Mass Effect 3 Release Live-Blog

3/5/12, 3:02 PM – At midnight tonight, Mass Effect 3 is released. I will be sharing thoughts (and maybe screenshots) as I play through the game. On this post. If you’ve been paying close attention, you will have noted that I declared Mass Effect 2 my favorite game of all time, an assertion that still stands. Suffice to say, I am plenty hyped for the conclusion to this saga. I have no idea what I will write here, or how spoiler-full or -free this will end up being (I’ll warn you), or how frequent my entries will be, but I want to chronicle my thought process as I, at long last, experience something that I’ve anticipated feverishly for more than two years. I’m as excited about Mass Effect 3 as I have been for just about anything, ever. See you tonight!

5:17 PM – I’m working late tonight and taking tomorrow off. I have Mass Effect 3 pre-loaded, and it decrypts at midnight. I’m going to try and get home by 9:30 and see if I can speed to the ending of Mass Effect 2 in my latest playthrough. Time to go grab dinner.

9:01 PM – Home. Time to try and beat my third play through of ME2 before midnight. I think I’m going to just give up on loyalty quests… But I kind of want to see how the third game handles dead companions.

10:43 PM – Seriously, ME2? Just activate the freaking IFF so I can go make my suicide mission. No way I’m finishing by midnight, by the way. Thinking about going to pour my second cup of tea for the evening.

11:57 PM – Are you kidding me? Just finished ME2. Had to lower difficulty, sacrifice some crew members. Sorry Jacob and Kasumi. Three minutes to go. Gotta pee. Tea will do that to you.

11:58 PM – Two minutes to go. Opening Origin. I’m gonna break things if this doesn’t activate at midnight.

3/6/12, 12:00 AM – It begins. Launching Mass Effect 3.

12:01 AM – Release date check approved! Let’s boot this baby up.

1:04 AM – Can’t believe an hour has already passed. Breathtaking intro on Earth. We see some old faces and some new ones. Now I’m at Mars, trying to figure out if the Reapers can be stopped. Combat is even slicker and more refined than ME2, so it feels more like an action game. But there is also more character ability customization, so it’s also inched back towards its RPG roots. The visuals are absolutely stunning. The writing is sharp. My biggest complaint so far is that it seems each conversation has fewer dialog choices. There are only one or two per conversation. I’m going to take a quick break, eat some cereal, and get back to it.

1:27 AM – Alright folks, I’m back in action. Let’s get dangerous. I’ve opened up Fraps to help me take in-game screenshots.

2:43 AM – WordPress is acting up so I can’t add screenshots right now. I’ll work on it. A few more scattered thoughts, then I’m going to crash: So far, there aren’t enough dialog options, and the times you do get them, there’s only a paragon or a renegade option. This basically removes the illusion of “roleplaying” and forces you to go full paragon or renegade build. No neutral. The story feels a bit slow right now — slower than Mass Effect 2 was at any point, though I may be taking my time just to enjoy and experience everything. I feel like there’s a little bit less to do as you walk around places; there are fewer things to just interact with (in Mass Effect 2, this usually meant getting credits). Plenty of snippets of overheard dialog, though. I’m liking the new characters so far, but I can’t wait to bump into more old friends. Normandy looks different. I’m intrigued by this war management aspect, but bummed I basically have to do multiplayer to get the best results. The story is really playing up the romance and the drama, too.

9:18 AM – Groggy but awake. Breakfast then game.

9:38 AM – Let’s rock and roll.

10:54 AM – There’s a lot more shooting and running than I recall there being in Mass Effect 2, but background dialog as you do it, plus the combat is fun. Oh — and we’ve had our first Garrus/calibrations joke. Story and presentation are epic at a level I expected.

11:08 AM – Mass Effect 3 just took a few steps up in my mind. Had its first “holy crap!” twist. Plus, stories are just better when you have great characters and great writing. Garrus is a great character. and his writing has been fantastic so far.

11:34 AM – Heading to lunch with a couple of college pals, who both happen to be Mass Effect friends. It’ll be tough not to spoil what’s gone on so far!

1:23 PM – Back from lunch. Getting ready to start playing again. I listened to some Bruce Springsteen on the way home. I’m pretty sure he would be a renegade Shepard.

2:23 PM – The conversation structure of your crew members is different this game. It seems like you get the entirety of the “heart” of the character revelations almost right away. Then again, this may be mostly for returning crew members. Also: first sighting of Mordin singing!

3:37 PM – I just spent about an hour wandering around the Citadel. This game is pretty huge. And there are TONS of callbacks to the first two games.

4:18 PM – At lunch we talked about some great moments in the first two ME games. I noted that I categorized great moments in two categories: the “holy crap” moments, and the “heck yes” moments. The former are heavier on surprise, the latter are exciting and awesome. I just had a “heck yes” moment — this plot is fantastic. But up right next was another great moment, and truly unexpected — a choice where both options lose me something substantial. I’m anxious to see how this will turn out.

5:05 PM – Wow. Just wow. Just finished a battle that is one of the most epic that the series has ever done. Beautifully shot, incredible climax, series-long payoff, farewell to a beloved character — one of the most beloved characters. And the way he went out — perfect. Can’t wait to replay it.

5:57 PM – Fantastic. Another breathtaking, heart-pounding mission that included about two “holy crap” moments and about three “heck yes” moments. I don’t want to stop, but I’m going to go vote and then eat dinner.

6:34 PM – Post-dinner tea in hand, getting back in to the action. I can’t wait to see the ramifications of the massive political plot twist from the end of the last mission.

6:43 PM – Another moving death for a beloved character. This game, guys. This game.

7:20 PM – This game is huge. I currently have 20 side quests unlocked, and I keep accidentally adding more by overhearing people talk. Come on game, don’t make me feel guilty for moving forward! I want to know what happens!

9:04 PM – When I went to go see Billy Joel in concert when I was in high school, I remember asking my dad “do you think the intermission is soon, dad?” He pointed out to me that concert had been going on for two hours. I’d been so immersed in he material, enjoying it so thoroughly, that I hadn’t really thought about how much of the concert had actually passed. I was lost in it. Right now Mass Effect 3 is kind of like that. It’s so fun, and I want to know what happens so bad, so I keep going forward. But I also don’t want  it to be over, and it hasn’t processed that the quest is probably 80% done. I’m going to take a break, I think.

9:50 PM – Alright, time to go back in action.

10:36 PM – HOLY F***ING S*** Mass Effect 3, why must I make tough decisions… Why must good characters die…

10:57 PM – There are some fantastic character moments in this game. If you’re offered a chance by e-mail to meet someone at the Citadel or elsewhere: Do it.

11:10 PM  – Getting kind of tired. I want to keep playing. I believe I’m at about the three quarters point for the game. Long, fun, exhausting, exhilarating game (so far at least ). The outcomes for different characters and species seem to have wildly divergent possibilities. Might play for another hour or so. Pouring a glass of wine.

3/7/12, 12:12 AM – Alright. Wine ingested, running on a bit less sleep than I’d like for a full day’s work tomorrow, I think I should hit the hay. I spent the past half hour wrapping up some side quests, but it took some restraint to decline doing another full quest. I’ve decided this game really is a conclusion: There aren’t many new characters, but many have been given moving conclusions to their arcs established in ME2. And the plot, obviously, seems to be wrapping up a trilogy. It’s not perfect (and it’s surprisingly buggy for a delayed game) but I’m ecstatic to finish this bad boy. Goodnight.

8:13 AM – I’m back to work this, so this will probably be silent until 5:30 or 6 or so. If I get a few free minutes, I may sign on and share some thoughts on the 15-or-so hours that I’ve played so far, that will surely be on the back of my mind. I’ve been second-guessing a lot of my tough decisions already.

5:59 PM – Back in action! There’s a big mission up ahead.

7:14 PM – Frick! I started the next quest, and was asked “are you sure bro?” and said “yeah dude,” wondering why he was asking. Well that triggered what I believe was supposed to be the romance scene, and I hadn’t hard saved in a LONG time, so I’m stuck with no romance. I don’t really care if it was just a sex scene, and doesn’t affect my Shepard’s fate; but if this affects the ending, that would be disappointing. I guess I’ll just have to change Pinkerton Shepard’s romantic views as “so set on beating the Reapers as fast as possible and didn’t let feelings get in the way. Or something. Anyways, the last mission was awesome with another heartbreaking death.

7:29 PM – Tutoring for an hour! Be back soon! My heart will be on the Normandy even if my brain is in algebra.

8:39 PM – Time to rock!

9:45 PM – With the major twist, the big revelation, I am… a little underwhelmed, but just a little. It’s not really explained well, though perhaps it will be in time. Anyways, I initiated the major battle and just had my equivalent of Harry’s walk through the forest in book 7… and, as Liara said in the trailer (and just said to me) — “This is it… isn’t it?” Yes it is. Let’s see what happens. Let’s save the galaxy.

10:22 PM – Okay, F*** the stupid banshees and their stupid one hit KO’s. So frustrating. This battle is HARD.

10:34 PM – That battle was stupid-hard, and I am ashamed to admit that I lowered my difficulty to Casual after about 12 deaths. I guess I just had no reason to believe the thirteenth time would be the charm. Anyways, I finally defeated that horde. Moving on, back in Normal difficulty.

10:52 PM – I just left for about ten minutes to go the bathroom and grab a snack. I didn’t pause the game, I left it at a dialog option in a huge climax, as people are waiting orders. What do you think the people around Shepard are thinking? How long before they just decide Shepard is in war shock or brain dead and go on without him? Apparently, more than ten minutes.

11:22 PM – It is done. And that ending was… well, it was something else. I’ll have to think long and hard how I feel about it. It certainly went for broke. I’ll say no more here, but I’m eager to hear what anyone else has to say about it. Suffice it to say that I am spent and, by and large, satisfied. What a stunning, moving conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.

11:31 PM – I just read that there are sixteen possible endings. Wowza. I’m not sure exactly how it all plays out, how they are different from what I just witnessed, but I really want to know. Hell, I might even start a new game before I go to bed.

3/8/12 8:05 PM – Okay, I’m done here. Looking back, I probably should have been a bit more specific in my references, because “that was awesome!” without context is not particularly helpful. I’ve also read that the “16 endings” is a myth, and they’re all as … erm… anti-climactic, if philosophically ambitious, as what I just saw. I’m starting another playthrough, but holding out for some good DLC!

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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