Edmonton-based game developer BioWare released Mass Effect 3 this week, the final installment of their critically acclaimed science fiction trilogy.
The series, which follows the struggles of the indomitable Commander Shepard, is best known for its emphasis on choice and consequences. Players who have finished the first two games are able to transfer their character to Mass Effect 3, where their decisions from the previous installments will affect the way the story unfolds.
Praised for its engrossing and emotional narrative, the series is considered by many to have set a new benchmark for storytelling in games. It has also drawn a significant amount of attention from the news media for including the option to pursue romantic relationships with different characters, most of which result in sexual encounters.
Mass Effect 3 in particular has come under fire for allowing players to have same-sex relationships.
Critics have given the game universally positive reviews, praising it as a fitting and satisfying conclusion to the series. Changes to the combat and weapon systems are cited as the most significant improvements, with most criticism being aimed at its inability to stand apart from the other games.
However, many fans are criticizing BioWare for releasing an optional $10 downloadable mission on the release date of Mass Effect 3, arguing that it should have been included in the game's cost.
New to the series is multiplayer gameplay, which pits four players against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. This mode, along with the Mass Effect iPad and iPhone apps, allows the player to make progress in the main campaign.
BioWare is also known for the roleplaying series Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age. Founded by three medical doctors from the University of Alberta in 1995, it now has studios in Montreal, Ireland, Austin and San Fransisco.