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Impressions: Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer


BE FOREWARNED: Minor spoilers ahead.

So after about a week or so of play (in terms of total hours spent…), I come away with some hopeful impressions of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer segment. A little background recap: the new multiplayer segment in Mass Effect 3 finds four players of  varying race and class battling against unfavorable enemy odds in waves. These small-scale actions take place parallel to Commander Shepard’s main campaign against the Reapers and can be safely ignored in the final game. For those of you who do partake in the multiplayer segment, it adds to a Galactic Readiness level present in the Campaign mode. How that Readiness level plays into the campaign is not yet clear, but you can imagine it presents a pretty sweet incentive to keep playing.

Delving into the multiplayer itself, it’s a pretty well-balanced machine. Your character is based mostly around the class selection. What race you play as depends on what class you are, since the only race that really fills all the classes are the Humans. Adepts and Vanguards, biotic specialists, find the Asari and Drell races filling out their ranks. Infiltrators and Engineers, the tech-heads, find the Quarians and Salarians in that role. The Soldiers and the Sentinels, the combat-heavy classes, are populated by the Turians and the Krogan. Each race in each class has different capabilities– both different assortments of powers and different health and shield values, making each a unique experience to play compared to the others. What’s fundamentally different this time around about the gameplay is that you are not class-restricted to certain types of weapons– an Asari adept will use a sniper rifle about as well as a Krogan soldier will use one. The new system here is a weapon Weight system. Heavier weapons, or just more weapons (up to a limit of two) will weigh on your character, reducing the rate at which you can use your class powers. If you favor usage of your powers, it means your damage output will be constrained by having to resort to lighter and inherently less powerful weapons, and vice-versa. It’s a good move by BioWare– taking a weapon outside of your class archetype is no longer a massive penalty (depending on which weapon you take, some are REALLY HEAVY), and if you can make it work, then you are all the better for it. It just happens to be a good idea to follow the class archetype for increased power spamming.

Your weapon and class options come from an in-game lottery and three packs to unlock, the Starter, Recruit, and Veteran packs. Buying the Starter pack (for 0 creds) gets you your first character class, weapons, and a small assortment of secondary equipment or weapon modifications. Playing matches earns your team a number of credits based on how quickly the team completes a certain set of objectives in the match. Beat more matches, earn more credits and XP for your chosen character class. Buying the Recruit pack garners you additional race and class unlocks, more weapons or upgrades of existing ones, weapon modifications, or ancillary items that grant bonuses to shield strength, power cooldowns, weapon damage, etc., but only for the space of one match. Want more items? Play more (and beat more) matches, pop into the store, and buy a pack. Granted, the random unlocks can be quite frustrating if you’re aiming for a particular class and you keep getting crappy classes you don’t want. Expect BioWare to introduce some small measure of solace for these frustrated players, as this system is probably not going anywhere for the vast majority of people who enjoy the spontaneity or could-but-don’t give a rat’s ass about it.

As of the demo, there are certain assets of the multiplayer game that aren’t present. There are only two stages, one type of enemy to fight (Cerberus troops, of course), and certain classes haven’t been seen in the game despite ostensibly being available to be unlocked (the entire fourth column… Drell Adepts, Asari Vanguards, Turian Soldiers, Krogan Sentinels, Quarian Infiltrators, and Salarian Engineers), to say nothing of the whole slew of weapons that aren’t yet available but whose existence is teased at in released screenies. What’s there though is challenging and will demand teamwork out of you. Not only do your teammates cover the vectors you can’t, but if you should go down, they revive you. Being quick about it is a priority as well, since some enemies will walk over to downed teammates and curb-stomp finish them so they can’t be revived until the current wave is finished off. Add to that the variety of enemy types and abilities they bring to the table– even as only Cerberus– and it’s a hell of a fight. Even on Bronze, the lowest difficulty, it’s a tough fight with a good chance of wiping completely.

If you remember how you fought in Mass Effect 2 though, some of the tricks you remember for clearing out enemies still work. Biotic Explosions and Tech Bursts still work, with some tweaks. Blasting an enemy with Overload damages Shields and Barriers severely, and following up with a quick burst of another power like the biotic Warp or tech Incinerate can trigger a Tech Burst, finishing the enemy. Likewise, hitting an enemy with Warp beforehand weakens its Armor and sets it up for a one-two with another power like the Vanguard’s Biotic Charge. Even better is that AoE powers, properly targeted against crowds, can set them all up for combos, rendering a charging Vanguard possibly one of the most dangerous pieces of hardware on the battlefield.

Granted, this is not to say that Vanguards have the rule of the roost. Heavily armored enemies like Atlas mechs are resistant to the Biotic Charge, as well as massed weapons fire in general. Add to that the fact that Atlases, among other enemies, are able to deploy a rare but devastating one-hit kill move against players in melee-range. This is a one-hit kill that takes a player out of the wave entirely, unable to be revived until the current wave is finished. Add to that the traditional ridiculously powerful arsenal you might expect on a towering mech. For that, you probably want to have caster classes wear its shields down, or perhaps clear the field of lesser foes before engaging the Atlas in earnest.

Or maybe you just wanna do this.

It’s a very limited ability, anyways, affected by how many of those you find in the unlock packs you buy. Even moreso, it’s currently limited to two missiles per sortie, so no spamming your entire stockpile of unlocked missiles. Sorry guys.

Something to remember while playing multiplayer or the game in general: the AI is significantly improved and is pretty relentless. Granted, the Phantom is an exception given its marked superiority in about every category, making it entirely overpowered, not to mention to one-hit-KILL ability it sports (KILL being capitalized because it will remove your character from play until the next wave starts without any chance of revival). For every other situation though, the AI is relentless and exceptionally able to perform flanking maneuvers, grenade your cover, and stun you with melee-range shock batons that will also drop your shields. I’m not sure how much more emphasis I can put on relentless, but that’s fundamentally what they are. They will advance on your position, using cover, tossing grenades your way to flush you out, popping smoke to foil your attempts at targeting weapons or powers at them, and odds are there’s probably a squad just like theirs, coming at you from a different direction to box you in. This is some tough shit to fight against.

Whatever the case, the options in the multiplayer are, even in this incomplete state, quite evidently varied, and hopefully in the final game, we’ll see the full, massive breadth of the universe, including more stages showing off more of the universe and incorporating different objectives. Hopefully it won’t just be horde waves– hopefully we’ll be seeing some willingness to experiment with the stage designs and see some spectacular missions that Shepard would have killed to be in on. If it has to be horde waves, let’s at least see some variations on that theme– defend a critical spaceport where civilians are evacuating, or hold back approaching waves punching through a fortress wall.

I’m hopeful, guys, and really enjoying the demo. I’m a little worried that, a little like ME2, the game will be a DLC money-factory for the sake of money alone, but the multiplayer makes me kinda hopeful.

1 Comment

  1. Comments  DarkKnightH20   |  Monday, 27 February 2012 at 3:16 PM


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