Everything We Know About Mass Effect 3

Perhaps it’s due to a plot that dovetails nicely with the looming Mayan Apocalypse, but no game is as highly anticipated in 2012 as Mass Effect 3. Despite being riddled with controversies ranging from the inclusion of a cooperative multiplayer, to a DLC strategy that tests the patience of gamers already willing to spend hundreds on their consoles and PCs, expectations are still enormously high for the final Commander Shepard game to be the best in the series.

Whether or not it can meet those expectations will remain a mystery until it launches in one week, but success or failure, every single one of us will be playing. And because we’re as obsessed as you are, we see no harm in stoking feverish impatience further with a detailed look a the epic conclusion of one of the defining gaming phenomenons of our time. Please turn off your omni-tools and tell your significant others they should go: Here is everything we know about Mass Effect 3.

Table of Contents

  1. Combat and Gameplay
  2. Multiplayer and Galaxy at War
  3. RPG Elements
  4. The Mass Effect Universe
  5. The Story
  6. Technical Details

Gameplay and Combat

As Phil Hornshaw pointed out in his comparison between the two games, if you played Mass Effect 2, you know what to expect from ME3. Even so, it isn’t just a retread of what worked in ME2. Tweaks ranging from the subtle to the ridiculous have been added, and they promise to make for a more challenging, and possibly perplexing experience.

Navigating your environment

In Mass Effect 3, players will experience a much roomier world than previously seen. Shepard is now able to leap across narrow gaps and can even climb ladders to reach higher ground, offering a wider variety of ways to tackle certain levels. In addition, while running, punching and shooting all work as they did previously, Shepard can now also perform a roll to avoid incoming fire. It’s a minor tweak, but it offers a greater feeling of control to players, and makes the events of the game feel more fast paced than in previous entries.

Kinect

For Xbox 360 owners, Mass Effect 3 will also feature optional Kinect functionality. This will allow the player to give orders to Shepard’s squad during combat, examine your surroundings with commands like “open” and “examine”, and select options for the dialogue wheel vocally. For an in depth look, see our Kinect commands guide.

Difficulty

From the beginning, BioWare has hinted that Mass Effect 3 will present players with greater challenges than before, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed just how far-reaching this would be. Late last year, BioWare confirmed in an interview with @Gamer that everything has been scaled up. “Veteran difficulty from Mass Effect 1 and 2 will be on par with normal difficulty in Mass Effect 3,” they say, indicating that even casual difficulty won’t be the cakewalk it was in previous outings.

Improved AI

The recent Mass Effect 3 demo confirms that Mass Effect 3′s NPC AI is superior to the previous two games. More often than not, enemies will fight strategically and force you to do the same. They’ll encircle you, try to pen you down and generally make it punishingly difficult for players who want to run in guns blazing, at least until they’ve leveled up.

Fortunately, the improved AI also extends to your squad. Party members point out advantageous details about your surroundings, offer suggestions for dealing with enemies, and genuinely appear to be working with you as a hardened team rather than participating in a free-for-all. Better, everything we’ve seen so far verifies that your squad will no longer run in front of your line of sight, inconveniently absorbing your bullets. Over all, expect a less random combat experience that demands players take greater control over the way battles are conducted.

Cover

As in Mass Effect 2, cover will play a huge part of combat. Each level will have numerous places behind which to hide, and failing to take advantage will get you very quickly killed. But rather than being a simple cover-based shooter, the game’s improved AI means that getting behind cover won’t be enough. You’ll also have to choose your position wisely and direct your forces carefully, lest you find yourself surrounded and out of ammo, easy meat for enemies who won’t suffer from the biotic and tech power cool down times you’ll have to endure.

Your Squad

Though we can’t say for certain until we’ve played the full game, everything we’ve seen so far indicates that squad management during combat is largely identical to Mass Effect 2. You’ll be able to tell them where to go, select which weapons or powers they’ll use in battle, and use them as extensions of your own weaponry. The difference is, of course, the improved AI that means even when you’re not ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL, they’ll still fight as a cohesive unit alongside you.

Players will be dealing with a smaller pool of fighters than was available in Mass Effect 2. While the final number hasn’t been revealed, Shepard’s permanent squad has been confirmed to include Garrus, Tali, Liara, either Ashley or Kaiden, and new Character James Vega. It is also likely that the recently revealed new squad member in the From Ashes DLC will also be permanent.

Powers and Weapons

Biotic and Tech powers function identically to Mass Effect 2. You’ll be able to assign preferred powers to hotkeys in order to use them without having to interrupt gameplay to go into the menu. The differences will primarily be in effect. As with Mass Effect 2, Biotic and Tech abilities will have slight tweaks compared to ME2, largely due to the new level-up system, but otherwise you’ll feel right at home.

Weapons also function much as they did in Mass Effect 2. You’ll be able to choose your own and your squad’s loadout from weapons lockers, and manage them via the same menu wheel the series has long employed. The crucial difference is that Shepard may now use every available weapon without penalty regardless of class, finally liberating players from having to choose between a crushing Biotic Slam or an awesome assault rifle.

Melee Combat

If you have played Mass Effect 2, nearly everything in ME3 will feel identical. Melee combat in Mass Effect 3 remains largely an afterthought to the game’s emphasis on squad mechanics, ranged weapons and powers. Of course, much has been written about the new Omni-blade, but as Phil Hornshaw noted, while it provides a neat way to deliver a one hit kill or extract yourself from close-quarters combat, it doesn’t otherwise alter things.

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