What To Expect From “Mass Effect 3″: The Gameplay
In a refreshingly quick turnaround time, Bioware announced with a trailer that Mass Effect 3 would be released holiday of 2011. As of now, precious few details regarding the game are known outside of vague comments and an amazing announcement trailer. However, it has been known for years that Mass Effect started its inception with a trilogy of stories in mind. As a result, clues to how the third game will play out are planted throughout the first two narratives. So, let’s take a quick look at all the material we have available and see what we can find out about how the story and gameplay of Mass Effect 3 will work.
Potential Spoilers. As stated before, the following is almost all speculation:
With the positive feedback everyone gave to the development team for Mass Effect 2, it’s pretty roved combat in the second game stood as a vast enhancement over the first. Still, there’s always room for improvement and the Mass Effect games are no exception. So, below is a breakdown of the improvements we might see and how other aspects of the gameplay might play out.
The fundamentals of combat will remain the same from the second game, as the system proved to be almost perfect. However, several of the classes were a bit more powerful than others. Soldier and Infiltrator, for example, had a major advantage over other classes with the ability to slow down time and substantial damage bonuses’ towards sniper rifles. The Biotic powers in general received a noticeable downgrade in power from the first game, hindering the Adept and Vanguard classes. The Sentinel class may have had access to both tech and biotic abilities, but the particular abilities you had access to could have complimented each other better. With the Engineer, well, it was fine for what it was… but did anyone really play that class? Unless you’re fighting Geth, I imagine it would be rather tough.
In the recent issue of Gameinformer, some new information was revealed as to the combat and classes. In Mass Effect 3, all the classes will have access to all the different weapons, but some will have restrictions on the amount of weapons they can carry. The Soldier will still be the only class that can carry all the weapons at once. In addition, a variation of the weapon customization from the first game will be making a welcome comeback. Not only will you be able to add things like barrels and scopes to your weapons, but they’ll effect the stats and appearance. Leveling up will also be an expansion on the branching powers seen in Mass Effect 2… rather than choosing between two different versions of a power at the end of its tree, you’ll be making that decision multiple times. Let’s mull over what other tweaks could be made to the classes:
Soldier: Overall, the soldier is rather balanced. It’s one of the more effective classes in the game, but it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s hard to see exactly what they’d change.
Infiltrator: Anyone who played the infiltrator in the second game came to the wonderful, yet inescapable conclusion that the class was completely overpowered. The time dilation while you popped off headshots — not to mention the damage bonuses – became devastating. The cloaking’s ability to take you out of any dangerous situation also made the class really easy to play. While there should be bonuses for sniping, the ability to cloak when surrounded by enemies and not have any problems isn’t very balanced. Being able to cloak under cover, move, and pull off a head shot is fine, but if you cloak while enemies can see you there should be some consequences. Maybe the enemies will still be able to see your shimmer as you move or fire randomly at your last known location, much like Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Adept: Unfortunately, Biotics took a bit of a hit in Mass Effect 2. While you could level up an Adept to minimize global cool down times, the powers themselves just didn’t feel as strong as they did in the first game. In Mass Effect, a leveled up biotic throw looked like it really hurt. You through a guy across the room like a rag doll with bone shattering force. You didn’t get the same feeling in Mass Effect 2, mostly because the powers did a lot less damage. It’s very rare one leveled up power could take an enemy down. It would be best for the biotic powers to receive a small boost in power to unshielded enemies, if only to make the biotic players feel like they can throw people around with the best of them.
Vanguard: The Vanguard is a ridiculously fun class to play, especially in Mass Effect 2. Charging around the battlefield and flinging opponents off ledges is a thing of beauty and joy. Pull and cryo ammo both did their tricks rather well to mix combat up and create combo opportunities. The best part of the Vanguard is that while it gives you the ability to ram your targets with biotic energy, it still can leave you quite vulnerable if used incorrectly. Overall, the Vanguard is rather balanced and doesn’t need much if any tweaking.
Engineer: As I admitted before, I’ve never played the engineer in either the first or second game. Having used Tali, however, I’m not sure what else can be done with the class. Bioware warns players the engineer is for those with a great deal of experience in the game. The inherent problem with engineers is that they’re good with machine enemies such as Geth and combat drones, but organic enemies pose more of a problem. God help you if they use armor or biotic barriers instead of shields. The only way to survive is to take someone like Grunt with you on missions. Perhaps one or two tricks to help with a wider variety of enemies might be useful, because the combat drone isn’t very good.
Sentinel: The tech armor helped with a lot of problems the class had in the first game. If the class has any real problems, it’s that the biotic powers of throw and warp doing mesh very well together. Throw and lift might be better, as well as lift and warp. Having another option for crowd control other than Cryo blast could be very beneficial.
It stems to reason we’ll be seeing some more heavy weapons in Mass Effect 3. While it’s impossible to know exactly what heavy weapons could be, here’s some idea on what could possibly be done:
AR-558 – A heavy semi-auto rifle that uses depleted Uranium to penetrate multiple targets in one shot. Bypasses armor.
Athena – uses ME fields to launch proximity mines into the area. Uses IFF tech to prevent friendly fire.
Geneva – a Turian weapon that fires a canister of poisonous gas, restricting movement and dealing damage
Sisyphus – Mass Effect fields chain the target, preventing all actions.
Plasma Mortar – Discharges plasma in a spread. The spread widens at longer ranges at the cost of damage
Damocles – Marks a target for the Normandy to make an orbital strike to great effect. Outdoors only.
As I discussed in part one, exploration will be a little different in Mass Effect 3 for story reasons. Much of the galaxy will be locked away from you, with story missions necessary to unlock different areas – and therefore gain access to new races to recruit. The map will look one of two ways: Empty or locked relays will be in red.
As for planetary exploration… it’s hard to say if Bioware will have a vehicle or not. Players met the Mako with a general reaction of animosity and frustration. While everyone sites the controls of the Mako as being terrible, I personally had very little problem with them. However, what did end up ruining the planetary exploration in the first game was the design of the terrain. The endless mountain ranges were a nightmare to traverse, as at many points they were near vertical. A few impressive mountains here and there are fine… but not every planet needs to have the Rocky range to explore.
The successor to the Mako in the Mass Effect 2 DLC, the Hammerhead, fared a little better in some areas, but worse in others. Sure, it handled better and had a rather impressive vertical range, but combat with the hover tank ranged from boring to painfully frustrating. At least the Mako had a shielding system that could absorb hits before the hull took damage – two hits from ANYTHING and the Hammerhead started to smoke and catch fire. At times, it felt the hovertank’s armor was made from tissue paper. When you managed to avoid damage, all you did was hold the fire button to release homing missiles and check your watch while your enemy’s health meter drained. Yawn.
It’s possible Bioware will want to stick with the on foot missions and give up on vehicles altogether, but they’ve never been a company to quit at something because they’ve failed. We might get a third vehicle that’s a happy medium between the Mako and the Hammerhead — something moderately maneuverable, with a fair amount of armor and a weapon system that actually requires some skill and strategy to use. Oh, yes. And it must be named after a shark.
In the last installment of the series, we’ll look at the endgame of the series might play out: the counter invasion of Earth.
Aaron also writes reviews and editorials on his site Media Rushes.
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