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Mass Effect 3: Special Edition (Wii U) Review

Review for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Nintendo's Wii missed out on a lot of the best third-party series that consistently made their way to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, but with the launch of the Wii U, some of those are finally appearing on a Nintendo console. One such example is the acclaimed third-person space shooter-combined RPG series Mass Effect. BioWare collaborated with Australian developers Straight Right to port the third entry in the series to Wii U in time for the system's launch, under the guise of Mass Effect 3: Special Edition.

This is it: the final part of the trilogy of the superb Mass Effect series. Everything that was built up in the previous two entries comes down to this. No one believed war hero Commander Shepard's warnings, but now the entire galaxy is at war.

First and foremost, BioWare must be commended for delivering such an engaging experience that truly encapsulates the feeling of a near apocalypse through war. From the first moments to the last, the desperation and importance felt through entire species coming together - fighting for one another; dying for one another - as everything around them falls apart is an emotional experience that is not often seen at this level in video games.

Touching down on foreign soil and opening the shuttle doors to reveal entire planets getting decimated is an extraordinary feeling, coupled with the burden that civilisation rests solely on Shepard's shoulders. There is the constant sense of foreboding that this is the impossible mission - that it is a lost cause - but every single time Shepard jumps into the heat of battle there is that desire to achieve that impossible. The sensation of war and urgency even echoes through Shepard's voice in his shouting of orders; something not so often heard in the past two games. This portrayal of the world's, nay, galaxy's end in such incredible form is some achievement, and credit should be due to the creators in accomplishing this.

As the pieces of the Mass Effect story begin to unravel and ultimately come together in this game, the drive to take down the antagonists grows into a strong one. It's a rare occasion that players are made to feel such an overwhelming hatred for the foes of any game, but here it rings especially true. Neither does it so often occur that a player becomes so deeply invested into a game's story that the closer they get to its final hours their hands begin to shake, their heartbeat quickens in pace and all manner of emotions course the body. For players that have played the Mass Effect series through from the first game, this is exactly what will happen as they work their way through the plot of Mass Effect 3.

Screenshot for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Quite whether the same can be said for those who have never played a Mass Effect game before, though, is a different matter. There will be people unaware of exactly what this series is all about and wondering if they can happily jump straight into the third part of the trilogy on Wii U. Let's try to clear things up.

Mass Effect is classed as an action role-playing game with third-person shooter missions, set in an alternate far distant future in which space travel exists and all manner of alien species live and work together on a vast number of planets and colonies across the galaxy. A familiar theme is used for each game, whereby the main base of operations is human soldier Commander Shepard's spaceship, the Normandy. Using the galaxy map in the ship, players have a number of priority and optional missions that can be selected from different planets, and in Mass Effect 3, the main goal is to complete as many missions as possible in order to bolster the war assets that will ultimately make the final assault to save the galaxy. Mass Effect has always been a very dialogue-heavy series, with much of the role-playing aspects coming in the form of the player actually choosing the multiple dialogue options Shepard speaks, and ultimately affecting the course of the story.

One of the most appealing aspects of this series is being able to carry over a personalised Commander Shepard and all of the decisions made by the player in previous Mass Effect games. With the bizarre decision to port only the final part of the trilogy to Wii U, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition is a problem for Wii U-only owners looking to get into the franchise. As with Mass Effect 2 on PlayStation 3, Dark Horse Comics produced an interactive narrated comic to recap the events of the first two titles and allow the player to make a few important story-related decisions; however, these comics are in absolutely no way a replacement for the previous games. Those curious about whether they can get away with simply diving straight into ME3: Special Edition should seriously disregard those thoughts. By all means, this is a fantastic addition to the Wii U's library, but skipping playing Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 would be doing a great injustice to the series, and in no way will players be getting the true Mass Effect experience. This series is designed to be played from beginning to end. No comic can make up for that.

The returning characters surrounding Shepard in Mass Effect 3 actually don't get as great a deal of growth as compared to previous games. In ME2 for example, every squad mate had a loyalty mission which expanded on their past and refined their relationship with Shepard. This doesn't really happen in ME3, so anyone that missed out on the previous games would be hard-pressed to feel any such emotion towards them when met in this game. It is probably assumed that much of the emotional attachments to the plentiful and diverse range of characters have already been made by players through the previous two games, and as such, more of a focus is turned towards the current war. It is unfortunate that there perhaps isn't quite as much character-bonding in the game, and indeed more so that the new faces don't get much development, either.

Screenshot for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

A bond is most definitely formed between player and Shepard throughout the series. The Commander is customisable to each player's tastes at the very beginning - from facial features to background history. This is your Shepard, and you've been through so much together, and that relationship between player and Commander has developed into something unique and personal. It would be very difficult to gain as much of a connection and relate to both Shepard and the other characters by missing out on both Mass Effect 1 & 2.

But for those that have played the series through from the start, this is what makes the final part of the trilogy so special. As the finale and eventual assault to attempt to win the war grows ever closer, those bonds that tie the player to the game and its characters become so much more apparent - so much more affecting. There really aren't many games like this that create such strong and integrating sensations between players and the characters they control.

The role-playing side of the game is bolstered through the aforementioned ability to customise Shepard and squad mates. Not only is there the option to choose between male and female versions of the Commander (the latter affectionately known as "FemShep" by fans), as well as alter their physical appearance to a decent degree of depth, but there are six fighting classes to choose from at the start of the game, each with their own pros and cons. The Soldier class can use any type of gun and has improved health, but lacks in the tech and biotics department; Engineers focus more on disabling enemy weapons and creating weaknesses, but suffer with firearms and can only equip light armour; whilst Vanguards are risky but rewarding, designed for fighting up close using strong short-range weapons and biotics. These and other classes allow the player to choose a combat style that suits them for the course of the game, and means future replays provide different experiences based on the classes chosen.

Tech and biotic abilities are special powers that can be used in battle in addition to guns, with different powers being learnt depending on which class Shepard is. Squad mates have fixed classes, and their abilities can be learnt and upgraded, allowing players to focus on certain powers and choose the allies that suit them. Weapons can even be modified, much like in Mass Effect 1, with players picking up and buying parts to clip onto guns to improve accuracy, kickback and more. There's no question that the level of customisation is a good one, and definitely something that becomes more reliable on harder difficulties.

Screenshot for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Combat seems to have quickened in pace in general, with Shepard now able to roll, duck in and out of cover, and run continuously whilst jumping short walls. A small stealth element sometimes comes into play by catching enemies unaware, but battles often play out in a number of different ways depending on the classes and allies players choose, keeping combat fresh and satisfying. In keeping with a lot of previously single-player-only games' tradition, online multiplayer is introduced with Mass Effect 3, adding a bit more incentive to come back to the game with character customisation and levelling-up, and the ability to compete in a variety of modes. This is the only time players can play as different species in the Mass Effect series, with each one having its own unique styles and strong points. It is well worth checking out once the main story is completed.

Whilst ME3: Special Edition can be played using the traditional Wii U Pro Controller, the GamePad offers some unique features not found in other versions. As well as having a simple map interface and destination marker displayed at all times on the small screen, players can instantly plot a quick course for squad mates to travel, which can prove slightly more useful than the simple D-pad orders in other versions. Additionally, shortcut commands for powers have their ups and downs. On the one hand, it's a good bonus to activate powers with a quick tap of the touch screen, but on the other, this is done in real time, unlike the regular method where the targeting reticule is brought up to purposefully pause the game and actually select targets to hit with powers.

On a technical level, Straight Right has successfully ported Mass Effect 3 to Wii U very well, with it looking just as good as its console counterparts. The series has offered up some of the finest visuals on HD systems within the last few years, with special effects such as lighting and particle effects standing out. There are instances of still, grainy images being used for backgrounds and skies, which is, sadly, definitely noticeable in some cases. Plus, as with other games in the series, graphical glitches become apparent, with objects disappearing, bringing them to attention and sometimes spoiling the moment. Otherwise, everything else looks fantastic. This is backed up by possibly the best musical score in the series, with soundtracks that build up and create incredible atmosphere for the areas each piece is played, whilst sending shivers over the body and bringing out strong emotions in scenes.

Unfortunately, not only is the Wii U the only platform that does not have access to the full trilogy, but Mass Effect 3: Special Edition misses out on much of the additional download content that includes some entertaining missions. It is clear that, whilst it is a great port job with a couple of decent extras, the inability to link to the previous titles and more factors make it inferior to the versions of the game available on other platforms.

Screenshot for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition on Wii U- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

A mixture of role-play and third-person shooter elements makes for a terrific combination to satisfy a lot of players, with a good, if simple, degree of customisation and level-up methods to manage the squad. Options to alter difficulty and ally AI enable players to tweak gameplay to their preferences.

Graphics

Right up there with some of the finest HD consoles have to offer right now. Lighting effects in particular are phenomenal. Sadly, graphical glitches do occur, and noticeable static backgrounds dampen things a little.

Sound

A sublime, emotionally-driven score complements every mission, every foreign land, every scene, and engulfs the player into every moment. A talented cast of voice actors helps deliver the story and create strong attachments to characters.

Value

Considering the entire box set trilogy on other platforms can be bought for less than the price of the Wii U version of Mass Effect 3 alone, the value score has to take a hit here. Buying ME3 on Wii U if you have access to a PS3, Xbox 360 or gaming PC is not common sense, unless you have money to throw away and are desperate to try out this version. Aside from that, the game offers a great deal of longevity and replay value which will have fans coming back over and over.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

In closing this trilogy of a series that has taken video game fans by storm, BioWare has provided an exceptionally quality title that delivers on so many levels with Mass Effect 3. For some of the questions the game does ultimately throw up, the overall package more than outweighs any such issues, and fans of Mass Effect are in for one hell of a ride. Prepare to be integrated into this fascinating world once more and engage with a wonderful cast of characters in an emotionally-driven story that can take a variety of directions. Without doubt, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition is easily one of the best offerings on the Wii U right now, but it simply cannot be stressed enough that players must seek out the two previous games in the series before playing this one.

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13.01.2013

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Developer

Straight Right

Publisher

EA

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

The comic is almost 30 minutes long. Not the ideal way to start a game.

Hopefully your comment of not being engaged with the characters and story by missing out on ME1 & 2 is further proof that this is not how the series is supposed to be played. You experiencing it first-hand (as unfortunate as that is) is a good example to others. Hell, I didn't think it would be a problem by playing ME2 first until I later played ME1 and realised how wrong I was. Going off of the closing of the series' story that ME3 is all about, starting there would be much worse than starting at ME2. No, it's just not worth it. If you only have a Wii U console, just don't bother getting ME3 if you haven't played the others. Save that cash to get yourself a console that can play the full trilogy.

The Remote and 'chuk set-up would be missing out on a few buttons there, and would be somewhat fiddly to squeeze all the commands and shortcuts on, but it could possibly work. But appreciate your thoughts on the GamePad play. As mentioned, the power shortcuts may seem like a great idea, but you would need to be looking down quickly during combat, which could be a problem. Plus, the power reticule is designed to pause play so that you can select targets for Shep and each squad mate to attack with specific powers - it gives you the time to analyse the situation and choose the best attack. Shortcuts are far more handy on a mapped button.

I also don't like the idea of a marker constantly telling you where to go, as silly as that might sound. Yes, you can try not to look down at it, but it can be an easy cop out and might force players not to explore every area themselves, thus missing out on pickups. But again, they're all little extras that don't have to be used, and ultimately benefit players if they feel like they may need them.

I have to wonder if playing ME1 first might have gotten you more interested in the series, Adam, but I fear your ME3 experience may have tarnished it already. From a personal standpoint, as this is the most fun I've had with a series for years, I would definitely like to hear from you giving it another try from the beginning, if you ever get the opportunity. And if you still can't stomach it, then at least you tried. If it isn't your type of game, then there's only so much you can handle. However, I certainly don't think anybody can make a fair opinion of the series by jumping in at ME3. It's just not the way to do it, and I have to wonder what EA thought they'd be gaining from this.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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I'd rather have 30 min comic start than replay first two games which I've done tens of times that will take me over a moth.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Nintendoro said:
I'd rather have 30 min comic start than replay first two games which I've done tens of times that will take me over a moth.
If you've played the previous two games then of course. It's not as big a problem by playing the previous two on different platforms and then ME3 on Wii U. At least you have gone through and experienced the other two games and got to know the characters and story properly.

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Burt (guest) 15.01.2013 17:47#4

If it was the Trilogy on Wii U, I would have got it.

Great review.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Burt (guest) said:
If it was the Trilogy on Wii U, I would have got it.

Great review.


Thank you.

It's an incredible shame. It's a series not to be missed, and should, at the very least, be given a try by those that might have thought otherwise.

( Edited 15.01.2013 21:12 by Azuardo )

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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Yeah, I can't fathom why they didn't just put the trilogy collection on Wii U. Ridiculously stupid move on EA's part.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://davidjlovato.wordpress.com

Mass Effect 3 on Wii U looks like EA searching for an excuse to not develop new games on Wii U. Really enjoyed the Mass Effect series on 360. Especially the first and third games(the plot really didn't seem to go anywhere in the the 2nd game). Theres more story development in the Arrival DLC than the entirety of Mass Effect 2.

JayUK said:
Mass Effect 3 on Wii U looks like EA searching for an excuse to not develop new games on Wii U. Really enjoyed the Mass Effect series on 360. Especially the first and third games(the plot really didn't seem to go anywhere in the the 2nd game). Theres more story development in the Arrival DLC than the entirety of Mass Effect 2.

Sort of glad to hear this. I've been slowly crawling through ME 2 for months, it's just so incredibly stagnant, it's hard to get through. It's like one minute of walking through a corridor, cutscene, more corridor, fight in that corridor, cutscene, another corridor, cutscene, back to the ship, rinse, repeat. I think it's more about showing you how your actions in the first game have changed things than actually moving things forward.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://davidjlovato.wordpress.com

justonesp00lturn said:
JayUK said:
Mass Effect 3 on Wii U looks like EA searching for an excuse to not develop new games on Wii U. Really enjoyed the Mass Effect series on 360. Especially the first and third games(the plot really didn't seem to go anywhere in the the 2nd game). Theres more story development in the Arrival DLC than the entirety of Mass Effect 2.

Sort of glad to hear this. I've been slowly crawling through ME 2 for months, it's just so incredibly stagnant, it's hard to get through. It's like one minute of walking through a corridor, cutscene, more corridor, fight in that corridor, cutscene, another corridor, cutscene, back to the ship, rinse, repeat. I think it's more about showing you how your actions in the first game have changed things than actually moving things forward.

You see I played all 3 games back to back when I got Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2 just annoyed me, almost from start to finish(I liked Omega, Mordin, Thane, Tali, Legion, Garrus, Suicide Mission, plus the DLC). Its the 2nd worst sequel I've ever seen after Matrix Reloaded.

I suggest slogging through it boring as it is. Definitely pick up the Arrival DLC, it maybe short but its a massively important link between ME2 and ME3, and unlike the entirety of ME 2 the plot actually moves forward. I actually can't believe they made Arrival and Shadow Broker DLC, its just insane.

Thankfully Mass Effect 3 is far and away the better game, from start to finish its a rollercoaster, the rollercoaster may get derailed a little at the end. Although the ending is nowhere near as bad as people make out. It seems a little abrupt, that's all.  

Senior ModeratorStaff MemberOur member of the week

I've yet to board the Mass Effect train, and am really torn whether to properly play through the games from the very beginning. May give this Wii U version a look into, does sound rather good!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

jb said:
I've yet to board the Mass Effect train, and am really torn whether to properly play through the games from the very beginning. May give this Wii U version a look into, does sound rather good!

I really do suggest picking up trilogy for PS3 or 360 instead. Playing ME3 first is kinda like watching Return of the Jedi or Return of the King first. Only 20x worse. Its more like skipping to the last 20 minutes of Return of the King(oh he's throwing a ring into a volcano, is that important). Play ME3 first and your feelings will be, 'well she's dead was I meant to care'. Play through Mass Effect 1 and 2 first and you'll be like 'That was brutal, please tell me there wasn't something I could have done to change that'. ME3 is where a bunch of important story Arcs conclude, if you haven't played the previous games, those story Arcs have virtually zero meaning. 

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

One of the most important messages I wanted to get across in this review is that if there's people considering getting into Mass Effect just because it's now arrived on a Nintendo platform in the form ME3, then disregard any ideas about skipping ME1 and 2. I understand there will be people thinking "as if it's that big of a deal." The thing is, it actually is. It's because it's Mass Effect that this becomes a problem. Almost all other game series, and it isn't. The only people that would bet against this are people that have not played the series from ME1 to ME3. I simply cannot stress enough how important it is to start from the beginning. I urge people to heed this advice. And then enjoy the benefits.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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JakeIT (guest) 20.01.2013 01:39#13

EA should release the HD trilogy on Wii U? Or the games on the eshop?

I seem to be one of few who actually liked Mass Effect 2 just as much as the other two, even if I kinda missed a certain male character of the team. I played through the whole trilogy on Xbox, only borrowed them from a friend and then when I finally got myself a PS3 I got the whole box set trilogy for a tiny price. When I love something, I get all I can of it, so if I had a Wii U, I'd probably get the game for it aswell. Even if it's just the last...then ofcourse whine that it needs the prequels too!

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Sheena said:
I seem to be one of few who actually liked Mass Effect 2 just as much as the other two, even if I kinda missed a certain male character of the team. I played through the whole trilogy on Xbox, only borrowed them from a friend and then when I finally got myself a PS3 I got the whole box set trilogy for a tiny price. When I love something, I get all I can of it, so if I had a Wii U, I'd probably get the game for it aswell. Even if it's just the last...then ofcourse whine that it needs the prequels too!

Nah, I adore ME2 too. Yeah, the story definitely really takes off in the third game, but everything about the universe of ME means all games are just as much joy to play through as the other. Story-wise, though, yeah, ME3 is incredible.

Tried beating ME2 on Insanity the other day. Bloody hell it's hard! I couldn't even defeat the first four enemies in the first actual mission. Attempted about 15 times until I gave up. No idea how the hell I'd get through it.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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