Right now, it is very, very easy to attack Bioware and EA for mistakes made in Mass Effect 3. The multiplayer mode’s impact on the main story when it requires an online pass. The day-one DLC. Cut corners. Plot holes.
There was also this little thing about the ending.
I’m not here to write you another article about the ending, or what we need to learn from it or do as a result of it. All I’d like is to take the game step by step and appreciate what is done right.
And these are the two parts of the game which I was dead certain were going to suck but didn’t.
Yes, DLC bad, I know. Day-one DLC is even worse. I’m not blind to this, and I’m not going to come out in defense of the practice. But consider the “From Ashes” DLC, and what it means. And consider where it stands in the DLC marketplace as it stands right now.
What are the common types of DLC now? Map packs? Costumes? There are side missions now and then, but I would argue that the kind of DLC packs which the Mass Effect games feature- side stories which can seamlessly blend into the whole story- are few and far between, and rarely done quite as well.
I remember one of Bioware’s earliest attempts to make DLC, back in Knights of the Old Republic. It was a long hallway with a merchant at the end. And that was it.
It is a testament to how far the company, and the “DLC industry,” has come that DLC now can be entirely new characters with entirely new missions. And, to speak on the “From Ashes” DLC specifically, it stands a chance at gaining a completely different perspective on a race long thought extinct. On top of a mission taking you back to a familiar location.
Isn’t that quality content? Can we at least agree that what is being put out there is great? Everyone’s so lost in screaming at each other over the economics behind it all to appreciate what we have. I recognize that it’s hard to pull away from the money issue, but when you can, you start to realize that there is, indeed, good work being done- and that maybe, just maybe, the screaming should be toned down a bit.
But what surprised me significantly more than the DLC is…
I admit to having problems with the multiplayer mode. The game, in which you in a squad with three other players fend off waves of foes, has some big issues. Among them is the general problem that things get repetitive in extended play sessions and (going by some reports) there are balancing issues which really need tweaking.
The glaring issue, though, is the multiplayer mode’s impact on the single-player campaign. For those not in the know, over the course of the campaign, the main character accumulates Estimated Military Strength, which dictate how events will unfold in the final battle (we won’t touch upon issues with that here).
However, a “Galactic Readiness Rating” modifier is thrown into the mix. Say you have 3000 Estimated Military Strength; a 50% Galactic Readiness Rating will mean that you have access to only 1500 of the Estimated Military Strength. The Readiness Rating can only be brought up in the multiplayer mode, and it will decrease over time if the multiplayer mode isn’t played (though it will never go below 50%). It’s possible to get a high Estimated Military Strength without the increased Readiness Rating, but it’ll take longer.
In an attempt to expedite my adventure to a good ending, I buckled down and played the multiplayer for nearly six straight hours. My biggest problem, regardless of any issues with gameplay, was that I never felt like I was particularly connected to the mode. I just felt like I was there to do my homework so I could return to the “real” game.
On the other end of things, however, I present where Bioware should be congratulated:
When was the last time a multiplayer mode really mattered to its single-player component? When did it really matter? I’m not saying there are zero examples, but to have both modes tied to one another gives a tangible connection which I feel that games are sorely lacking, particularly with the modern prevalence of multiplayer modes.
As a very single-player focused gamer, I would never have touched ME3’s multiplayer mode had it not been for its connection to the main story. Yes, in a way it’s hard not to feel like I was dragged into it, and yes, I would like other games to handle the impact of one on the other in a different manner (i.e. reward the player for playing multiplayer instead of punishing them for not playing multiplayer), but I always had the feeling that what I did in the multiplayer mode mattered. I’ve never felt that in a game before, though I’m certain there are examples of this I haven’t experienced.
I’ve railed against tacked-on multiplayer modes in the past, and I think ME3 provides the solution: make the mode relevant, make it matter to the single-player, and it’s impossible to call it anything but essential to the overall experience.