Wednesday 30 May 2012

The pattern of the prodigal is: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration

Mass Effect 3 got a new multiplayer DLC pack yesterday, ‘Rebellion’, including two maps, three weapons and six new characters, much like April’s ‘Resurgence’ pack. I haven’t posted about ME3 since finishing the story in March, but I’ve been playing the multiplayer since then, hopping in for a quick 20 minute dash now and again, shouting “DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!” a lot. You don’t *need* to shout “DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!”, the guns in the game make actual sounds and everything, but I find it helps. Pro tip, though: don’t hold down the push-to-talk button while shouting “DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA”, for some reason other players find it less helpful.

I played through most of the Mass Effect series as an Infiltrator, heavy on the sniper rifles, and started out similarly in multiplayer, but it’s a rather different prospect when waves of mobs are charging around the place, you don’t tend to have so much time to line up your shots (though Infiltrators seem to be the class of choice for the hardest difficulty levels, when tooled up with a Black Widow). I switched to Adepts, Sentinels and Engineers for a while, focused more on biotic- or tech-powers, but after unlocking a Krogan Soldier discovered the Joy of Melee. Running towards a bunch of Cannibals full-pelt, unleashing the heavy melee charge/headbutt/swipe and laughing (both in and out of game) is great fun, though since superseded by the Batarian from the Resurgence DLC pack who couples short-range high-damage Ballistic Blades with a magnificent SUPERPUNCH as a lethal one-two combo. It’s been most illuminating, trying out different races and classes and their play styles.

I doubt ongoing multiplayer numbers are going to be challenging Team Fortress 2 or Warcall of Halofare Dutyfield, but 1,800 years of time played in the first few weeks isn’t to be sniffed at. It’s testament to the combat mechanics of Mass Effect 3 that they stand up well enough on their own to make a decent game, comparable perhaps to something like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fallout Tactics that took CRPG systems into a more combat-focused direction, or Wing Commander Academy (if anyone’s misty-eyed for the halcyon days of gaming past when publishers were benevolent charities, before the evils of “Day Zero DLC” and the like sullied the whole business with squalid money, bear in mind Wing Commander Academy was pretty much the Wing Commander 2 engine with no plot or missions, shoved in its own box as a standalone game).

If EA/Bioware are such bastards, you have to wonder as well why the two multiplayer DLC packs so far have been free. Fear of more bad publicity after the ME3 ending business? Seems unlikely, passage of time and the promise of “clarification” seems to have calmed things down, Retake ME3 on Twitter has been quiet since April, the Facebook page looks like it’s mostly just internal bickering now. Generosity of spirit? Would be nice, but also seems a touch unlikely. They make the money from players spending to unlock new equipment? Seems plausible; I enjoy the multiplayer well enough, but not to the point of shelling out real money on a couple of maps, whereas the prospect of some new characters and weapons is bound to be enough to get a few impatient people splashing out the Bioware points on equipment packs. The gambling aspect of the equipment packs still makes me a little uneasy, but if free DLC packs are part of the equation that sweetens the pill slightly.

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