If you have downloaded the Mass Effect 3 demo when it was released on February 14th, then you already got a chance to experience a small sample of Mass Effect’s multiplayer. Multiplayer is new to the Mass Effect series, and it brings a co-op experience with a leveling and unlock system that is unique in style. The full version of ME3’s multiplayer includes six maps, three different enemy types, and three difficulty settings. With roughly 15 hours of multiplayer goodness under my belt, I’m here to tell you whether it’s worth your invested time and money.
Let’s start off with the basics. The multiplayer is a 4 player co-op Horde styled mode. You are matched up against one of the three different enemy types; Cerberus, Geth or Reapers. Each wave gets progressively harder, with stronger enemy types and a different objective within a round that you have to complete. The maps are based off of single-player side missions that you may encounter if you play the single player portion. Your job is to survive all 11 waves and complete the objectives when they appear. Doing this rewards you with experience and credits. There are several unlocks to earn in the game that you can unlock with credits that I will explain in detail later on in this review.
The leveling system is pretty much what you are already used to. You have a per-class rank, and an overall rank. Your overall rank is every rank you have built up over each class added up. The classes are the same from the single player; Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator and Vanguard. The leveling system is experienced based, and completing a mission on Bronze difficulty will net you around 150,000 XP to give you an example. Leveling each class gives you power points that you can use to unlock and progress your classes particular powers. This is great as it allows each player to play to the style they are most comfortable with. Within each mission you participate in, there are unique challenges that present themselves that your team needs to accomplish. You may need to eliminate 4 specific targets in a certain amount of time, or you may have to hack a computer to upload data. Doing these challenges are not only necessary to move onto the next wave, but it grants you extra experience for your character as well as credits to spend in the in-game store depending upon how fast and efficiently you complete these tasks. Each character class is capped at level 20. After obtaining level 20 with a class in multiplayer, you can promote them to the single player Galaxy at War. This will reset the characters class back to level 1, but adds 10 levels to your N7 overall rank for multiplayer. Think of this as BioWare’s way to lengthen the multiplayer experience, a ‘prestige’ mode if you will.
The unlocking system is my favorite part of the multiplayer experience. It uses the retro trading card style, with three tiers of packs you can purchase; Recruit, Veteran and Spectre. You can purchase these packs with actual currency, or you can use the credits you earn from playing the multiplayer. The Recruit pack will run you 5,000 credits, Veteran at 20,000 credits, or $1 USD, and Spectre at 60,000 credits, or $2 USD. These packs will give you bonuses such as new weapons, weapon upgrades, consumables like ammo packs and medi-gel, to special character species. With a total of 29 unlockable weapons, 12 unlockable characters and 20 unique unlockable armor/ammo bonuses, the unlock system has some decent depth. These items are marked as uncommon, common, and rare. Obtaining a rare item is what could potentially get you over the edge, with all the possibilities, it’s refreshing that the randomness of each pack adds some fun to the hectic multiplayer. From my personal experience, it’s best to wait it out until you have enough credits for the Spectre pack, as you are guaranteed at least 1 rare item in the pack.
The award system is split up into individual awards and squad awards. The individual awards are split into Bronze, Silver and Gold tiers. These awards span anywhere from X amount of headshots, assault rifle kills, biotic kills to assists and revives. Everything you do will be rewarded, the more of these you do, the more XP you will be granted. Bronze awards will net you 500 XP, Silver at 1,000 XP and Gold at 2,000 XP. The squad awards grant you the most XP because they are a lot more difficulty to achieve. You can get XP for achieving killstreaks, surviving multiple waves without going down, completing all the waves, to being extracted at the very end. These are also split into the same 3 leveling tiers Bronze, Silver and Gold. These range from Bronze at 2,500 XP, Silver at 5,000 XP and Gold anywhere from 2,500 XP to 15,000 XP depending on the award. The better you are, the more XP you are rewarded, the faster you can level.
Galaxy at War is a feature embedded in the multiplayer. Basically, your Galaxy at War readiness rating has an impact on your single player experience. The more you play and succeed in multiplayer, the higher your readiness rating becomes. You start off at 50%, and you can build all the way up to 100%. If you do not consistently play multiplayer, your readiness rating will decline slowly. While this feature is completely optional, it is not required to achieve the game’s ‘perfect ending’, but it does certainly help. Having a high readiness rating only means you need to require less War Assets in single player. It is not a completely needed feature, but it’s great for the consumer who enjoys both the single player and multiplayer portions of Mass Effect 3.
With the leveling, award and unlock systems explained in detail, playing the game with your buddies is as much fun as any other multiplayer title out there. Sure, it won’t completely replace a versus multiplayer experience like Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty, but it’s definitely something everyone should pick up to give a try. I personally was suspicious of BioWare adding multiplayer to Mass Effect 3, as it’s always been a single player game. However, I believe BioWare delivered on a solid and fun addition to an already great masterpiece that is the Mass Effect series. Did I mention that Battlefield 3 owners get to unlock an exclusive multiplayer character in Mass Effect 3? You can purchase Mass Effect 3 right now from any major gaming retailer.
Let’s hear your thoughts about Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer in the comments section below!