Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was controversial at launch, but – despite some issues – it’s a solid co-op horde mode with plenty to love, even in 2021.
It has been nearly a decade since Mass Effect 3 was originally released, and thanks to development constraints in the remaster, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition cut ME3‘s multiplayer, meaning the original version is the only way to experience that mode. The multiplayer servers are fortunately still up and running, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an online mode released all the way back in 2012 holds up in 2021.
Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode was derided at launch for a variety of reasons, but chiefly for its importance to the game’s single-player story. Before the release of the Extended Cut DLC, it was nearly impossible for solo players to achieve the Effective Military Strength rating required for game’s best possible ending. This was thanks to the Galactic Readiness mechanic, which measured the security level of the galaxy and could only be raised by successfully completing multiplayer missions. As the best ending’s required EMS rating was 5,000 and the base Galactic Readiness score cut Shepard’s total military strength to 50% of what players had actually attained, this understandably irritated many. With the aforementioned DLC, however, the stain of this controversy was slowly worn away.
For such a contentious addition, Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer mode itself is remarkably unremarkable: a squad-based horde mode where up to four players, as various classes and characters, team up to kill waves of AI enemies. There are 11 waves in total during a standard match, and the third, sixth and tenth waves have additional mandatory objectives (in exchange for extra in-game currency). The final wave is the extraction phase, wherein players must get to a specific area of the map before a two-minute timer reaches zero.
Though players can customize their weapons and characters, most of their options are unlocked via random packs; Mass Effect 3 contained one of gaming’s earliest loot box mechanics, but it’s perhaps one of the best examples of such a system. It’s relatively easy to earn enough in-game currency to afford crates with high chances at top-tier loot, and playing it now only emphasizes how much fairer it feels than most modern gacha mechanics. It’s still not a great system, in general, but it’s better than many others like it.
How Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer Feels In 2021
While Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer gameplay systems don’t differ very much from the base game, it does put more emphasis on combatting threats while on the move. Since enemies can spawn anywhere on the map to outflank players, cover loses much of its protective benefit. In hindsight, this more dynamic combat style seems like the clear basis for ME3‘s maligned successor, Mass Effect: Andromeda. It gives the multiplayer a distinct feel, but the game’s basic shooting system was designed for cover, so multiplayer sometimes feel clunky – especially for character classes most comfortable at range. When a character starts to jive with a player, however, and they begin to cut swaths through the enemy ranks, it’s incredibly satisfying.
Unfortunately, Screen Rant found lag and strange desync issues common between even as few as two players. For example, enemies might teleport around as a player flies through the air, across the map, and finally back into normal gameplay. We weren’t able to verify whether current server issues are universal, but these problems were certainly not unheard of as far back as the game’s launch.
Coming back to Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer in 2021, it’s a mode marred by frustrating bugs, but these don’t break the experience. When it works, it’s a blast to play. Fans of this mode who were sad it wasn’t included in the remaster will find it’s still a fantastic time with friends.
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