Mass Effect 3: Does It Really Need Multiplayer?

Mass Effect 3  - 869780

The word is out.  We’ve been guessing it for months ever since the game was shown at E3, and it’s finally been confirmed.  When Mass Effect 3 surfaces for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on March 6th, 2012, it’ll feature a new component that’s a first for the series – co-op multiplayer.

The game will introduce the ability to work together as a four-player squad, and rather than relying on AI-driven teammates to lend you a hand in combat, they’ll instead be guided by real players who are accompanying you in your crucial mission to save the galaxy.

Still, considering the addition is coming this late in the series (and at the end, as part three is the conclusion to the current Commander Shepard arc), one has to wonder… is it really necessary?  Well, let’s take a look at some of the factors surrounding it.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

Everyone’s doing co-op.  Ever since it became a popular standard years ago with the likes of Left 4 Dead and other games of that nature, co-op has become a huge part of some games.  From Call of Duty to Army of Two to the latest Madden, it seems to be the “cool” thing to team up with a friend (or three friends) to get your objectives completed.  It kind of makes sense, considering how some folks are on the same page as others when it comes to certain types of games, especially where clans are involved.

With Mass Effect 3, if you have a savvy enough squad that doesn’t take any guff and listens to pinpoint directions from their leader, there’s really nothing you can’t get accomplished when it comes to completing missions.  The addition of the co-op component makes things a little more interesting than they were before.  On the other hand…

The first two Mass Effect games strived without co-op.  Mass Effect 2 managed to score game of the year honors last year, and managed to do so without the need of an additional player or two joining you.  Bioware has done a superb job crafting the game as a single-player opus, even though you work alongside a team.  How you establish that team through relationships helped strengthen that adventure, as well as the relationships you have with them, sexual or otherwise.  Adding familiar players into that equation kind of takes away some of the mystery of discovering someone’s better abilities, since you already know them.

Granted, you don’t HAVE to go with co-op, as the game will feature a strong enough single player campaign on its own.  To some people, it’ll be enough.

Not everyone can be Shepard.  One problem we can see with Mass Effect 3 is how each player fits on a team.  After all, there can only be one Shepard per squad, right?  This does open up the opportunity to try new characters, a nice first for a Mass Effect game, but it also brings into question the balance between said players, and who the “better” ones are over the course of the game.  Honestly, though, it won’t be that big of an issue, as they should all be quite effective in combat.  However, we can easily see some folks having “leader” issues, either being in charge of a squad or not playing at all.  People can get pretty egotistical like that.  (Not all of them are what we like to call “born leaders”.  And that brings us to…)

**Update** BioWare has since confirmed Shepard will not be a playable character in multiplayer.  Check out other Mass Effect Galaxy at War questions that BioWare has answered here.

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

What if you’re teamed with sucky players?  Let’s be honest.  There are folks who go into co-op sessions knowing everything about a game, and then there are those who have the kind of experience that would deem them as “amateur-ish”.  Mass Effect 3 is going to run into situations like this, where a class 35 soldier is teamed with a class 1 soldier who has no damn clue what they’re doing.

Hopefully, Bioware will have a system where players of equal skill can team up with one another and get into a game without running into newbies who have no idea what they’re doing.  That’s all we need, to be stuck in a firefight on our own without the help of someone who can’t even do something as basic as climbing a ladder.  (Sadly, we’ve seen this before.)

Despite all the issues that come into the picture here, we can definitely see Mass Effect 3’s co-op multiplayer being a huge factor in the game, and an addition that some players will come to appreciate over time.  It’s just a matter of working out the “little kinks” – matchmaking, sorting out party members, getting everyone on the same page – to make it a worthwhile experience.  Knowing Bioware, it should be fine.

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Robert Workman
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