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'Mass Effect 3' FAQ: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

It’s been just under three weeks since “Mass Effect 3” was released, and obviously all the hardcore fans of the series got their copies the instant they could. However, a lot of gamers are still on the outside looking in, wondering what exactly all their friends are babbling about when they keep bringing up the Normandy, Garrus and something called “Seth Green.”

If you’ve been tempted to join in on the hubbub but aren’t sure if this game is really for you, allow us to answer the tough questions you’re likely facing as this gem sits unpurchased in your Amazon cart.

What’s the “elevator pitch” for "Mass Effect 3"?

In the 22nd century, earth makes contact with other alien races well into the future, and you play a human military badass trying to save the galaxy from destruction by evil aliens and nefarious humans.

Sounds an awful lot like "Halo"...

Shhh. We don’t talk about that.

OK, so why does everyone love "Mass Effect" so much?

The series is beloved because like any good franchise, the characters are well fleshed-out and you come to care about them. This isn’t new to video games. What is unique about “Mass Effect” (as one could argue the name implies), your actions and decisions drive the story forward in a direction that is in part completely up to you. Your skills in conversation are just as important as your skill with a weapon. BioWare, the game’s developers, put the story in the user’s hands as much as possible while still telling their own compellingsci-fisaga. The level of detail and care that goes into creating the universe as it could be two hundred years from now makes the whole experience immersive and fascinating.

But I really like shooting stuff ...

Shoot stuff you shall! Every mission in “Mass Effect 3” involves some kind of shooting. However, if that’s your main prerogative, maybe “Mass Effect 3” won’t scratch the itch on your trigger finger completely. There are tons of weapons, but actually wielding them is just a “good” experience, not a knock-your-socks-off firestorm like a “Gears of War” title.

I love (or hate) "Skyrim." Is this just "Skyrim" in space?

Absolutely not. Both RPGs are vast and epic, but if “Skyrim” is your stoner friend who likes to listen to Led Zeppelin and wander aimlessly, “Mass Effect 3” is yourJ.J. Abrams friend who cares about story and explosions. They’re both amazing games, but enjoying them is mutually exclusive.

Is it true you can have sex with aliens in this game? I'm asking for a friend.

I’m afraid if I answer that, you’ll only play it with those aims in mind, but yes romance is not confined to human partners. You're welcome?

I didn't play the first or second game in the series. I don't have 50 hours to do so before playing up the third.

And you don’t need to. Devotees of the series will bristle at this notion, but devotees also have a way of gatekeeping their loves by convincing you that you need a completist understanding of something to enjoy it properly. I once was checking out at a Best Buy, purchasing “Halo 2.” The cashier assured me that if I didn’t read some novel connected to the series I “wouldn’t understand what’s going on” and “wouldn’t get it.” Hey man, I came to Best Buy specifically to avoid reading anything. The creators of the game know many people will pick up “Mass Effect 3” for the first time without ever setting foot into the “Mass Effect” universe first. Sure you’ll miss some inside references, and the characters might not mean as much to you at first, but there’s nothing you can’t learn about on the in-game audio library of the universe called the Codex.

OK but seriously, what about those first two games?

Here’s another notion that true fanboys and girls will hate: you don’t need to play or experience things in chronological order. “Mass Effect 3” is the most accessible game in the trilogy, so why wouldn’t it make sense to start there? If you fall in love with the universe and the characters, you’ll go back and play the first two anyway and re-play the third one. There’s so much downloadable content, plus the addition of multiplayer to the latest release, that you can delve about as deep as your heart desires.

Isn’t everyone mad about this game? What’s that about, and how do I know what I should be mad about?

People are “mad” about this fine game for many reasons. Most are angry that the ending isn’t a satisfying conclusion to the story (do not Google anything about this!) Some don’t like the fact that there was downloadable content made available the day the game was released, and players weren’t sure whether it was essential to their experience. There were also issues importing characters to carry over from “Mass Effect 2,” which obviously doesn’t concern you. An extra small group of people were angry at how pervasive and matter-of-fact same-sex relationships are depicted in the game. Are you boiling with rage yet? Didn’t think so.

So, should I buy this game?

If you like sci-fi and/or  role-playing games even a little, you should absolutely get your hands on “Mass Effect 3.” This is one of those times in life where “seeing what all the fuss is about” pays off. And if you get to the ending and it really does bother you, BioWare will probably have given you a new one by the time you get there.

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