Getting Back Into Mass Effect 3 With Earth DLC
Wait what? My epic space RPG has multiplayer? It sure does, and to my mind it’s the most surprising part of the package, purely because it’s pretty awesome. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that the multiplayer side of the game has received no less than three bits of free DLC so far, the third being Earth which released this week.
Before I delve into the details, I’ll run through a brief overview for anyone who’s not played this mode. The super short explanation would be something like “it’s a 12 wave Horde mode with occasional objectives thrown in”, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. Yes, it’s another survival type co-op mode that pits you and up to three of you best Reaper-stomping buddies up against waves of increasingly difficult enemies, but the RPG character elements throw something fresh into the mix. Weapon load-out, choice of race, and allocation of skill points all add an extra layer of tactics, and team play is nigh on compulsory. Add in familiar backdrops from the Mass Effect universe and you have a well-rounded, highly enjoyable co-op experience.
New characters, new weapons, new difficulty. In addition to adding the new and totally masochistic Platinum difficulty, the Earth DLC adds six new characters, three new maps, and three new weapons. Potentially there’s a huge amount of theory crafting to be dug into here, but then this article would end up being three times the length, and it’s far more enjoyable to just go play the damn game.
Characters: Each class gets one new elite Human N7 Operative. Broadly speaking, and without getting bogged down by describing each ability in detail, they play pretty much as you would expect them to; the Engineer is still an Engineer for example. Two things did catch my eye though – the N7 Soldier is an absolute tank, Krogan levels of Shields and Health in fact, and the Sentinel has a rather nifty omnitool-based shield strapped to his arm. The full list is as follows; The Biotic based Adept Class has added an N7 Fury with the Throw, Annihilation Field, and Dark Channel abilities. The Soldier class has added the highly armoured N7 Destroyer. Multi Frag Grenade, Missile Launcher, and Devastator Mode are the included abilities. Engineer adds the N7 Demolisher with Homing Grenade, Arc Grenade, and the rather handy Supply Pylon. The tech/biotic Sentinel goes with the N7 Paladin – Snap Freeze, Incinerate, and Energy drain are present here. Perhaps my favourite class, the cloaky sniper Infiltrator adds the sleek sounding N7 Shadow. Tactical cloak, Shadow Strike, and the intriguing sounding Electric Slash are her tools. From most favourite to least favourite, the kill stealing Vanguard class goes with the aptly named N7 Slayer. The Phased Disruptor, Sonic Charge, and Bionic Slash abilities are to ensure that this new Vanguard is as OP as the other variants.
Weapons: Added to the already sizeable arsenal are the Piranha Assault Shotgun, the Acolyte Pistol, and Typhoon Assault Rifle. I’ve not tried the shotgun or the rifle yet, but I have had a go with the Acolyte. I found it tricky to use; it needs charging by holding the trigger down and the bullets (grenades?) it fires have a tendency to bounce off whatever they hit if you don’t get a direct strike. No doubt better players than me will put it to good use, but I won’t be swapping it for my Geth Rifle any time soon.
Firebase Rio. First impressions are Hydro Electric. Rio is a long thin map with multiple levels; think CoD 4′s Wetworks or Gears of War’s Canals, but with a Mass Effect look and you’re just about there. To the one side of the map we have a far off city lit up at dusk, and to the other we have what looks to be a dam. A central command building divides the map into two, and blocks sight lines from one end to the other. At one end is a power station looking area, with lots of vertical pylons making combat close quarters with lots of corners to hide around. Defending this area during objectives is tricky. The other end is more open and allows ranged combat. To the side of this end is a platform in which all the games I’ve played so far seems to be the permanent extraction point. So far the best tactics seem to be to bunker in the centre of the map, down spread across the width, so as to be able to fire upon whichever end the enemies have spawned.
Firebase London. Instantly recognisable to anyone who’s played the final mission in the main story – set during the night amongst the ruined buildings of London, this map is dark and moody. Arranged in a plus (or positive) layout with rubble and vehicle wreckage everywhere, it plays just like Gears of War’s Raven Down. Enemies spawn from any of the ends, and anyone loitering in the middle of the map will soon find themselves under fire from all directions. The most defensive point is an elevated walkway across one end, which gives a good view of the centre and parts of the sides. You’re never totally secure up there however, as there’s easy access via a flight of stairs at either end. Personally, I’m not a massive fan of these night-time maps as I find the enemies and ammo dumps a little hard to spot, but they do have some real atmosphere. Overall a solid map that plays quite differently to Rio.
Firebase Vancouver. This one is probably my favourite, being the only daylight map. Set on a damaged high-rise office block it takes the shape of a square, with each quarter having a different feel. Deployment and extraction occurs on an outdoor and exposed helipad in the bottom left corner of the map. Moving up from there we have a shady, utilitarian looking area with plenty of ducting and air-conditioning units for cover. Up a flight of stairs to the left and we’re on a balcony overlooking the previous area, and in front us is the close quarters office block. Exiting the offices by moving down brings us to the last corner of the map, and back on to the roof area. Here there’s one lonely portacabin and a bit of ducting, not much cover if you get caught. With lines of sight between quarters nicely obscured, this map encourages you to stay on the move constantly – shotgun wielding Vanguards should particularly enjoy this one.
What can I say in conclusion apart from its free stuff so go download it. Criticisms? First, you don’t get to play with the new characters right away – you have to unlock them. Second, the Rio and Vancouver maps are a little too generic Mass Effect universe in their looks for my liking; there’s nothing about them that really shouts “this is Earth”. Other than that, it’s a hearty thumbs up from me. Keep ‘em coming, Bioware.