A Mass Effect 3 PSA: Multiplayer Can Affect The Ending

Spoiler alert: Mass Effect 3 stars Commander Shepard

A lot of the Mass Effect 3 reviews are focusing on the bleakness of Bioware’s story, and quite a few are shocked at the game’s darkness in regard to the choices they made. Some guy called Tom Francis over at whatever the heck PC Gamer is, has figured out exactly why it’s even darker than expected, and it’s a bit of a dodgy trick that BioWare have pulled if true. No, it’s not new-news as such, but it is worth reiterating strongly now the game’s out in some territories. I’ll go into details after the jump, as I’m aware some people view even the words Mass Effect 3 as some sort of spoiler. As long as no-one spoils the ending of Se7en in the comments: I’ve had it on pause for on my VHS for about 16 years. I keep intending to return, but it’s just so tense!

Right, I’ll assume you’re here because you’re cool with me talking about the mechanics of this. I’m the best person to talk about it as I don’t know anything about the story, so there’s nothing about it in here. Really, I can only name Shepard and that’s it. I don’t even know if that’s the correct spelling of her name, frankly.

It turns out it’s all about playing multiplayer and gaining War Assets. As you play the single-player, when you help people you accrue war assets. Despite completing all the quests he could find, PCG’s man still suffered an overwhelmingly bleak, dark finish to his game. Why?

That’s because I’d never played the multiplayer. It’s a co-op mode where you and up to three other players have to survive waves of AI enemies and complete objectives. If you succeed, you get an increase to your Readiness rating – a percentage by which your single player War Assets are multiplied by. These are specific to each sector of the galaxy, so if you have a lot of War Assets in the Terminus Systems, you’ll gain more by playing on a multiplayer map set in the Terminus Systems.

Please, read the rest of Tom’s post before you comment here – obviously we don’t want to nick all his comments, but he has much more to say on how he played and why he was surprised by the outcome. This being Mass Effect, a certain bleakness is inevitable regardless, but apparently there’s bleak and there’s bleak. Now it’s a particularly cruel trick because it allegedly ignores your choices to some degree: you either need to be a crazy completionist in single-player, which entails completing all the grindy scanning minigames, which are apparently as dull as this photo of a rock, or jump extensively into the multiplayer, a part of the game that traditionally people would play after completing the main. Why do this? Why make people play the game in such a way? Can you guess what part of Mass Effect is apparently suffused with helpful microtransactions that you can opt for instead of gradually unlocking everything?

Another option still is to buy $7 iPhone game Mass Effect: Infiltrator, which offers an additional way of increasing war readiness in the main game.

Admittedly, this does mean there are multiple ways to achieve maximum war readiness, which may appeal to some – but it’s a long way distant from the old ways of doing your best to do the right thing throughout the quests (or the worst thing, if that’s your style).


  1. JackShandy says:

    Getting a 100% rainbows and sunshine ending leads to meaningless choices and a crappy story. I’m happy that people won’t be able to without doing a bunch of stuff they won’t bother with.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I like the option of getting an optimal ending if the game makes you work for it. Too many games force stupid binary decisions on you instead of having the end of the game be the net result of your actions. Better games present you with hard decisions and then let you out talk or out think the first choices you’re given.

  2. Deano2099 says:

    The best ending in Mass Effect 3 is really hard to get? You need 100% for it? Good. I don’t have a problem with that. I was concerned that by doing a bit of MP and playing the iOS game it’d be ridiculously easy, so I see this as a good thing.

    That said, if we want to be critical, let’s criticise the right thing? Put multi-player aside as an optional component as it’s meant to be, you’re left with boring planet-scanning side-missions. That are basically compulsory for 100% completion and the best ending. That’s a problem. A gameplay element that sucks. The fact that you can ignore it by doing MP instead isn’t the point. Because if the side-missions were awesome, it wouldn’t matter that you *had* to do them to get the best ending.

  3. InternetBatman says:

    I said this in the review of the game, but it’s pretty two-faced to write an extremely negative article about design decisions the game and also give it a 93. Since they also gave Dragon Age II a glowing review that it didn’t deserve I think they might need to rethink their strategy for reviewing Bioware games.

    • Duffin says:

      Maybe thats where the 7 ‘points’ went. Damn, this review business is almost like preparing for a reaper invasion.

    • Stupoider says:

      The state of gaming journalism these days!

      Is it surprising that TOR got glowing reviews while everyone is bailing it after the free month is over?

      DA2 was considered a disappointment by almost everyone who played it, a step down from the first one, but that didn’t stop it getting 90s.

      Bioware is some sort of siren.

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  5. sinister agent says:

    Mr. Pearson, your Shepard impersonator is cleary drunk. Please escort her from the building.

  6. Zepp says:

    I love how “game journalists” score game for 93/100 on metacritic while gamers score is 2.3/10. Lulzydaisy. Someone sold his soul to EA overlords. :]]]

    • LionsPhil says:

      Or metacritic is being bombed by 4chan.

    • NathanH says:

      Yes, metacritic is carnage right now. People need to stop with that nonsense, because then when a game is crap and gets slaughtered by the user reviews, like Dragon Age 2, it’s easy to dismiss as “just those silly children again”.

    • subedii says:

      I remember the same thing happening with Portal 2. Fortunately I don’t think 4chan really got their “0wnage” or whatever in the end, since as soon as news spread a concerted counter effort kicked in and brought the score back up.

      Ultimately though, this pretty much shows why averaging user review scores is so pointless when everyone can basically click-submit with complete anonymity and without any need for verification or validity.

  7. Shooop says:

    It’s now painfully obvious EA’s role model is Zynga.

  8. gtb says:

    Well how “good” of an ending do you want? EA-Bioware now offers several tiers of endings, each progressively better than the last, for the low price of 99 cents per tier.

    In the first tier ending, Shepard ends up becoming a machine and the final seconds of the rendered cutscene are of him pelvic thrusting at the camera.

    Contrast that with the last tier ending, or the “Excellent” ending, which retails for $9.99, in which Shepard saves the universe with his (or her) laser eyes before attaining ultimate enlightenment and reaching the Floating Island of Mandango, where there is no jealousy or boredom and everyone is engaged in wine drinking and steaming hot sex.

    Here at EA-Bioware, we care about you and the choices the player makes! And so now you have the unprecedented option to choose how much money you want us to bleed out of you for imaginary closure!

    • NathanH says:

      I wonder if they removed the sex from Mass Effect and sold it as a $10 day 1 DLC, how many people would buy it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      As far as I can determine, HAWT SPESS LESBIANS and waifu idiocy about Tali are pretty much the reasons people buy these Japanese-dating-sims-wrapped-around-godawful-action-games.

    • NathanH says:

      Now let’s not be silly.

    • Stupoider says:


      Have you been to the Bioware ME3 Romance forum?

      I wouldn’t go alone if I were you.

  9. rocketman71 says:

    Sad AND idiotic. That’s EA “not affecting Bioware’s internal culture”. Not affecting my ass.

    I would be angry if I hadn’t NOT bought the game due to Origin.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    In ME2 you had to complete all of the side quests and do all the resource mining to get the happy ending. In ME3 you have to do the same things but you can play some co-op missions instead of doing all the resource mining. I don’t see what the big deal is, here.

    • Vinraith says:

      You didn’t have to do anything remotely resembling “all the resource mining” to get a good ending in 2. Hell, I didn’t do anything resembling “all the resource mining,” and had an enormous stash of excess resources at the end of the game.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Before the first patch I probably spent 10 hours of my gametime resource mining. They patched it to make it less annoying, but either way you have to do enough to get your ship upgraded at the very least.

    • Meldreth says:

      In my mind, the ” big deal ” here is that this seems to be a completely broken game design. How much sense does it make that, for instance, helping a race is more meaningful if you played the multiplayer mode than if you didn’t ? Not much, I fear.

      With this concept, it looks like everything is tied to that Galaxy readiness bar, and it’s ridiculous. If I manage to make everyone happy, I expect it to have good consequences, regardless of whether I played the multiplayer mode or not. Essential actions are, and that’s it, you can’t make one suddenly less important just because you didn’t play online.

      Of course, in that case, I guess BioWare could have made sure that good endings weren’t possible, in any case, because of, say, the cycle that the universe has known for apparently ever. But, no, you can save the day.

      And here’s the problem : again, why would saving Mr OriginalName greatly increase your chance of beating the crap out of the reapers only if you have played the multiplayer and gained multipliers, whereas if you have only focused on the solo, it would not matter as much ? This system seems completely artificial, and does not, or so it appears to me, make any sense. It would be infinitely more enjoyable, if, like in the previous games, your CHOICES mattered. I want my ending to be determined by my behaviour, my actions, not by a percentage, unfortunately this bar means that you can get the best ending even if you sucked. Provided that the good choices, actually the points that it got you, were multiplied by your feats in multiplayer.

      And it is even more frustrating when you realize that it could be quite original, meaning that you can get good or similar endings after different playthroughs. In the current state of the game, you can, but it doesn’t make sense.

      All right, I hope that I’m not completely out of line there.

    • subedii says:

      It IS completely artificial. The only reason this was done was to try and force increased multiplayer adoption. The only reason they did that is because they’re so freaking horrified at the prospect that someone might play the game and then trade it in.

  11. utharda says:

    You know If I’d read this last night, I wouldnt have the game right now.


    of course had i known how mid destrowingly boring the swtor pve was, I wouldnt have that either.

    gg ea. could you at least bring the nhl series back to computers?

    • Jason Moyer says:

      If NHL ever comes back they’ll probably just port the latest PS2 one again.

  12. jonfitt says:

    Craig, I think I found the inspiration for your FemShep.
    link to i.imgur.com

  13. bambusek says:

    Who the hell is this zombie on screen?

    • NathanH says:

      The next DLC is a vampire crossover from Oblivion. You heard it here first.

  14. Kommander says:

    I will be voting with my wallet on this one. I’m not going to nerd rage, but this “experience” is simply not worth $60 to me.

  15. Geen says:

    *shoots self in head*

  16. TariqOne says:

    So a game has two kinds of extra shit you can do or not do. Choosing to not do either of these two kinds of extra shit has some modest effect on the game’s conclusion. OK?

    Most games I buy have shit in them I wind up choosing not to do: i.e., most of the actual game itself. You can damn well bet that has an effect on their conclusion. In that I don’t reach it.

    I’ve finished both installments of this series. I’m confident I’ll get a decent return on my money.

    Hooray for low standards. From what I’ve seen around here, having principles really makes people fucking grumpy.

  17. Dol says:

    Metacritic : 2.6 / 10 User reviews. 523 negatives out of 690 ratings.

    link to metacritic.com

    • subedii says:

      Quick question: What inference are you expecting me to take from that?

      And please don’t say “Oh I just wanted to post it”, or “I had no particular motivation”, or similar.

  18. thebigJ_A says:

    According to Jeff Gerstmann, it’s “trivial” to get the best ending without playing any multiplayer at all (source:link to giantbomb.com they talk about it right at the beginning).
    And he says he got there well before the end of the game, so didn’t even have to do some of the side stuff. (His ‘readiness’ says 70%, but he didn’t play any mp till after beating the campaign. Couldn’t, the servers weren’t up then.)

    He’s a guy I’ve come to respect when it comes to gaming, so I think I’ll take his word on it unless and until I find out otherwise for myself.

  19. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    Read this before trying multiplayer and got worried, wasn’t planning on playing MP. Played for 2 hours (when originailly intending on a half an hour) Now I am not worried. I like the multiplayer, you don’t have to spend any money at all. There are only three items to buy and they are three tiered packs of random goodies. Why anyone would spend money on them I don’t know as the in game credits are plentiful. After a match I was always able to buy a couple. It’s fun, I would play it even if it was not boosting my stats in game. (That’s just my opinion though, don’t go spreading it around.) Oh and in that time I only played bronze matches which I assume are the easiest, all the way through to Wave 10 at least and even won a couple. By the end the war map was at 77% on each segment.

  20. Hyetal says:

    For people of the future: It’s entirely possible to max out the readiness bar by just playing SP. Don’t worry.