Mass Effect’s multiplayer offers about the same level of character customization as single player only with a few unique twists. Just like single player you can choose your class, armor color, weapon loadouts, and power upgrades. Unlike single player however, human isn’t the only race available to you as an assortment of alien races including Drell, Krogan, and Asari can be unlocked for each of the different classes.
Picking a different race is more than just a cosmetic change. Since each race tied to a specific class only has three different active powers, and since anyone who plays single player knows that each class in Mass Effect has at least five to six different powers, picking a different race for your class can actually change which powers you have access to. A Human Soldier for instance has frag grenades as one of their powers while a Krogan Soldier can wield incendiary grenades.
Experience points earned are tied to a class regardless of race so don’t worry if you unlock a new race for your favorite class. A level ten Human Adept will stay level ten if they decide to change over to an Asari Adept. Credits earned are shared among all your characters so don’t feel shy about taking another class for a spin if you’re trying to save up for some of the more expensive recruitment packs.
Power vs. Firepower
Multiplayer uses the same weight vs. recharge system that was introduced in single player with a character’s recharge rate for their powers being influenced by the overall weight of their armaments. Deciding whether you want to choose lighter, less powerful weapons in favor of more frequent power use, sacrificing power recharge rate in favor of heavy firepower, or a balance of the two can drastically alter your combat performance depending on the kinds of enemies you face.
Leveling up your character and their powers can offset the weight penalties for wielding two heavy guns but the difference it makes to trade off a shotgun in favor of a pistol could mean the difference between success and failure in a heated firefight. I’ve even seen some brave souls opt instead for a single weapon so as to make their powers recharge so fast that they can pretty much spam them.
The Luck Of The Draw
Another interesting feature multiplayer in Mass Effect brings to the table is the recruitment packs players can purchase with the credits they earn from playing. These recruitment packs function in a similar way to booster packs for popular trading card games. When purchased, they give the player a random assortment of weapon mods, one-time-use armor and weapon upgrades, support items like medi-gel and spare thermal clips, and sometimes even uncommon or rare items like brand new weapons, new race unlocks for a class, or even xp bonuses for certain classes.
Naturally the more expensive packs have a higher chance of containing rarer items so if there’s a specific weapon or race you’re shooting for, it can pay off to save up. However if you’re really impatient to unlock some new guns and races you can also use actual currency to purchase these packs as well. Some folks may cry foul at this practice but to be fair it is an optional road for those of us whose luck may not be so great and since Mass Effect’s multiplayer is an entirely cooperative experience, it’s not like improving your character with real cash can actually hinder other players.
If there’s one aspect where Mass Effect’s multiplayer stands out from all the other Horde Modes out there, it’s the emphasis it puts on teamwork. Trying to go off all lone wolf Rambo-style is a great way to get yourself killed as the various foes you encounter do not pull their punches even on the easiest challenges. Of course being higher level does help in terms of power use and weapon damage, but even the highest level players will get taken down if they don’t work together.
Flanking, effectively using choke points, smart power use, covering each other’s blind-spots, these and other strategies are what truly separate good and great players in the multiplayer landscape and you’d be surprised how little level matters when you have a team that knows how to work together. Case and point: after losing several games as my level eight Vanguard, I decided to take a different class for a spin and made a fresh level one Soldier.
Despite being level one I managed to win the very first game I entered because my team knew how to watch each other’s backs, stick together when things got tense, and use their powers in an effective and smart manner. If there’s one thing Mass Effect multiplayer players should learn quickly it’s that no matter how good you are, what level you’ve reached, or how powerful your guns are, you are not a one-man army. Working with your teammates is the key to victory in multiplayer.
As skeptical as many fans were when Bioware first announced they were introducing multiplayer to the Mass Effect universe, I personally think they managed to capture the same spirit, tone, and reliance on teamwork that made the single player campaign so popular.
They even found a way to tie the two different modes together thanks to the Galactic Readiness system which means that even when players aren’t blazing through the galaxy as Shepard they can still feel they’re contributing to the effort to stop The Reapers. Hopefully Bioware will continue to support Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer now that the game has launched but in the meantime there’s still plenty to enjoy in the epic conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy both on and offline.Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgutopia.com, hookedgamers.com, and explosion.com