Mass Effect 3

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Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 Game Cover.jpg
Developer(s) BioWare
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Director(s) Casey Hudson
Producer(s) Jesse Houston
Designer(s) Preston Watamaniuk
Programmer(s) David Falkner
Artist(s) Derek Watts
Writer(s) Mac Walters
John Dombrow
Ann Lemay
Neil Pollner
Cathleen Rootsaert
Jay Turner
Patrick Weekes
Composer(s) Sascha Dikiciyan
Sam Hulick
Chris Lennertz
Clint Mansell
Cris Velasco[2]
Series Mass Effect
Engine Unreal Engine 3
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Wii U,[3] Xbox 360
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
NA March 6, 2012[4]

AU 20120308March 8, 2012
EU March 9, 2012[5]
JP 20120315March 15, 2012
Wii U[6]
NA 20121118November 18, 2012
EU 20121130November 30, 2012
AU 20121130November 30, 2012
JP 20121208December 8, 2012

Genre(s) Action role-playing, third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, co-op, multiplayer[7]
Distribution Optical disc, download

Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U.[8] Officially announced on December 11, 2010,[9][10] the game was released March 6, 2012[11] and marks the final chapter in the Mass Effect trilogy of video games, completing the story of Commander Shepard.[12][13] A Wii U version was announced during Nintendo's conference at E3 2012.[14] The Wii U port was developed by Australian developer Straight Right,[1] and was released as a Wii U launch game[6] under the title Mass Effect 3: Special Edition.

The combat system in Mass Effect 3 has been changed and refined. In particular, the cover system has been improved, there are more options for moving around the battlefield and scoring instant melee kills, more conventional grenades are available and an improved artificial intelligence is introduced. A four player multiplayer co-op mode is also available in game.[15] Gameplay in Mass Effect 3 is influenced by decisions made in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, for players who have completed those games. It was nominated for five awards at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards and it won Best RPG of 2012.[16]

Like its predecessors, Mass Effect 3 was released to commercial success and critical acclaim. However, the game's endings were criticized by many players, prompting the release of an extended cut DLC (downloadable content) which elaborated on the consequences of the ending chosen and the choices made by the player throughout the series.

Gameplay[edit]

Certain aspects of gameplay in Mass Effect 3 are impacted by choices made in previous games. When starting a new game, players with saved files from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 are given the option of importing them into Mass Effect 3 to reflect these choices.[17] If a saved file is imported, over 1000 variables are pulled to help shape how the final chapter is experienced.[18] If there are no saved files available, there is an origin-story comic for new players to help them make quick decisions like there was in Mass Effect 2.[19] Imported characters' appearance and class are changeable, with more features and hair-styles included in the character creator than in Mass Effect 2.[20][21] Commander Shepard always starts the game with some powers.[22] Upon finishing the game, a New Game+ option allows players to continue playing after the main story ends, starting again with their finished Shepard to collect items they missed the first time around.[23] The game has 82 minutes of cut-scenes.[24]

An expanded leveling up screen demonstrating skill trees in Mass Effect 3. The first three levels of the skill tree are singular whereas the final three levels require the player to select from one of two options.

Mass Effect 3 has three pre-set campaign modes: Action Mode, Story Mode, and RPG Mode.[25] In Action Mode, conversations have automatic replies and a normal combat difficulty. In Story Mode, conversations have manual replies and a minimal combat difficulty. In RPG Mode, which is reflective of the typical Mass Effect experience, conversations have manual replies and a normal combat difficulty. Overall, the RPG elements in the game have been improved over those in Mass Effect 2, with a more detailed leveling up system and increased weapon customization.[26] To level up characters, players have skills that start along a single path but eventually splinter into two branches where they can select only one upgrade or the other along a sequence of possibilities.[27] Players can also customize their weapons with different scopes, mods, barrels, and ammo types.[28] There are 25 weapon mods total — five per weapon type — and each of them will have multiple power levels to collect.[29] For Kinect users, players have the option to speak their choices instead of selecting them with a controller.[30]

The number of characters available as permanent squad mates in Mass Effect 3 is smaller than in Mass Effect 2 for the purposes of deeper relationships and more interesting interplay, including same-sex relationship options for both male and female Shepards.[31][32] If players achieved a love interest in both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, then both vie for Shepard's attention in Mass Effect 3.[33] This "love triangle" is resolved by the end of the game.

Throughout Mass Effect 3, players must increase their Effective Military Strength (EMS) to prepare for the game's final mission.[34] EMS is calculated by multiplying Total Military Strength (TMS) with Readiness Rating. TMS is a measure of War Assets, which includes accomplishments from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 as well as items acquired in Mass Effect 3. These items can be acquired in various ways, including casual conversations and planet scanning. Planet scanning has been greatly simplified from Mass Effect 2 and no longer includes the scanning of every planet individually. Other mini-games from Mass Effect 2, including bypassing and hacking, have been eliminated.

Combat[edit]

Combat in Mass Effect 3 is changed and refined from Mass Effect 2, with further emphasis put on third-person perspective aspects to make the game more commercially viable.[35] In a preview of the game for IGN, editor Arthur Gies went so far as to say the game "plays like a shooter" and that "combat-wise, Mass Effect 3 is in an entirely different space [from the first two games]". In an article for bitgamer, Joe Martin gave a conflicting impression, noting that with regard to combat, "not a lot has changed".[36]

The series' cover system has been improved so players no longer need to slide into cover and then hop over objects. Players have more options for moving around the battlefield than ever before, including a refined sprint capability, combat rolling, and the use of climbable ladders.[23] Players can also blindfire their weapons from covered positions, and have opportunities to shoot selected armor pieces and limbs off enemies. For Kinect users, verbal orders can be issued to move squad mates and use their powers.[30] Moving and shooting, a "suicidal maneuver" in Mass Effect 2, is now a viable option because of a revised melee system.[37] Players are able to execute formidable punches and attacks, and instant melee kills are introduced specific to each class; for example, by holding down the melee button, a soldier Shepard will deliver a killing blow with an omni-blade. Conventional grenades are also available.

Mass Effect 3 was planned as the most difficult in the series, with increased artificial intelligence to challenge players and increase the sense of reward.[38] Enemies no longer act as individuals as they did in the previous games, instead fighting and supporting each other in units. Enemies include 15-foot (4.6 m) tall Cerberus mechs, assault troopers, and ninja-style shock troops, as well as Reaperized husks of all races and Reaper ships ranging from 500 to 2,000 metres (1,600 to 6,600 ft) long.[39][40] Some changes were made to already-existing class types; for example, Engineers are now able to build turrets.

Multiplayer[edit]

Mass Effect 3 offers a multiplayer co-op mode called "Galaxy at War", the first such mode of the series.[41] In the mode, players are able to play alongside up to three other players online in unique missions that can impact the outcome of the single player campaign.[42] Each mission was designed specifically for multiplayer, and involves taking over enemy strongholds. By completing these missions, players can give themselves a better chance of attaining a perfect ending in the single player campaign; although, they are not necessary to do so. Over the course of one year, BioWare released five free DLC packs for the multiplayer mode that added several types of new content. The mode has been compared to Gears of War's horde mode.[43]

Players have the ability to fight against 4 different opponents: the Reapers, geth, Cerberus, and with the Retaliation DLC installed the Collectors. Battles take place over a choice of more than 15 maps, with 4 choices of difficulty, Bronze (Easy) Silver (Normal) Gold (Hard) and with the Earth DLC installed Platinum (Very Hard). Platinum maps will randomly spawn tank units from random races in addition to the key race being fought against; an example might be Reaper Ravagers fighting alongside Cerberus Troopers or a geth Prime assisting Reaper Banshees. Each map lasts for 10 rounds, with players defending against waves of attack, each getting progressively harder. Certain waves will have the team performing certain goals, such as defusing doctrine devices, enabling remote weapon stations, hacking computers, killing key targets, escorting probes, or transporting critical hardware (such as hard drives or warheads).

No characters from the single-player campaign are featured in the multiplayer mode; instead, players create brand new characters for themselves and can play as members of non-human species, including asari, batarians, drell, krogans, quarians, salarians, turians, geth, vorcha, volus, and more.[44] Every race has unique powers, such as a "Krogan Charge" for krogans and different movement options out of cover between drell and humans.[45] All classes are playable.[43] The maximum level that created characters are able to reach is 20, and just like in the single player mode, leveling up includes skill branches.

Gameplay in the multiplayer mode only allows for players to carry two guns at a time in their inventory, and there is no menu to change weapons; instead, weapons are changed by holding down a button.[45] Only three powers per class are also available as opposed to those available during the single player game. Characters, equipment, mods, and weapons are acquired randomly with the purchase of graded kits. The kits are purchased with multiplayer in-game credits or real-life currency.

One year after game release, BioWare discontinued any further multiplayer challenges, while leaving the challenge system functional and servers up.[46]

Synopsis[edit]

Mass Effect series in-universe chronology

Background[edit]

Mass Effect 3 details the adventures of Systems Alliance Commander Shepard as they try to defeat a human-survivalist paramilitary group called Cerberus and a synthetic-organic race of machines known as the Reapers. The Reapers are immensely powerful and purge the galaxy of all advanced sapient life in 50,000 year cycles. In the Mass Effect 2 DLC Arrival, Shepard travels into Batarian space to rescue an Alliance deep cover agent named Dr. Amanda Kenson and learns that the Reaper invasion is imminent. To delay them, Shepard is forced to destroy a mass relay, obliterating the system and killing 300,000 Batarian colonists as collateral damage. Consequently, Shepard is ordered back to Earth with the Normandy impounded.

Plot[edit]

Mass Effect 3 begins on Earth with Commander Shepard having been detained following the events in Arrival.[22] In the opening moments it is revealed that Earth has recently lost contact with its extra-solar assets and is hastily preparing for the imminent Reaper arrival. The assault comes moments later, and all of Earth's defenses are overwhelmed. Shepard escapes a burning Vancouver on the Normandy with the help of Admiral Anderson and either Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams (depending on which survived Virmire), and leaves to gather help from other species while Anderson coordinates human resistance on Earth. Before leaving the Sol System, Shepard is ordered to Mars by Admiral Hackett, who claims that researchers have uncovered something that may give humanity a chance against the Reapers. There, Shepard battles Cerberus forces and encounters former squad-mate Liara T'Soni, who has discovered plans for a Prothean superweapon that may be capable of defeating the Reapers. Before leaving the facility, Shepard speaks with a now-hostile Illusive Man, who claims he wants to use the Prothean weapon to take control of the Reapers. Using an advanced Cerberus AI codenamed "Eva", he attempts to steal the data. Shepard, Liara, and Ashley/Kaidan manage to stop Eva, but Ashley/Kaidan are badly injured and are sent to a hospital on the Citadel.

Shepard pleads for help from the Council, but they are reluctant to oblige due to their own preoccupations and unwilling to bet everything on an untested device. Shepard realizes that the only way to gain other species' assistance will be to help them in their own wars against the Reapers and garner favors, while at the same time gathering war assets to be used against the Reapers in battle. Eventually, Hackett begins construction on the Prothean weapon and dubs it "The Crucible".

After rescuing the turian primarch from a battle on one of Palaven's moons (as well as reuniting with squadmate Garrus Vakarian), Shepard convenes a war summit, consisting of Shepard, the primarch, and representatives for the salarians and the krogan. The primarch promises Shepard turian support for Earth, but only if the krogan agree to help defend Palaven. The summit goes badly at first, with Urdnot Wrex/Wreav (depending on whether Wrex survived Virmire) withholding all krogan support until a cure for the genophage can be created. The cure is being developed on the salarian homeworld of Sur'Kesh by former squadmate Mordin Solus (if he survived the events of Mass Effect 2) and a team of scientists. After a series of battles on Tuchanka, the krogan homeworld, Shepard can either cure the genophage or trick Wrex/Wreav into believing it has been cured. If Shepard decides to go forward with the cure, Mordin sacrifices his life at the last moment to counteract a salarian-planned sabotage to it. If Shepard decides not to use the cure, they are forced to shoot Mordin to prevent him from fixing the sabotage—unless Shepard can convince him that it would be best to leave the genophage uncured.

After gaining the support of the krogan and the turians, Shepard learns that Cerberus has launched an assault on the Citadel. Shepard moves to save the salarian councilor, who reveals that Donnel Udina, humanity's councilor, engineered the attack. Shepard also encounters Kai Leng, a notorious Cerberus assassin, and prevents him from assassinating the salarian councilor with the help of Thane Krios or Captain Kirrahe(provided either man survives their game), who are fatally wounded in the attempt. Shepard then moves to stop Udina, who is planning to hand off the asari and turian councilors to Cerberus, and being guarded by Kaidan or Ashley, who has been made a Spectre. Depending on previous choices made during the game, such as visiting them in the hospital, Kaidan or Ashley can side with Shepard and help Shepard take Udina down, or side against Shepard and be killed. Either way, Udina is stopped.

Shepard then travels to the Far Rim to meet with the admirals of the quarian flotilla. Shepard learns that the quarians have gone to war with the geth, and are attempting to reclaim Rannoch, their homeworld. With Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, Shepard boards a geth dreadnought that is broadcasting a short-range Reaper code to the geth. Shepard destroys it and finds Legion (or an identical geth VI, also dependent on the suicide mission), who tells Shepard that the geth, losing the war with the quarians, turned to the Reapers in desperation and were greatly enhanced at the cost of their independent thought, while Legion/the geth VI remains independent due to its unusual amount of active programs. With Legion/the geth VI's help, the geth are pushed back to a Reaper base which is projecting another Reaper signal. The source of the signal is discovered to be an actual Reaper, and with the help of an orbital strike from the quarian fleet, Shepard destroys it. With the Reaper control gone but the superior upgrades still viable, Shepard must choose either to allow the geth to upgrade and become fully individualized and free, in which case they retaliate against the quarian flotilla, annihilating it and causing Tali to commit suicide, or to shut down the geth consensus, which in turn allows the quarians to destroy the geth fleet and end them as a race. Alternatively, depending on past decisions, Shepard can allow the geth to upgrade while convincing the quarians that the geth do not want to fight them, making peace between the two and gaining support for Earth from both.

Shepard is then informed by the asari councilor of a Prothean artifact on the asari homeworld, Thessia, which may be the key to finishing the Crucible. However, when the Normandy arrives on Thessia, the planet is already under heavy Reaper attack. Shepard must defend Thessia while simultaneously gathering information on the "Catalyst", an essential tool for the Crucible's effectiveness. The artifact the asari councilor referred to is revealed to be a Prothean beacon housing a VI called Vendetta. As it is about to reveal information regarding the Catalyst, Kai Leng arrives and steals the VI program. Deciding to take the fight to the Illusive Man, Shepard follows Leng to the Sanctuary research facility on the human colony Horizon, which Cerberus has been using to research methods of controlling the Reapers. There, Shepard saves Miranda Lawson (or her sister Oriana, if Miranda is dead) from her father and Leng in the research facility. Either of the sisters gives Shepard the location of Cerberus headquarters, which, with the help of Admiral Hackett and an Alliance fleet, Shepard assaults, killing Leng in the process but failing to capture the Illusive Man. After reacquiring Vendetta, Shepard learns that the Citadel itself is in fact the Catalyst, and that the Illusive Man has now become fully indoctrinated by the Reapers. Because of his indoctrination, the Illusive Man has informed the Reapers of the Citadel's pivotal function in the activation of the Crucible. In response, the Reapers capture the Citadel and move it to a defensible position above Earth, massing their fleets around it.

Under Hackett and Shepard's leadership, the combined fleets of all the races of the galaxy launch a massive final attack on the Reaper forces above Earth and on its surface in a last-ditch attempt to retake the Citadel and use it to activate the Crucible. After landing, Shepard assists in an assault on London, at the center of which there is a beam that connects to the orbiting Citadel. Reunited with Anderson, Shepard eventually begins the final push to the Citadel beam, but the attack force is decimated by Harbinger, the oldest and most powerful of the Reapers. During the charge, Shepard's squadmates are injured and evacuated. Shepard continues the charge alone, but is severely wounded in a blast from Harbinger, barely making it to the beam. Once on the Citadel, Shepard hears from Anderson, who also made it to the beam. Finding Anderson under the influence of the indoctrinated Illusive Man, Shepard succeeds in stopping the Cerberus leader, but Anderson is fatally wounded in the process. After opening the Citadel arms so that the Crucible can dock, Shepard is transported to the pinnacle of the Citadel, where a childlike AI appears. The AI declares that it is the Catalyst, and the creator of the Reapers. It reveals that the Reaper cycle is an attempt to prevent organic life from destroying itself by creating synthetic life; creators, the Catalyst argues, are always doomed to be destroyed by the created. The Catalyst characterizes the harvest as an ascendance, wherein advanced organic races are preserved in Reaper form and the opportunity is created for more primitive species to rise, evolve, and advance. In every cycle, the Catalyst studies the evolution of these organic species as well as their technological progression, with the ultimate goal of finding a solution to the conflict between synthetic and organic life.

The Catalyst says that it has lost faith in the Reapers' ability to achieve this purpose and, as now altered by the Crucible, gives Shepard three options of defeating them: control the Reapers, destroy the Reapers and all synthetic life, or synthesize all organic and synthetic life. Each choice results in Shepard's apparent death and the destruction of the entire mass relay network. London suffers varying degrees of damage and the Normandy crash lands on an alien planet. If the player's Effective Military Strength is high enough and Shepard chooses to destroy the Reapers, the game ends with a cutscene of Shepard taking a gasping breath from within a pile of rubble, hinting at survival. In a post-credits cutscene, an old man known as the "Stargazer" tells Shepard's story to a young boy, implying that Shepard's legacy lives on far into the future.

Extended Cut[edit]

The Extended Cut reveals that the mass relays are only heavily damaged by the Crucible's firing instead of being destroyed as per the original ending, but most aspects of the plot remain the same. Additional scenes and dialogue have been added to clarify events and resolve perceived plot holes.

The three original ending choices have been modified to include a varying narration provided by Hackett (Destroy), a Reaper artificial intelligence modeled after Shepard (Control), or EDI (Synthesis) along with slides showing the impact the player's choices have had upon the galaxy, as well as the fate of surviving characters. If the player has a sufficiently high EMS score, the surviving crew of the Normandy is shown holding a memorial service for Shepard before repairing the damage from the crash and launching into space.

The Extended Cut also provides a fourth ending, triggered by either refusing the Catalyst's choices, or attempting to kill it when the player resumes control of Shepard. Consequently, the Crucible is not fired and the war ends with the systematic destruction of all space-faring civilizations, and the continuation of the Reaper cycle. The scene then shifts to an unknown garden world in the future where one of Liara's beacons has been discovered. Dialogue in the post-credits scene reveals that the knowledge gained from the beacon ultimately led to the next cycle's victory over the Reapers.

Development[edit]

Origins[edit]

From the start, BioWare envisioned the Mass Effect series as a trilogy, with the first two games being a preamble to the third.[47] For this reason, BioWare was able to begin production on Mass Effect 3 before Mass Effect 2 was even released.[48] The game was directed by Casey Hudson, who previously led the production of the first two Mass Effect games and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. To design the game, BioWare made sure to use fan feedback, similar to what they did for Mass Effect 2.[49] In particular, the game's development team paid close attention to past mistakes in the series as well as the critical failings of other BioWare titles such as Dragon Age II.[50] The team was able to devote most of their time to gameplay and storytelling because, according to BioWare Edmonton General Manager Aaron Flynn, they didn't have to worry about technology as it was "pretty maxed out".[51] Initially, the game was predicted to be released at the end of 2011 or early 2012.[52]

The lead writer of Mass Effect 3 is Mac Walters, who previously wrote on other games in the Mass Effect series as well as Jade Empire.[53] One of the goals set by the writing staff at the beginning of production was to treat the game like a movie and make sure that players playing it for the first time would "just be able to jump in".[54] Emphasis was put on making the story user friendly for players inexperienced with the franchise because BioWare felt they "didn't do a really good job of new player orientation" in Mass Effect 2.[55] To begin the writing process, Hudson and Walters sat down and created a story document no longer than three or four pages that contained all the major plot points.[54] Once the document was complete, Walters took the document to the writing staff and began filling out minor details including minor plot points and missions. Once these details were complete and the "backbone of the story" was established, each writer was put in charge of specific levels and missions. Work done by each writer was reviewed in-depth by the rest of the writing staff and others.[56]

Reveal[edit]

On December 10, 2010, Electronic Arts posted the official synopsis for Mass Effect 3 on their website, although the listing was later removed pending an official announcement at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards.[57][58] The following day, the game was confirmed for a "Holiday 2011" release and accompanied by a teaser trailer.[59] On March 21, 2011, Tricia Helfer announced via Twitter that she would reprise her role from Mass Effect 2 as EDI, and had already started voice-recording sessions.[60] Seth Green soon followed, announcing that he would reprise his role from Mass Effect 2 and the first Mass Effect as Joker.[61]

The first detailed information regarding development of Mass Effect 3 started being released in April 2011. On April 20, Belgian website 4gamers.be reported that BioWare were collaborating with Battlefield developer DICE in weapon development for the game.[62] The same day, Game Informer released the first-ever screenshots of Mass Effect 3 to help promote their May 10 cover story.[63] On May 3, 2011, IGN announced that Mass Effect 3 would be presented and demoed by Electronic Arts at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo.[64] The next day, BioWare announced that the game's release date had been pushed back to early 2012,[65] in part so it could be tweaked to appeal to as wide a market as possible.[66] On June 1, EA Games' online store uploaded artwork by mistake which revealed the game will have Kinect support.[67] The artwork was later removed. At the 2011 E3 Convention, BioWare finally confirmed Kinect support in a gameplay video.[4] The game's collector's edition,[68] cover art, a new teaser trailer and official release date of March 6, 2012 were also revealed. For the first time, fans were shown actual gameplay videos, including a 15 minute demo supervised by Casey Hudson.[69] At Comic-Con 2011, fans were given an opportunity to play a demo version of the game.[70] Hudson and lead writer Mac Walters were both in attendance, with Hudson sitting on the Legendary Pictures panel to talk about the upcoming Mass Effect film and Walters sitting on the Dark Horse Comics panel. At Gamescon 2011, a new trailer was released demonstrating 50 seconds of combat gameplay.[71] The game was also demoed at PAX Prime 2011.[72]

Internal leaks and multiplayer[edit]

On October 3, a leaked South African advertisement hinted at multiplayer capabilities for Mass Effect 3.[73] On October 10, multiple BioWare employees took to Twitter to announce that the game would have a multiplayer component.[74] The announcement confirmed longstanding multiplayer rumors, stemming from a BioWare job listing in 2010 for someone to take Mass Effect's "existing single player user experiences and make them multiplayer safe".[75] On October 12, an official trailer for the multiplayer mode was released through BioWare Pulse.[44] Soon after, it was reported that a demo for both multiplayer and single-player modes would be released in January 2012.[76]

On November 4, a private beta of Mass Effect 3 became available on Xbox Live.[77] The beta was only available to players who signed up to beta test a new version of the Xbox 360 Dashboard. In a response from Jesse Houston, it was revealed that the leak was the result of "human error" at Microsoft. Houston stressed that the leaked code was in a rough, unfinished state not intended for public release. Despite BioWare's quick response, some fan videos still made their way to YouTube. From the beta, some information was extracted from game files that represented rough notes from early story drafts.[78] In an interview conducted shortly after the leaked script was removed, BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk revealed that feedback from fans who read it might be used to tweak the story before the game was released.[79]

Pre-release[edit]

On September 13, Casey Hudson posted to Twitter that Mass Effect 3 was seeing signs of its final stage of production.[80] A few days later, lead writer Mac Walters revealed that writing for the game was almost finished.[81] Music started going into the game around the same time.[82] On October 27, the development team transitioned into an "editing" stage where story elements were evaluated and key lines or scenes were re-written.[83] Character lighting was being polished as of November 7 and voice overs were completely recorded by December 7.[84][85] On December 10, the game was presented at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards with a new teaser trailer.[86] On January 9, 2012, Sam Hulick turned in his last audio mixes for the game.[87] On February 22, 2012, SCEA offered bonuses to those that pre-order via the PlayStation Network. These incentives include A M55 Argus weapon and a Mass Effect 3 PS3 theme.[88] On March 2, the game became available for preload on Origin in the case of digital purchases.

Audio[edit]

Mass Effect 3's music is composed by Golden Globe-nominated composer Clint Mansell, together with Christopher Lennertz, Cris Velasco, BAFTA-nominated composer Sam Hulick and Sasha Dikicyan.[89] Mansell first stated he would be scoring the game during an interview with The Quietus on February 9, 2011.[90] Electronic Arts officially announced his involvement shortly thereafter with a Facebook post.[91] Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 composer Jack Wall had no involvement with the production of Mass Effect 3 due to undetailed and "complicated" reasons.[92]

Commander Shepard is again voiced by Mark Meer (male) and Jennifer Hale (female).[93] Many other members of the cast return, including: Brandon Keener (Garrus Vakarian) Ali Hillis (Liara T'Soni), Raphael Sbarge (Kaidan Alenko), Yvonne Strahovski (Miranda), Tricia Helfer (EDI), Seth Green (Joker), Martin Sheen (The Illusive Man), Lance Henriksen (Admiral Hackett) and Keith David (Admiral David Anderson). New voice actors include Jessica Chobot (Diana Allers), Freddy Prinze Jr. (James Vega), and Buzz Aldrin (The Stargazer).[93][94]

Mass Effect 3's weapon audio is redesigned and refined. BioWare's audio team was in discussion with other EA studios, including DICE, to improve their combat soundscape.[95] The game has 40,000 lines of recorded dialog, twice as much as the first game and almost twice as much as the second game.[96] The game has 12,500 sound and music files.[97]

Marketing[edit]

To promote Mass Effect 3, BioWare relied heavily on viral marketing. Using an internal channel called BioWare Pulse, weekly videos were posted on the company's official website and YouTube offering fans a preview of upcoming content.[98][99] To keep in touch with fans during development, social networking websites such as Twitter were utilized by members of the game's production team including Casey Hudson and Mac Walters.[100] On December 12, 2011, staff writer Patrick Weekes posted a blog as Commander Shepard writing from the Normandy and elaborating on some minor plot points.[101] Official badges, 2D and 3D posters, stickers and temporary tattoos for the game will be produced by GB Eye and stocked by retailers such as Chips and HMV.[102] A demo for the game was released on February 14, 2012.[103] Early access to the demo was granted to consumers who purchased Battlefield 3 and activated their online pass.[104]

Mass Effect 3 was released in multiple editions. Alongside the regular edition, there was also be a collector's edition and a digital deluxe edition, each of which will include bonus content and unlockable items; most notably, four exclusive weapons found in the N7 Arsenal Pack.[68] The digital deluxe edition is exclusively available through Origin, EA's rebranded PC game store.[105] All pre-orders of the game were accompanied with the M55 Argus Assault Rifle bonus weapon, with retailer-specific bonuses available as well.[106] Anyone who pre-orders the game from GameStop will receive N7 warfare gear and anyone who pre-orders the game from Origin will receive an AT12 Raider Shotgun. As a part of a crossover promotion, players can also unlock two bonus items — the Reckoner Knight Armor and Chakram Launcher — by playing through the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.[107] To alleviate sales lost to the second-hand market and rentals, only unused copies of Mass Effect 3 will come with an online pass allowing players full access to the online multiplayer mode.[108][109] Once the pass is activated, it cannot be used again; therefore, players who buy the game used are required to pay an additional fee in order to use multiplayer.

Unlike the first two games in the series, BioWare specifically included the female version of Commander Shepard in marketing Mass Effect 3.[110] Often referred to colloquially as "FemShep", she was featured in her own dedicated trailer for the game, as well as a revised version of the "Take Back Earth" trailer. She also graced the cover of the Mass Effect 3 N7 Collector's Edition.[111] In addition, the standard version of the game featured a reversible slipcase insert, allowing the purchaser to display either the male or female version of Shepard on the front and back cover artwork.[112] To help decide the official female Shepard model, BioWare let fans choose between five prototypes on Facebook.[113] Eventually, the fifth prototype won and a new fan vote was held to decide its hair color, which ended up being red.[114][115][116]

In February 2012, EA sent early copies of Mass Effect 3 into space via weather balloons. The games were equipped with a GPS tracking device, allowing fans to track their progress. When the balloons landed, anyone who found one was able to snag a copy of Mass Effect 3 a week or more ahead of its release.[117]

Release and downloadable content[edit]

Before Mass Effect 3's release date was delayed to 2012, numerous gaming websites called the game one of the most anticipated games of 2011,[118][119] with IGN ranking it number one in their "Top 10 Xbox 360 Games of 2011" column.[120] Following the 2011 E3 Convention, IGN nominated the game for Best Role-Playing Game and Most Anticipated Game,[121] and EEDAR called it the most promising retail title of 2011.[122] At the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards, the game was voted the most anticipated of 2012 by fans.[123] In an interview with Computer and Videogames, BioWare marketing director David Silverman went so far as to call Mass Effect 3 the "best game we've ever made".[124]

The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 6, 2012, and for Wii U on November 18, 2012. Customers purchasing PC editions of the game (retail or digital) are required to install Electronic Arts' content delivery and digital rights management system, Origin. The Origin client (and an Origin account) is required to install, activate and run Mass Effect 3 on a PC for single and multi-player portions of the game.[125]

Mass Effect 3 also supports a variety of downloadable content packs that were released from March 2012 to April 2013. The Wii U version - Mass Effect 3: Special Edition - features all the free DLC in-game that were released prior to Special Edition's release. However, EA announced that there are no plans to release any of the paid DLC packs for the Wii U version, including Omega, Leviathan, and the various weapon packs. When asked on Twitter if they would ever release any future DLC for the Wii U version, their response was, "Never say never."[126]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (X360) 92.17%[127]
(PS3) 91.65%[128]
(WIIU) 87.76%[129]
(PC) 87.75%[130]
Metacritic (X360) 93/100[131]
(PS3) 93/100[132]
(PC) 89/100[133]
(WIIU) 87/100[134]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A[135]
Edge 8/10[136]
Eurogamer 10/10[137]
G4 5/5[138]
Game Informer 10/10[139]
GameSpot 9.0/10[140]
GameTrailers 9.5/10[141]
IGN 9.5/10[142]
Official Xbox Magazine UK 10/10[143]
PC Gamer US 93/100[144]
Awards
Publication Award
Game Informer Game of the Year
PC Gamer (US) Game of the Year
MSNBC Game of the Year
NY Daily News Game of the Year
Financial Post Game of the Year
Sentinel & Enterprise Game of the Year
IGN Best RPG
Game Trailers Best RPG
Spike VGAs Best RPG
Official Xbox Magazine Best RPG
Game Informer Best DLC - Citadel

Critical reception[edit]

Mass Effect 3 was met with critical acclaim by video game critics. Andrew Reiner of Game Informer awarded it 10 out of 10 and asserted that "BioWare has delivered one of the most intricately crafted stories in the history of the medium".[139] Thierry Nguyen of 1UP.com rated the game "A" and concluded, "While Mass Effect 3 stumbles at times, the fact that it's the ultimate culmination of my own Shepard's story makes it one of the signature (and somewhat-literal) role-playing-games of this year."[135] Edge rated the game 8/10 saying "It's off-putting to new players, too busy tying up loose ends to dangle any threads of its own, and fails to stand up as its own game in the same manner as its predecessors. But it's also a spectacular, powerfully imagined and dramatically involving final act to one of gaming's richest sci-fi sagas."[136] Tom Francis of PC Gamer U.S. gave the game a score of 93/100 and ended with saying "...the end of the series is a mixed bag. Satisfying in some ways, nonsensical in others, and ultimately too simple. But the sheer scale of the adventure it's ending – and the music, which is gorgeous throughout – gives it an emotional impact that goes beyond its plot payload."[144] Mass Effect 3 was nominated for five awards in the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards, including Game of the Year, and it won one, Best RPG.[146] Game Informer awarded it their game of the year award.[147]

Fan reception[edit]

The game's original endings were poorly received by many BioWare and Mass Effect fans. Criticisms included: that the ending rendered character choices inconsequential; a general lack of closure; lore contradictions and plot holes; character and narrative inconsistencies; the absence of a final boss battle; and inconsistencies between statements by BioWare staff during the game's development and the form the endings ultimately took.[148][149][150][151][152]

Displeased fans organized an internet campaign called "Retake Mass Effect" to demand a better ending to the game, part of which includes a charity drive for the organization Child's Play.[153][154][155] The drive officially raised $80,000 in less than two weeks.[156][157] One fan went so far as taking his complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency created to protect consumers. His argument was that BioWare did not deliver on the promise of its game, saying, "after reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims." [158] However, with the release of the extended cut, he is now happy with the end product.[159]

One of the writers of the Mass Effect series, Patrick Weekes, posted a message on gaming website Penny Arcade, citing among other criticisms that the ending section lacked the same peer review process used with the rest of the game.[160]

The U.S. Better Business Bureau also responded to the controversy, supporting claims by fans that BioWare falsely advertised the player's "complete" control over the game's final outcome.[161][162] The UK's Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, ruling that EA and BioWare were not guilty of false advertisement since the endings were "thematically quite different", and the choices and readiness rating reflected in the ending content were significant enough to avoid actionable misleading of consumers under existing law.[163]

BioWare's co-founder and CEO Ray Muzyka later acknowledged feedback over the endings stating that the company planned to address them, with an announcement to be made in April 2012.[164][165] On April 5, 2012, BioWare announced they would offer a free download to be released during the summer, which would expand the ending with a cinematic epilogue but not replace it.[166] The Extended Cut was released on June 26, 2012 for Xbox 360 and PC worldwide, and PlayStation 3 in North America and later released on July 4, 2012 for PS3 in Europe.[167]

Sales[edit]

During March 2012, Mass Effect 3 sold over 1.5 million copies.[168] According to EA's Q4 results, Mass Effect 3 has grossed over $200 million.[169]

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External links[edit]