Preview Review! Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions

This one’s not as timely as it could be.  Surely you’ve made your own decisions about Mass Effect 3’s demo by now.  Well, unless your opinions match mine exactly, then I’m pretty sure you’ve made some terrible choices with your life.  Like being nice to someone I don’t like or having original thoughts or the like.  In order to help make the world a better place, I humbly submit the EXACT THOUGHTS you should have about this sneak peak.

The Mass Effect 3 demo has descended from the heavens to wreck havoc upon the cities of earth!  Our first look at the final bit of the Mass Effect trilogy is finally here and reports from as far away as the neighbor kids indicate that it may very well be “a right good time.”    Let us explore, together, what’s new, what’s changed, what’s silly, and what’s done right!

One of the nice bits about the demo is that it does allow for more customization than was strictly needed.  You can recreate your favorite Commander Shepherd (faveshep), pick his/her class, and even figure out who among your increasingly gigantic stable of squad mates survived your previous ineptitudes.  I went with a manish sort of faveshep from my previous Mass Effect outings.  We will call him Chuttonmops because that is a fun word to say.  After creating your character you’re dropped right into the thick of the plot.

Awwww HELL yeeeah
It's like Gollum and a beard had an angry, sullen baby!

It starts with a knock on Shepherd’s door.  After a few terse words with a generic sort of space soldier, a few things become apparent.  Firstly, it is that Shepherd no longer has a commission with the Earth Space Army or what have you.  The second is that he maintains a lonely, miserable little apartment that seems to be in the same building that the Earth military forces use for emergency meetings.  A quick trip is all it takes to be face-to-face with a group of panicked commanderly sorts.  It seems the Reapers have arrived!  The Reapers lend credence to this assumption by immediately murdering the commanders.  Shepherd and Anderson both survive the initial attack and the demo proper begins.

After the first chunk of plot plays out, the player is fast-forwarded to a later chunk of the plot.  Now it was up to Chuttonmops and his Motley Band of Space Commandos to retrieve a  fertile female Krogan from a Salarian base of some kind.  Things start poorly and get far worse once Cerberus commandos show up.  This forces Shepherd and crew to deal with yet another arbitrary obstacle of some kind.  Also a giant robot.

Overall, the game’s mechanics don’t seem to have changed overmuch from Mass Effect 2.  There’s still an emphasis on cover-based shooterry.  I found the controls a bit clunky as the space bar has become a sort of context-sensitive all-purpose button, but after getting used to it, things went well enough.  Use of special abilities was largely unchanged, with the player able to pause the action to aim and activate various powers.  Basically, if you’ve played Mass Effect 2 you’ll not need much adjusting.

Deep emotional content
Chuttonmops again, displaying his deep, manly emotions.

The various baddies you face do show a reasonable amount of diversity, with the Cerberus troops employing very different tactics depending on what type of troop they are.  There are ranged attackers who seek cover, troops that carry large metal riot shields and advance on you with dogged determination, and lots of robots and turrets tended to by technicians.  One of the things I’ve noticed is the tendency for the bad guys to come in waves.  It was something that annoyed me about Bioware’s previous offering Dragon Age 2, though in fairness, ME3 seems to be doing it much better.

Multiplayer is a thing that should be tried. Bioware’s been careful to keep it from being a needed part of the single-player experience. Instead, it’s very much a thing you can do for its own sake. If you want to, you can play the multiplayer portion instead of doing all the various non-plot-related quests and get all the neat widgets and guffins. Or you can just play all of the single-player content for it instead. Or do both. It’s that sort of freedom of approach that I really do approve of. While I do enjoy fetching 100 bear pelts for Space Bigot, some folks would rather just mix it up with a few human players. As you play multiplayer you can unlock new characters and bits exclusively for the multiplayer portion. Victories mean money and levels. The money lets you buy collectable card game-esque randomized packs of one-use items and permanent gear. It’s a great idea and I approve with all of my hearts.

Palins in space!
Space Bigot NEEDS those friggin' bear pelts, yo.

Finally, the game demo, at least, really seem to enjoy a bit of fan service.  They take the opportunity to have various squad mates show up and interact as though they were old friends.  This strikes me as odd because i don’t recall them ever acting like friends in many cases.  It’s the tried and true “Hey, look, the old gang’s all here.  Let’s go save the world!” trope we see in sequels of all sorts.

Despite the occasionally silly narrative bits, the demo promises that the full game will be a continuation and a refinement of what we saw in Mass Effect 2. I think it’s safe to say that if you enjoyed Mass Effect 2, you’ll find much of what you love present in the sequel.

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