Mass Effect 3: Combat Vs RPG, New Enemies & Story Spoilers – First 90 Minutes Played
BioWare lets us loose on the first 90 minutes of Mass Effect 3. [Spoilers clearly labelled]
Published on Feb 2, 2012
Getting hands-on with Mass Effect 3 – one of the year’s most anticipated games – is an opportunity we weren’t ever going to turn down. But has BioWare streamlined Mass Effect 3 too much? Is it now more Gears Of War than a sci-fi Dragon Age?
We’ve played through the first 90 minutes of Mass Effect 3, including the opening sections and the first level, and have discovered the type of game BioWare is making with Mass Effect 3.
So read on, but don’t worry if you’re avoiding spoilers – we’ve clearly labelled them at the bottom of the page, so you won’t read anything you don’t want to.
Choose Your Game Style First
The very first question – way before having the opportunity to alter Shepard’s face beyond recognition – focused on the game you want to play. See, Mass Effect 3 has three game modes: Action, RPG and Story.
RPG is your basic Mass Effect mode – choose this if you want the default setting. Action is for those who like to turn aliens into chunks rather than all that tedious talking, meaning combat is unchanged but dialogue options are automatically chosen.
Lastly there’s Story Mode, which gives the option of picking choices through conversations but makes combat easier. Pick this if you’re a coward.
Liara is back, and she's a little darker this time.
The Opening Of Mass Effect 3 Is A Little Dull
Considering the exciting set pieces already revealed at various press events and the superb has-that-really-happened opening of Mass Effect 2, it’s a shame to say that Mass Effect 3’s opening section felt a little… wanting.
We won’t go into details – for that you can check the story-specific spoilers at the bottom of the page – but suffice to say, despite the events that unfold, Mass Effect 3’s opener felt emotionally ham-fisted and lacked that spark.
Mass Effect 3’s Tweaks To The RPG/Level Up Elements
Enemies dropped, experience was earned and level-ups were unlocked. Even during the opening segment a couple of additional ranks were scored, and provided the perfect opportunity to check out these upgraded RPG features.
As with Mass Effect 2, levelling up requires spending accrued points on purchasing or upgrading class-specific abilities. Now, however, rather than a maximum of four unlocks there’s a total of seven, with the last three providing a choice between two wildly different upgrades.
This is an extension of the ability evolution seen in Mass Effect 2 when reaching the maximum upgrade – such as choosing between Tech Armor’s cooldown or its armour strength.
Whether this will have more of an impact later in the game it’s hard say, but early on it’s business as usual.
There's a bigger focus on action and set pieces now.
How Combat Has Been Improved In Mass Effect 3
For every gamer that adores Mass Effect 2 there’s a rare, dissenting voice who claims it’s been tarnished by the cover shooter genre. BioWare disagrees, but says that improved combat mechanics are better for everyone.
They’re not wrong, either, because the tweaks to Mass Effect 3’s combat – while subtle - do make it better to play. The camera has been pulled closer to Shepard, for example, and there’s no longer an option to switch shoulders he fires from. While disorientating at first, it does get you feeling closer to the action.
Then there are subtle tweaks to manoeuvres, such as leaping cover without first ducking down or rolling to evade enemy gunfire.
Now there’s an over-the-top headshot effect too: blast an approaching enemy in the head with a powerful weapon and their cranium will explode in bits of blood and bone. Gratuitous perhaps – especially for Mass Effect – but not without its satisfaction.
More interesting is how combat is initiated. Gone are the endless corridors with respawning enemies, in favour of something a little more fluid.
At many points during the first mission Shepard was the one in control – whether that was hiding in the dark as enemies searched his position or preparing himself and his squad for an ambush.
The fight on Earth isn't nearly as exciting as it should be.
Mass Effect 3’s New Abilities
The first mission after the opener sent Shepard and squad members Ashley Williams/Kaiden Alenko (dependant on decisions in previous Mass Effect games) and James Vegas to the dusty red plains of Mars; where a handful of new abilities reared their heads.
Our Sentinel Shepard, for example, had the new ability Lift Grenade – which was locked until level six – as well as passive upgrades in the form of Offensive Mastery and Fitness.
In our play through we had Ashley who has Alliance Officer, which boosts weapon damage, and Marksman that activates a powerful long-distance shot.
James Vegas has Arms Master, a passive ability that increases abilities with weapons, and an activated Carnage ability that rips enemies to shreds. Both Ashley/Kaiden and James are Soldiers, and share the basic combat abilities.
Alongside these are tweaks to existing abilities. Overload, for example, had minimal effect on anyone but shielded and mechanical enemies but now handily stuns any organic enemy for a couple of seconds. Perhaps this strategic gameplay is the extended RPG elements BioWare has been touting?
New enemies mean you'll need to think on your feet.
Mass Effect 3’s New Enemy Types And Improved AI
The Mass Effect staple enemy – the Husks – have often come in different shapes and sizes, but now there are already a wide variety of new types.
There weren’t many available, but with giant wasp like husks and fatter ones named ‘Cannibals’ it seems Mass Effect 3 will have much more variety with its beasties.
There’s every reason to expect the same would be true of human combatants too, since during the Mars mission a new riot-shield clad enemy appeared.
He was nothing for a singularity blast, sending him skyward and dropping his shield, but it’s good that Mass Effect 3 is forcing tactics to change on the fly.
How the enemy react is interesting too. Simple things, such as smoke grenades, meant their positions were hard to track, while one Cerberus enemy managed to roll away from a Warp attack then retaliate with a grenade. If Mass Effect 3 can keep up this level of tactical combat then it’ll be impossible to not enjoy.
Puzzles In Mass Effect 3?
In an effort to mix things up a little, it seems Mass Effect 3 could well include environmental puzzles to exploration.
This could be as simple as finding the right route to the exit but in one particular instance during the demo it was necessary to temporarily activate a set of moving lasers to gain access to an otherwise unreachable door.
It required little thought to solve, but should this be a regular occurrence in Mass Effect 3 then exploration of each level will be a little less staid than in previous games.
New guy James Vegas doesn't really offer much personality, at least in the first 90 minutes.
Mass Effect 3’s Story, First 90 Minutes – Spoilers
Here we’ll rundown story specific elements we’ve discovered during the 90 minutes gameplay demo. Some of you won’t want to spoil Mass Effect 3’s story: if that’s the case, look away now. Otherwise, read on…
Mass Effect 3 opens with Shepard heading to his inquest because of his previous association with Cerberus in Mass Effect 2.
New squad member James Vegas – voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr – is introduced. He’s a thuggish type character, and a Soldier class.
Either Ashley or Kaiden returns, dependant on the choices made in Mass Effect 1. If you don’t have a save, elements in the character creation will determine who survived the original Mass Effect.
As the Reapers attack Earth, Shepard and Anderson make their way towards a location suitable for the Normandy to extract them. James Vegas and Ashley/Kaiden aren’t present.
After fending off the enemy until the Normandy appears, Shepard boards the ship while Anderson tells him he’s staying on Earth. He commands Shepard to travel to the Citadel to request their assistance. Shepard quips that he’s no longer “taking orders” from Anderson, who then throws Shepard his dog tags. “Consider yourself reinstated”.
On board the Normandy Shepard receives a distorted message from Admiral Hackett. Instead of travelling to the Citadel, Hackett tells Shepard to first head to Mars, where communications have been lost and a similar Reaper attack is assumed. Hackett tells Shepard that Liara T’Soni is at the Mars Archives, where she was researching a Prothean device.
Ashley/Kaiden and James Vegas will accompany Shepard to the Mars Archives.
Shepard and his squad land on Mars and spot a group of Cerberus operatives executing a group of people.
Further inside the Mars Archives building, Liara escapes from the ventilation system as she escapes from a pair of Cerberus operatives. She kills them as they exit the vent.
Speaking with Shepard, Liara reveals she was attempting to discover the truth about a Prothean device that could save the universe from the Reapers.
James Vegas returns to the Hammerhead where the squad landed on Mars and Liara takes his place alongside Ashley/Kaiden.
As they head towards the Archives, Shepard discovers a short video feed of a woman who Liara informs is called Dr Eva Core.
Further into the Mar Archives building, Liara reveals that the Protheans were studying the human race (prior to becoming a space-faring race).
After discovering that Dr Eva Core was working for Cerberus, Shepard and his squad try to cross a tram system to gain access to the Archives. Ashley/Kaiden discovers that the Cerberus operatives are, in fact, modified husks – similar to those used by the Reapers.
Once at the Archives, the Illusive Man appears as a hologram. He informs Shepard of his plan to use the technology to control humankind, rather than assist them.
Dr Eva Core manages to capture the data then tries to escape. Shepard and his squad give chase.
Eva leaps onto a shuttle, Shepard and squad are unable to chase them. James Vegas – in the Normandy shuttle – collides with the escaping Eva’s shuttle which both collapse to the ground near Shepard.
Despite the fire of Eva’s shuttle, she escapes the rubble, burnt to a crisp with husk-like markings over her body. Ashley/Kaiden will try to attack Eva, who manages to defend herself with superhuman reflexes. Eva then kills Ashley/Kaiden, then Shepard shoots Eva as she charges towards them.
Shepard collects his fallen comrade’s body, while James Vegas gathers Eva Core’s body – to collect the data stolen from the Archives.