Over the last weekend, beta testers for the new XBox dashboard were accidentally given private access to a Mass Effect 3 beta. This unintentional beta revealed several interesting new elements about the upcoming finale’s gameplay. According to the leaked beta, instead of the standard Easy/Normal/Hard options, ME3 will replace these settings with Action/Story/RPG. These settings don’t seem to be so much a difficulty setting as a choice of gameplay emphasis, at least from the information leaked.
- Action: focuses the game on combat & minimizes story management. From my understanding of this mode, conversation options are automatically selected, making the game more like a standard action game rather than an RPG.
- Story: focuses on story immersion & minimizes combat difficulty. This mode sounds closer to the first ME game, where it felt more like an RPG with guns. Dialogue options are manually selected.
- RPG: a combination of the previous two modes. Similar to ME2, this mode equally emphasizes combat & story. Dialogue options are manually selected & combat starts at a normal difficulty.
It’s basically a spectrum:
Action ————— RPG ————— Story
According to the game’s producer Jesse Houston, this leak was unintentional & has already been removed. “We’d like to stress that the leaked code is in a rough, unfinished state and was not meant for public release. The content is not final, and is not reflective of the quality of the finished, polished game due for release on March 6, 2012.”
I’ve seen a variety of responses to this leak. One article on it stated that this is an attempt by BioWare to appeal to all the fans of the series. ME2 had a decidedly heavier focus on shooting & action, while ME1 was more like a traditional RPG. It’s only natural that these versions would appeal to different types of gamers. But this may not be so much of a ploy as it sounds. Most sequels tend to overcompensate for problems in the first game while attempting to try new things.that may or may not work. For example, when BioWare removed the sometimes-troublesome vehicle sections while adding the ever-annoying resource mining. But the final game should be more of a balancing act between what was good from the first & second games.
Other responses question whether this leak was truly “accidental.” One comment stated they believed this was an attempt by BioWare to keep interest in ME3 during Skryrim‘s upcoming release. Personally, I don’t see this. I’m equally excited about both games, but there is a four month gap between them. And while I’m chomping at the bit for Skyrim’s release later this week, I certainly don’t plan to miss out on finishing such a great franchise as Mass Effect.
As for myself, I’m reserving any judgment about this aspect until I see the final version. At the most basic level, it’s simply replacing the names of the modes. Story can be seen as Easy mode while Action is Hard. As someone who’s not ashamed to admit I tend to play on Easy, I know that Easy mode is intended for those who want to enjoy the story without having to throw our controller through the television. Also, I don’t really see much point for Action mode. Why would you play Mass Effect if you didn’t care about the story or dialogue? That’s the whole point of the game. But I suppose it could be a way to bring more players to the franchise who typically stay away from standard RPG’s.
ME3’s official beta is set for January (which I will be downloading, playing & reviewing), so we’ll have to wait & see if these modes are included.