It's one year later. but I'm still just as confused as to why this was made.
Before the Wii U launched, EA announced that part of its “unprecedented” partnership with Nintendo would be a port of Mass Effect 3 with some of the DLC included along with special GamePad functionality. Seeing as the Mass Effect series was heavily reliant on decisions made in past games, as well as the fact that the entire trilogy was released for the same price 2 weeks prior on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it made choosing the Wii U version of the game far less appealing.
Having no experience or connection with the Mass Effect series, which EA expected of buyers of the Wii U version, I decided to take on reviewing the game. I figured it would at least provide a good experiment to see how the game by itself holds up by itself, without any connection to or knowledge of the first two games. After playing the game for over 20 hours, all I got out of it was a generic third-person shooter.
Since the first two games were not released on the Wii U, the game starts you off with an animated comic book, that briefly summarizes the story from the first two games, and lets you make key decisions at certain points that affect different aspects of the game, such as which characters live or die. Sadly, the comic doesn’t represent the story very well, as it came off sounding like a glorified Mad Lib, as different names, places and creatures sounded weird and out of place due to a lack of context. Not knowing something as simple as why exactly the Reapers are a threat, other than the narrator telling me that they are, makes playing the first two games in the series that much more important. Though with how trivial and boring this game’s story was, I started to wonder if I was really missing anything in the first place.
The story in Mass Effect 3 involved Commander Shepard, our hero or heroine, having to fight the Reaper invasion throughout various planets, while teaming up with new and old squadmates alike. Each planet has their own little story and objective, but it’s rare if any of them have any real impact on the game’s narrative as a whole. During the game’s cutscenes, a wheel will pop up with various choices that range from finding out more information, responding with kindness or hostility, and assigning squadmates to various tasks. Depending on how you choose to respond to different characters in these scenarios, you can gain Paragon or Renegade points which unlock new dialogue choices in future conversations where you can charm or intimidate people, as well as Reputation points that let you be taken more seriously by other characters. None of these seem to have any real impact on the game’s story as a whole as much as they’re used to give a sense of control to the player over how they would react to the situation at hand.
That would be okay if the story and characters were interesting in the first place, and unfortunately it isn’t. The writing is about as dull as any generic space opera and provides no reason to care about anything going on. It doesn’t help that most of the characters speak in a monotonous, straight-faced manner, making any sort of compassion I might’ve had for the characters fly out the window. In a series known for its storytelling, it’s extremely disappointing to not be able to connect or identify with any of the characters, and made it extremely tough to continue playing the game. Thankfully, the game became a bit more interesting when I actually started getting into combat..
As mentioned before, the game’s combat takes place on various planets that have their own objective and story. Although each planet has its own feel and unique design, the objective tends to be nothing more than “shoot everything you see, then do something in the highlighted area”. The game plays like your typical third-person, cover shooter. You move forward, you take cover behind walls, tighten your aim, and shoot shoot shoot until they’re dead. There’s nothing here that really shakes up the stale formula, but it still manages to be enjoyable in its own right. You can level up during these missions and earn skill points that you can assign to yourself and squadmates. The various special powers you gain through the skill points do shake things up and keep the combat from becoming dull and repetitive, but I found that no matter what you use, your gun will be the end all be all of taking down the enemy. You can upgrade your gun on the ship as well, but if there’s any difference after you do so, it’s minimal at best.
There’s online multiplayer is in the form of horde mode, in which you and 3 other players team up to battle waves of enemies as well complete several other objectives. In multiplayer, not only do you create a new character from scratch, but get to pick its class as well, giving you different abilities. You still gain experience and level up through this mode, but it actually feels like it’s making a difference compared to the single-player. As you level up, it’ll be easier to take on higher difficulty levels, where there are more varied enemy types, and you are able to gain more in-game credits to spend on new weapons and upgrades as a result. I found this mode to be quite addicting when I was able to actually find people to play with. It was rare that I actually had a full 4-player mission going on, but when I did, it was a ton of fun and was way more enjoyable and fulfilling than the single-player story mode.
Both the graphics and sound design are very impressive; however, graphical and sound glitches hurt them overall. For the most part, it’s on-par, if not better, than what you would normally see in the PS3 and 360 versions of the games, but every now and again, a little graphical or audio glitch will rear its ugly head. There have been multiple instances where characters in cutscenes will straight-up disappear, even though we hear them talking. The opposite will also happen, when the character is clearly supposed to be talking, yet no voice acting whatsoever is heard. I chose not to have subtitles on, so this made certain conversations very confusing.
If there’s one thing the Wii U version has over the other consoles, it’s the GamePad functionality. You get access to an incredibly useful minimap when you’re on your ship and on planetary missions. You can also take advantage of Off-TV Play, but as great as the game looks, not having that map proved to be too much of a tradeoff, as the game itself doesn’t really have a great sense of direction or positioning.
Playing this game without playing the first two entries feels like showing up to a movie an hour after it starts: you don’t know what’s going on, but you just have to roll with it because they expected you to be there from the beginning. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed the game more having had some personal connection to Mass Effect 1 and 2, but EA decided not to give Wii U owners that choice. From the boring story, to the shallow single-player gameplay, to the dull characters, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition didn’t do anything for me to live up to its Wii U subtitle. Maybe some day I’ll finally give the first two games in the series a try, and finally realize why this trilogy has such a mass effect on gamers’ lives.