How Not to Play Mass Effect 3 (or, the joys of truly co-operative multiplayer) :P


Note: This post works better with its associated video here or opened in another tab so you can see both video and text at once. If that’s not possible, there are time tags for every rule, to keep things on track.

As you can tell from the title, the subject today is Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Which is probably my favourite and most-played video-game-related-thing ever. It’s not the most original game in the world, but it is very well done- there’s something incredibly compelling about the multiplayer even two years and 650 games in.

Part of the reason for this is the sheer variety of characters and powers. However, just having loads of characters isn’t enough to make a game good:  ME3 multiplayer got it right because every character can be of use in a team. It’s replayability is mainly a function of the incredible amounts of team synergy that can be created. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of shooters- even when it says co-operative multiplayer, many are basically competitive multiplayer instead, just with a few less people shooting at you, rather than modifying the fundamentals of how you play the game.

While I’m planning to put some videos of good runs up, with my typical team. I’m putting up this one basically as a “what not to do” video, and a view of  why maybe some people don’t find this game as long-term interesting as we do.

So, how not to play ME3 :P

  • Rule 1 [0:14] Don’t forget to check your weapons before jumping into a match.
    I would have been a bit better during Wave 1 if I’d realised the Widow (sniper rifle) only held one bullet at a time, and if I’d remembered about the muzzle flash on the Revenant (assault rifle). While this was only mildly annoying, there are other situations where this mistake would be more serious, and prevent the character from playing well.

*Rule 2  [0:46] Don’t ignore Alliance Infiltration Units.
Because one of their powers is essentially temporary immunity and a free revive, its really easy to leave them on their own, rationalising that they can’t be killed. That means if they actually go down, you may be so far away that you can’t get to revive them.

The team for this match was three of us who have played together a lot before, and can get some good combos together, plus one person we don’t normally play with. We’re all out of practice, having spent the last few months playing GTA and Watch_Dogs, and this shows in our game here.
We ended up wiping out on Wave 5 on Silver- this game is a good example of why ignoring the co-operative nature of the game make it just not work as well.

Part of this was due to lack of practice, but more so because we all picked the individual characters we prefer (or were completing challenges with) rather than picking characters and powers that complemented each other.

Our party was two AIUs, a Turian Ghost Infiltrator, and a Turian Havoc Soldier- all of these are strong characters, with the AIU and the TGI usually being regarded as overpowered. With the AIU’s Snap Freeze ability, and the Havoc’s Cyro Blast and Disruptor Ammo, we could have created Tech Combos (two-person attacks, where one power sets up an explosion, and a second power detonates it) for increased damage and efficiency, which would have made things a lot easier. Instead, we were wandering off and playing as individuals rather than a team, so didn’t use combos or other helpful strategies.

When you play without thinking about being a team, the game just loses something- it’s not bad by any means, even when you’re losing horribly, but playing it as individual multiplayer just isn’t the same as a good co-operative team. There’s something euphoric about perfectly timing the setting up and detonating of a combo- it’s like hitting a unison moment in Rock Band right on the final chorus.

*Rule 3 [1:04] – Don’t use your powers too early.
Finishing an enemy off with the Havoc Strike (forwards flying charge) is really fun, especially when they’re an elite unit. However, trying to do this too early will result in teleporting right into their range, which is borderline suicidal against enemies with instakill attacks. In this round, I got knocked down by doing this, but was revived- in other rounds, this has got me executed and out of the round entirely. While charging and teleporting looks amazing, charging without thinking is not a smart way to play.

*Rule 4 [1:12] – Don’t forget your powers.
My character, the Havoc, has three powers running: Cryo Blast, Havoc Strike (a tech version of the Biotic Charge), and a stimpack that reduces damage taken and boosts movement speed and weapon damage. however, as you’ll see a lot in this video, I forgot the stimpacks existed until about Wave 4. Remembering to use these would have prevented quite a few of my deaths.

*Rule 5 [1:28] Always check your immediate area, especially when sniping.
It’s  easy to get tunnel vision when sniping as the scopes give a quite limited field of view… there is nothing more annoying than sniping away then being grabbed by a Husk that you forgot to watch out for! Apart from being nibbled to death by a Swarmer while sniping.

*Rule 6 [1:35] Don’t get cornered by a Banshee.
That one’s pretty self-explanatory, really. The likelihood of getting cornered really depends what character you’re playing as…for a big, slow character like a Krogran, who can’t dodge,  it’s imperative to avoid corners as your ability to escape is limited. With  something like a Cabal Vanguard, or especially an N7 Slayer, (both fast, teleporting, hard-to-pin-down characters) there’s lot more room for manouver thanks to being able to teleport. However, then you’ve got to worry about accidentally teleporting into arm’s reach of a Banshee.

*Rule 7[1:50]  Don’t forget the objectives.
During objective missions, it is almost always better for the team to stay together, especially on the Hacking/ Drone Escorting missions, as you can revive each other and get it done more quickly. You also get bonus XP for being in the objective zone and bonus credits for finishing early, so it’s a win-win situation there.  There are exceptions to this; such as one person going on ahead to clear the objective area in the drone or object delivery missions so everyone else has an easier time, but in general, sticking together will win.

Once one member of the team was killed, the rest were scattered pretty quickly, so we didn’t last long. If every match was like that, the game would not be as fun and compelling as it is. So I can understand why people used to competitive shooters, individualistic games and solo fights may not be enamoured with ME3.

I’m still playing it until the day the servers go offline though :P

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