After protecting the galaxy for over 400+ hours from the Reapers, Geth, Cerberus and Collectors, I think it's time to put down my M-6 Carnifex and take up a pen. These are my thoughts on the galaxy at war.
When Mass Effect 3 multiplayer was announced I had some questions swimming through my head. Why another multiplayer horde mode? Will this detract from the quality of the single player? At one point there was news circulating about the “best ending” being tied to how much multiplayer you played. While a controversial move on Biowares part, it wasn’t really needed as long as you completed most of the side quests and dabbled online a tiny bit.
I remember going online for the first time selecting a Male Engineer and thinking to myself I'll play till my galaxy is fully prepared. That way I'm guaranteed to get the best ending. Along the way I would go for trophies I could not get as my Soldier Shepard, like burning enemies with Incinerate. After getting those trophies I would call it quits and never play online again. While that was the plan, things changed later on.
It was alright, a simple diversion from the main game at best. Ten waves of enemies, three missions, and extraction. Just kill enemies, do the missions, and done, simple. Nothing really stood out to me. One thing I enjoyed was seeing my “Playstation ID [Insert weapon name] (Insert dead enemy type)” that popped up in the bottom right corner every time I downed an enemy. It's simple feed back, that made every kill a bit more tangible and rewarding. A few times while playing single player I would stare at the bottom right corner hoping “Shepard[Black Widow]Banshee” would pop up.
What baffled me about the online was its random card system for item, weapon, and characters distribution. By complete mission objects (three per game) you accumulated credits to purchase these packs. Another way to purchase these packs was by using actual money. They were arranged from the cheap basic pack to the more expensive premium packs that had a higher chance of rare cards. Four out of five of the cards were often one time use items. They ranged from single use med-packs or equipment that provided powerful ammo powers. After acquiring enough credits I purchased a Premium Specter Pack. Inside was a M-76 Revenant light machine gun that had terrible recoil but made incredibly satisfying gun noise. It just sounded meaty, anything in-front of it would be torn up.
Most of the time I was a lone wolf. The commando who ran around doing things solo. I was skilled enough to do things for myself, but having 2 – 3 other players was the way to go. Most of the time other players would help me back up if I was taken out. Occasionally you get a group of players who just can't handle the enemies. Overall I've had mostly positive experience with other players. But there were those games that made me want to yell because how lazy some players were. Players who did nothing but run from enemies expecting someone else to do the work. At one point I was so good people would ask me to play with them out of nowhere in my mailbox. I always answered no. There where people who wanted to be my PSN friend. I gladly added them and then accepted their games. The intention of people asking for games is obvious, “your good! Get me credits while I run around!” People who ask to be friends first show they actually want to play seriously and actually help out.
I stopped playing for a while thinking I should go and finish Mass Effect 3. After getting that Platinum trophy I decided to go back and play a little more multiplayer for the hell of it. It was my 4th or 6th Premium specter pack when I got my Geth Infiltrator. My online experience changed for the better once I saw that golden card.
Legion. I named my Geth Infiltrator Legion, after the geth who helps in the main game. A tribute really, since Legion sacrificed himself in order to give the Geth collective true sentience. At least that's how it played out in my game. Anyways, playing as Legion was something else. I turned on Hunter Mode and could see my enemies through walls. Their bright red silhouettes were just waiting for my sniper bullets. It was a blast. Knowing my enemies position, getting ready to put a bullet in their head, and just having that edge on the battlefield really made a significant difference in my appreciation of the online.
Soon I found myself on Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer forums searching for Geth Infiltrator builds. Proximity mines coupled with Tactical Cloak proved to be my favorite way to demolish my adversaries. Cloak turns on, fire mine, fire another mine, three enemies die, repeat. It was so satisfying watching my score double my allies. It was around this time I was confident enough to play on the more difficult Silver level missions. I found the challenge refreshing.
It wasn't just Legion that kept me playing, soon I acquired a a Drell adept who I named Thane. Another tribute, for another character I loved in Mass Effect 2 and 3. While not as fun as Legion. Thane's glass-cannon quality made him an interesting character to use. His fragility, while hard to get used to, was a great trade-off for his incredibly powerful Pull and Reave combo.
Playing as something other than a human in the Mass Effect universe was magical. For as much as I love solving all of the galaxies problems as Shepard, stepping into the shoes of different species allowed me to imagine what It's like being the other heroes in the main game. I wasn't just Geth Infiltrator, I was Legion. I wasn't just Drell Adept, I was Thane Krios. It was therapeutic. I had lost some of my favorite Mass Effect characters in the single player, but their spirit lives on fighting the good fight. Guess what my Salarian Engineer was named? Yup... Mordin.
A few weeks later Bioware put out Mass Effect 3: Earth DLC. It added 3 new maps, but more importantly, it added six N7 operatives. The most surprising thing about these N7 warriors was how varied they were. None of them played like any other human class.
- N7 Destroyer soldier was the first one I unlocked. Turning on Destroyer Mode increased weapon accuracy and damage at the expense of mobility. A turret with legs is the best way to describe him. Wielding the N7 Piranha shotgun, I fearlessly ran up to Brutes, Banshees, Atlas mechs, and unleashed a storm of bullets. I had a good time with the
- N7 Fury, the second kit I unlocked. Biotic Explosions, and slowly draining health was her expertise.
- N7 Shadow was my “cheap-tactics” character. Players could literally hide behind a wall and fire Electric Slashes through walls. While overpowered and a boring to play, it certainly made farming credits on Gold Difficulty easier. I believe Bioware changed map lay outs to prevent Shadows and Slayers from exploiting environments.
- N7 Slayer. The nice thing about him was playing on Bronze and Silver where he mops up most enemies with his Phase Disruptor power and Biotoic Charge. Gold level Slayer use was difficult but not impossible.
- N7 Paladin surprised me with how fun he was to use. I maxed out his Snap Freeze and Energy drain powers, and the Cyro Explosion havoc began. Frozen enemies with barriers and shields would shatter into tiny pieces after casting Energy Drain on them. Finally, being an
- N7 Demolisher boiled down to me setting up base near an ammo container and hurling grenades at the coming hordes. By far, some of the best times I had protecting the Earth from the Reapers. It even justified some of the weirder story set up for Mass Effect 3.
One of the problems I had with Mass Effect 3's story was how urgent it portrayed Earth's situation. Earth should have been a pile of ash by the time Shepard was ready to protect it. It's strange that the multiplayer finally resolved my issue. Knowing that the elite N7 units exist to protect humanity, justified Earth's continued existence. It's kinda crazy that DLC for the multiplayer has helped me get over that strange sticking point.
I thought Bioware out did themselves with Earth DLC. All the new characters, maps, and equipment were fantastic. Playing as these badass N7 characters and the various alien races kept me wanting more crazy and great things for multiplayer. Bioware has given me the power to destroy enemies forces as Geth, Turian, Asari, Drell, Quarian,Salarian , and N7 troops. How could they possibly top that? Well Mass Effect 3: Retaliation DLC answered that question.
Bioware decided to pull all stop with Retaliation. Adding new “hazard” maps, new weaponry, new equipment, new characters, a new difficulty level, a new challenge title/banner system, and the threat of Mass Effect 2's Collectors again to flesh out the online even more. Hazard maps were a twist on older maps that added environmental dangers. I found myself running away from a swirling swarm of insects that drain shields and eventually left me dead. Among my favorite character classes they added were the Turian Ghost and the Geth Trooper. Imagine Garrus (which I named most of my Turrians) activating Tactical Cloak... but then flies into the air with jet packs and slam his opponent with an omni-blade! Satisfying, so satisfying. My Geth Trooper activated his Flamer power (which is basically a flamethrower) to annihilate the Collector threat. While probably a minor change, the title/banner system gave players something to work for. By earning enough points in specific categories (kills with certain weapons, power use, map completion, etc) players could unlock banners to decorate their player decal. The first challenge title/banner I earned was the Mathemagician title, coupled by a slick looking omni-tool banner. It may have been the tiniest part of the DLC, but added much needed personality to each player.
The addition of Collectors was probably the most significant change in the online. While the Collectors shared some of the weaknesses of the Reapers, they had an unrelenting quality that was overwhelming at times. Never get too close to any of the Collectors' troops, that's the best advice I could give to anyone. Their basic troops and captains will start slashing anyone who gets too close. Swarms would prevent power use if they manage to reach a character. Abominations will explode after death. Even worse is when any of the troops become possessed. Possessed units gain barriers, improved speed, and other deadly surprises.
In one last DLC, Bioware decided to give players a chance to dabble with some interesting characters that I never thought I would get the chance to play as. The Reckoning DLC introduced the Krogan Warlord who would demolish enemies with his war hammer. The Cabal Vanguard is a female Turian that didn't have biotic charge, a staple of any Vanguards load out. Instead she possessed poisoned claws and a dash attack that I looks like Wolverine's berserker barrage. Cover is always your friend in Mass Effect, but the Geth Juggernaut would have you thinking otherwise. Jugs, as I affectionately call him, had so much health and shields you could slowly walk (since he can't run or sprint) around the battlefield soaking up damage for the squad. To top it off, his heavy melee absorbs enemies shields/barriers while neutralizing smaller targets by lifting them off the ground.
Before I talk about the other characters I need to mention Operation Tribute. With the passing of Zaeed's voice actor Robin Sachs Bioware enacted the online operation to commemorate him. Players needed to earn a certain amount of points using the M-8 Avenger and Inferno Grenades in order to unlock the Operation Tribute banner. Mass Effect fans will notice that the M-8 Avenger is Zaeed's favorite assault rifle and that Inferno Grenades are his exclusive power.
Not only was he honored through the operation, but a new character in Reckoning called the Talon Mercenary seems to be a tribute to Zaeed himself. A bounty hunter armed with powerful trip mines and a deadly omni-bow, the Talon Mercenary shared many visual similarities to Zaeed. I found it touching that Bioware went out of their way to commemorate Robin Sachs.
Now the last two characters introduced with Reckoning. Probably my new favorite character , playing as the Alliance Infiltration Unit allowed me to feel what it was like to be EDI. That's right, the AIU is basically EDI's body but sporting some deadly powers. By using a combination of Snap Freeze, Tactical Cloak, and a shotgun, I was able to beat some platinum matches (with the help of some other skill allies of course). But the biggest surprise was not playing as what was essentially EDI, it was playing as the Awakened Collector Adept. The story justification involved something about Leviathan and reapers and vengeance and go read the wiki article to fill you in http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_3_Multiplayer/Character_Customization/Adept#Awakened_Collector_Adept. Now Imagine the power of one pissed off collector throwing giant balls of energy, that would debuff enemies and does some sizable damage overtime. I never thought I would get the chance to play as a Collector, let alone one so powerful.
Looking back at Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer I can't help but feel like it's become something of it's own. At first many Mass Effect fans saw it as nothing but an unneeded addition. After the Resurgence and Rebellion DLC packs came out for free, some fans change their opinion. Free DLC, continued support, thanks Bioware! Those two packs came out before I started so I can't really comment on them. It was the Earth and Retaliation that made me fall in love with the online. With these free DLC packs out, the online truly differentiates itself from the main game. It can stand on it's own as a unique experience that doesn't feel “tacked on.” Don't get me wrong Shepard and company' adventures have been incredible experiences, but the satisfaction of knowing I'm the reason Earth and the planets across the galaxy are safe keep me coming back for more. Venturing planet to planet in a four man squad completely destroying waves of enemies makes me feel like the most powerful soldier in the galaxy. Sure Shepard may be Mass Effect's true hero, but my strike team agents are keeping planets safe from the encroaching threats. If it wasn't for all the online troops keeping things in check, Shepard would have nothing to save.
As I finish this strange memoir of my Mass Effect 3 multiplayer experience I can't help but wonder what's next for Mass Effect. Whatever the future holds for this epic science fiction series I wish it the best. Thanks Bioware for giving me a shared experience in the Mass Effect universe and supporting it with tons of free DLC.
What are your thoughts, memories, experiences on Mass Effect 3's multiplayer? Feel free to share in the comments below.