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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Mass Effect 3’ will hands down be best game of 2012

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    Trying to predict the game of the year is always risky, even if it’s done in December when most games are out. The problem is critics have different opinions and it’s impossible for a game to do something that everyone is going to love. Yet, I’m confident in picking 2012’s game of the year after playing just the demo. It’s going to be “Mass Effect 3.”

    It’s not that shocking of a claim and I doubt I’m the first to make it. BioWare’s “Mass Effect” series has been hailed by some as one of the greatest in modern history — and it is.

    “Mass Effect” introduced players to one of gaming’s greatest story lines and a vast galaxy full of rich, alien culture. It also managed to blend a third-person shooter with a role-playing game, making for an experience that was greatly customizable — even too customizable at times. Also, the way it handled dialogue, while not revolutionary, was a huge selling point, and BioWare did a perfect job with casting the right voice actors. The developers really understood how bad acting can break a game.

    “Mass Effect 2” was great as well, though it seemed to suffer from a sort of midlife identity crisis. While its predecessor was a full-fledged role-playing game (RPG), “ME2” was very much an action game — again, almost too much of an action game. It was still customizable, but fans of the first game’s system felt like they’d had a hand taken away. Weapons were limited to two of each type, buying new armor became almost entirely pointless and the skill tree was so oversimplified that it diminished the feeling of having a unique character.

    Still, “ME2” had a great cast and the story was as strong as ever, aside from some slight stretching of the suspension of disbelief at the beginning of the game, and the gameplay, while different, was just as fun. Although not everyone could agree on whether “ME2” was a step in the right or wrong direction, many acknowledged that it was still a good game. Players were and possibly still are worried “ME3” might end up even less like an RPG, making it far worse. But after playing the demo, I’m here to soothe your fears.

    “Mass Effect 3” seems to have struck a perfect balance between action and RPG. The combat is still as intensive as ever, and with the addition of class-specific melee attacks and the ability to dodge-roll, things should be even more dynamic. Players can still pause the fight with the power or weapon wheel if they want to opt for a slow, calculated style of gameplay, but “ME3” will force players to adapt, move and be aware of their surroundings.

    The skill tree still mirrors that of “ME2,” which on first glance was worrisome. Once I had a chance to use it, however, I saw things were very different. Players now have eight abilities to choose from instead of five to six, which is a much welcomed change.

    Upgrades have changed too. The first two levels are normal, but the next four allow players to choose between two upgrade types. This is an elegant solution to bringing back some customization without making it too complex.

    Then there’s the story line. As the conclusion to the epic saga, the stakes are much higher. A hyper-advanced alien race of spaceship-sized cyborgs known as the Reapers, who harvest all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years, is attacking the Earth and series protagonist Commander Shepard will need to recruit the rest of the galaxy to stave them off.

    The fight isn’t just to protect humanity, but the whole galaxy. It’s a grand scale and won’t leave players wanting.

    Much like ME2 though, “Mass Effect 3” is going to be a good game no matter what, but there are critical differences separating the two installments, making “ME3” the best game of 2012. Aside from just the basic game play improvements, here are other factors which will contribute to “Mass Effect 3’s” success.

    BioWare listened to consumers: A big problem that many developers have is they don’t listen to their consumers when making a sequel. They have their own ideas and get too caught up in them to see what the gamers want. That or they don’t want to sift through the millions of horrible, anger-driven suggestions to find the hundred or so thoughtful ones. BioWare might have done a little too much listening with ME2 when they gutted most of the RPG elements, but it seems they’ve readjusted fantastically and made a balanced game which everyone should enjoy.

    The multiplayer actually has an impact on the campaign: Gamers were sweating bullets when BioWare announced “Mass Effect 3” would have a multiplayer element. No one knew exactly how it would work and were afraid it was just an attempt to attract the first person shooter fans from games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”

    It’s clear these concerns can be put to rest now that the demo offers a glimpse of the multiplayer. From the limited look it seems to work like a classic “horde” co-op mission – two or more players join together to fight off waves and waves of enemies. Sometimes there are specific objectives and the enemies tend to get harder, upping the challenge. It’s fun too, and it does something indescribably awesome: you can finally play as the other races.

    Anyone who is a “Mass Effect” fan has wanted to play as a mighty Krogan or crush someone with Asari biotics. Players also still get to pick both a class and a weapon load out for more customizable fun. If this were all the multiplayer did that’d be enough, but, as mentioned, it has an impact on the story.

    BioWare was clever in the way they integrated multiplayer, allowing players to increase their chances of fending off the Reapers by playing outside the campaign. Now, if a player doesn’t want to do all of the side-quests they can still arrive at the best ending by playing multiplayer.

    FemShep has face-time: FemShep is a contraction of Female Shepard and the popular nickname for the female character model. In the past, she’s been pretty much ignored. Oh sure, she was an option, but all of the advertisements and box art featured the male Shepard. Pretty misogynistic huh? Well, I don’t think that was BioWare’s intent, but they certainly have made fans happy by giving her a bigger role. She has her own trailer – she’s a total bad ass in it – and she’ll appear on the collector’s edition box. FemShep also got new character model which looks much better now.

    With all of this working in its favor, there aren’t many other games disputing its superiority. Even contenders like “BioShock: Infinite,” “Assassin’s Creed III,” “Diablo III” and “Halo 4,” have something critical holding them back — story. Not everyone likes or believes in the dystopian societies of “BioShock” and “Assassin’s Creed” is going to have to handle its next installation well to avoid leaving fans scratching their heads. With Bungie Studios not working on “Halo,” fans are skeptical of that game’s success. “Diablo III” might have the best chance, but it lacks the momentum of “Mass Effect,” with 12 years between it and the release of “Diablo II.”

    Hands down “Mass Effect 3” is going to take game of the year in 2012, and in doing so, it will cement the series as one of the greatest of all time.

    ­— Jason Krell is the assistant copy chief. He can br reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatArts .

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