The Hype Machine: Mass Effect 3 (Demo Impression)

The gift of the Mass Effect 3 demo comes tomorrow. I had a chance to try it out early on the Xbox last night and am here to share my impression of the demo.

Full disclosure: I am a Mass Effect fangirl. Make no mistake about it. But I assure you that I did my best to take off my fangirl hat and I played through the demo four times to get a feel for all the changes and updates that have been made to the newest Mass Effect installment.

If you want the spoiler-free short version, here it is:

From what I experience through the demo, it seems that any changes BioWare made to appeal to a wider audience is completely optional. Meaning that those changes will not impact players unless they chose to play with those options or experiences. Otherwise, the changes that have been to the traditional Mass Effect experience that I saw in the demo are things that I find to be positive. The demo showed a lot of promising progress with combat, graphics, and sound. The depth and emotional impact of story that the Mass Effect series is also showcased in the demo. Overall, it’s very exciting and I am somehow looking forward to Mass Effect 3 even more than I already was.

And now for the long version. I will do my best to keep it spoiler-free, but I may include things that may be
considered slight-spoilers. Any text with even slight-spoilers will be noted.

The Mass Effect 3 demo shows us that we still have the option to chose whether to play as Male or Female Shepard, naming your character, and chosing your class. It also shows us that we have some new prompts to chose from. I’m going to break it down by each section in the game:

Choose Your Experience

First, we get to choose the experience we want from the game. Players have the choice of jumping right into the action by choosing the appropriately named “Action” experience, meaning that the combat is adjustable that all dialogue is automatic (rather than the player chosing their response) and plays as a cutscene instead. There is also “Role Playing” which is what is called the “traditional ME experience,” meaning that combat is adjustable, character customization, and dialogue choices are still all here. Finally, we have “Story” which focuses more on customizing the character and story and less emphasis on difficult combat.

I played through the demo several times with each experience option. First, I went with the traditional Role Playing mode. As a major ME fan, I can assure other fans that it is still satisfying as ever. With Story mode, there is a definite difference in combat as only a few shots can take down what were otherwise challenging enemies in the other two modes.

Action I left for last because I wanted to see how it handled dialogue. As I mentioned before, in this mode, dialogue is automatically chosen for you. The automatic dialogue seemed to be somewhat random – at times I heard the paragon response, other times the renegade response. This brought back a memory I have from ME2: in my first playthrough I didn’t build up enough of my paragon points to resolve the conflict between Miranda and Jack, and Miranda died. Could that kind of conflict arise again and be an issue that goes unresolved in Action mode? Perhaps. But then again, if a player is chosing to play the Action mode that means they aren’t as interested in the various results that can occur in RPGs, so that would make it a non-issue.

Character Customization 

***NOTE: This section may include slight spoilers about specific options in character customization, so if you must, skip to Psychological Profile below***

Character Customization isn’t new, I know. However I figured I’d include it just in case there are people wondering about changes. There didn’t seem to be many improvements in character customization in the demo. There were definitely new options for hair color, brow type, and so on but nothing about it really stood out to me. I did not input my ME2 character code, but I have seen various posts on Tumblr of character before and afters. Many of them look very different after importing. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I’m not really sure. I suppose it’s up to each player to decide for themselves. But one thing that did make me smile about character customization was the option to have purple hair!

Psychological Profile


Most of the psychological profile is the same – chosing personal history (Spacer, Colonist, Earthborn) and service history (Sole Survivor, War Hero, Ruthless). But the new one is choosing your characters experience with significant combat loss. The options are Numerous, Kaidan Alenko, and Ashley Williams. The first Mass Effect game forced us to make a choice between saving Kaidan and Ashley, which makes those options self-explanatory. However, Numerous does not get in to specifics. Even during the demo, I did not run in to a portion that even addressed this choice. However, it is a demo after all so perhaps it’s something that does not get addressed until the game. That, and it’s likely an option placed in the game meant for people who are skipping the previous games and starting with Mass Effect 3.

While playing the game, I noticed that there are many noticable improvements with combat, graphics, and sound.

Combat

Aside from the Story mode, combat is noticably much more dynamic. Enemies are much more likely to move around and depending on the environment, it was important to keep an eye out for enemies flanking. I noticed that I was doing much more to plan out how I was attacking sets of enemies than I have in previous games. It was much more important to focus on strategy rather than just going in “guns blazing.” Time is of the essence in some cases as one of the missions in the demo was dependent on taking out enemies quickly, resulting in a definite need to use strategy.

The biggest improvement was the change in cover. It is no longer obvious when heading into an area that will prompt combat. Cover has been interagrated to be more seamless and it’s a change that the demo made very apparent.

I played a few different classes and noticed new powers that were all exciting to use, including the new omniblade melee option. However, one area of concern that has been voiced was about playing the sentinal class. I did not have this experience myself (I typically play as the soldier or vanguard class), but The BioWare Social Network goes in to more depth on a post about this concern.

Graphics

In short, they are major leaps in graphics in the Mass Effect 3 demo. The amount of detail on character faces have vastly improved. The enivronment – and the amount of activity going on in the environment around you – was definitely aweinspiring.

**WARNING: Definite SPOILERS ahead in this section and there may be something that is considered a slight spoiler in the Sound section, so skip the rest if you must!**

There is an expansive view all around the first portion of the demo, and the level of detail and activity is
astoninishing.

There were many moments when I tried to stop and just look at the environment when following Anderson in the first few moments of the game. He actually shouted at me to hurry up and keep moving. I wanted to whine at him and say “But it’s so PRETTY!” Later in the demo, I started looking around instead of doing something a character asked of me. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. Turns out it was, because more enemies showed up simply because I delayed the action. Oops.

Going back to character faces, the biggest one that stood out was Captain Anderson. I could see detail on his face that were not as apparent as before. He geuinely looked like someone who had a lot of experience with combat in his past and it confirms that time has indeed passed since the first game. Fans of the series will be happy to know that Kaidan looks better than ever, and Liara’s face is a special standout of the graphics upgrade. Though I am more particular to Ashley with her hair pulled back, she does look quite ravishing in the demo.

Sound

Many of the sounds we are used to – the picking up of guns or items, the sound of doors opening, and so on – are still the same, which is somewhat disappointing only because I ended up comparing it to other sounds that have seen improvements. Clanks and clinks of changing out ammo is more noticable this time around as there are differences in the sound depending on the gun. A clip dropping to the ground is so crisp that it almost seems as if I could literally look to my left and find an empty clip right next to me.

And then, there is the music. I was able to resist all fangirl notions until the music really hit its stride. And it hits right before the title screen. Jack Ward was the composer for the first two games and was quite talented himself. But now that Mass Effect 3 has Clint Mansell, a composer who worked on the original score for Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, it has elevated the music to a true cinematic level. I will leave it to readers to experience the music complete with the demo itself, but I had chills. The right music with key moments results in a flurry of emotions that really elevated my experience with the demo above and beyond.

All of this and it’s only the demo. Unfortunately, access to multiplayer was not yet open for us so we didn’t get to experience that quire yet. Otherwise, the demo is well worth your time, especially it you may need a nudge to ultimately decide whether or not to purchase Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 3 releases March 6th on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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