For the last week, I’ve taken a break from my last playthrough of Mass Effect 2 to put the singleplayer & multiplayer Mass Effect 3 Demo through its paces & get a feel for how the gameplay will be different before the full game is released on March 6th. I actually got to start a few days early thanks to a code giveaway on AchievementHunter.com, so that was a cool treat! 🙂
After re-creating my MaleShep* character from ME1 & ME2 (thanks to a helpful suggestion on Twitter from Bioware’s Casey Hudson), I dove into the singleplayer portion of the demo on my chosen class of Soldier (I tried the Infiltrator & Adept classes for a bit as well, but the Soldier just feels best to me). The 1st part of the singleplayer demo puts Commander Shepard on Earth, having been relieved of duty following the events of Mass Effect 2. The Systems Alliance brass calls Shepard to meet with them and offer advice on how to deal with the imminent arrival of the Reapers, but before Shepard can finish giving a warning, the Reapers arrive, laying waste to Earth.
You then follow Anderson through the wreckage of Alliance HQ to rendezvous with the Normandy, fighting Husks & Cannibals (“huskified” Batarians with a nasty ranged attack) along the way. This portion of the demo is meant to get you acquainted with the basic movement & combat mechanics of the game, and it does an excellent job of that. There’s also a very poignant bit of storytelling, as Shepard briefly interacts with a young boy who sadly does not escape the Reaper attack alive (his escape shuttle is blown out of the sky by a Reaper just as the Normandy is about to fly away).
The second part of the singleplayer demo takes you to the Salarian homeworld of Sur’Kesh, where you and two of your teammates will escort a fertile Krogan female to safety as part of a plan to broker peace between the Krogan and Turians. No sooner do you arrive, however, than Cerberus shock troops arrive to prevent the rescue operation for reasons unknown. This portion of the demo allows you to get a greater feel for commanding teammates in combat & utilizing their powers, and also for using a wider range of weapons (you have access to a shotgun and sub-machine gun, as well as a pistol and assault rifle). The demo concludes with a tough but satisfying fight against a very heavily armed Cerberus Atlas mech.
In terms of movement, I wasn’t quite ready for how much more agile Shepard has become in Mass Effect 3, but I adjusted quickly. Combat is definitely fresher & more challenging than in either of the previous games in the series, not only in terms of battlefield environments (which feel much more natural than in Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2), but also in terms of enemy AI (which seems smarter and much more aggressive). I played through the singleplayer demo on Hardcore difficulty, and it honestly felt more challenging than what I’ve seen so far of Insanity difficulty in Mass Effect 2!
As for the Kinect voice command support for the game, I have mixed feelings. It’s very cool to be able to issue voice commands to squadmates & speak dialogue wheel choices out loud, I didn’t have to speak very loudly, and the game made no mistakes in terms of interpreting what I said. However, there is a very slight delay between voicing a command and the game’s response to it, which made the timing a bit tricky for me. As such, while the Kinect functionality is definitely impressive (kudos to both Microsoft and Bioware), I prefer the traditional power wheel controls, and that’s what I’ll be using when I play the full game.
I haven’t done much with the multiplayer part of the Mass Effect 3 demo, but I played it enough to get a feel for how it would work, and I enjoyed it a lot! The combat is very fast-paced & satisfying, and I really like how you unlock new classes, weapons, and equipment as you progress through multiplayer matches. I’m sure it’d be more fun when playing with people you know as opposed to being thrown into a match with three strangers, but that’s true of any multiplayer game. I look forward to trying it more when the full game is released!
All in all, this brief taste of Mass Effect 3 has been a lot of fun, and it has certainly whetted my appetite for the main course heading our way on March 6th!
Take Earth Back!!! 🙂
*Yes, I also went through a few times as FemShep. 🙂