Is Mass Effect 3 everything we wanted? Well, we can check
Just over a year ago, we wrote up a list of 15 things we wanted from the third and final Mass Effect game. When I visited BioWare to preview the game last year, project lead Casey Hudson mentioned he'd read the list and that they were doing 'pretty much' everything on it.
Now it's out, it's brilliant, but how does it compare to our wishlist? Let's give it a score card, point by point.
1. A little faith
We were frustrated, then incredulous, then just kind of bored of people not believing the Reapers were real. For a long time, BioWare said Mass Effect 3 would start with you on trial for killing thousands of Batarians to stop the Reaper's arrival, because people were still sceptical the Reapers were coming. They changed that, thank God. You've been discharged for "the shit you've done," as Anderson puts it - which to be honest is fair enough.
The Reapers are everywhere. No-one doubts it. And as a result, working with the various races to rally them together is a much less frustrating process.
2. More varied combat
They went to town on this one. The relationships between enemies like Cannibals and Marauders are particularly interesting and fun to deal with. Brutes, Banshees, Ravagers and Harvesters all change how you have to play to survive. It's excellent enemy design.
3. Free run of the galaxy
We worried ME3 might be too Earth-centric to feel like a galaxy-trotting adventure. It's not. In fact, people keep giving Shepard a hard time for leaving Earth behind so quickly.
4. Broader choice of weapons
Each category of weapon has lots of meaningfully different types, now, and they're all viable throughout. One shotgun is like a cluster nailgun whose charge you can vary. One pistol fires delayed-detonation explosives instead of regular bullets. One assault rifle is virtually a sniper rifle.
5. More convincing romances
Fulfilled: remains to be seen.
I can't comment on this one yet, because I stayed faithful to Liara. Four crew members made it pretty obvious they were interested, but I don't know how convincingly that unfolds if you pursue it.
6. No coolant clips
They've changed the system a little, but only so that it makes even less sense. These supposedly universal clips only give you a set amount of ammo for each weapon, so that taking more weapons into battle gives you more ammo total. It's still unclear to me how I can run out of Sniper Rifle ammo but still have hundreds of Assault Rifle shots spare, if they both use the same clips.
7. A mix of the personal and epic
I thought this was handled beautifully. The scale of your mission is bigger than ever, but the characters from your past are each vital to it, and your relationships with them come to a head in moments that decide both your friends and the galaxy's fate.
8. A less fiddly cover system
Fulfilled: god no
This has got worse. They key I was already mocking for doing so many functions taht it became fatally unpredictable in certain situations now does even more. Space bar now loves to make you do forward rolls at inopportune times mid-combat.
9. No Cerberus
Fulfilled: yes, in spirit
Cerberus are still in, but my complaint was having to work for them. This time, you don't.
10. A closer knit squad
It's certainly a smaller squad, and it's mostly characters you know well. Most of your squadmates don't have as much of a role in the plot as the other returning characters, but before the final fight, there are some lovely quiet character moments with each.
11. Better class abilities
I still didn't find Soldier or Sentinel very interesting, but Adept, Vanguard, Infiltrator and Engineer all feel upgraded and devastating.
12. Old friends
Absolutely. The only major characters who didn't return in my game were the ones I got killed at the end of ME2, or only met in DLC with a different savegame.
13. An Elcor team mate
Intense disappointment: not much Elcor love at all, though what little interaction you have with them is delightful as ever.
14. Female Shepard on the box
Holy shit, they actually did this. Female Shepard features alongside her male counterpart on the N7 edition, and on other editions the cover is reversible to feature her.
15. Tali’s face
Colleague Andy Kelly redid a major decision to see if there was any way to get her unmasked on camera, but it doesn't look like it.
That's 11 of our 15 wishes fulfilled - pretty impressive, given that all of them were things Mass Effect 1 or 2 failed at. It does mean, however, that my review score of 93% was incorrect. Mathematically, we can see that the game is really only worth 73%.