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Sheparding: Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Detailed

Mako Races! Krogan mud wrestling! Co-op mining! Garrus threesome co-op! None of which is going to be in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Give it up BioWare, Shepard on Shepard action is what we want to see, none of this "Success in multi-player will have a direct impact on the outcome of the single player campaign" tomfoolery. But yes, that's the headline. I've just got DeviantArt open in another window.

As detailed in this BioWare Forum post, Mass Effect 3's multiplayer will be 4-player co-op and will affect the single player. Shepard will not be present, rather you'll create your own custom Special Forces character from the various skills and alien races on hand. Mission success will affect your singleplayer Galactic Readiness level, which appears to be a bigger version of gaining your squad's loyalty and upgrading the Normandy in Mass Effect 2, in that it charts the increasing resources at Shepard's disposal as the Reapers draw ever closer.

There's some typically longwinded PR answers to questions in the release, but I'd like to know if the addition of the co-op the reason for the delay to next year, and how the change from singleplayer to multiplayer will be handled. If that means quitting out of the campaign to another menu to search for friends and servers, it'd be powerfully mood breaking. Maybe if Shepard accesses multiplayer from her console in the captain's quarters that'd be alright. Or some kind of Mass Effecty version of GTA 4's mobile phone multiplayer menu coming out of Shepard's Omnitool. That would actually be pretty neat.

Storyline integration aside, Mass Effect's a single player RPG. I don't want or need the help of other people to finish it. In their statement BioWare are keen to stress how optional the multiplayer content is to the singleplayer, saying that it's an "alternative method" to increasing Galactic Readiness, but that's irrelevant as soon as they made the decision to have it affect the singleplayer. Its presence means that it's story-driven content and players will be compelled to take part in something that hasn't been required for the previous two outings.

Will you also be able to grind the multiplayer? If it's possible to repeat the missions over and over to rank up or get a gold medal or however it'll be scored, those repeated attempts would amount to in-game cheating, artificially bumping up the numbers through metagame practices instead of deliberated RPG decision making.

I'm not trying to say that Mass Effect shouldn't have multiplayer. I actually think it sounds like a lot of fun, and I'd love to manipulate minds as an Asari while a friend tanks a Krogan and takes on a horde of Husks. I hope it's going to be as great an addition as BioWare say it will be. I just don't want some multiplayer high score affecting my singleplayer story.

There's more uncertainty with "Galaxy at War", what BioWare have called the system governing Galactic Readiness. At the end of the release, there's this:

We are not going into details about the other components of the Galaxy at War at this time except to say we are designing each to make sense for that platform. Each component will be able to affect a player’s “Galactic Readiness” level in a different way. Again, participation in any or all ME3:GaW elements is entirely optional.

What will these other platforms be? The cynic in me thinks about Call of Duty's Doritos Double XP debacle, though it's probably going to be some Facebook game or retailer specific pre-order bonuses, which doesn't seem any less intrusive at this point.

Mass Effect 3's marked for a February 2012 release. We'll just have to wait and see what else BioWare have in store.

Full details on the BioWare Forums here.

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