Note: This article was written prior to the official news about the release-day DLC – I have decided to post it anyway, because the demo itself had a lot to love. However, I do not support EA’s decision to release content this way, and am as of now not going to be buying on release day. I stand by my opinion that the demo was fun and that the game will likely be excellent, but I will no longer be buying on release day unless there is significant revision to the DLC decision.
Back in 2007, a little game was released by Bioware. Toted as an action roleplaying game, Mass Effect was a game that not only let you change your own character, but the path of the storyline itself. Be a magnanimous hero or be a hard nosed, no BS rebel – it was up to you. Did I mention that you’re doing all of this in space?
I love this franchise. Despite whatever misgivings the general community may have about the tweaks that Bioware and/or EA have decided to make, the demo further convinced me that Mass Effect 3 is going to be a winner. Here are three reasons that I won’t be turning my XBox off for the next month or so, starting March 6th.
Minor spoilers after the cut.
1. Earth. Finally.
The journey as Shepard has taken us all over the galaxy – to gorgeous planets that we roamed in a gravity defying rover and those that we could only read about in the codex. Earth’s entry is curiously without detail, either for redundancy control or to keep us guessing. Now, all that time only reading about it in the papers, we’re finally seeing Earth. …right before it gets blown to hell. It’s like getting a call from an old friend right as they get into a car crash. Nothing gets your blood going like seeing entire continents go up in flames. Take Earth back? Hell yes.
Is the drama a little over the top? Of course. Shepard gets some choice one-liners about saving the galaxy and strikes a hero pose when she (or he) should be running for her life, the diplomats on Earth are predictably pigheaded about the arrival of the Reapers… but this is a space opera of the Bioware variety. A little melodrama is part of the fun.
2. Your choices take you in less obvious directions.
In the beginning of the demo, Shepard is faced with a child hiding in an air duct. With the world crashing down around you, you offer to save him – either with compassion or sternness. The games have always been about choices – do you let the Council live or die? Do you kick this guy out the window, or spare him? Do you throttle Conrad Verner with a rifle butt, or give him an autograph? Regardless of its magnitude, each outcome was something you controlled. In the demo for ME3, we see a slight change that I think is far more meaningful than being able to tug your alignment meter one way or the other: the ability to make choices that don’t matter.
In other games this would be a bad thing, and it’s often cited as an annoyance; in games like Dragon Age, you make a decision to say or do something, get one line of dialogue that mildly reacts to your character, and then the story plows on its way. That’s the case far less often in Mass Effect, and it makes it that much more jarring when it does. Despite being a hero, sometimes there’s nothing you can do, no matter how hard you try.
Maybe this was a one-off decision by the writers, or something we’ll only see in the demo, but I like to think that the demo is showcasing only a taste of what it has to offer. If the storytelling continues in these more ambiguous ways, I think we’ll find the story much more rewarding, and surprising.
As if I wasn’t already going to be sinking 30+ hours into this game, Bioware’s added a ridiculously addictive multiplayer mode for me to sink my life into. At its core, it’s nothing new – we’ve all played games like Call of Duty‘s famous zombie mode, or Gears of War‘s hoarde mode. But we can all readily agree that an action RPG like Mass Effect isn’t the first place you’d look for a cooperative multiplayer mode on.
I was skeptical at first, but it works. Perks come not only in the form of usable items like medigel and different ammo types, but abilities – and that’s where the fun lies. I’m a big fan of charge and shockwave, myself, but with six different classes, there are all sorts of different ways for games to play out, particularly with different team compositions. I’ve already spent more time than is probably healthy in multiplayer mode, long after I completed the demo campaign. I expect more of the same once I’ve gotten the Long Service Medal achievement in the full game.
It’s true that I’m already a fan of the Mass Effect series – and that might make me a bit biased. But regardless of whatever misgivings I or the community might have about the changes in the third part of the trilogy, I think that there are good things ahead. We’ll find out on March 6th – and I’m sure that after some good time in front of the TV, I’ll have plenty more to say.
- Mass Effect 3 Kinect Commands Revealed (geeky-gadgets.com)
- Could multiplayer be Mass Effect 3′s saving grace? (nightmaremode.net)
- Watch the First Two Missions From the ‘Mass Effect 3′ Demo (gamerant.com)