Sovereignty and responsibility in Mass Effect 3

Drew Dixon

Jason Morehead
March 25, 2012

"ME3, however, holds two realities in tension that we often do not: we are not in control and yet our lives matter."

That wasn't my experience in the game whatsoever. Ultimately, the "Mass Effect 3" ending came squarely down on pure sovereignty in my opinion: our choices didn't matter one whit. And this wasn't just supported in the storyline, but within the game mechanics themselves at the very end.

But even putting the ending aside for the moment, I found that "Mass Effect 3" didn't respect my choices -- my agency, if you -- in subtler ways. For example, as I played the game, I found that it actually did little to really and truly impress upon me the weight of my actions.

For example, the game had the same error as "Dragon Age 2", namely that I could spend as much time as I wanted to traveling to any and every locale and going on any and every mission, and the game would happily suspend the crisis at hand. As I wrote in my review/critique/analysis of the game:

"How interesting would it have been if BioWare had included, as a game mechanic, some sort of meter or timer that gave you an indication of how much time had elapsed, and how much time (approximately) you had for missions? And what if different missions required different amounts of time to complete due to the distances involved, mission complexity and length, and other factors? You would be forced to carefully consider which missions you went on, since you couldn’t go on them all. You’d have to prioritize, and what’s more, you’d run the risk of going on missions that might harm your overall efforts if you did them at the wrong time. Or, because of the time involved, you’d find that the window for completing other important missions had closed."

However, by not having anything like this, I felt as if "Mass Effect 3" didn't actually care about what I was doing, but just ignored it until I hit specific "trigger points" -- which made the game feel all the more linear, and more on the side of sovereignty, if you will.

Jonah Stowe
May 8, 2012

I haven't had a chance to play ME3 yet, but I loved the first two installments. I'm trying to keep an open mind about how the series ends, even though I've heard a lot of the griping. The last game whose ending I didn't care for was Fallout 3, so I'm hoping that ME3 won't be too terrible.

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