Maintaining Mass Effect: 90 minutes with ME3 single-play

Wednesday, 8th February 2012 07:40 GMT By Stace Harman

Buckle-up soldier; the Reapers are at the door and Shepard’s got a universe to save. Stace Harman goes hands-on with the first 90 minutes of Mass Effect 3 and chats to Bioware’s Mike Gamble about the evolution of a franchise.

Mass Effect 3

As seen in this cast reveal, Mass Effect 3 boasts a varied array of voice actors including returning talent Seth Green and Martin Sheen and new cast member, IGN’s Jessica Chobot.

Hardcore and Insanity difficulty levels will require a different, more considered approach to combat, according to lead designer Preston Watamaniuk.

The latest novel tie-in should be available for you to read right now, Brenna told me so.

Wondering whether your PC will let Mass Effect 3 shine? Steph has the answers, in the form of spec requirements, right here.

Mass Effect launches on PS3, 360 and PC in March, but you knew that already, right?


That’s the feeling that washes over me after playing through the first 90 minutes of Mass Effect 3. Relief that Bioware hasn’t screwed it up, that EA’s Galaxy at War gubbins hasn’t diluted the core, that Mass Effect is still very much Mass Effect.

It feels like we’ve all been talking so much about the provocative inclusion of multiplayer that the single-player narrative-driven crux of the game – the entire point of the game, no less – has gotten lost in the hubbub. Thankfully, upon sitting down with Shepard, Mass Effect 3 very quickly reminds me that there’s a fight to be finished and a tale to be told, but only to those that want to hear it.

One of the very first choices to be made is the kind of Mass Effect experience that you want to have. It’s an explicit choice made from three menu options: Action, RPG or Story. Those that bring with them a battle-worn Shepard from previous instalments will likely plump for RPG, in which you’re responsible for all customisation and dialogue choices – for many, this is what Mass Effect has always been about.

New players, lured by adrenaline-fuelled gameplay videos, or those that have always found Shepard to use too much lip and not enough gun, can opt for Action, in which conversations play as cut scenes; the choices made for you in advance and with an eye to getting you back to the fight as soon as possible. Finally, Story makes combat that much easier to ensure that narrative flow takes precedence.
Regardless of your play style, it appears that all areas of Mass Effect 3 have been buffed to a fine sheen as Bioware and EA look to satisfy itchy trigger fingers and galactic lore-hunters alike.

“Moving into Mass Effect 3 the increased RPG mechanics were really important to us, we didn’t want to alienate any sort of audience,” explains associate producer Mike Gamble. “Some people want to really dive deep into the customisation and we wanted to support that. We’ve brought back a lot of the weapon and armour customisation; RPG elements that may have gotten lost over time.

Mass Effect 3 totes goes to Mars.

“But we also wanted to support any new players and not assume you have knowledge of the previous games. It’s designed so that you can jump into and understand what’s happening in the first hour of the game and know what you need to do. We wanted to be able to encourage both sets of players.”

Sometimes, it pays to pursue a narrow slice of the gaming community and craft a game that doesn’t try to be all things to all people, but if you are going to try to please everyone it pays to have the resources to back your ambition.

Evolution of the species
It’s been a little over four years since the original Mass Effect launched and so Bioware must be commended for the progress it has made with the Unreal Engine, the scale and beauty of some of Mass Effect 3’s opening scenes is genuinely impressive. Behind the scenes, less obvious but more important changes have been made both to the overall game mechanics and environment design, as Gamble explains.

“There was a big leap from the first game to the second in terms of the combat and gameplay systems,” he says.

“Going from Mass 2 to 3, we wanted to refine those changes but also make some new additions. Even small things like cover movement and the ability to climb ladders and jump down drops – it changes the way we design our levels and makes the gameplay experience a lot more visceral.”

Multiplayer, for those keen on it.

These changes are barely noticeable when you’re absorbed in Mass Effect’s universe, which is exactly as it should be – instead, they simply serve to make the experience slicker and ensure it’s less likely that you’ll spend time wondering why a galactic hero can’t traverse a one metre gap in the floor.

Mass Effect’s evolution isn’t confined only to game play mechanics and visual fidelity, of course. The characters have come a long way too and depending on the choices you made in previous games, or via the interactive primer at the start of this one, some familiar faces from Shepard’s past make a reappearance.

All have been changed by their experiences – Liara, in particular, has come a long way since Shepard rescued her from the ruins on Therum – and some will offer you a warmer welcome than others, but each of their stories will be resolved by the time the Reaper invasion has played out.

“It’s been emotional for us to develop these characters over the last decade or so,” says Gamble. “A lot of us are very close to them and so we’ve been intent on wrapping up these plot lines and characters in a way that will be satisfying for everyone. “It’s been a ride for us and we’re looking forward to finding out what everyone thinks.”

As I alluded to at the start, I’ve been sceptical of EA’s strategy with Mass Effect 3. But for all the hoo-ha about what female Shepard will look like and on how many fronts or in how many modes the Galaxy at War will play out, there remains cracking yarn of intergalactic politics and survival to be concluded.

Those that have been apprehensively anticipating the concluding part of Bioware’s trilogy can, like me, breathe a sigh of relief: there’s still choices to be made, customisation to tinker with and a sprawling universe to be explored. Thankfully, Mass Effect is still very much Mass Effect.



  1. daytripper

    Cannot wait

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Malmer

    I played the same section at a swedish blog community event Bioware held at DICE’s offices in Stockholm. To begin with, it was awesome, but what I really must say is something about the official femshep since there has been some worry about her.

    She is awesome.

    She fits the voice perfectly. She doesn’t look like the teenager in the posters. She looks more mature and more fitting to the role than the artwork. She looks hard while still human and warm. In general I can’t see how anyone can complain about the official femshep after they’ve seen her in action.

    Can’t wait to play more though!

    #2 3 years ago
  3. daytripper

    @2 mass effect gets a lot of complaints from what i’ve seen, on forums i read far more negative than positive opinions about the series.

    i cant wait for this game and hope there are more games in the series, hopefully on the new consoles.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Night Hunter

    @3: That’s because BioWare managed to piss off their fans who now are only able to remember bad press about BioWare games, completely ignore the good things and in general just bitch and moan all day long …

    That’s why for example this article has now 4 comments while other articles with much less content (say for example one about Action, Story and RPG Mode) has dozens of comments, most of them bad and half of the time from people who didn’t even care to actually read the damn thing. ;)

    #4 3 years ago
  5. daytripper

    @4 the only thing they pissed me off with was getting rid of the Mako, i enjoyed the side missions exploring different planets rather than the side missions of mass 2 which were very linear in comparison.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. MegaGeek1

    I can’t fucking wait for this game! Going to give ME2 another rip once I’m all done with KOA-R.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Froseidon

    The Bioware forums are normally filled with trolls anyways. I personally love Mass Effect, in fact, I would go as far to say it is my favourite set of games. But I never participate in the community, the most I get to speak about it is to friends who play it. So depressing :(

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Moonwalker1982

    I was genuinely concerned for ME3 because of basically two things….

    Mass Effect 2
    Dragon Age 2

    While ME2 was still a very good game, it really wasn’t like the first one. It really lacked some true RPG aspects, it felt more like a third person shooter than a third person shooter/RPG. Conversations system felt simplistic, something was really missing.

    Dragon Age 2…Origins was so good, how the fuck did they manage to mess it up so bad with DA2? Horrible artstyle and graphics, recycling of locations and so on. The combat system is probably the only good thing about it.

    So to read this about Mass Effect 3,makes me happy.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Stace Harman

    @5 I agree with missing the Mako. In fact, a lot of people I’ve spoken to enjoyed that aspect of the first game, but it seems we were in the minority.

    @7 You can always come here to talk about it!

    @8 Like you, I had my concerns but as is evident it seems to be on track to deliver the best of both worlds. Genuinely relieved.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. ManuOtaku

    Well i hope bioware would combine for this game the mako section of the first game, with the minning one of the second game, but adding enemy encounters as well, i mean first discover the location with the data of the planet (scaning), then fight and last collect the goodies (precious metals),i think that will make everybody happy, and myself too, i love both parts on both games,therefore a combination of the two will be great IMHO.

    Having said that reading this makes me happy again, i mean the player choose how he/she wants to play the game, if you want a more third person shooter, select action, but if you like a more RPG interaction, then select RPG, thats great in my book, why they didnt went this way with number two is beyond me, but thank god they put this option on this game.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Moonwalker1982

    I do wonder if they still have those 3 different modes though..

    adventure mode
    rpg mode
    action mode

    something like that.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Mace

    I just wish Bioware would provide real characters and not those pseudo-characters like Miranda and all those other tough-talking, stereotypical placeholders with railway romance. I couldn’t give less about the supposed “emotional attachment” of the developers and fans to them. They wouldn’t feel any differently about any other unimaginative creation. The only halfway believable character might be Joker.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Moonwalker1982

    Miranda is actually quite cool when you really get to ‘know’ here. I really didn’t dislike her all that much at all. Most of the characters are great man, Joker is cool, Garrus is awesome, Liara, Mordin, etc…i have no idea what you are talking about with ‘tough-talking’ cause i really don’t see them like that at all.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Mace

    I know there is always something slightly “more” to the characters. That in itself is always handled in the most generic way and only adds a mere patina of depth. I’m also not talking about “sympathy”. But about whether they’re good, well-written characters. When you design a character for its marketability, it’s not enough to make it authentic by just adding a bit of “ambiguity” or a generic “get to know me” dialogue. The “eccentric” characters are also nothing else but stereotypes. And they are all exact copies of each other, with only a few different variables of their attitutde and “problems”.

    And here’s the whole extent of character development in these games: the sensitive ones get toughened or get a tough background added. The tough ones get a bit of sensitivity. Character development accomplished.

    Read more than one book a year (not of a gaming franchise) and watch one or the other serious movie, and perhaps you know what I mean. There is such a thing as stereotypes.

    #14 3 years ago

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