Earlier this year the divisive Mass Effect 3 was released, concluding the current console generation’s largest, most ambitious sci-fi franchise. Though some took issue with the ending (which we mention in our Mass Effect 3 review, few argued against the improvements to the gameplay, and the general strength of the storytelling. With the Wii U’s release, BioWare has repackaged the thrilling shooter, inviting Nintendo gamers to experience Mass Effect for the first time. And though it’s a competent port with some nice additions, it’s hard to justify picking this one up when it means forgoing the continuity carried over from the first two games.
The core experience--the one we played back when the game launched on other consoles earlier this year--is essentially the same. Commander Shepard is on a quest to stop the reapers from their intergalactic genocide quest by blowing up bad guys, sleeping with aliens, and making ridiculously difficult decisions. These choices continue to escalate as the game progresses, making the “which person do you save” moments of past Mass Effect games seem quaint in retrospect. Third-person action segments are thrilling, frequently reaching heights usually only seen for fleeting moments in other franchises, from the beginning of the game until its conclusion. The multiplayer, too, is intact with the Wii U version, and you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself pulled in to the thrilling wave-based matches.
Technically, Mass Effect 3 for the Wii U is about the same as it was on other consoles, save for some occasionally blurry textures and audio problems. They're minor, and the visual differences are only noticeable if you've played the game on another platform first, but they're still there. Some minor additions, however, make up for the issues, and create a more flexible experience when it comes to combat. Ordering around squadmates, both to change position and use abilities, is easier to control with the touchscreen. Quick taps will cause your allies to dash across the map, and commanding them to attack enemies is even easier when you don’t need to constantly try to remember what was assigned to what button. The inclusion of a map on the screen, too, is a technical improvement, even if it isn’t needed.
More important is the inclusion of a smattering of additional features, including the Extended Cut ending, as well as the From Ashes and Leviathan DLC. Since Mass Effect’s downloadable content is best interweaved with the rest of the story, it helps the game’s value, padding out the already lengthy campaign.
The largest, most unavoidable issue with Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U is also the most obvious one: It’s best served as the conclusion to the past two games, and not really meant to be a stand-alone experience. The introductory motion comic works for those who have already played the game on other systems, but it doesn’t really give the full story for anyone looking to jump into the series for the first time.
If you really, really want to play Mass Effect and simply can’t get your hands on it for other consoles, the Wii U version will definitely work, and it’s a fine iteration. But unless you fall into that niche, it’s likely worth grabbing the games on other consoles so that you can get the full experience.