Mass Effect 3, the third part of BioWare and EA's epic science fiction RPG, is coming. It's not only part three, it's also the final part in the epic series that first graced our Xbox 360s way back in 2007. It's spread its wings since then, of course, and the series finale will play out on PlayStation 3 and PC at the same time eager gamers are ending the journey on their trusty Xbox 360 systems.
One of the most surprising things revealed about the game at E3, not least of which because it actually looks good, was the inclusion of Kinect support. The Kinect, which has traditionally been more successful with a non-core audience, might seem like an odd inclusion in a Sci-Fi RPG - the core of the core, when it comes to gaming. What we saw of it, however, suggests that Kudo Tsunoda might be onto something.
The two aspects of Kinect support we saw were both voice control, utlizing the Kinect's microphones rather than the more commonly exploited twin-camera setup of the device. You could, for example, choose dialogue sequences, using the power of your voice to decide the direction of any given conversation. The other place we saw it utilized was in combat - giving instructions to your teammates as to what they should do, when they should deploy their special abilities, etc. Both seemed like a good fit and both are optional, so there's no reason to fear their inclusion. It's not yet clear if either will be available in NZ, though, where the Kinect's traditional voice control has not been available so far (presumably because of our accents, bro).
The story follows straight on from the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2, with Shepard trying to save not only the Galaxy but Earth itself from the relentless onslaught of the devastatingly threatening Reapers. If you haven't seen the E3 trailer for the game, now's as good a time as any:
The game itself is looking every bit the finale we hoped for. The jump between ME and ME2 was significant; it's hard to quantify whether a similar leap has been made here, we've seen nothing to dispute that possibility. What we have seen, and heard about, is an increased focus on the third-person shooter components of the game - something intended to ensure the game is more marketable outside of that hardcore niche we spoke about earlier. Again, with no hands-on or particularly extended sequences, it's hard to determine exactly what level of impact this tweaked focus will have on the experience. What it does mean, though, is that the shooty stuff seems more fluid, more like what we've come to expect from top-flight games that focus on this stuff as their bread and butter. Let's face it, that can't be all bad.
That's not to say it's a dumbed-down affair, either. One of the more significant changes between the first two games was a reduction in the complexity of the RPG components; specifically the customization of weaponry. After fan feedback, BioWare removed the customization altogether when rolling out the second game. This time around, it's back - but less complex, less reliant on spreadsheet-like number comparisons, than the first. Now you'll have the ability to tweak your loadouts but you'll be focusing on function (like clip size, effect range, fire rate, etc), rather than trying to figure out which combination of numbers is going to yield the best results in the field.
From a plot point of view, ME3 concludes the narrative that has threaded the first two games. But does that mean the end for BioWare's rich universe? Far from it. While it sounds like decisions haven't been made as to how the ME universe will continue, it was made clear to us that the it will. Presumably those plans will become clearer sometime after the launch of ME3 - personally? I'm hoping for an MMO!
So how will it all end? That's up to you to decide. The game is currently scheduled to ship in March next year and we couldn't be more excited about it; you can bet your bottom dollar that we'll be doing everything in our power to get more time with the title between now and then. If you have any questions you'd like answered about the game, let us know in the comments and we'll chase up EA for answers.
The Good: We get to decide how it ends!
The Bad: It ends
The Ugly: Dates with 2012 in them seem so far away