Mass Effect 3 preview [Xbox 360/PS3/PC] « BeefJack – The Gamer’s Sauce

Preview: The stakes in MASS EFFECT 3 are just as high for BioWare as they are for Commander Shepard. The war for the galaxy has begun and will now be fought in the multiplayer arena as well. Read on to see what’s in store for the conclusion to the epic sci-fi trilogy.

It’s enough of a challenge to write a character that stays compelling over the course of a game. Leave it to BioWare to make Commander Shepard work across three. And not only that, they’ve had to write him/her several times over because of the Paragon/Renegade dynamic, the branching story paths, and – oh yes – that him/her part.

Then there’s the fact that Mass Effect 2 could potentially end with the death of Shepard and all his squadmates, all variables that need to be accounted for. I’d hate to be a writer at BioWare right now. (Actually, I’d love that. Call me.)

Mass Effect 3 opens on the one place the galaxy-spanning series hasn’t set foot yet: Earth. Shepard is back with the Alliance, but not under the best of terms. he (or she, but let’s stick with one pronoun) is standing trial for what happened at the end of The Arrival, a piece of DLC designed to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 2 and 3. At the DLC’s conclusion, an asteroid was redirected to destroy a mass relay the Reapers could have used to invade, but the resulting detonation came at the price of 300,000 batarian lives.

All the same, Shepard still needs to convince the Alliance that the Reapers are a threat. They stubbornly refuse to accept the existence of a malevolent race of machines hell-bent on galactic extinction, but then they’re proven wrong in the worst way possible. The Reapers begin their genocidal war on the galaxy with a full-scale invasion of Earth, laying waste to its cities and forcing a massive evacuation. Going against his instinct, Shepard must flee Earth so he can band the races of the galaxy together and find a way to take down the Reapers before it’s too late.

This means more of what we loved in Mass Effect 2, except Shepard isn’t recruiting squadmates as much as marshalling entire civilisations and their armies. Ongoing conflicts that were only represented through interpersonal squabbles (the krogan hatred towards the salarians or the ongoing struggle between the quarians and the geth) will now need to be fully resolved in order to seek unity against a common enemy. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the human-survivalist organisation Cerberus, whom Shepard used to work with, has turned against him and even seems to be allied with the Reapers.

The stakes have never been higher, and this is reflected in the different endgames as well. Even under the worst possible circumstances, Mass Effect 2 still ended with the Collector threat dealt with. In Mass Effect 3, it’ll be entirely possible for Shepard to do so badly that the Reapers will win.

The various outcomes hinge on a system called ‘Galactic Readiness’, which is measured by the nature and sum of all the assets Shepard manages to rally in the war against the Reapers.

Since BioWare consider Mass Effect 3 a conclusion to Shepard’s story (but not the Mass Effect property as a whole), they can provide absolute closure without having to worry about a next entry in the franchise. And this is a galactic war we’re talking about, so they’re upping the scale on all fronts. Case in point: a Thresher Maw fighting a Reaper and an all-new soundtrack by Clint Mansell of ‘Lux Aeterna’ fame.

Still, Executive Producer Casey Hudson insists that Mass Effect 3 won’t lose itself in its own grandiosity: “The trick is to keep everything close to Shepard. huge battle scenes may lack soul, but not when they’re a direct result of your actions,” he’s said.

As the Mass Effect story and the choices that shaped it flow into Mass Effect 3, so do the lessons BioWare have learned from the way the game is played. Mass Effect 1 was very much an RPG with shooter elements, and Mass Effect 2 reversed that focus. Now it seems BioWare are offering a choice from the word go, with an overt selection of three distinct play styles: Action, story and RPG.

Action does away with dialogue choices while story offers only a minimal combat difficulty, and RPG lies between the two, positioning itself closest to the Mass Effect experience we’re familiar with.

The Gears of War-like combat is being updated as well, with a more refined cover system and a set of melee takedowns specific to each player class (the combination of which even allows for stealth kills). Character development has been deepened, with each skill levelling up along a single path and ultimately branching off into two mutually exclusive paths. Weapons are now far more customisable, with scopes and barrels easily swapped out on weapon benches to suit any given situation.

This time around, Shepard’s story isn’t the only one being told.  The stage of an entire galaxy at war has allowed BioWare to include a co-operative multiplayer mode, a first for the series. The cleverly named ‘Galaxy at War’ sees four players working together to complete mission-specific scenarios reminiscent of the venerable horde mode. Players can choose between several races, including asari, drell, krogans, salarians, and turians, though no characters from the singleplayer campaign will bleed into the multiplayer.

BioWare want to ensure that Galaxy at War isn’t some cobbled together cash-in bolted on as a marketing afterthought. The multiplayer missions are all narratively linked to the singleplayer campaign and depict battles that are being waged towards defeating the Reapers. as such, Shepard’s Galactic Readiness can be influenced by making progress in the co-operative arena. BioWare have assured fans that the multiplayer experience will be additive when played, but not subtractive when ignored by those who only wish to focus on the singleplayer campaign.

So, we finally bring the fight to the Reapers and hope to end their cycle of extinction before it ends us all. each version of the Mass Effect story truly is unique, told across multiple games with choices and their consequences resonating all throughout. Did you save the rachni queen or kill it? Did you spare the Collector base or destroy it? two more months and you’ll get to find out to what extent you’ve already screwed yourself over before even pressing ‘New game’.

Mass Effect 3, from BioWare, will be released on March 6th in North America and March 9th in Europe for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Mass Effect 3 preview [Xbox 360/PS3/PC] « BeefJack – The Gamer’s Sauce


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