Mass Effect 3 Level Design? (spoilers)

#1 Posted by Shakeyhands (32 posts) -

Just played the entire series one through three. I have listened to the Bombcast and read many reviews of Mass Effect 3, and I not yet noticed any complaints about the level design. Just making sure I am not the only one here. I thought the level design in many missions was terrible. It didn't give you great direction. Most of the time you couldn't even view a map. I felt at times, like when you were at the Illusive Man's hanger, trying to launch that fighter into that door. The final button you have to press is like down the ladder to your right. Completely out of the way, not obvious at all. I ended up running around for three more minutes trying to find it. Later on in that mission you are being lead down all of these halls that have videos of EDI, you, and Kai Lang on them and as you are fallowing these trails of videos, it leads you to a dead end (even though you are suppose to be rushing through the level, trying to get back to protect the crucible) and I ended up running around, trying to hop over ledges and stuff for like five minutes. There are many other examples, Did you guys feel this way too? Just super curious.

#2 Posted by Oscar__Explosion (2244 posts) -

In all three games I don't remember having issues with the level design.

#3 Posted by Village_Guy (2546 posts) -

I don't remember having any problems, I think the level design was actually rather bland and straight-forward, not leaving enough space to explore (especially in three).

#4 Posted by Matt_F606 (306 posts) -

I think for me the worst designed level was the early krogan female mission. Working your way up the levels of the building it was often difficult to know which way to go.

#5 Posted by Legion_ (1270 posts) -

There's not a lot of room for error in how the levels are built, so I'll say this one is on you.

#6 Posted by adam1808 (1452 posts) -

I had more of a problem with how the levels were paced as a result of the level design. They dragged on and on, with combat being the primary focus. It was equal parts boring and frustrating.

#7 Posted by Rebel_Scum (685 posts) -

The problem I had with ME3 level design (and to a lesser extent ME2) was how it catered the environment to cover based shooting big time. The amount of hip height unnatural looking walls/environment that sticks out kinda ruined the level design for me.

#8 Posted by Matt_F606 (306 posts) -

@adam1808 said:

I had more of a problem with how the levels were paced as a result of the level design. They dragged on and on, with combat being the primary focus. It was equal parts boring and frustrating.

I agree with that. It seemed as if the motto was "When in doubt send in a another enemy squad!"

#9 Posted by dr_mantas (1838 posts) -

Yeah, a map would have helped a bit, I suppose.

I guess I'm inclined to explore every level in a game, so I find everything else before actually going the way you're supposed to go.

#10 Posted by StarvingGamer (8150 posts) -

I had none of these issues.

#11 Posted by m16mojo2 (295 posts) -

@Rebel_Scum said:

The problem I had with ME3 level design (and to a lesser extent ME2) was how it catered the environment to cover based shooting big time. The amount of hip height unnatural looking walls/environment that sticks out kinda ruined the level design for me.

Yeah, same here. I think Mass Effect suffered from "The Matrix" effect. One was by far the best. Two was, eh. And three was, "Oh god, no more!"

#12 Posted by mordukai (7150 posts) -

@Legion_ said:

There's not a lot of room for error in how the levels are built, so I'll say this one is on you.

#13 Edited by phrosnite (3518 posts) -

Mass Effect 3 has the best level design of the three games. The fault is in you...

@m16mojo2 said:

Yeah, same here. I think Mass Effect suffered from "The Matrix" effect. One was by far the best. Two was, eh. And three was, "Oh god, no more!"

I couldn't disagree more.

#14 Posted by Legion_ (1270 posts) -

@phrosnite said:

Mass Effect 3 has the best level design of the three games. The fault is in you...

@m16mojo2 said:

Yeah, same here. I think Mass Effect suffered from "The Matrix" effect. One was by far the best. Two was, eh. And three was, "Oh god, no more!"

I couldn't disagree more.

There's certainly no bad Mass Effect game. In my opinion Mass Effect 2 is the best game as a whole. Mass Effect 3 on the other hand is certainly the best playing game in series. I really like the story in the first game, and the tone is super Star Trek-ish.

All in all, I'd say it's a triangle. Mass Effect 2 on top, with Mass Effect 3 and 1 being equally brilliant.

#15 Posted by joshthebear (2700 posts) -

Man, the Mass Effect series is so tragic. It started out fucking amazing in 1, then catered to the majority for 2, and finally crapped the bed with 3.

#16 Posted by UlquioKani (1046 posts) -

People talking about the Mass Effect franchise as a whole being shit and/or tragic. Not the topic of discussion here.

On Topic: I agree with you that compared to other games, the level design isn't all that interesting but it's competent and the combat keeps the action sections of the games interesting.

#17 Posted by RVonE (4633 posts) -

I agree that ME3 has some poor level design but not for the reason you mentioned; I really don't think it's a good thing when a game holds your hand and continuously makes it obvious which direction to go in. What I don't like about ME3's level design is how it all devolved into a sequence of corridors.

#18 Posted by Brodehouse (9877 posts) -

Ironically I think the multiplayer has some extremely well designed maps (and a couple stinkers).

When I think of the best designed maps in the series, most of them are from 2. Mordin's recruitment, Thane's recruitment, Jack's recruitment. The mission on Horizon is great because it shows off larger areas than usual, and it really opens the game up for some playstyles that don't work elsewhere. I would like the maps in 1 more, but the gameplay is so terrible that you can hardly appreciate the maps. I suppose the Base 15 part of Noveria was alright.

If I were to think of the best maps in 3... I thought Mars was pretty good, the Citadel Attack is interesting, the Ardat Yakshi monastery has some nice side spaces. I think I like the mission on Thessia just for the vermillion and orange sky, something about that works for me.

#19 Posted by FreakAche (2953 posts) -

Meh... it just felt a lot like the Mass Effect 2 level design, albeit with less of the big open areas.

#20 Posted by AngelN7 (2970 posts) -

@Brodehouse: Dude how could you forget the Geth consensus, I thought that was the most interesting level in 3 though you're right some of the best in the series are in 2 (though I really like Noveria in the first game) and I like Menae in 3 most of all by the esthetics and landscape than the acutal mission.

#21 Posted by Brodehouse (9877 posts) -
@AngelN7 I'm talking map design as it relates to gameplay in addition to aesthetics. The geth consensus was very pretty, but extremely shallow from a gameplay standpoint. It also requires you to move what feels extremely slowly which is always a turnoff (this is why the rachni mission is terrible, having to walk slowly and stand still while burning things).

From a narrative-gameplay level, I think Jack's loyalty mission is extremely well done in how it breaks off environmental story, cutscenes, light spurts of combat and basic movement and navigation, it's also extremely pretty. But I wouldn't necessarily point to the map design as being super interesting in a gameplay sense. Now, Mordin's loyalty mission (which may also be the best hour of Mass Effect altogether) has great map designs in addition to how well it handles all those other elements.

I actually pay a lot of attention to map design in these kind of games because it helps when I'm designing maps for my tabletop games. You figure out how to switch between corridors, open spaces, how to emphasize movement, how to highlight effective choke points, and so on.
#22 Posted by Mnemoidian (955 posts) -

@Brodehouse: Yeah, I agree on the Multiplayer - overall, I think they've done a great job designing the multiplayer maps. They aren't so interesting when you encounter them in the main game, but most of them are very interesting when played in the intended setting (multiplayer). Most of them have a lot of interesting side-corridors for flanking and escape... there's a lot of cover, but also a lot of places where you (and the enemy) can invalidate said cover by use of higher ground.

It's been a long time since I played the Mass Effect 3 singleplayer, but... besides the whole Gears of War issue of "Hey, there's a bunch of waist-high cover in this room - I bet I'll do some shooting here!", I can't remember any issues of getting lost or finding it directly uninspired.

It's interesting how many are so dismissive of the combat in Mass Effect, meanwhile, I've easily put 100 hours into the multiplayer, just because of how satisfying it is. Sure, there are some stickiness issues witht eh whole "run on the same button as take cover", but that's generally something that you learn how to deal with :)

#23 Posted by AngelN7 (2970 posts) -

@Brodehouse: Interesting, I usually don't caught on subtle details in levels (and even those who are not subtle) and the ones that stand out to me are those where you are in a "weird" enviroment playing with new or different mechanics like the Tranquility Lane quest in Fallout 3.

#24 Posted by djou (874 posts) -

@Shakeyhands: I remember these two spots you are referring. I don't think the design was necessarily bad, just narrow and bland. There's the expectation you play it in a specific way, moving from conveniently laid out cover point to cover point. My standard practice would be to enter a corridor/closed space, pause the game to figure out where the enemy choke point is, then set up my squad in cover and hammer them from a distance. I would rotate around a room moving from point to point. I got lost in this hanger also, but I replayed the game on veteran and had less problems. I saw the two Atluses move in a clockwise circle from their entry point, I just followed their movement eventually destroying the second right near the ladder to the button. The first time I did it I tried my own thing and got hung up on a few low cover spots where they killed me.

I'm replaying the series now on PC and I'm pleasantly surprised at the progression of the level design. ME1 has crap combat and the cover system is finnicky. I've died a bunch of times because my character wouldn't crouch it the spot I directed. Most of the time I'm not sure where I should be in cover to engage enemies and my squad mates often get in the way of my shot. Each of the games iterated on the gameplay until the point of the ME3 multiplayer which has the best gameplay in the series. Too bad they couldn't take that team, assets, and ideas and actually make the single player part better.

#25 Posted by Brodehouse (9877 posts) -
@Mnemoidian agreed, I find that multiplayer to be a great interpretation of Mass Effect when it's running on full cylinders. I also agree about 'stickiness', it's really the problem with Mass Effect is the propensity to get stunlocked through stumbles and basic lack of mobility, enemies that are just too spongey like Atlas and Banshees or the annoying down-then-up-then-down-then-up revival stuff that happens in the later rounds. There are moments when your shields are draining, refilling, draining and refilling while you just _keep shooting_ in a crew with your other 3 guys that feel exactly like combat described in the Mass Effect novels; a great mix of order and chaos, all the tech, biotics and military descriptions you read about, your asari team member is blasting fools away with Shockwave, the krogan soldier up front charging people, you pop your tac-cloak to revive the engineer while his drone is shocking the enemies advancing on you. It sounds like combat as described in the books, it feels undeniably 'Mass Effect'.
#26 Edited by haggis (1677 posts) -

I definitely didn't have a problem with getting lost due to bad level design. It always seemed obvious (maybe a little too obvious) where I was supposed to go next. Level design isn't the strong point of the series and never has been---they've always been linear levels with straightforward goals, and hubs when it comes to exploration. I don't think it got better as the games went on, but I don't think they got worse, either.

#27 Posted by Cerevisiae (75 posts) -

Nah, I thought the level design of Mass Effect 3 was the best in the series. Mass Effect 2's was the worst, with way too many levels feeling like warehouses full of boxes and they all look just the same. Mass Effect 1 had some good levels (Virmire, Ilos, and the Citadel both before and during the attack), but it also had some craptastic levels like Therum, Feros, and pretty much every side mission planet.

I just think the level designers nailed it in terms of making the levels feel like what they are supposed to be. The Ardat-Yakshi monastery is a great example of it. The levels themselves told a story. I liked that.

#28 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3228 posts) -

There's certainly a problem with the level design. It's obtuse in places. Sleepy Dogs has this problem periodically (just playing it now) but at least it's an open world game. The path your expected to take just isn't clear enough in places. I remember a sequence in ME3 where you have to keep dodging out of a hallway to avoid some kind of deadly wave or security thing - I was constantly forgetting which way was forward and which was back.

I think you don't hear about it because 1) reviewers generally don't talk about design issues unless they're extreme 2) the more "sensational" problems (story) are, well, more sensational. More "interesting," you might say, to some.

#29 Posted by MildMolasses (3219 posts) -

@Rebel_Scum said:

The problem I had with ME3 level design (and to a lesser extent ME2) was how it catered the environment to cover based shooting big time. The amount of hip height unnatural looking walls/environment that sticks out kinda ruined the level design for me.

That's the kind of thing you have to suspend disbelief for. There is no way to constantly provide cover without some amount of it seeming completely illogical. It's an inherent design flaw in modern tps

#30 Posted by PSNgamesun (406 posts) -

Felt like there was no room for mistakes so I agree with some people here, its on u bro.

Aside from that I felt the ME series began great and improved with 2 and stayed the same with 3 with some improvements and suffered from other areas. Either way I love this series and I for one cant wait for another game in the ME universe.

#31 Posted by Rebel_Scum (685 posts) -

@Cerevisiae said:

The Ardat-Yakshi monastery is a great example of it. The levels themselves told a story. I liked that.

Thats a very good point however I find that level is exactly what I found wrong with ME3's level design. Unnecessary, unnatural looking sticky out cover spots. As well as zero in terms of exploration as its mostly linear corridors. That being said there some nice looking levels but ME1 had the exploration part that really made it interesting. e.g. Noveria, Feros, Virmire, Ilos, Bring down the Sky dlc. You had to travel and explore the planet, not just get dropped off at some facility and mission starts in the corridors.

#32 Posted by Cold_Wolven (2216 posts) -

Some of the side quests levels felt ripped straight out of a multiplayer level which I didn't appreciate.

#33 Posted by Brendan (7768 posts) -

I didn't have any problems with the level design, and in fact I didn't think it was different than in ME 2. Both 2 and 3 were better than 1 though. 1 consisted of equally/mostly linear combat levels and copy and pasted rooms in all but the main story missions.

#34 Posted by Hitchenson (4682 posts) -

@m16mojo2 said:

Yeah, same here. I think Mass Effect suffered from "The Matrix" effect. One was by far the best. Two was, eh. And three was, "Oh god, no more!"

This is exactly how I feel.

#35 Posted by LikeaSsur (1513 posts) -

I actually didn't have any problem with any Mass Effect "level" in any of the games. In fact, I never really noticed them in particular. I guess that could be seen as good or bad.

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