I could spend all day telling you about how "Mass Effect 3" is one of the finest video games I have ever played.
Or about how the final chapter in this epic sci-fi role-playing trilogy is the crowning achievement for lauded development house BioWare. Or about how the addition of online cooperative multiplayer and Kinect support add an entirely new dimension to what was already a successful gameplay formula.
For me, though, the "Mass Effect" franchise has always been about something much more personal. There are a number of games that tell great stories, but the "Mass Effect" franchise has always been about my story. Commander Shepard is the hero I have created and shaped through a myriad of decisions, both great and small. The choices I've made, from simple conversation options to deciding who lives or dies, are a reflection of who I am. And now with "Mass Effect 3," I get to experience the consequences of my actions thanks to the ability to import my character from "Mass Effect 2."
Of course, having played through the first two "Mass Effect" games is by no means a prerequisite for enjoying "Mass Effect 3." Taken on its own merit, this is an excellent game. But the added emotional investment that comes with having poured so much of myself into the first two games made the ultimate payoff in "Mass Effect 3" that much more powerful.
And then there is the story, itself. The opening moments of "Mass Effect 3," in which Earth succumbs to an all-out attack by the Reapers, a race of sentient machines bent on wiping out all organic life in the galaxy, are filled with stirring imagery that both tug at the heartstrings and ignite a fire that can only be quelled by vengeance.
But defeating the Reapers requires more than what Shepard and the crew of the Normandy can muster alone. The task of uniting the various races of the galaxy falls upon Shepard, who must navigate an unsettled political landscape and turn enemies into allies. As you gain the support of different factions and races, you are awarded War Assets that add to your Military Strength - a determining factor in whether you will be successful in vanquishing the Reapers during the game's final acts.
War Assets can also be obtained by completing side missions and by scanning random planets. Thankfully scanning planets is no longer a primary gameplay device as it was in "Mass Effect 2," but there is a new risk involved as repeated scans can draw the attention of the Reapers, forcing you to flee the sector. Side missions are obtained in a number of ways, from simply overhearing a conversation between non-playable characters to receiving email from various contacts. These side missions, as well as the N7 special ops missions, are action-heavy endeavors, which is a great way to showcase the series' trademark stop-and-pop combat.
"Mass Effect 3" also continues the franchise's tradition of first-rate production values. The voice work is fabulous, character models and animations are a treat to see, and the varied environments are simply gorgeous. There are some occasional bouts of slowdown, but nothing that detracts from the game's overall enjoyment.