E3: Mass Effect 3


BioWare reveals why it thinks Mass Effect 3 will be the best game in the trilogy.

Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were two highly-praised games with very different shortfalls that left them open to criticism. With Mass Effect 3, BioWare hopes to get the porridge just right so that it doesn’t burn any RPG fans’ mouths with too much action, and also isn’t too cold for those that prefer shooting to pumping up stats.

Sporting a medium-sized ‘fro, executive producer Casey Hudson presented a behind-closed-doors demo of three Mass Effect 3 gameplay sections at E3 2011. Just to go over the basics: Earth has been ravaged by Reapers and Shepard is the only one that can save the planet. To do so, he has to bring back the space fleets of every species in the galaxy.

The first gameplay section was already shown at EA’s E3 press conference. In it, Shepard is attempting to take down a Reaper base. Cerberus forces try to stop him from making his way to a Reaper silo of sorts, but the plebes don’t have the gusto. Shepard uses a laser to paint an inactive Reaper inside the silo, which brings down an air strike from the Normandy. This only angers the Reaper, which chases Shepard through the environment as Shepard fires a turret at it from the topside of a little ship. It ends before the situation is resolved, but it becomes obvious that Reapers are hard to kill.

The second section featured Shepard and squadmates attempting to save a diplomat with the power to bring two civilizations together. This was in a residential area and more focused on the troop blasting that we’ve seen in previous Mass Effect entries. Many a new addition was to be found here. New attacks include Shepard’s Omni Blade, a melee weapon that brutally stabs foes from up close, and hand grenades. Shepard will now move around more dynamically by climbing, falling, and jumping across gaps. At the end of the level, an enemy Cerberus Atlas appears, which is a huge mech with an explosive cannon as an armament. The Atlas won’t only be a foe, but a vehicle that Shepard can climb inside to own his enemies with mech-sized glee.

The third section followed Shepard as he escapes from Earth after the Reaper attack. While Shepard blasted plenty of the game’s new bubbly-looking Husks, combat wasn’t the focus here. Instead, it was the storyline and apparent emphasis on emotion. Amongst the ruins of Earth, Shepard finds a young male child in a ventilation shaft. Shepard tries to help the kid, but the youth climbs away through the vent when Shepard gets distracted. Once Shepard summons the Normandy to pick him up so he can go off and save the galaxy, Shepard watches the boy from get onto a human rescue ship from afar. The ship is then destroyed by a Reaper blast in mid-air. Shepard looks on coldly, almost too much so, but it’s obvious that BioWare is trying to make you feel a bit more with this scene.

Each section demonstrated the improved cinematic quality of Mass Effect 3, which seamlessly combines cutscenes with gameplay and dialog. However, the Mass Effect series is also about a host of underlying RPG elements, which have been expanded upon after what some would call the lighter RPG feel of Mass Effect 2. Equipment-wise, BioWare showed off a new weapon modification system where players collect mods during battle or purchase them in shops to customize existing weapons right on the battlefield if they wish. Weapons have statistics such as fire rate, accuracy, and stability, all of which can be improved by these mods. Don’t worry though, as it’s not looking like we’ll have to go through the mod-sorting hell of the original Mass Effect again with this system.

BioWare has also improved character customization. There are not only new abilities, but the paths that players take in improving these abilities have been significantly expanded. For example, leveling up Combat Mastery can now be done through multiple branches. One branch increases weapon damage, another increases squadmate damage, another recharge speed, and another headshots. These choices are meant to give players the power to play exactly the type of character they want within each of Mass Effect 3‘s classes (which weren’t mentioned).

Other than these new elements, everything else looked similar to Mass Effect 2 for now. The power wheel to assign moves is still intact, as are the names and health bars above enemy heads during combat. Hudson said that Mass Effect 3 will be the trilogy’s “main event,” and because it’s the best game in the series will also be a great place for new players to jump in. For a game the carries over so many choices from its predecessors, I don’t really understand the statement, but we’ll find out if BioWare is doing anything specific to bring new players up to speed closer to Mass Effect 3‘s March 6, 2012 release date, I’m sure.

Mass Effect 3 is coming to the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

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