I still remember that day clearly, five years ago. I was playing the first Mass Effect on the backup TV in another room. It was the final act. Commander Shepard’s showdown with Saren Arterius, as the fight between the Geth and Alliance fleets raged above them. After the confrontation, we resolved to fight the Reapers. The credits fade to black, and M4 Part II starts playing. Just like that, I saved the galaxy. I wonder how disappointed I would’ve been if I knew how shoddy the final part of the story was going to be.
For the uninformed, Mass Effect 3 is the final act of a story five years in the making. It’s all come down to this - An ancient race of machines have returned to exterminate all life in the galaxy, and only you can stop them. You’ll need all the help you can get, and to get it, you’ll need to call in more than a few favors. All the decisions you made in the last two games - Be it saving controversial data, forcefully ending a civil war between two factions of AIs, or even gunning down one of your party members to stop him from jeopardizing the mission - It all matters.
At least, that’s what they want you to think. Turns out everything that happened in the last two games is rendered completely inert by a dimension-hopping time-travelling deus ex machina known as the “Starchild.”
The Starchild is an argument for another day, however, as for now I’m here to dissect what is fundamentally wrong with ME3, not to nerd rage about how awful the plot is.
Let’s take it from the top.
The first thing you see in Mass Effect 3 is the blurry JPG main menu, complete with an interface recycled from Mass Effect 2. The difference, is that in Mass Effect 2, they actually bothered to render the main menu. That’s lazy enough, but it only gets more rushed from here - Buckle up.
The first mission of the game (after the tutorial level on earth) sends you to a base on mars to recover critical data, as well as rescue an old friend. You and your squad take a shuttle down to the surface outside the facility. You’re thinking “Woah. This is mars. This is pretty important.” If it’s so important, why did they spend only 15 minutes drawing a skybox texture for this thing? I made the mistake of looking up as soon as I landed and noticed that the skybox wasn’t rendered properly, and had to stifle laughter immediately. The sky was shaped like a dome, and at the very center of it was a black spot, indicating an amateurishly misdrawn texture.
I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking. But I was constantly spotting lazy design like this all over the game.
In the second mission, I had been sent to rescue a turian leader on the moon of their homeworld. Several criminally bad textures later, I noticed something. The turians had set up several fortifications to fend off the reaper forces and were shooting at absolutely nothing. I regret not taking a screenshot. The turian forces were shooting at thin air to make things seem more interesting, while I was doing the actual fighting.
Hang on, I got another one. In another mission, where I was tasked with rescuing space wizard apprentices from an academy, I got a chance to pilot a big battle robot called an Atlas. The enemy pilot had left the vehicle to conduct repairs, and left himself open for a context-kill (press F to kill bad guy.) When I defied the game’s expectations by just shooting him instead, the AI panicked and he stood still while I blasted his head off with my shotgun. I clambered into the mech and stomped into the next room, blasting soldiers all the while. A few of them had snuck up behind me, so I turned to face them. That’s when I noticed that by turning too fast I had discovered a hole in the HUD. Yes - by turning around too fast, I broke the graphics.
The last point I’d like to make is about Tali - a fan favorite character. It’s been a running joke through the series that you never see her face, as she’s always wearing a space suit because of her weak immune system. She’s finally unmasked here in the third game, aaaaaaand they didn’t even put any effort into it. They just took a stock image of a hot chick from google images and ran it through photoshop.
Don’t believe me? Take a look.
Meanwhile, they’ll fully render Diana Allers, a corporate plug from IGN.
I could go on for an hour about this stuff, from the 3DS Max abominations they call civilians to the 2D sprite birds. The list goes on.
I hope this proves sufficient evidence of how rushed the game was. Tune in next time when I rant about how awful the writing became.