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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reasons to hate Mass Effect 3

I mean the title of today's post with no small amount of facetiousness, last week I downloaded the demo for Mass Effect 3 and since then have played the multiplayer for over 40 hours with friends, and the single player...oh about 20 minutes. Back around the time Dragon Age 2 came out and was a dismal failure to mare Bioware's otherwise nearly spotless record, I made a resolution that I was not going to blindly buy the next Bioware product. This of course was Mass Effect 3, and up until last week I had been more or less content to let its release slide past me without a second glance. That changed when I downloaded the demo and first tried the multiplayer with a group of friends. A testament to its addictive quality we (who usually call it a night around 11-12) played until 2:30 in the morning and only quit because fatigue was setting in.

So I am finding myself with fewer and fewer reasons to hate Mass Effect 3, despite my earlier resolutions.

First of all they released a demo, something the industry is painfully reluctant to do these days since in large part I think it's because the major publishers realize that if players get to try out their games the level of re-hashing and mediocrity that plagues the industry will be immediately apparent and they'll lose sales. Now this is not the first time Bioware has done this; they released a lackluster demo for dragon age 2 which should have been a warning to those that tried it. This time however, the demo includes both single and multiplayer capabilities, and for a demo is extremely generous with the level of multiplayer content. While you only get two of the six levels, and one of the three factions, there is still a great deal of replayability as there are dozens of class and weapon combinations to try out. I expect to get a solid 60+ hours out of the multiplayer which would justify it's $60 price tag to me almost instantly.

I find it interesting that this game is deeply flawed, and yet I am enjoying it to no end. I had the same experience with Skyrim...numerous bugs and glitches and yet the game itself was so good I did not mind them. I am coming to believe that it is because deep down, a good game will keep you coming back despite its bugs and imbalances. The Vanguard's charge can render him or her stuck halfway through the floor with a strange graphical glitch that even death can't fix, and yet the class is so much fun to play (and the bug is rare enough) that I keep coming back to it.

On the topic of imbalances, there are six classes and four characters per class; with each character having 3 abilities thematically fitting the class. The problem is that some of these abilities are flat out better than each other; the Asari Adept's "stasis" which paralyzes enemies in an AoE and ignores defenses (like shield, barrier or armor) makes her a must have for gold difficulty. This is the most glaring example, since the other Adept's abilities just can't compete with that. Yet the other Adepts are fun to play. Each character can use 2 guns of any of the five types (heavy pistols, SMGs, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles and Assault Rifles) and as it is we only have access to 3 of each (with 4-7 being the totals at release). The problem is that for the most part the Heavy Pistols and Sniper rifles are far superior; most classes would do just fine taking only a Heavy Pistol into battle due to the heavy reliance on abilities and the relative strength of these pistols. Never the less I've happily toted other weapons into battle and enjoyed their use, and my performance on my time barely suffered.

The early reviews of the ME3 story have claimed that it actually does bring a distinct end to the Shepard storyline; and while the game apparently leaves open the possibility of further games in the setting, it does bring resolution. With most of the industry suffering from a severe sequel addiction it is refreshing to have a game series actually end itself for once.

All in all I have decided to change my stance on Mass Effect 3; the incoming reports and my experiences with the demo have renewed my faith in Bioware for the time being, but we'll see how that goes on March 6th.

There is the sticking point about the day 1 DLC character...without revealing any spoilers it sounds like this character will be important to the larger world, but Bioware assures that he was produced after the main game was finished and will not impact one's enjoyment by his absence. This is the one point where I am skeptical; I don't trust game's not like they would admit if he was a vital character.

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