Mass Effect has always held a special place in my heart. The first game was phenomenal, a single player’s dream come true. The story took on a life of its own and I was drawn into the world. Never before had I read every journal log in a game. There was a tear in my eye when I became a Spectre. The second game of the series was simply beyond words. Never before had I been so captivated with a game. The gameplay that complimented such a grand story had never been seen before. Simply stated Mass Effect 2 was one of the best games of all time. If I am ever asked to debate the merits of video games as art I will submit Mass Effect 2 as my argument. No other point needed. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I am excited for Mass Effect 3. As the trilogy comes to its conclusion I can’t help but morn the cast of characters that I love so much. I haven’t finished the game and already I long for more. All stories must come to their end though and I am excited to see Shepard pull off the impossible. Due to a recent stroke of luck and a quick trigger finger I was able to get my hands on the Mass Effect 3 demo before most of the world. The following is my collective thoughts on the demo after spending many hours with it. Please feel free to voice your own opinion in the comments section.
Single-Player and General Gameplay
Some Mass Effect fans were unhappy with the gameplay changes that were brought about in Mass Effect 2. When it was reported that nearly 70% of all Mass Effect 2 Characters were soldiers it is hard to argue with Bioware’s tweaks. Action became front and center and went on to deliver some of the best action oriented moments of the series. Even so, many RPG fans were left longing for the controls of the first game. Mass Effect 3 picks up right where number 2 left off. I didn’t notice a single change between how the latter two games played. Sorry ME1 fans it seems as you are out of luck once again. That’s not to say they copied and pasted the controls of ME2 into this demo though. New this time around is Kinect integration and it brings about a welcomed change. I regret to admit I never really took the time to control my squad. Now that I think about it I have never taken control of my squad in any squad based combat game. That has changed though thanks in large part to the Kinect integration. Now I don’t have to fumble around in submenus and take the time to learn what button controls what in regards to my squad, something that has shied me away from squads in the past. My voice is now the controller (shameful Microsoft PR statement) and the overall gameplay benefits from this. No I don’t shout at my TV to reload or throw a grenade, I can still do that for my self thank you very much. Instead I now have control of a gameplay element that I have long avoided like the plague. I don’t want to dive into the actual single player mode that is provided in the demo. Mass Effect fans know what their going to get when it comes to story and I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises. One word of advice; don’t play the single player if you are already a fan. You are unable to import your character(s) from before and it will only make you long for March 6 more. The one thing I will say about the single player though, POWERFULL. Within the first five minutes! It seems as though long time fans will not be let down. If you are a first time player in the Mass Effect universe then you should go back and try the original two games before you even think about this one.
When news first broke of a multiplayer feature in Mass Effect I was skeptical. It seems as though there is an all to often occurrence of tacking on multiplayer in games these days. Yes broadband internet has changed the industry but it doesn’t need to change every game ever made. Mass Effect has always been a proponent to the fact that single player games can survive and even succeed in the market today. Mass Effect has never really been known for its outstanding gameplay either. Firefights don’t last that long and much of the game is spent developing the story. How could a game like this bow down to peer pressure and tack on multiplayer? Most of my time with the demo was spent in this particular area because I wanted to accurately judge this addition. The demo features a mode that is very similar to Gears of War’s Horde mode or Halo Reach’s Firefight mode. Players only have the option of fighting on the side of the Citadel but it appears as though gamers will be able to choose who they pledge their allegiance to in the full version of the game. There are two maps that are extremely bland. This can not be stressed enough. I have always enjoyed Mass Effects settings but have never been impressed with the areas where the actual fights take place. This couldn’t be more forefront in the demo. The two maps appear thrown together and are some of the most boring multiplayer maps that I have ever seen. There are three modes featured; bronze, silver and gold. I was only able to play in bronze and silver matches even when I created a custom gold match. The only difference as far as gameplay was concerned seemed to be difficulty. Players are able to choose between classes with the unique Mass Effect species sprinkled throughout the different classes. Originally each class starts out very boring with uninspired character design as the only option. I was thankful to learn that the species featured in the Mass Effect universe are available to unlock and this breathes much life into the multiplayer mode. Once again it seems as though the soldier class is at the forefront of things as it is the default class. I cant help but imagine the offensive oriented thinking multiplayer fans will no doubt choose this class the most as it seems to offer the biggest advantage in and offensive oriented mode. Waves of enemies are thrown at you with each wave getting progressively harder. No surprise here but there is a welcomed twist to the horde mode this time around. Randomly generated throughout the match are mini-games were you will be asked to complete additional tasks while still fighting back bad guys. I felt like I was always on my toes and was excited at the prospects of these tasks at the start of each new wave. You earn points for kills, completing waves and completing random tasks, both as an individual and as a team. As this mode has a team based focus, assists offer nearly as many points as kills. I found it nearly impossible to get anywhere by myself or even with a single partner. The game overwhelms and there are few methods of escape. Fans of Rambo style multiplayer like Call of Duty may be turned off as it doesn’t make sense to run off on your own here. Level progression is pretty straightforward if not addicting at times. Bonus points are awarded at the end of matches for achieving out of the box tasks. Consecutive headshots and a certain number assists in a game are examples. When you gain more points and levels you are able to upgrade your characters weapons and perks. While it seems as though the majority of points go to the your active character, points are spread to your other characters in smaller amounts. Want to venture out from the comfort of the solider class? You wont be penalized for doing so as other classes now have XP to be spent on upgrades. Species and weapon upgrades are unlocked through the purchase of “packages.” While I am glad the multiplayer isn’t super straight forward, there are the elements of classic RPGs that I just mentioned above, these sections cant help but feel tacked on. When Call of Duty allowed for customization and upgrades it was revolutionary. Now it just feels like a copycat. The multiplayer is good, not great and that fact alone seems a bit of a let down from a series and developer that has broken boundaries before.
The single player picks up right where it left off and there could be nothing better. The story is as engrossing and entertaining as ever. March 6th could not get here fast enough. With all that having been said I can’t help but take issue with the multiplayer. Tacked on, copycat, late to the party and unoriginal are all words that come to mind. I still am perplexed as ever as to the need for Mass Effect multiplayer. Who though can really complain complain about a free addition to a game a lot of people have come to know and love. The game is still going to cost $60 dollars when it comes out. Single Player seems as if it hasn’t missed a beat. So really who find issue with something that may extend their time with a game that they enjoy. Is it going to light up the PSN or XBL charts with most hours played? I wouldn’t bet on it. Is it going to convert the huge fraternity of multiplayer gamers into Mass Effect fans? I wouldn’t bet on that either. I wasn’t sold on the multiplayer but maybe you will be. If an online niche springs up with Mass Effect 3 then more power to them. As of this writing the demo has just appeared online. Take it for a spin if you if you are inclined to do so. There is something I would like to stress though. Do not pick up the demo if you are a Mass Effect fan and only want to try the single player. Your character will not be available and there are plenty of spoilers. If you have never played a Mass Effect game before and are curious play the first two games before even getting near Mass Effect 3. The story is to rich not to have experienced it from the beginning. If you are looking for something free to tide you over till March 6th then go right ahead.