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Get to the action: Traveling aboard his trusty starship Navigator SR-2, Shepard again bands together with a ragtag crew including James Vega (who looks like a member of Gears of War’s Delta Squad), onboard computer EDI (now in a human robotic form to travel on missions) specialist Samantha Traynor, pilot Joker Moreau and war correspondent Diana Allers to scour the galaxies for allies willing to commit to stopping the Reapers’ invasion.

Aboard the Navigator, a player will find hours of tasks and encounters with crew members. Shepard can access an armor locker, weapons bench, research terminal (upgrades to weapons), Medical Bay (to distribute experience points), use the Galaxy Map to navigate to hotspots and even a visit the legendary Asari Liara T’Soni’s quarters for additional access to research and modifications.

Just like the other games, a pair of team members are hand picked to follow Shepard into missions that range from collecting a Reaper artifact from a Cerberus lab on the planet Sanctum to brokering a diplomatic meeting between a Krogan, Turian and Selarian.

Each squad mate can be controlled with simple commands to move to locations, attack and unleash some of their devastating powers.

Envy set in pretty quickly after watching one of my companions, Liara T’Soni display some amazing Adept powers that a Jedi would admire. Oh well, I could have picked Adept.

I also noticed during the firefights, enemies are much more unpredictable this time out while team members actually offer more consistent assistance.

Additionally, Shepard has a much more intuitive cover system to hide behind structures and climb over them. It is a relief, as our hero often needs his health to replenish when battling brutal enemies such as Reaper Brutes.

Memorable moments (in no particular order): Watching a lightning storm on Mars; the “War of the Worlds”-style opening scene as the Reapers begin to attack Earth; my inability to help a child while under attack (a bit tough to digest); picking off Reaper Husk humanoids with a turret gun like “fish in a barrel” (so sayeth Vega); appreciating the mountainous, waterfall-filled lands of Sur’Kesh; visits with the hologram Avina; and stopping by the Purgatory Bar for a drink with Vega and his soldier buddies.

Violent encounters:Shepard the soldier packs quite a wallop of sheer firepower and can always carry up to five weapons and multiple types of ammo to get the job done.

He also gets the new omni-blade, a laser-sword-like extension of his arm that will quickly deliver fatal melee attacks.

For an example of sheer scale, I was able to amass quite an arsenal within hours of the action, including M-15 Vindicator I battle rifle, M-97 Viper I rapid fire sniper rifle, M-4 Shuriken I submachine gun, M-27 Scimitar I twin generator shotgun and M-3 Predator sidearm with access to frag grenades, incendiary ammo, cryo ammo and concussive shots.

Shepard will need every incendiary bullet as the game ramps up the firefights against hostiles fought at long range and close quarters during brutal and often bloody third-person encounters.

Read all about it: Fans looking for more information on the incredibly dense game mythology will find a special selection of Dark Horse Comics’ sequential-art books available for digital download.

The Mass Effect Megabundle ($33.33) offers almost 500 pages compiling 15 books including the complete Invasion, Evolution and Redemption mini-series ready for reading on computers and mobile devices.

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