In Mass Effect 3, an ancient alien race known only as Reapers, has launched an all-out invasion of the galaxy, leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction. You, as Commander Shepard, must lead the counter assault to take it back. Only you can determine how events will play out, which planets you will save from annihilation and which alliances you will form or abandon as you rally the forces of the galaxy to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all. It’s been over eighteen months since gamers braved Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission, with players’ Shepards either rescuing the crew of the Normandy in the nick of time, or seeing some of them gooified or killed in action. The real world has seen its fair share of trouble in the past year and a half, however things are decidedly worse in the Mass Effect universe. In Mass Effect 3, the genocidal Reapers have staged a full invasion of Earth, leaving major cities in ruins and giant robots stomping about the place.
In the concluding chapter of Commander Shepard’s story, he (or she) must rally the various races of the galaxy for a climactic showdown against the Reapers on Earth, attempting to break the cycle of destruction that’s gone on for millennia. In much the same way as he had to build a crew to assault the Collector stronghold in Mass Effect 2, ME3 sees Shepard having to build an interstellar alliance to take back humanity’s home world. Mass Effect’s branching storyline winds on in the third instalment, with fresh twists and turns, and different plot developments depending on your actions in the previous two games. That means if you’ve managed to shepherd (if you pardon the pun) a save file through Mass Effects 1 and 2, you’ll see the consequences of the decisions you made over the past four years played out as the story builds to its climax.
Newbies won’t be left out of the fun, however— just like Mass Effect 2, it’ll be possible to enjoy ME3’s branching plot from start to finish without importing an older saved game. And for die-hard fans, all of the favorite characters including Wrex, Ashley, Miranda, Thane, Jack and Legion will make an appearance too, providing they made it out of Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission alive. Mass Effect’s gameplay has changed dramatically between the first and second titles in the series, and the third instalment sees further refinement of the popular action/RPG formula. Bioware says it’s expanded on the armor, weapon and character customization system of Mass Effect 2, allowing greater depth of pure gameplay without having to trawl needlessly through countless inventory menus.
Weapons and action sequences have also been tweaked in ME3— combat is now faster and more difficult, with Mass Effect 3’s Normal mode being described as roughly equivalent to Veteran mode in the previous game. Mass Effect 1’s weapon mods are back, along with grenades. There’s also a renewed focus on melee abilities, as evidenced by the giant holographic spike that Shepard’s wielding on the game’s box art, and each class has its own unique, high-powered melee attack. In addition, Mass Effect 3 promises a full compliment of biotic and tech powers, though expect many of these remain under wraps until a little closer to launch day.
Mass Effect 3 was one of the many titles to show off deeper Kinect integration at this year’s Microsoft E3 press conference, allowing players to use their voice to accelerate certain parts of the game. For example, dialog options can be spoken aloud, and squad members can be given spoken orders. While this isn’t intended to replace the traditional gamepad-based control system, we can see this being an enjoyable optional extra for gamers with the necessary hardware. It’s safe to say we can’t wait to get our hands on Mass Effect 3, and although we won’t see a retail release before next March, we’re hoping (and expecting) that Bioware will be able to deliver a conclusion worthy of the immersive universe it’s carefully crafted over the past five years.