Mass Effect 3: Retaliation exceeds the size and scope of all the previous Mass Effect 3 multiplayer DLC. With a new enemy faction, a brand new challenge system, hazard maps, and sixteen new classes, few can deny the value of this free DLC. While the content certainly enhances the game experience, it does not come without flaws.
The most significant change to the game comes with the introduction of the Collectors along with some new units for Cerberus and the Geth in multiplayer. The Collectors are widely accepted as the most difficult faction to fight against now. Though Harbinger’s iconic voice-overs are missing, the possession mechanic remains and has even been extended to the Abominations, Scions, and Praetorians. Furthermore, multiple enemies may be possessed at the same time, leading to huge jumps in difficulty if several of the aforementioned three enemy types get possessed.
The new classes do offer some interesting new mechanics and playstyles, but only a few approach the polished coolness of the Earth DLC characters. The Turian Havok and Ghost will appeal to the most players with their stylish armor, versatile skill sets, and the practical and stylish Havok Strike. These two classes also are the first turians to have combat dodges, which they execute with short bursts from their jetpacks. The volus engineer and adept are a little more contested because they are designed as the first support characters in the game, meaning they must be played significantly differently from every other class. That said, the classes do consistently score well in the hands of capable players and provide valuable support abilities like mobile shield regeneration. The only other of the new 16 classes currently available is the krogan shaman, who has no new abilities and is visually just a reskin of the krogan battlemaster. While he certainly fights effectively, few people will find much to be excited about. The rest of the multiplayer classes will be released over time, presumably one or two a week, but previews of their designs and abilities have yielded nothing particularly astounding. Sadly, most of the classes seem to be reskins of existing characters with repackaged assortments of abilities like the krogan shaman. Especially considering how long it can take to unlock a specific character card, gating the character releases feels like a rather annoying and artificial way to draw out player interest.
The challenge system provides a more natural method of keeping players playing by giving cosmetic and point rewards for accomplishing various things. Unfortunately, all of these tasks are based more on grinding than on performing specific difficult tasks, with the sole exception of the soloing challenges. However, the system has succeeded in one significant way as many players have said that the system has in fact motivated them to move outside of their comfort zone and try out new classes, weapons, and powers.
The hazard maps provided so far serve as a nice mixup to the multiplayer along with some additional challenge and tactical considerations. Firebase Dagger’s sandstorm gives the entire map a new feel, though snipers might find it unbearable. Being able to vent the reactor in Firebase Reactor can provide a much-needed assist by cooking an entire group of enemies, or players can use it as a method to grief each other. Firebase Giant’s night version doesn’t even feel like a hazard, but acid rain on Ghost slowly stripping away the shields of anyone (including enemies) out in the open feels like a refreshing change. Unfortunately, not only do players have to wait for the rest of new hazard maps to open up, but only two hazards will be available each week. BioWare’s community reps have said that this might change in the future, which is good because this current setup just feels strange and unnecessary.
These strange choices mar an otherwise perfect free DLC. Retaliation brings a lot of new content to the table that should keep players interested for quite some time. However, the strategy of gating the releases of most of the hazard maps and classes feels unnecessary, like a blatant attempt to hold onto players. The challenge system does not offer much for players looking to inflate their epeen, but it does succeed in encouraging more variety of player builds and playstyles. Despite the flaws, Retaliation ultimately succeeds in breathing some much-needed life into the multiplayer experience and does so at no cost to the player. Gamers are getting a lot more than what they paid for here.