Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions: Single Player Campaign On XBLA
BioWare has let slip numerous spoilers about the tone and content of Mass Effect 3 over the last year. Some of them, like the option to pursue same sex romances, have been promising. Others, like the introduction of multiplayer that can affect the story, have not been. Alas, my personal concerns about the direction the series may be taking, particularly that they might be dumbing it down for a larger audience or further limiting RPG elements, were not allayed in the demo.
There are three reasons for this. First and perhaps most troubling, there is less than 5 minutes of content in the demo before the Reapers invade. We see Admiral Hacket talking with Anderson (remotely) about disappeared colonies, we see Shepard confirm the Alliance’s worst fears and then blammo, invasion. Things happen really fast. Second, though we’ve been told for months that Commander Shepard would face a court marshal for his/her actions in The Arrival DLC, and that this would frame the opening of Mass Effect 3. The closest we get in the demo is Vega expressing support for Commander Shepard’s career in vague terms that imply some controversy, and Anderson rebuking Shepard that [paraphrasing] “after the sh*t you pulled, if you were any other soldier you’d have been court marshaled, stripped of rank and imprisoned”.
To be fair, it is almost certain that a significant amount of content has been removed from the sections previewed in the demo. There are only 7 instances of interactive dialogue in the demo, an absurdly low number for an RPG. Further, we know for a fact that in the actual game,during the sequence set on the Salarian colony, SPOILER, HIGHLIGHT TO READ there is a moment mid-combat when Shepard says about Cerberus “they’ve been indoctrinated! They’re capable of anything!”. In the current demo, there is a noticeable delay before Shep simply says “they’re capable of anything!”. It’s very likely that significant interactive conversation opportunities, and much more story related to Shep’s actions in the previous games, were cut to avoid spoilers.
Or at least, I certainly hope so. Otherwise, Mass Effect 3 is going to be significantly dumbed down by comparison to previous entries.
A couple of random thoughts:
* Slight aesthetic changes have occurred since the E3 demo. Last summer, during the sequence set near the beginning, Admiral Anderson was dressed in combat fatigues (which he’ll apparently have during the majority of the game, if the Art of the Mass Effect Universe can be trusted). In the demo he’s wearing his dress uniform.
* Based on the snippets of dialogue between Wrex and Shep, and later with Mordin, and the fact that Shepard very early on is sent to the Citadel to rally the galaxy, it is almost certain that speculation that the bulk of Mass Effect 3 being an extended quest to bring an end to the various conflicts between the races is correct. This probably means: Curing the Krogan Genophage, ending the war between the Quarians and Geth, getting the Batarians to forgive humanity for Shep’s act of genocide in The Arrival DLC and of course, convincing the Turian Council member to stop using sarcastic air quotes when discussing galactic annihilation.
* James Vega has taken all the steroids. All of them. The man is gigantic.
* Ashley has a new look, and it’s weird. Sometimes she looks really hot, other times she looks really creepy. Hopefully, she isn’t a racist, religious fundamentalist anymore. I kid, I kid.
Overall, the Mass Effect 3 single player demo is not mind-blowing. And why should it be? It is, after all, meant to whet your appetite, not fill you up. But at this late date, when the game has already gone gold, it’s troubling that the only things we’re seeing confirm improvements to graphics, functionality and combat, and the multiplayer, but offer nothing about the final game itself. We’ll all find out in two weeks; until then, we’ll keep our skepticism to a minimum and hope that the final game in the Shepard trilogy isn’t just a lengthy “I should go”.
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Be sure to check out Phil Hornshaw’s look at the PC version of the demo, and multiplayer.