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Co-optimized: Mass Effect 3

Our sincere hope is that a new Mass Effect game will be announced at E3 2015. In order to help will that into existence using positive biotic energy, this week's co-optimized takes a look at Mass Effect 3's integrated multiplayer mode.

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WARNING: Some campaign spoilers ahead.

E3 kicks off next week, and one of the big games we're hoping to see announced will be a new spinoff to the Mass Effect series. Commander Shepard's story may be finished, but there are plenty more tales left to be told, starting with how everyone spread out across the galaxy manage to contact each other again after what almost invariably happens to the mass effect relays. So, to prepare for what we hope will be one of the big announcements, we take a look back at Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode.

Fans were pleasantly surprised when the game's cooperative mode was first announced. Until then, players could only experience the world through the eyes of Command Shepard and his/her companions during the single player campaign. This was the first time four players could band together in multiplayer using alien races like the Krogan , Salarian, and Quarians to fight alongside human soldiers in the war against the Reapers. Later updates made races like the Batarians, Vorcha, and even the diminutive Volus playable for the first time, along with unique N7 class soldiers.

In addition to racial abilities, characters are divided up by classes with differing specialties in weapons, tech, or biotics. The theme is that all these races must come together in order to face a the greater threat posed by Reaper Collectors, Geth, and Cerberus. Maps range from remote outposts to a ruined city on Earth. Thought the Geth were joined with the Alliance? Well, these synthetics didn't get the memo. Gameplay is typically comprised of horde survival, which come in waves, but players will be assigned intermittent secondary objectives like getting a probe across the field within a time limit.

Consistently playing with a character earns experience points, used to unlock additional skills, but the beauty of the Mass Effect system is that levels don't necessarily matter. Although it is entirely possible for a highly skilled, fully upgraded, player to practically own a map, most matches put heavy emphasis on teamwork and team diversity. Power combinations work to great effect in multiplayer, which includes freezing enemies and using an explosive or concussive blast to shatter them. Furthermore, even though players can equip medical kits, and some classes have shield boosting abilities, the game isn't really big on healing. Injured characters often have to hold out until a wave ends to recover health. The stress of survival can be eased if players watch each others' backs, especially when tougher enemies like Banshees and Brutes start showing up.

Successfully completing multiplayer missions earns experience and money. The money can be used to purchase chests containing useful equipment or new character unlocks. Unfortunately, the chancy loot chest system is the only way to get new weapons and characters, which is good in some ways, in that that it encourages players to work toward the best sniper rifle by playing more multiplayer. On the down side, it can take ages to get the gear you want, if at all, even if you consistently play at the highest difficulty setting. The equipment system also ties into the type of character you play, like in the single player mode. Stronger races like the Krogan will be able to carry massive shotguns, while other characters may have to cut back significantly on their loadout to use heavy gear. Weight dictates how quickly energy regenerates. A lightweight biotic will be able to use their abilities more frequently than one weighed down by heavy weapons. So, better get really good at using that pistol!

Each match culminates in a last stand phase, as players fend off the incoming horde while awaiting a dropship to come in and evacuate them. More often than not, this phase amounts to a "stand together or die alone" mentality, although there are plenty of instances where teams get wiped out together. Especially when multiple Banshees and Brutes descend on the group at once.

One, arguably underutilized, aspect of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer is how it ties in to the single player experience. Completing multiplayer matches will contribute to the game's "Galactic Readiness" rating. Galactic readiness is always at 50%, but it can be improved depending on choices made during the single player campaign, and how well players do in multiplayer. Galactic Readiness is more-or-less determines the endings you get when completing the campaign. Falling below a certain threshold allows only the red Destroy ending, where planets across the galaxy (including Earth) are swept with a wave of fire that indiscriminately wipes out both Reaper and Alliance forces. Having a better rating opens more options and better results, and reaching 100% readiness enables a special breathtaking teaser.

Mass Effect 3's multiplayer has a clear influence on Dragon Age: Inquisition's cooperative mode, including the unpredictable loot chests. Multiplayer is almost certain to be included in any new Mass Effect game that might be announced. It's just a matter of how any of these various races and factions can come together without any relays around, and when there's no Reaper threat looming over the galaxy. We'll have to find out if and when a new game is announced!


There's nothing like the thrill of competitive multiplayer, but sometimes it's better to kick back and play alongside your friends and family instead of against them. With Co-Optimized, we highlight and discuss games that are best played together.

Managing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 10, 2015 12:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Co-optimized: Mass Effect 3

    • reply
      June 10, 2015 12:09 PM

      Ah thanks for reminding me where all the resources that should have made a better single player game and endings went to. Keep my expectations for any future Mass Effect games low.

      • reply
        June 10, 2015 4:58 PM

        Too bad it was an entirely separate studio that did the fucking fantastic ME3MP you asshat.

    • reply
      June 10, 2015 5:02 PM

      Nice read. With ~1200 in-game hours of co-op I'd say you covered the good and the bad fairly.

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