For five years Mass Effect has been building up to this moment. In the first two games players got to fall in love with its intricate and convincing sci-fi world.
We met, chatted with, befriended, fought and even bedded its alien species. We explored a galaxy of barren Dune-like planets, 70s futurist architecture and just about everything in between. And, above all else, we moulded that world through the actions of our very own incarnation of Commander Shepherd.
But now that world is at an end. The Reapers – a race of merciless and enormous metal squids – have arrived in huge numbers to exterminate all life in the galaxy. In short, Mass Effect 3 shows us the world we shaped and grew to love being torn apart.
We meet old friends and foes, discover how earlier choices shaped events and see some of the characters who stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder in previous games meet their end. For anyone who guided their version of Commander Shepherd through the earlier games, this war feels personal. Mass Effect offers a world covered in the grubby fingerprints of its players and it’s impossible not to feel emotionally connected to it when you’ve spent so much time within it.
Not that this fight, which revolves around Shepherd gathering support from across the galaxy to defeat the Reapers, will alienate newcomers. Mass Effect 3 is a marvellous game: its urgent, powerful story is superb and its action-packed missions are downright fantastic. It’s just that if you played the first two this excellent game will be even better.
The action will also make players of the last Mass Effect feel at home, but there are plenty of enhancements. It feels more responsive than before, and the new melee attacks make hitting enemies on the noggin with your gun a viable and handy addition to the combat mix. The missions also feel less corridor-like than last time, in large part because Shepherd can now climb ladders and jump over platforms.
Mass Effect 3 also finds a great balance between the RPG complexity of the original and its super-streamlined sequel. The weight of weapons now matters and there are plenty of ways to modify your guns, which, by the way, also feel truly distinct from each other this time around. It's a similar story with levelling-up, with new options within each of Shepherd's abilities so that you can, for example, tailor your incineration powers towards maximum damage or larger blast radius. The addition of sticky grenades is also a welcome addition to Shepherd's arsenal.
We’d like to rave more and more about the story, but there are simply too many brilliant moments to mention and telling you everything would only spoil it anyway. Let’s sum up with this, then: Mass Effect 3 is one of the highest gaming highpoints of the past decade. It’s videogaming at its most ambitious, and a series finale that ends with one almighty bang.