Friday, February 17, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions

The Mass Effect 3 demo has been out for a little while for European gamers, but for those of us in North America the demo become openly available yesterday on the 16th, check out info on that at Biowares ME3 Demo Page. The demo comes with an hour or so of single player and a limited multiplayer mode. Mass Effect 3 does feel a bit different than it's predecessor, but I mean that merely in good ways. They seem to have found a balance between the RPG loot of Mass Effect 1 and the action orientated gameplay of Mass Effect 2. There is now armor you can find, pieces of equipment, weapon upgrades and various kinds of items that you can find throughout the world. Unfortunately the demo doesn't actually let you customize Shephard, other than powers, but it does still have these items littered throughout it's two levels. Combat feels smooth, responsive, but still very much like the previous games. The cover system continues to work quite well and combat in general is very fun, but it does feel a little more action orientated then it did in Mass Effect 2. Read on for some impressions on Singleplayer and Multiplayer, plus video of multiplayer in action.

The single player portion of the demo takes you through two distinctly different levels. The first of which seems to be the actual start of the game, where you awake with Anderson coming to your door and telling you that the council needs you. This isn't the Citadel though, you are on Earth, an Earth that is preparing for an attack by the Reapers. If you have look at even a single screenshot of the game you will likely have seen that Mass Effect 3 is centered around defending Earth from the Reapers and that's exactly how the game starts. It seems melodramatic a little at first, but by the time the Reapers tear through Earth's defense it get's pretty interesting. One big change to the how the single player plays out, other than loot and such, is the new choice of preference. You can now choose to play the game action orientated, story orientated or roleplaying (the normal mode that you would be used to if you've played the other two games). The action orientated mode lets you skip quickly through the cut scenes and it damn near destroys the story, for me, but if you don't have the time for that kind of thing but still want to play the game then that option might be quite favorable. On the other hand the story orientated mode focuses heavily on the story and gives you minimal action to deal with. Both options seem like blasphemy to someone who is used to the balance from the previous two games between story and action, but I do get why the exist. On top of that you can still alter combat difficulty, like you always could before.

I don't want to ruin the singleplayer demo for anyone, but let's just say the second part of it is far removed from the battlegrounds of Earth and it may even feature some characters from Mass Effect 1 and 2. The singleplayer portion of the demo is exciting and fairly challenging, plus it gives you a ton of abilities to experiment with, but for the most part it's mostly shows off the high quality adventure that you would expect from the Mass Effect series. The newest feature and most interesting part of the demo has to be the multiplayer. A multiplayer that let's you choose from every class in the game, Vanguard, Soldier, Engineer etc., and has you level them up individually. That I will go into in detail and show off some video of later on.

Like I previously mentioned the multiplayer is a bit limited, but not in regards to classes or powers. You seem to have all of the classes and powers available to you, but I'm willing to bet each individual class has a level limit and from what I've seen its level 10. As you can see in the screenshot above you have six classes available to you and each class has four different set ups, most of which have different abilities available to them. You unlock more characters by earning credits, credits that you get during any match for winning or completing objectives. You use credits to buy mission boxes that frankly look like futuristic treasure chests and there are two different kinds, at least in the demo. There is one for five thousand credits and one for twenty thousand credits. Each of which unlock five random items or characters, but characters are rare and the items are determined by the chest type. They describe the five thousand credit one as having common loot and the twenty thousand one having uncommon loot. You can find weapon accessories that increase damage, accuracy, ammo or other stats, or you can find one time use items, like medi-gel or armor piercing bullets, or you can unlock new characters. Its a pretty fun system that makes you feel like you have the chance to win some really interesting stuff every time you buy a mission box.

You earn money and experience for your characters through co-op survival levels. There are only two maps available in the demo and only one mode, but you can play each level by varying degrees of difficulty. Two decently leveled people can readily handle a bronze, the easiest difficulty, level but for silver or gold you absolutely need three or four people. You earn different experience based on how well you do on any level. For instance if you kill an enemy all by your lonesome you get all the experience, but you can assist others in killing enemies and it does a perfect job of distributing experience based on your contribution to the kill. There are also many different medals you can earn that should be familiar to anyone who has played any recent multiplayer FPS's. An example of which is fifty kills with an assault rifle will get you a silver medal for assault rifles that gives you a bunch of experience. This survival mode would be fairly typical if it wasn't for the missions that randomly come into play sometime during the ten waves. One wave may have an assassinate four targets kind of a mission or a hacking terminals mission, all of which are optional but give you credits and experience if you complete them. Take a look at some gameplay I took of multiplayer below. The first half is with the Soldier class and the second half with the Sentinel class. Skip to two minutes in to go straight to the action, first chunk is showing some of the customization options.

This multiplayer portion of Mass Effect 3 probably wouldn't be much on it's own, but it is surprisingly fun and not awful at all. On top of the hefty single player experience this is a very nice extra addition, especially if it ties into singleplayer somehow like Bioware said it would. You can download the demo for PS3, Xbox 360 or PC (requires Origin), check that out here, and the actual game comes out March 6th. Thanks for reading and be back shortly with some more. 

-Written by Sean Cargle


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