Bioware does seem to love their free multiplayer DLC, and why would the fans complain? Free content! While some argue the multiplayer expansions are a waste of time we should remind the haters that it is FREE PEOPLE. The third in this triumphant trio of DLC was given a more simple, straightforward title: Earth.
Earth takes place around, you guessed it, Earth during the Reaper invasion. In total, 3 maps, six characters, and three weapons were added. Players still need to unlock all this content by using their in game currency, so don’t expect to be killing Reaper forces with all this new gear any time soon.
The first map added was the creatively titled Firebase: London. Set in London (obviously) it will be instantly familiar to anyone who played the final level of Mass Effect 3′s single-player story. The map is well designed, and really shows off Bioware’s increasing knowledge of level design. The smartest thing about this level is how you can instantly pick what each building was before the invasion. There is a few residential buildings and a bar, with a throughway between both which allows players to flank their opponents. London is not the best map, but still above Rio in terms of the level of joy playing it will give you.
Next up is Firebase: Vancouver. Set in Vancouver, where Mass Effect 3 began, physically and conceptually, and the style is instantly recognizable. The map seems to be set on the roof of a science lab/ apartment building. The background features bright whites and falling Reaper debris, a stark difference to the grey and night time setting of London. This is also the largest of the maps and my personal favourite. While the background does have neon signs copy/pasted from ME2′s Omega space station, the design is largely fresh and the layout is both vertical and horizontal. You’re never safe. This does make it easy to outrun foes though, so there is plenty of breathing room.
The final addition is Firebase: Rio. The most striking difference here is the colour scheme. London was dark, Vancouver was bright and Rio is red and deep, very much like the Rannoch level in single player. This is the weakest map of three, and the room in the middle breaks the map up in an odd way, leaving an area largely ignored by most players during battle. The background here is impressive to look at though, and certainly has the most interesting aesthetic of the three.
Six new so-called “Space Ninja” N7 characters were added too, once for each main class. I’ve played the Vanguard, Soldier and Engineer so far and have seen them all in action. So far, my favourite is the new Vanguard, which is basically a teleporting biotic boss with a sword capable of enemy decapitation. His powers are the basic charge, a laser fired from the hand which drains half your barrier in exchange for a blast capable of killing weaker enemies instantly, and a fantastic new Biotic Sword Lash ability. It’s basically shockwave but with a melee attack and it does insane amounts of damage. The soldier has a a move enhancement mode at the cost of your rolling and movement speed abilities, a shoulder mounted missile launcher that is useless, and the ability to launch 4 frag grenades from his arm. That last one got my attention, but he is one of the weaker characters. Finally, I have used the new Engineer. He has an outrageously over-powered shield pylon that restocks ammo and shields for anyone in it’s large vacinity, a powerful homing grenade as well as a curvable grenade. He’s certainly a great asset to any team.
It’s fun to see some more outrageous power designs coming through, and having four of these soldiers deployed in one team makes for quite a sight. The powerful nature of these characters means you’ll want to play on at least Silver difficulty to get any resistance though. There’s also a new Platinum difficulty. Platinum adds all the factions at once, and don’t be surprised if you’re facing pyros, Atlas’, Banshees and Primes…simultaneously. It’s not easy to say the least, so bring some medi-gel. Another welcome addition is the new Drone Escort objective. It is very much like the hacking objective, only players need to move with the drone to make it progress. It spits out funny dialogue and charges your shield, so it’s worth it to get involved.
Overall, Earth is another solid addition to Mass Effect 3, and available at my favourite price tag. For single player fans, the upcoming Leviathan will keep you busy but for players interested in the ever expanding multiplayer mode, this one is a no brainer. The new classes rock, and it’s great to see Bioware getting creative with the license.