New console, same old Shepard.
By now you’ve probably heard of Mass Effect 3. You’ve heard of its ingenious storytelling, its believable characters, perhaps even its controversial ending. And you’ve probably heard that it’s now on Wii U. So, how does BioWare’s latest RPG hold up on Nintendo’s new platform?
Given that this is the third and final entry to the Mass Effect trilogy, I think it’s important to cover the basics first. The Mass Effect games take place in a world – our world – several centuries from now, where humans have discovered other species across the galaxy and have inherited their technology. It all takes place in a very Star Wars or Star Trek-like universe, where each alien species has their own problems and issues they have to deal with. Your job, as Commander Shepard, is to resolve as many of these differences as possible so that all the races may work together to take out the ultimate enemy – the Reapers, who threaten to destroy all life in the universe.
For Wii U owners, the game begins with an interactive comic titled “Genesis 2.” This comic talks you through the events of Mass Effect 1 and 2 while letting you make decisions that would change the way you play Mass Effect 3. While the comic itself is pretty comprehensive, those who have played previous games in the series will be disappointed to find that not everything that has happened was included. Nevertheless, it is a nice addition for both newcomers to the series and veterans who have decided to pick up ME3 with Wii U as their platform of choice.
At first glance, you may think that Mass Effect 3 is just another third-person shooter, and I wouldn’t blame you for making that assumption; the bulk of the gameplay in ME3 is indeed cover-based shooting. But while the shooting mechanics are mostly sound (the cover system can get a bit cumbersome and wildly inconsistent at times), it’s the role-playing aspects that truly define what Mass Effect is all about.
Mass Effect 3 is all about building relationships with other characters. Only then, can you end the war with the Reapers. Relationships are built via in-game dialogue, in which players are sometimes given choices as to how to continue the conversation. Some of these choices can either help the Alliance (labeled Paragon, in which you try to destroy the Reapers) or Cerberus (labeled Renegade, in which you try to control the Reapers). Your choices will effect how the events of the game play out.
The story is relatively interesting throughout the entirety of the game (and I must say it’s better than Mass Effect 1’s and MUCH improved over Mass Effect 2’s), but there are a few moments in the game where it feels like the decisions you have to make aren’t very clear – and this uncertainty grows especially near the game’s controversial ending. There comes a point where you actually lose the bond you have with the characters, especially when your squadmates seem to purposefully get in the way of you and your mission.
Of course, with every interesting story comes an interesting setting, and what better setting is there than the entire universe? Locations in Mass Effect 3 vary from mission to mission, and it’s a technical masterpiece when you look at it. Everything from lush green forests to dry sandy ruins feel so tangible. Bullet holes in walls that appear as you shoot at it adds a nice touch of unexpected detail. Unfortunately, such ambition also leads to multiple bugs and glitches, even a few game-breaking ones that force you to restart from your last save point. While these bugs should by no means prevent you from playing the game, players should know about them as an added warning to a package that may never be patched.
But what is there is remarkable, to be sure. It’s clear that the guys over at BioWare wanted to make the game a technical showpiece, and indeed they have succeeded in just that. Cinematic sequences show off the massive environments found in the game, yet the little details in the game’s smaller, less expansive areas are equally as impressive. The voice-acting is very well done, giving life to even the lifeless of bodies… literally.
And what’s a Wii U game without Wii U GamePad functionality? For the most part, the touchscreen is used as a map which, while seemingly a lazy implementation, can be quite convenient at times. Shepard’s breathing and footsteps, as well as personal and enemy gunfire, can be heard through the GamePad’s speakers, which is a nice touch that adds some immersion to the already engaging gameplay. Powers can also be accessed quickly on the GamePad, though weapon switches are unfortunately only accessible via the shoulder buttons.
Multiplayer on the Wii U works pretty well for a launch game, though EA’s Origin system can sometimes be a pain to deal with. Unlike most third-person shooters, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is completely cooperative and actually alters the outcome of the main game. The game is fully compatible with your Nintendo Network profile as well, and unlike for other versions of the game, Special Edition does not require an online pass to play.
Much of what you’ve already heard of Mass Effect 3 holds true on Wii U. The extended cut DLC is included as well, giving players a better explanation as to the game’s controversial – and admittedly underwhelming – ending. The GamePad functionality is adquate, though it honestly could have been used a lot better. But other than that, it’s the same Mass Effect 3 you both love and hate – story, characters, bugs, Shepard, and all.