The end is here, whether you like it or not. The Reapers are out to destroy the galaxy, and despite your repeated warnings to the Alliance, the Citadel council and the various races across the wide expanse of the galaxy, there is a state of unpreparedness the likes of which have not been seen since the Collectors ran riot in Mass Effect 2. By “you”, the allusion is to Commander Shepard, galactic saviour, of course, who is now back working for the Alliance. At the beginning of Mass Effect 3, a presumably boring day for Shepard at the Alliance's Vancouver offices is rudely interrupted by a massive Reaper invasion. The panic begins. The Alliance's top-brass in typical, unapologetic fashion turn to Shepard who assures them that he/she will get the job done (or rub it in further, depending on how you choose to play it), but it's survival that is the priority. So it is your job to escape the planet and rally the races of the galaxy in Earth's time of need — an endgame scenario that is the resultant effect of what has transpired in the first two Mass Effect games, and a brilliant setup at that.

The formulaic main quest/side quest/loyalty quest has largely been abandoned in favour of something that feels like it's more than just a sum of its parts. The galaxy is at war, and every one of Shepard's actions has an impact on the forces at his/her disposal when the final battle is to be fought.

Some of the non-critical side missions can feel tedious, however. Companion abilities can be unlocked by merely talking to them repeatedly in various locations, which is a shame considering some of Mass Effect 2's best writing was in the loyalty missions, and yet, somehow, Mass Effect 3 manages to preserve the emotional side of the series (despite stone-faced character models); capitalising on fan-investment in the game's characters, no doubt. Like Mass Effect 2, the gunplay is fast and frantic, with a robust cover system greatly complementing it, while (old, as well new) biotic and tech abilities are a blast to use. The combat feels more refined all-round. The dialogue system has been simplified further, and it's even easier to pick options that will earn you ‘paragon' or ‘renegade' points. It's impossible to play an outright-evil Shepard, however, and Bioware has made it clear that you will have to try and save the galaxy no matter how rude you are to people in the Mass Effect universe.

Bioware might have watered down a lot of the core RPG mechanics in favour of an action-oriented approach, but this simplification doesn't take away from the sheer epic scale of Shepard's battle to save the galaxy from the Reapers. A lot of the time, Mass Effect 3 is a fast-paced action game, while at other times, it's an adventure game that presents the player with choice, but most of the time, it's a game about forging alliances and gathering large armies to fight a galactic war. The game succeeds (resoundingly, at that) in making you feel that you're right at the epicentre of this desperate war for survival, while constantly reminding you that you're in charge. For its 25-odd hours, Mass Effect 3 manages to remain an emotional thrill-ride; even until its dying minutes. To some, the ending may seem unsatisfactory, while to others, it brings closure, drawing the curtains on what has been an incredible six years of virtual spacefaring, but whether or not you agree with the finale, one thing's for sure — you're going to be thinking about it or discussing it with your friends (and in some cases, filing petitions for the developers to re-write it). The multiplayer, surprisingly, doesn't feel out of place, fitting nicely into the greater scheme of things. It offers more than just material for fanboys, rewarding skill and teamwork.

An addictive addition, the multiplayer's character progression system, classes, races, gear and varying difficulty levels succeed in keeping things interesting.

Mass Effect 3 is easy to recommend because it's not just a game with a great story — it's a game with your story where you get to see the galaxy-altering effects of your choices as Commander Shepard over the course of three games. Mass Effect 3 is available on PC, PS3, Xbox 360.