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Mass Effect 3 review: An unforgettable end to an epic sci-fi trilogy

A spoiler-free verdict on BioWare's anticipated sequel...

Want more Mass Effect 3 tips? We've got the Complete Mass Effect 3 Scanning Guide and 10 Essential Tips for Saving The Galaxy in Mass Effect 3.

Everything in the Mass Effect series has been leading up to this moment. The Reapers have invaded, and all organic life in the galaxy is on the verge of being wiped out. Across two games we've grown to love this universe - its characters, its cultures, its mythology - and now it's all going to be eaten by merciless, invincible space-squids.

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We care as much about this place as Shepard does, which gives every fight an extra feeling of urgency, and every moral decision added weight. If the last game taught us anything, it's that BioWare won't think twice before killing off major characters, and it's this fear of losing someone you've grown attached to that makes Mass Effect 3 an incredibly tense, thrilling game.

The story is dark and unpredictable. The writers exploit your emotions at every turn, and you never know what's going to happen next. Mass Effect 2 had a fairly simple structure - gather a crew, go through the Omega relay and defeat the Collectors. In this game, your goals are constantly changing as the war with the Reapers rages. It's more dynamic, more uncertain.

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TEAM PLAYER

Shepard's primary concern is building an army. He already has the Alliance on his side, but it'll take the combined effort of every species in the galaxy to stand a chance against the Reaper army. This is where the game's newest and most valuable currency comes into play: war assets.

There's a lot of bad blood between the major races in Mass Effect, and you have to convince them to put aside centuries of feuding. From a story perspective, this makes for some brilliant drama. Shepard has to broker a partnership between the krogan and their mortal enemies, the salarians. He has to convince the three biggest mercenary armies in the galaxy to unite.

Despite their imminent demise, most races are reluctant to help at first. They have demands that Shepard is forced to fulfil, which makes up the majority of the priority, or story, missions. To get the aggressive, war-mongering krogan on your side, for example, you'll have to convince the salarians to cure the genophage - an engineered disease designed to keep their numbers in check. If you know Mass Effect, you'll know how big an ask this is.

When you eventually convince one of these factions or races to join your cause, they become war assets. These assets can be fleets of warships, groups of elite soldiers, scientists, or even entire armies. A new area of the Normandy, the War Room, allows you to view all the assets you've gathered from missions, and collecting them becomes madly addictive. As you gain assets, a meter fills indicating your overall strength against the Reapers.

If you focus entirely on the story missions, you'll get just enough assets for the final battle - but your chances of surviving will be slim. This is where side missions come in. As you explore the Citadel you'll overhear people talking, which will unlock optional missions. New planets will be marked on your galaxy map, and you'll be able to travel there on the Normandy.

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You'll also be given side missions by your superior, Admiral Hackett, and the members of your squad. There's a lot of optional content, and we advise doing as much of it as possible if you don't want to find yourself reaching for the straight razor when the credits roll.

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