So, as pretty much everyone in the game-o-sphere knows, Mass Effect 3 is released to the public tonight at midnight. In fact, you may even be reading this as you're standing in line outside your local Gamestop. Without a doubt, Mass Effect 3 going to be one of the biggest, most important releases of 2012. In some ways, it's also a test for BioWare—after developing legions of loyal fans thanks to their high-quality Western-styled RPGs, their future was called into question due to lackluster titles released after being acquired by Electronic Arts.
Despite multiple assurances that nothing in their studios would change after EA made the purchase, there was no question that the games just weren't the same. Although many critics did not call them on the carpet for it, there were strong waves of negativity from the fanbase. Mass Effect 3 is the first major title they've crafted since getting this feedback, and no one has been more curious than I to see what the result would be. I was fortunate enough to get an early review copy of the game and at this point, I would estimate I'm about halfway through the campaign. Although I haven't seen enough of the game to give a final verdict (and this blog is not in any way a review) I will say this:
Mass Effect 1 is my second-favorite game of all time. I gave it a perfect score. The GOTY version even has my quote on the back of the box. Mass Effect 2 was misguided and disappointing. I gave it the lowest score on Metacritic. As for Mass Effect 3? Based on what I've seen so far, it's not perfect... but it's an electric, exhilarating ride, and in many ways can be seen as a redemptive return to form for BioWare.
More to come.
I have little doubt that Mass Effect 3 is going to do gangbusters at retail, but I would like to take this moment to give a little bit of spotlight to other releases that deserve some attention. I've always seen myself as a bit of a champion for the underdogs or the little guys, so if you've got room in your budget for one more thing at the moment, you might want to consider...
Containment: the Zombie Puzzler (PC/iOS)
I'm nearly done with the campaign and a review should be up very soon, but it's a totally fresh, highly original take on the puzzle genre. Absolutely recommended.
A physics-based puzzle-platformer, I've only played through the demo (and maybe a little more) but I loved what I saw, and my gut is telling me that this is definitely going to be one to watch.
Journey (PlayStation Network)
I hardly think I need to explain this one since it's been met with nearly universal acclaim in the critical sphere, but this moody, emotive tale of a traveler in the desert comes from ThatGameCompany—and they don't make bad games.
I Am Alive (PlayStation Network/Xbox Live Arcade)
I haven't had any time with this one at all, but I am quite excited about it. It's a post-apocalyptic survival-themed platformer, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Keep your eyes peeled.
Binary Domain (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
This one is a third-person shooter with squad-management elements and an awful lot of robots to dismantle. I played the demo and loved it, and nearly everyone I've spoken to has had nothing but good things to say about it.
...So there you have it, five other things to check out in addition to that giant AAA blockbuster I mentioned at the beginning. The little guys need love too, so like I said... if you've got a few extra bucks keep them in mind. Or hey, if for some reason you're not going to be on the Mass Effect train, maybe get all of them instead?