The humble space opera has faded from television in recent years, leaving a “Battlestar”-sized hole in our collective hearts. Don’t fill that void with Jar Jar Binks in 3-D. That’s just humiliating. Play video games instead. “Mass Effect” is back, offering up one last slice of intergalactic swashbuckling before it goes up to that Holodeck in the sky.
These games, for the newbie, offer up an engrossing serial narrative dealing with humanity’s place in a, um, federation of planets. There’s action, plenty of talking and decisions that have actual consequences. If a character died way back in the first entry, assuming you played it, they are still dead in the third. Pretty cool, right? Still, this installment takes great pains to catch new players up on the story.
“Mass Effect 3” is a sequel in more of a cinematic sense. The gameplay is fairly indiscernible from “Mass Effect 2,” except for some simple Kinect functionality on the Xbox version. If you liked the franchise’s mix of planetary exploration, morality-based conversation and third person combat before, you’ll probably like it again. The story, however, is all new and manages to end the trilogy with earth-shattering aplomb.
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Of course, this is 2012 and online multiplayer must be shoehorned into every video game no matter what. It’s not bad, if you play these games primarily for the combat. You can even parlay online success into more allies and weapons in the single player campaign. Beware buying used, though. It comes with one of those “online passes” that must be registered for 10 bucks if you want to play online. In space, nobody can hear you grab for cash.
Creepy online pass or not, this is one heck of a close-out for the series. The main storyline takes at least 50 hours to complete and every narrative thread you’ve been wondering about gets unraveled in ways that are often surprising. Play it and then wait patiently for a new “Star Trek” series. It should only be another decade or so.
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