Welcome to part two of my breakdown over the PC Demo for Mass Effect 3. They’ve opened the multiplayer flood gates, so let’s get some points down on what I like and don’t like about the multiplayer aspect of the upcoming Mass Effect 3.
1. Connecting up – It looks like they’ve gone with the model I’ve seen in a lot of games since I first saw it in Transformers: War For Cybertron, which is you connect to their servers to find other people playing or hosting, connect to that person who acts as host, and then pray that they don’t disconnect or decide to head off for another group. The system here will dump leadership over to someone else most of the time, but if you’re in an actual session, it will restart the whole scenario over again, which means if you’re in the tenth wave, you just lost all of that experience. This is a complete and total crapshoot of a way to organize your whole multiplayer system when it’s dependent on that very same experience and money income to advance in the system.
2. You have friends? – The only way, it seems, to connect to a friends game in the demo is to get invited. I know, it might surprise some of my readers that I have friends, but this method is extremely frustrating. Sure, you can search and hope you get put into a friends game if they have an opening, and again, this is a demo and all the options aren’t in it, but having this in would be one of the first things I’d put in to try out. Now, it is true, you can pop out to Origin’s in game screen to see your friends list and attempt to join each of your friends games individually, but every one of my friends was already in a full game. Why you have to pop out to Origin to join a friends game and hope they have an opening, instead of just having the in-game option to do so and have the game tell you if your friends are in a full group, is beyond me.
3. Collectible Card Game Multiplayer – You start off with 3 Human Male and 3 Human Female characters from all the classes unlocked. You unlock the other races, who have slightly different abilities within each class, by buying packs with cash you earn by playing multiplayer. Your experience transfers across each unlocked race within that class, so your Turian and Human Sentinel will always be the same level. The biggest problem is that all your equipment upgrades and unlocks are tied to a random roll on a pack you buy by playing multiplayer. I’ve sunk over 10 hours into multiplayer, at about 20 minutes a match, and I’ve bought I don’t know how many packs now, but the only alien race I’ve unlocked is Turian Sentinel. I’ve gotten Humans in a few classes, which gives you a level or two depending on what level you are when you unlock them, as they give you experience if you already have them, and getting the same weapon will increase its stats, much like getting a new version in Mass Effect would, but this system is so broken. If I wanted to play an Asari Adept right off the bat, the one freaking class and race combination I actually wanted to play in multiplayer, I’m out of luck. In fact, I’m really out of luck, because the only class and race combos I seem to get from these packs are Humans. The ratio of drops in these packs is absolutely abysmal as far as I’m concerned, and that’s with me choosing a Veteran and Recruit pack every other time I buy one. I quit playing Magic the Gathering and collecting Dungeons and Dragons miniatures for this very reason. If I could drop my credits into actually buying the upgrade and unlocking something for sure, I’d feel like I wasn’t entirely wasting my time. As it stands now, I hate this part of multiplayer even more than I hate dropped connections. When I actually get something I can use, it’s great, but that has been so small an occurrence I don’t even want to open the multiplayer store.
4. Combat Done Right – One thing I liked about the demo is the combat. The multiplayer combat feels extremely fast paced and really keeps you moving. It’s very much a shooter in the way it handles, and the upgrades as you level can really make you a powerhouse in the matches. The Co-op set-up works really well when it’s working, the amping up of every wave is fairly consistent, and not knowing what your task will be in the upcoming wave keeps you on edge.
5. Combat Done Wrong – Combat in multiplayer doesn’t seem to scale, and on top of that, you don’t always get your health or ammo back between missions, or complete health replenishment with a revive. It does come back sometimes, but it is wildly inconsistent and can leave you in trouble even after using a medkit to revive yourself, which is something you get as a random pull in those packs. More on that in a second. Let’s say you start with four players, and after the first few waves, two people disconnect. You’re left with two people in a group set up for four, and depending on your skill set, you’re likely getting laid to waste. Especially if you’re left with two level 3 players when you went in with them and two much higher level players. I’ve been there. It was awful. Yes it’s short, but it’s still wasted time and resources and effort, and it’s extremely frustrating.
6. Pack it in – While I like the idea of packs, I really think that there should have been an optional, cheaper way of getting mods, extra characters, and power-ups instead of this being the only way. Give me a store where I can buy my Asari for 5000 credits instead of a randomly packed box of crap I don’t want and I’ll take it in a heartbeat. Packs end up giving you too much of a variety of things that you don’t actually need to play in tougher levels, and you don’t get nearly enough of what you need as you go. Packs are the only way I’ve seen to get Heavy Weapons ammo. Yeah, bad idea. Give me an actual store to buy these things and leave the packs as an optional grab bag so I feel less like I’m wasting my time.
7. Mod Squad – I love the weapon mods. I love that you can take a standard weapon, throw a few mods on it, and make it better than that other weapon you’ve got floating in your inventory (if you’re lucky). Sniper rifle with an expanded clip slot? Yes, I’ll take that please. Throwing a scope on a pistol? Why not? Even the appearance mods are nice, but again, you have to unlock or find these types of things in the packs, which can be frustrating. I mean I can see the RPG aspect of this, using stuff you find, but there’s also usually an option where you can buy these things directly, you know, from a store, in an RPG as well.
8. Level design – The levels themselves are fairly circular, with a few choke points that are easy to hold, but still leave openings for the enemy to get behind you. Not only that, but they don’t always come out from the same area in the two levels, which keeps the player on their feet and constantly moving, which I love. You don’t sit holding the same spot over and over again, and you have some flexibility in each section as to where you’re going to set up to take on the advancing Cerberus agents. The two levels are similar in that they’re built around a landing spot, but are very different in structure and layout after that. The Cerberus units you have to fight over and over again have slightly different designs and tweaks to them that help players differentiate them in the battles, and make it easy to identify them to other team mates.
9. Hello? – Voice chat in the game is just about dead on perfect. The push to talk and auto-on system works great, and I could actually understand the person on the other end, which was awesome. I’m used to in-game systems only half working or having huge distortions or delays, and here they do exactly what you need them to and when you need them to do it.
10. Separate but Equally Important – The single player section and the multiplayer section feel almost like very different games. The multiplayer feels more like the combat from Mass Effect 2 amped up to the Nth degree. The single player feels more like a refined combination of the first two games. While the galaxy map was there in the demo, no matter how many victories I seemed to get, nothing would sway that thing over to another color, and I’m sure that’s how it’ll tie into your galactic readiness in the actual game, but I can honestly see myself playing this about half as much as I actually play the single player story line.
Despite my frustrations with their design choices in upgrading, I’m loving the multiplayer. I like the fast paced combat and actually playing this with other people, even if I’ve yet to actually manage to play with any of my friends online. it may sound like I’m nitpicking and I hate it, which isn’t the case; I actually love it, but there are some obvious issues that are just completely killing my enjoyment of the multiplayer section. We’ll see how it goes when the game actually launches and the ‘this is only a demo’ excuse can’t be used anymore. I’m hoping the ‘pack’ system is a little more refined and has more variety than this, but we’ll see how it goes.