- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2012

Commander John Shepard’s dramatic crusade against a warring species set to conquer the galaxy concludes in Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts and Bioware, rated Mature, reviewed for PlayStation 3, $59.99).

The final chapter of this cinematic, all encompassing space opera offers a masterpiece mixing combat, role play, epic exploration and a massive player driven story brought to life through a cast of familiar friends and enemies.

Story: From the opening game scroll — In 2157, humanity discovered that it was not alone in the universe. Thirty years later, they found a peaceful place among dozens of galactic species. But this idyllic future is overshadowed by a dark past: Reapers, a sentient race of machines responsible for cleansing the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to return.

The leaders of the galaxy are paralyzed by indecision, unable to accept the legend of the Reapers as fact. But one soldier has seen the legend come to life.

And now the fate of the galaxy depends on Shepard

Play the role: Before embarking on a brutal campaign of survival that provides dozens and dozens of hours of action, a new player has a dizzying set of options to customize his version of a John or Jane Shepard. That alone could take hours or minutes depending on his penchant for indecision.

My eagerness to get to the fun finds me with the comfortable features of the hardened commander John Shepard seen in the television commercials.

However, more choices still need to be made.

The most important was picking from six possible classes including Soldier, Infiltrator, Engineer, Vanguard, Sentinel and Adept.

I was tempted to choose Adept (lots of dark energy traps and telekinetic power attacks) but ultimately stayed the familiar course of a Soldier. Now, was I to be a spacer, colonist or earthborn? I’ll take born on earth (specifically, an orphan in the city streets, I enlisted in the Alliance military at the age of 18). I’m also a war hero, and know how to deal with significant combat loss.

Also, the style of game can be chosen between more action and no communicating (played out automatically), more narrative driven or the common Mass Effect experience (a blend of both).

A player who has already worked through the previous Mass Effect titles can simply import their hero’s life and all of his foibles.

Now within an evolving story — often defined by a player’s ruthless or compassionate choices (using the familiar dialogue wheel of responses) and a detailed exploration of galaxies — the weight of his actions are so significant that they could doom entire species. Mass Effect 3 never disappoints at this level and makes minced meat out of most modern-day blockbusters.

In fact, the story styling is so enormous, the sheer magnitude of the “what if” scenarios will cripple the uncertain gamer, reducing him to simply staring at the screen, However, devoted fans will feel forced to enjoy multiple playthroughs of the game just to see what can change.

Story Continues →