Mass Effect 3: Saving the Galaxy with a Little Help from Your (Real Life) Friends

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After some speculation, anger, and confusion (at least on my part), BioWare has doled out some details into the multiplayer component of the upcoming Mass Effect 3. I’ll admit, I was originally in the “anger” portion of it. One of my favorite single player experiences of this generation having multiplayer tacked on certainly seemed like a grab for avoiding sales of used copies of the game at first (as it includes a redemption voucher for access to it, as so many other games have as of late), but after reading some more details on this endeavor, my fears have been lifted somewhat.

I had originally put a brief, but fairly angry rant on our Facebook page when the news first broke. . As some discussion built around it, we almost seemed to have worked out the details on what it might be. PvP? Heaven help us all if it is. Co-op with other people taking control of your squad mates in combat? A bit more reasonable, but still didn’t make any sense in the context of the series. That led it to some sort of side mission theory. BioWare has stated before they want the Mass Effect universe to continue after Commander Shepard’s story has drawn to a close. I thought that perhaps this was the gateway to that expansion. It seems I came close to hitting the nail on the head.

Blessedly, it is not deathmatch oriented. Nor will the single player experience be interrupted by other people who may or may not ruin your experience. As it turns out, the co-op option is what they’ve decided to implement. Named Galaxy at War, you create a character, to use for side missions that can have some ramifications on the single player campaign. I say “can” because you can skip the experience entirely and not have it affect the outcome of the story you might have started back on Mass Effect 1. Your character doesn’t have to be human. This marks the first time you’ll be able to play as one of the other races. Humans, Krogans, Turians, Asari, Drell, and Salarian have been confirmed as playable races. You can also pick from any of the classes (Soldier, Engineer Adept, Vanguard, Infiltrator, and Sentinel) for your character that you’ve been able to build your version of Commander Shepard around.

Essentially, this mode looks to be emulating Gears of War’s Horde mode. You, with up to three other friends, are tasked with fighting waves of enemies as you try to secure certain assets. When secured, these assets will affect something being touted as Galactic Readiness. Galactic Readiness seems to be a level of combat effectiveness against the Reapers as they attack every civilization across the galaxy. It’s been described thus far by Chris Priestly, a BioWare staff member, as being “measured by Commander Shepard’s ability to apply every possible asset — people, weapons, resources, armies, fleets — in the final battle against the Reapers.”

For those of you still hesitant on playing this largely single player game with people online, Chris Priestly reminds you that it is “still possible to achieve the optimal, complete ending of the game in Mass Effect 3 through single-player alone.”

While I was initially concerned about how this would work, it seems BioWare has thought this through and realized the potential backlash from their fans. They seem to have addressed how to implement multiplayer without detracting from the single player experience. With Mass Effect 3 wrapping up Shepard’s tale, this might be a way for BioWare to experiment with the Mass Effect universe they’ve created so that it continues to thrive after the curtain has fallen on this epic story.

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