Commander Shepard is finally going to finish his trilogy and even though the game got a slight delay to the start of 2012 everyone who has played the first two games is waiting with bated breath to see how it will end. I was lucky enough to get to see an hour or so of Mass Effect 3 gameplay in a closed room at the EA booth.
First came the footage shown at EA’s own conference so I won’t bore you with the details. It wasn’t exactly the same because it was being played live but it was the same scene complete with shooting from the back of a speeding vehicle and waking up a Reaper with copious amounts of explosives.
Next scene starred Shepard (duh), Mordin and an unnamed female Krogan. Seems the Krogan was important for the entire race and had (as far as I could tell) been captured by Cerberus. Shepard was attempting to fight off the Cerberus and free the female Krogan. Not wanting to spoil too much more of the story the developers moved right into the battle system.
By the looks of it there have been some huge changes to the battle system for Mass Effect 3. First and foremost is that the cover system looks far more comparable to the better third person shooter cover systems. Shepard was able to deftly move from cover to cover with quick switches across hallways and sneak up behind a guard using the room's divider to hide himself and then take out the guard by dragging him over the divider and smashing him in the face.
They then showed off some more tactical gameplay. Cerberus soldiers carrying heavy shields were moving towards Shepard and his team and the developers talked about the ways you could defeat them. These included using powers like overload to take out the shield or lifting the soldier up into the air to get around the shield, but they took perhaps the most mundane option of simply outflanking the enemy. Another TPS staple added to Mass Effect this time around are hand grenades. Not much more to say on that, they’re small orbs that explode into shrapnel and kill people, wiki it if that isn’t enough.
RPG fans may feel a bit left out with all this talk about how the TPS mechanics were improved, but there was also a lot of talk about how customization had been increased. Guns can now be heavily modified with different parts to affect their shape and performance. Characters are also more customizable. Every level up when you increase the level of one of their skills you get options in how to strengthen up the skill much like the final upgrade in Mass Effect 2.
Vehicles are even going to have a greater presence in the game. At one point Shepard came upon a Cerberus soldier in a walker mech that was used as a miniboss for the stage. The developers told us that this wasn’t just a boss but you could also come upon these mechs in other situations and pilot them for yourself.
The developers also talked about how the missions were different this time around and instead of just trying to hire a small team you were trying to build up an entire war effort to go against the Reapers. Every mission victory gives you a new asset in that war so the stakes are higher than ever to make every mission count.
What we were shown as the finale was the beginning of the game and was pretty heavy in story so if you don’t want the start of the game spoiled for you just close your eyes and I’ll tell you when you can come back.
Shepard is on Earth at a hearing for unspecified crimes, he’s been stripped of his command and probably humiliated but he’s a big boy so he doesn’t even look upset. All of this goes to crap when the reapers begin to attack the Earth directly. Anderson and Shepard together have to try and make their escape. Shepard is almost out the door after Anderson when he hears a cry. Apparently some small child has taken refuge in the air ducts of the building. You’re given a chance to try and coax the boy to coming with you, but although Shepard tried he couldn’t get the kid to move. After looking away for a moment at Anderson telling him to move it Shepard looks back to see the child is gone. The developers told us that even seemingly small things like this would have consequences.
Anderson and Shepard then started to run outside across the wreckage of a nearby building until they came across some new enemies: Cannibals. These seem to be cousins of the Husks the reapers usually send out except they’re equipped with guns for arms to make them tougher to take down. Once those guys were dealt with Anderson came upon the communications uplink of a downed shuttle and used it to call in the Normandy. After setting up the beacon they were forced to defend against an onslaught of Cannibals until the Normandy showed up to the rescue.
Shepard took the leap to the loading ramp but when Anderson looked around at all of the people still there he paused. Anderson decided that he couldn’t leave the Earth when there were people that still needed a leader. He told Shepard that it was a fight that needed doing, but it was a fight they couldn’t possibly win and Shepard would have to go out and get the help of every alien race if they were to have a shot at beating back the reapers. Shepard told Anderson that he didn’t take orders from him anymore, and Anderson said something to the tune of “Well you’ve just been reinstated……Commander”. Special emphasis on the commander bit.
As the Normandy took off he took a look out at the city and saw the boy he’d met right after the attack started. The kid looked like he was going to do alright, stepping onto a shuttle which seemed to be something the military was using to try and save what civilians they could during the attack. Shepard and he shared a glance before the shuttle doors closed and it started to take off only to be blown to bits by a reaper laser. Shepard hung his head and the Normandy took off to start its mission.
Alright everyone who closed their eyes can go ahead and open them.
I really liked what I saw for Mass Effect 3, particularly the couple of gameplay changes. A more fluid and easy to use cover system and increased customization take out the only real issues I had with the second game, and the story looks more epic than ever. 2012 is going to start out with quite a bang.