People are excited for Mass Effect 3. Actually to say people are excited would be something of an understatement. In little under two weeks well all be thrust into another do or die situation, as we finally see Commander Shepard take on the those Reaper hordes hes been going on about for two games now. Mass Effect 3 will be the epic culmination of one of the most popular science fiction franchises to appear since Star Wars. If you're just itching to get into the action then its a good thing were able to wet our appetites with the Mass Effect 3 demo currently available on PC, Xbox Live and the PSN.
If you happen to be a purist and dont want to touch the demo in case it shows too much or you just want to save yourself for the real deal, then hey thats cool. However you should be aware that the demo has its focus aimed squarely on gameplay. It makes sense considering that no demo would ever be able to do justice to the immense scope that the Mass Effect universe is known for. Also depending on previous actions from past games, people are going to have different experiences with the new game. Bioware are simply touting their new gameplay mechanics.
On starting up the demo youll be asked to choose male or female Shepard. Standard stuff really. However after this you get presented with three ways to play the game, Action, Roleplaying or Story. This is Biowares attempt at catering to a wider audience. Action makes the combat difficulty adjustable, however there are no conversation trees. All conversations play out as cut-scenes. Role playing mode is the traditional way to play Mass Effect. Dialogue trees, adjustable combat and character customization. Finally Story mode lets players who might not be that great at games experience the story with easy difficulty. Its a gallant effort to appeal to those players who might find the game difficult, as casual players or if they have time restraints, but still want to play through and conclude this epic trilogy. I chose Role Playing as its how Ill be playing Mass Effect 3 when I eventually pick it up.
Next youll be able to customize your Shepard. I stuck with default Shepard for now. Youll also be asked to choose a class. All of the familiar classes are available from soldier, infiltrator, vanguard, adept, sentinel and engineer. Also the player will be asked to select an option for the brief story exposition in the demo. Before you jump in youll be asked about your previous combat losses and will need to select Numerous, Kaiden Alenko or Ashley Williams. For the demo purposes it simply effects who turns up in cut scenes.
After that initial phase the demo begins. While I wont go into the story too much here the set up is Shepard has been grounded and must fight his way to the Normandy when the Reapers show up to cleanse the planet of all life. Straight off the bat Mass Effect 3 looks, a lot like Mass Effect 2. Thats not necessarily a bad thing. Mass Effect 2 wasnt exactly an ugly game. Its just a little harder to compare graphical power after youve been spoilt by the absolute beauty of games like The Witcher 2. However there have been some noticeable tweaks. Characters faces look sharper and much more refined. I was surprised to see Ashley show up as I had to do a double take. She doesnt look anything like her ME 2 iteration. The question arose did they actually drastically change her appearance, or did they simply define her features better?
The real visual spectacle comes from the environments. As you leave the collapsing building and venture outside your sight is met with chaos. The air is filled with fighters and small reaper ships engaged in deadly dogfights. Lasers tear through the air and there are explosions aplenty. In the distance Reaper ships are landing and laying waste to the planet. Buildings crumble as Reaper beams slice through them and the player is gripped with a sense of urgency. Expect to see a lot more happening in the world as you undertake your mission in ME3. Youre no longer part of a small crack team. Its immediately clear that youre in an all or nothing situation.
Combat-wise many of the controls should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the previous game. However there have been a few tweaks to make your fight against the ultimate space menace a bit easier. The combat gameplay is now certainly more action orientated. Shepard can move from cover to cover more easily, vaulting across a low obstacle and sprinting into the cover of another. Theres also a new combat roll available to evade fire and effectively roll into cover if you ever find yourself out in the open. Shepards also learnt how to use his fists with a new melee attack available to players. Using his omni-blade it counts as a one hit kill if you can get in close enough to use it. Playing as an infiltrator I took a certain delight in using my cloaking ability to run up to enemies undetected and slice them open.
Speaking of abilities players will get to use them more extensively in the second half of the demo which see you on a Salarian planet fighting off Cerberus forces who intend to make off with a Krogan female. Abilities work much the same as the previous game. Time stops as you cycle through powers and select enemies. There are a few new powers available as to be expected. The biggest change would be upgrading your abilities. Instead of just dumping points into the grid like Mass Effect 2 where youll be given a choice to improve your power in some way at the end of the tree, Mass Effect 3 has a system where each powers skill tree will split at certain points. It is up to the player to decide which ay the want to go. For example with disrupter ammo, after upgrading it enough youll be asked to decide whether you want to have its effects greatly approved for you, or spread the effects across the whole squad, but it will be lessened. Its similar to the previous game but now youll periodically have to make multiple choices for each power instead of having to max out the skill.
Finally the last part of the demo is of course the multiplayer. The multiplayer takes place away from the main story so you wont be playing as Shepard or Garrus. The game mode available in the demo is wave based. All of Mass Effects online content will be coop. It wouldnt make much sense to have people fighting each other when the Reapers are coming. Then again Cerberus obviously didnt get the memo. Youll get you own character who is fully customizable after selecting your class. All classes from the single player are available here. Also some races are tied to classes. If you want to play as a Quarian then youll have to be an Engineer or an Infiltrator. This will have to be unlocked as you play though, as at the beginning you only have access to Human Male or Human Female. Each character also has their own skill trees and such to dump points into, just like singleplayer. Weapon load outs are also completely customizable as well. In the equipment menu youll be able to apply bonuses to weapons, health and armour, while supplies such as medi-gel and extra ammo can be assigned to the D-pad on the controller. Ultimately its a great way to extend the life span of the game while keeping the core experience intact. I could see myself putting in plenty of extra hours online once I had finished with the singleplayer.
Ultimately the demo is a nice little taster of the grander experience which will be hitting stores 6th March in America and 9th March in Europe. The multiplayer is where most people are currently putting their time into, so there are plenty of matches available for anyone who just needs their fix right now.