I really don’t think BioWare could’ve chosen a worse day to release their new Mass Effect 3 demo. Not only was it Valentine’s Day (which really didn’t affect me because I have no significant other, & if I did they’d probably play video games as well), but it was also the same day that my dad was having surgery to remove his kidney. I honestly completely forgot about the demo until I got home from spending all morning at the hospital & turned on my XBox to see the ad for the demo on the front page. Talk about brightening my day. So after waiting the required two hours for the demo to download, I eagerly jumped in.
I don’t have a Gold subcription, so I haven’t played the multiplayer. This is just for the single-player portion. I also don’t have Kinect, so I can’t speak for its functionality.
The demo seems to be mostly the same as what gaming journalists have had access to minus one level. The demo starts at the very beginning. The beginning is likely what players without an import save will have to do to create a new game. Starting a new game begins by choosing “the type of experience you would like to have.” This is the much talked about Action/Role Playing/Story aspect. It’s actually a bit more straightforward than it sounds. Action has the conversations play out as cutscenes, rather than letting you choose every dialogue. Supposedly this will be a blend of Paragon & Renegade responses. Role Playing is the “traditional” setting for people who’ve played the previous games. Story has simpler combat. Also, with Action & RPG, you can adjust the combat difficulty. There are five levels available in the demo: Narrative, Casual, Normal, Hardcore & Insanity. Of course you get to create your Shepard. This highlights the slight change in graphic style, similar to the differences between ME1 & 2. There are a few more options when customizing, such as a couple new hairstyles & colors, but otherwise it’s the same as previous versions. And just a note, the new default FemShep hair style isn’t available if you want to customize your appearance. Then you select your class (I always go with Infiltrator because it’s the only class with perks to sniper rifles). Next comes the Psychological Profile. This includes the birth & career highlight story, but now comes with a third step: combat loss. The demo has three options, Numerous/Kaidan/Ashley. Numerous refers to if everyone didn’t survive the suicide mission from ME2, while the other two refer to the choice you made at Virmire. Again, importing a character from ME2 will likely skip this part.
The single-player demo has two levels. The first is the opening level where the Reapers begin attacking Earth. Shepard has been relieved of command, but due to their experience, is being kept around as an advisor of sorts. But barely a few minutes into the game, the Reapers appear, forcing Shepard to flee on the Normandy to try to rally the other species to help. The second level is a some point later in the game where Shepard has to save a fertile Krogan female from Cerberus while on the Salarian homeworld. Liara & Garrus joined me, but both Wrex & Mordin were involved in an NPC manner.The Good & Bad: + Controls are the same as previous versions + Movement is more dynamic + Melee attacks are actually useful + Powers can be evolved in different ways + Shepard can use any weapon + Grenades! – Normal movement slower than before – Weight capacity? – No radar
Overall, the changes made are improvements. Shepard seems to be more agile now, being able to role to the side during combat, move around corners while remaining in cover, can sprint for longer & jump over gaps. Probably one of the best changes is the melee attack: it’s actually useful. Tapping the B button does a quick melee bash, or you can hold it down to charge your Omni-blade. I used this several times during combat, mainly because they refuse to give me my radar back so I’d walk around a corner & into an enemy. There are also new powers for each class. All classes have Fitness, which increases health, shields & melee damage, as well as a passive class skill that can increase the amount of experience earned, your reputation, etc. The new powers are Sentry Turret for Engineers (allows you to set up a turret), Nova for Vanguards (lets you destroy your shields to harm nearby enemies) & four different types of grenades. I, for one, am glad to see grenades back in the game. Although they’re powers, they don’t have recharge times, but you do have a limit capacity. The leveling system is similar to ME2, with one exception; each skill has six levels & at level four you get to choose between two different upgrades per level. For example, at level six I can either upgrade my Infiltrator’s Tactical Cloak to give me extra damage with my sniper rifle or allow me to use one power without losing my cloak. Another improvement is that it appears Shepard can use any weapon now, rather than being restricted by class. During the second level, Infiltrator Shepard had a pistol, machine gun, assault rifle & shotgun. This does not seem to carry over to your squadmates, as during the same level both Liara & Garrus only carried two weapons.
Although minor, I do have some problems with the demo. One is that Shepard’s regular movement speed is much slower than before. This is hardly major, but it is noticeable. This may be to make up for the increased functionality of the sprint. The other concern I have (I say concern, not complaint because I didn’t actually get to see how it functions) is that Shepard now has a weight capacity. Because I couldn’t access my inventory, I can’t say what types of items you’ll be picking up. But I did get a weapon upgrade. ME2 didn’t have an inventory, but I doubt BioWare is bringing back the ME1 inventory system. We’ll just have to wait until the full game comes out to see.
Supposedly Microsoft is going to drop the Gold subscription requirement for playing the multiplayer component as the release date gets closer. If that happens, I’ll probably test out the multiplayer then, even though I don’t plan on playing it with the full game.
Mass Effect 3 is just right around the corner. I just hope there are no holidays to delay my pre-order delivery like with Skyrim.