Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer: Quite Indoctrinating
Ethan Smith / Aug 13th, 2012 2 Comments
Upon finding out about the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3, many fans immediately cried foul that their favorite single-player experience in gaming was threatened. Accusations flew that EA pushed Bioware into trying to grab the “Modern Warfare Crowd” in a mad populist plot and that Bioware would have to cut corners in the more important story mode. While such concerns certainly deserved to be voiced in thoughtful manner, few people seem to ask or even care about the basic question: “Is the multiplayer fun?” A shame, since the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer offers an incredibly “indoctrinating” and unique gaming experience with a quality community for those willing to give it a fair shot.
Like in single-player, the multiplayer mode offers a selection of classes to choose from: adept, soldier, engineer, sentinel, and vanguard. Unlike single-player, each class comes with six different “kits” in the form of differing races and specialties, counting all the DLC (which is free). Humans are the best represented, as they are available for every class without needing unlocking and have more advanced Project Phoenix and N7 kits later on. The rest of main races of Mass Effect (asari, turian, krogan, quarian, geth, batarian, drell and even vorcha) have two or three kits available, although a couple of those (asari and quarian) are variations on the same class. The kits do not include built-in weapon choices like most other class-based shooters, but instead are the set of abilities, health and shields, passive traits, and mobility options. For example, basic humans can perform combat rolls, while asari instead teleport short distances at the cost of shields, and krogan and turians trade dodging for huge health and shields and increased weapon stability, respectively. Combined with the unique ability selections of each kit, every character feels like a new gameplay experience. Krogan soldiers charge into enemies and one-shot them with melee attacks and shotgun blasts, while turian soldiers stay back to take advantage of their increased stability and accuracy and ranged abilities, and N7 soldiers slowly push forward like mobile turrets firing full clips in a matter of seconds.
As hinted by some of these playstyle descriptions, characters seem designed to evoke feelings of awesomeness in the hands of even mildly skilled players. Teleporting, cloaked ninjas with flaming swords, melee brutes that reflect melee damage and can punch the head clean off of enemies, and telekinetic versions of Whiplash from Iron Man 2 dominate the field. A properly built krogan with a savvy player can even headbutt 15-foot mechs to death. The sound and graphic designers truly earned their pay with the satisfying crunches accompanying each strike, the wind-up and release of powers, and krogan laughter as they go into blood rage. The only negative side to this cavalcade of badassitude is that some of the more straightforward basic character kits feel a little dull in comparison. Without a player-versus-player feature though, this stylistic imbalance goes mostly without complaint.
Yes, the lack of a PvP option certainly bears mentioning, and certainly seems like an oversight upon first thought. However, the RPG elements involved in character building and the rather luck-based method of unlocking weapons and classes does not suit a competitive PvP environment well. A fresh level one player would have to slog through endless matches of getting their head blown off by invisible geth snipers or Krogan battlemasters flying at them from across the map and insta-gibbing them with automatic shotguns. From a story perspective, PvP would make little sense anyways as it would subvert the “unite or die” message inherent in the campaign.
In fact, the multiplayer ends up feeling like an extension of the single-player campaign. Mission control constantly keeps the players updated on objectives and explains them in in-universe terms. While the maps may seem to just be recycled from single-player N7 missions, listening to Admiral Hackett’s debriefings strongly suggests they are in fact the same maps and that you are playing the follow-up teams he sends in after Shepard. The community-wide events every other weekend get nice military-sounding titles like “Operation Broadside” or “Operation Mastiff” and are heralded and capped-off by messages from Alliance Command. This versimilitude integrates the multiplayer into the overall experience of the Mass Effect universe quite well.
Nevertheless, some bugs and design decisions do mar the multiplayer mode. Vanguards must carefully use biotic charges near death lest they invoke an incredibly common bug that causes them to fall through the world or float a hundred feet in the air helplessly for the remainder of the match. As vanguards rely on biotic charge’s barrier restoration to stay alive, this scenario comes up quite commonly. One of the recently released maps has a tendency to drop players without warning, denying them up to twenty minutes worth of credits and experience points. All equipment and character unlocks come randomly from packs purchased with in-game credits or Bioware points, so someone set on getting that drell assassin or their favorite sniper rifle from single-player might find themselves waiting quite awhile. While accumulating unlocks progresses faster than in, say, Team Fortress 2, the immense number of unlocks and the fact that players might have to play a class and race combo they find less appealing still creates frustration. TF2 players never have to spend two weeks grinding as a scout to unlock sniper, for example. Purchasing the item packs with guaranteed rares takes between six and seven bronze matches at 15-20 minutes a piece or half that many silver matches. The consistently instant match queues do make this time investment more palatable. but some might still find the math unacceptable. The lack of in-game text chat seems a questionable choice as well, especially considering the cooperative nature of the game. This does not affect bronze and silver level matches much, but gold and platinum games almost certainly require the voice chat. Said voice chat does work well and usually remains unmolested by griefers and trolls, who can get muted in the most dire circumstances.
The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer brings together so many different playstyles that it seems almost impossible to describe them all in detail with brevity, and perhaps in this lies the games greatest strength. For all the complaints that Bioware’s EA overlords have turned them into money-sucking uber-capitalists, Mass Effect players get a game on par with the likes of Team Fortress 2 entirely for free. Yes, players can spend real money to get Bioware points to spend on the game, but at least the game never taunts players with boxes of loot like TF2, and the loot comes fast enough that only the most impatient will feel urges to purchase it. Not everyone will enjoy the solely PvE gameplay, but many more will enjoy the change of pace from standard shooters.
tags: mass effect , mass effect 3 , multiplayer , pc