get to learn more about the Reapers and a bit about Leviathan as well. It was also very cool that my paragon level was high enough that Shepard convinced them to join the fight against the Reapers.

Leviathan is impressive.

I did the Omega DLC next and while it was fun to play there wasn't a lot to it other than helping Aria get her base of operations back. There are a few nifty weapons and items you can get here and there, but the big prize is having Aria and the three mercenary companies she got to work together as your war assets against the Reapers. It does show a slightly softer side to Aria as well, but nothing major really happens. It's a fun side mission to run through. 

The one I really liked besides Leviathan was Citadel. Shepard gets a cushy apartment courtesy of Anderson. You can decorate it any way you like which is neat. It's also huge, lots of space and plenty of rooms. I spent a good ten minutes just running around exploring it all. Then you get to do some missions while you're here. 

Shepard gets a housing upgrade.

I chose to do this before the big final fight because it had the whole gang together in a way. There's a whole adventure with an ex-Cerberus agent and a Shepard clone trying to kill you. That's right. There's a Shepard clone and it pulls a whole Highlander there can be only one situation on Shepard and friends. It's a little campy, but in a good way and it's a lot of fun to play. There are even moments of laughter with scenes of Joker yelling about the clone stealing his ship and Shepard wondering if she really sounds like that when the clone says something that sounds rather corny. You even get to have an epic firefight on the Normandy which adds to the fun. It all works out and Joker suggests Shepard throw a big party for everyone. You get emails from your various friends and you invite them up to your pad for some socializing or go out. I thought Zaeed fighting with an arcade crane machine to get a toy for a child was funny because he kept swearing up and down that it was rigged. He got it after one more try. You even get a date night with your love interest that's quite romantic. After all the meetups you can then throw your party. You can have a quiet party or go all out. I went with the go all out option because the way I saw it, this was one last hurrah and a way for everyone to blow off some steam and just have fun. It was fun and it was amusing to see a drunk Tali as well as seeing two drunk Krogan (Grunt and Wrex) headbutt each other while laughing. As the party wound down, I really liked that you get to take a group photo with everyone. It felt right and it really felt like everyone was saying goodbye before they had one last adventure together. 

The best damn team in the galaxy.

After that it was time for the big finale. There are a lot of little moments that stand out such as Shepard having one last talk with Kaidan (my Shepard's love interest) and having a heart to heart with Tali. The conversation with Garrus was also rather touching. You get a moment to see your old friends and have that before the battle talk with all of them which adds to the finality of the story ending. The battle does go in different phases and it's quite intense as you fight wave after wave of Reaper creatures like Husks, Banshees, and Brutes. It gets pretty dicey and as the story progresses you can sense the desperation as the battle continues. 

Just when I thought we had won, things get incredibly worse and another Reaper comes and it's a mess. I felt bad that Shepard had to say goodbye to Kaidan, but she wanted him and her team safe so she sent them away. Things escalate from there and after a huge explosion Shepard's lying on the ground looking rough and severely injured. This is where I found myself getting so frustrated with the game. While I understand that Shepard was injured and moving slowly, having just a dinky pistol against Husks and a Marauder was incredibly annoying. It took me three tries before I got the hang of the shaky aiming and the slow as molasses slow motion of Shepard and managed to hit the center mass of their bodies so I could continue towards the ending. 

I finally got to have my conversation with the Illusive Man and boy had he changed a lot. It confirmed my suspicions that he had been indoctrinated and that he hadn't been in control for a long time. As my Shepard tried to convince him that this was not the way and controlling the Reapers was not good for anyone, I kept thinking why is this guy stupid? It wasn't blind stupidity, it was more along the lines of arrogant stupidity. For all his claims of he knew what was best for humanity, it sure didn't feel like it. At least I was able to save Anderson only to have him sitting there having one final conversation with Shepard telling her how proud he was of her and then he died anyway. I felt sad and angry at the same time. I genuinely liked and respected Anderson. I mean, this is a crap time to be Commander Shepard with the death toll among her friends climbing.

There was barely any time to mourn because we still had to unleash the Crucible. This is the part of Mass Effect 3 that had me scratching my head and wondering what the hell happened. While talking to the Catalyst you find you have this machine that has three options: synthesis, control, or destroy. Finding out that the Citadel is the catalyst is bizarre enough, but to have this machine that will defeat the Reapers with three options is a weird design flaw. Also, why did the Reapers not destroy the Crucible while it was being built? Considering how bad things got, they could have done it. It also bothered me that among the three options there was a similarity of a damned if you do and damned if you don't scenario. Synthesis makes everyone some odd hybrid of organic and machine while control makes Shepard give up their corporeal body. Destroy will take out the Reapers, but all synthetic life will be destroyed. These are terrible choices! I can't figure out if the writers got lazy and just wanted it to be over or if they had an epiphany that they had written themselves into a corner with the story and felt this was the best they could do. This is also where you effective military strength comes into play and has to be fairly high to get the best possible outcome with the ending. However, with the extended cut it gives you a little wiggle room.  

I really thought about it and while it truly sucked (Joker, I'm sorry about EDI) I went with destroy. I truly felt it wasn't right for these crazy AI monsters to decide who got to live and who got to die every cycle with no explanation for why it was happening. I was tired of this damn war and I was tired of my Shepard losing people she cared about because of a bunch of jerks who arrogantly thought they knew what was best for everyone in the universe. I was done listening to that little glowing blue Catalyst punk so I hit that red button hard. I sat back and watched all the lovely cut scenes and got to see what that choice wrought. The Reapers were destroyed and luckily Shepard's team survived. Granted, they crash landed on some forest laden planet but they seemed to be alright. I did like seeing that Kaidan refused to put Shepard's name on the memorial wall and then that moment at the end you see Shepard take a breath so I was more than a little ecstatic to see that my Shepard lived. After the credits I found myself smiling at the Stargazer telling stories of Shepard to a young child. 

I understand why people weren't happy with the ending to Mass Effect 3. It does make it seem like the choices you made in the previous Mass Effect didn't matter. I didn't hate the ending, but I think it could have been done differently. With the extended cut I found I liked it because it didn't take away hope and it had Shepard survive. The Crucible really seems to be the weak link here and I'm not sure why they had it in there if they weren't going to elaborate a little more on why it was created or why it had such awful option buttons placed into it. For the most part, I did enjoy the game because of how great the characters on Shepard's team were and because of the great villainy of the Illusive Man. Overall, I enjoyed playing it and had fun. 

So I did it. I played the entire Mass Effect Trilogy and I have to say I liked it a lot. It had all the science fiction bells and whistles I love, some solid story telling, and a great set of characters. It's absolutely worth playing through at least once, twice, or however many times you wish in order to get all the different story scenarios. 

*Mass Effect Trilogy is playable on these platforms: PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3

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