Mass Effect 3 PS3 review

To achieve this, you need to gather war assets and boost your total military strength. That means playing the diplomat and getting the Salarians and Turians to buddy up with belligerent Krogans, even though they’ve all been at war for forever and the Turians got a bit genocide-y on the Krogans. Awkward.

It also means taking on your former employers – pro-human terrorist organisation Cerberus and their enigmatic leader the Illusive Man – who have their own shady motives. What it boils down to is: solve a problem for a race and they give you more troops. More troops mean a higher chance of beating the Reapers.

As a premise, it’s as good as sci-fi role-playing gets. You’re saving the universe, and that responsibility weighs heavy on your decorated shoulders. Collecting war assets becomes an all-nighter-inducing obsession, and it’s massively rewarding to find your army’s numbers creeping ever higher as a direct result of your actions and decisions.

You want to succeed so much, because Bioware’s managed to sneak the game’s cast deep into your heart – doubly so if you’ve played ME2 – and you simply couldn’t bear the sad look on their faces/sinister helmets/collections of hideous ridges if you let them down.

You can affect the specifics of how each mission goes down by choosing renegade or paragon actions, the series-long morality system that can have far-reaching consequences. As ever, these often aren’t made clear enough at the time for you to make an informed decision – you’re more reacting to a situation than you are controlling it, and although that ambiguity may frustrate, it’s effective at putting you in Shep’s size tens.

Through a variety of assault, unusually painless defence and wave-based survival missions you gain each race’s allegiance and their numbers feed into your military assets overlay, and can be perused in the Normandy’s all-new ‘war room’ – which also lets you initialise a comms link back to Earth or the Citadel and keep track of how the war’s going.

Decisions in each mission affect exactly who gives you their fleets, and how many of them you get. There are opportunities to screw people – and entire races – over; it’s up to you to judge the greater good. There’s that victory through sacrifice motif again.

Side quests help you to boost your war assets, too, in various forms. The divisive mining mini-game from ME2 is essentially out, but its mechanics remain in the form of salvage missions. Scan a star system to pick up a signal, then locate the signal’s location on a planet to win a prize from the galactic lucky dip – from warships to intel that you can use to get a permanent character bonus.

Missions also pop up through overhearing conversations on the Citadel – classic fetch quests that you often complete unknowingly simply by picking up everything possible while on a combat mission and returning it to whichever doctor or diplomat wanted the Reaper artefact you stumbled on.

Again, you’re rewarded with more sweet, sweet war assets for your troubles. Often, the side missions are essentially one-player versions of the multiplayer co-op maps, throwing waves of ever more dangerous foes at Shep and two elected crew members. Okay, it is cheeky to recycle content like that, but it’s forgivable: this represents a small percentage of single-player tasks, and mixes up the pace among other mission types.