Mass Effect 3 Preview
The End Is Nigh
Galactic civilisation shudders on the brink of destruction, blighted by the merciless Reapers, it seems that humanity and its allies are doomed – unless you can prevent the coming apocalypse. That’s right; the climax of Bioware’s epic Mass Effect trilogy is nearly upon us. On March 6th in the US, March 8th in Australia and March 9th in the EU we will finally get to put an end to the Reaper’s cyclical galactic holocaust, or die in the attempt. Excitingly, a demo has been announced for February 14th, yes Valentine’s Day! I may have to rearrange my plans… TheGameGuide takes a look at this upcoming blockbuster.
I’ve been a huge Bioware fan since I played Knight of the Old Republic, a game I was so hooked on there were nights were my housemates would go to bed leaving me playing and in the morning would emerge bleary eyed to find me still sat there Jedi-ing the hell out of it. This was during my university years when I could still get away with such things. Anyway, fast forward to 2007 when the original Mass Effect came out for the Xbox 360, I trembled with excitement as I loaded the game up for the first time (I may be exaggerating slightly, but you get the gist, I was excited about the game!) and wasn’t disappointed. Although the original game was flawed in many ways, the stilted combat system and the interminable Mako driving for example, I loved it. Whilst I recognised the problems with Mass Effect I didn’t care, for me it was a ten out of ten game. I’d never felt such agency in an RPG before, the fate of the whole galaxy rested on my shoulders and the shape that it took in the future was dependent upon my choices, whether good or bad. The level of weapon and armour customisation was, although clumsily implemented, in-depth and allowed the player to tailor weapons to suit their style of play. The circular dialogue system added an air of immediacy compared to the wooden pick-a-subtitle method of old. Much like the old system though, all the really fun choices are to be found in the renegade conversation branches. One final point, the Mass Effect story is truly, well, massive. As well as the action that unfurls on screen there is a huge codex packed with background information and the game’s universe is further fleshed out by accompanying novels (none of which I have read – anybody care to recommend them?).
Mass Effect 3 picks where the Mass Effect 2 DLC “Arrival” ends, with the galaxy finally under attack from the Reapers. EA’s official plot summary is as follows:
Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines has begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.
Similarly to previous games the player will traverse the galaxy undertaking various missions, this time in order to build up the ‘Galactic Readiness Level’ – a meter that measures how prepared Shepard and his allies are for the final climatic battle with the Reapers. As with Mass Effect 2, if a player continues from a previous save the consequences of the decisions made in the previous two games will have a direct effect upon the story in Mass Effect 3. A whole host of characters will be returning from the previous games – if you’ve managed to keep them alive that is. Anew major character has been announced as James Vega, who will be voiced by turn of the millennium heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr!
Bioware have promised further refinement of Mass Effect’s combat system to bring it in line with the modern 3rd person shooter – think Gears. Elements that have been improved include a more fluid cover system, the implementation of proper grenades (as opposed to the weird physics defying energy grenades of previous titles), a new one hit melee kill, which varies dependent upon character type and much faster combat. Another innovation is the ability to issue squad commands via Kinect, although why this couldn’t be done using the Xbox 360 headset I’m unsure, it seems a rather superfluous feature created with the sole purpose of tempting gamers into investing in Kinect.
A major new feature in Mass Effect 3 is the introduction of three distinct single player campaign modes, Action mode, Story mode and RPG mode. Action mode trims out the conversation aspects of the game, while Story mode tones done combat difficult. RPG mode can be seen as the classic Mass Effect experience. In theory these game modes will allow a broader range of gamers to enjoy Mass Effect 3 without necessitating the simplification of RPG elements as seen in the transition between Mass Effect 1 and 2, and in Bioware’s fantasy franchise Dragon Age.
For the first time in a Mass Effect game there will be multiplayer. In what is a quintessential single player experience it will be interesting to see how Bioware manage to shoe-horn in this box-ticking feature. Hopefully it doesn’t prove as shallow and inconsequential as Bioshock 2’s offering. The multiplayer portion of Mass Effect 3 is named ‘Galaxy at War’ and appears similar to Gears of War’s horde mode, as the player joins a squad of fellow soldiers to take on increasingly difficult waves of enemies. The twist comes with Galaxy at War’s link to the single player game – characters created and levelled up in multiplayer can be effectively cashed in to help with the war effort. By sacrificing a levelled character the ‘Galactic Readiness Level’ in the campaign can be increased. Bioware has been at pains to make it clear that the multiplayer section of Mass Effect 3 is entirely optional and can be ignored completely with no ill effect upon the single player experience.
The demo due to drop on February 14th will allow players to play through the opening level ‘Earth’, as well as try out the new multiplayer and, on Xbox 360, Kinect features. Make sure try it out as, if Dragon Age 2 is anything to go by, there are sure to be some goodies unlocked in the full game for those who run through the demo.
Despite fears on my part that Mass Effect 3 will continue the trend of recent Bioware single-player games becoming ever more simplified, with over 100 hours played myself I am totally invested in the story and have to play through to the trilogy’s conclusion. For fans of the series this is looking like a must buy, and even for those who have dismissed previous instalments due to the game’s RPG heritage Mass Effect 3 is shaping up as a worthy purchase that caters to the more action orientated gamer.
Let us know in the comments what you are looking forward to most in Mass Effect 3! Is the multiplayer a good idea? How about the incorporation of Kinect?