Mass Effect 2 to Mass Effect 3: Differences and Similarities
In addition to the ability to alter weapons, BioWare has baked in a more choice-heavy level-up system than was seen in the last game. Instead of one or two significant specialization choices as players hit the top tiers of their abilities, as in Mass Effect 2, now each new upgrade of a players’ abilities will come with a binary choice. As you upgrade Biotic Warp, for example, you’ll be choosing between a duration upgrade and a damage upgrade. Later, the choice will be even more significant, changing the way the ability is deployed and allowing players to include much deeper customization of their characters.
More Active Combat
Combat remains largely unchanged between ME2 and ME3, as seen in the demo. The core of the experience is the same, but the moving parts have definitely gotten a little attention for the latest installment. Namely, players will find it a little easier to move around, change position and avoid fire. Shepard is now equipped with a roll move that can be executed just about any time for a quick burst of lateral speed, and a SWAT turn that lets players move between cover positions. Getting in and out of cover felt more or less the same — that is, kind of unnatural — but the additional moves should help some players stay alive a little better in their next outing.
All Story or All Combat
BioWare is giving players a choice at the outset of Mass Effect 3 about what kind of experience they wish to have. That choice is boiled down to three options: A story-heavy experience that de-emphasizes combat; an RPG-style experience that balances the two; or a combat-heavy experience that de-emphasizes story. Each caters to a different kind of player, and the first and last options cause the game to play out in significantly different ways.
- The Story-only mode can be considered pretty easy. With the emphasis on the presentation, players will find most of the RPG stuff they’d normally have to worry about streamed out of Mass Effect 3. Characters are leveled up automatically, and while we didn’t get to mess with it, we’d assume that weapons and armor would be parceled out on a “best available” basis. Combat, too is much easier: Players still get to do the shooting, but enemies go down pretty fast and without much contention.
- The RPG-style mode is the classic Mass Effect experience. Players get all the story choices, all the weapon and character customization, and all the difficult combat. It’s the balanced experience most gamers will expect, and as such, the most arduous and time-consuming.
- The action-heavy mode pushes down story, effectively turning each of Mass Effect 3′s dialog choices into a cutscene and streaming out extraneous information players would otherwise have access to through dialog trees. Just how this will work in terms of players’ Paragon/Renegade choices isn’t clear; after choosing the action option in the demo, players just have all choices streamed out, but still receive “Paragon” and “Renegade” points as if they made choices. One wonders if BioWare will include a choice at the outset of the game, allowing players to opt either for a straight Paragon or a straight Renegade story. Either way, the action mode pushes players straight into the game, ignoring the character customization menu at the beginning of the game and putting heavy emphasis on the game elements rather than the story elements.
Lots of Unanswered Questions
Of course, there’s a lot about Mass Effect 3 we still don’t know, even just two weeks out from the game’s release. Changes to the squad system, changes to space travel and planetary exploration, changes to the side-quest system: none of it has been illuminated yet. We know that BioWare intends to integrate all the choices players made in the earlier two games, but just how those choices will influence Mass Effect 3, we don’t know. And we don’t know the logistics of the cooperative multiplayer and Galaxy at War system yet.
So based on everything we’ve seen so far, this is just about everything we know to prepare the Mass Effect 2 aficionado for ME3. With just a couple weeks between us and the final appearance of Commander Shepard, now would probably be a pretty good time to replay the earlier games in the series if you’re a little rusty.