It came as a surprise to a lot of people when Bioware said that Mass Effect 3 would be coming with a multiplayer mode. It came as an even bigger surprise when it turned out that the multiplayer was actually pretty good – a statement that can be supported by the fact that there are still people playing it to this day. I myself recently returned to it after Bioware teased some stuff about the next instalment of the franchise, and while the game is still fun to play, there are some issues with it. During a game with some friends, the discussion veered onto what could Mass Effect: Andromeda do to improve the multiplayer should Bioware decide to implement one just as they did with Mass Effect 3.
The thing that prompted the discussion was the fact that in Mass Effect 3, the button you use to sprint is also the button you use to get into cover. It’s also the same button you use to revive incapacitated team-mates as well as pick up objective items. In theory it might seem logical to have the sprint and enter/exit cover button to be the one and the same, so that you may run to a wall and in one fluid motion enter cover. In reality, this tends to be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s not uncommon for your character to attempt an expeditious retreat only to accidentally bump into a nearby wall, and the angle is just right for the game to think you meant to enter cover. There you are, shield depleted, and a Geth Pyro is slowly advancing on you, a melting-hot stream of fire spewing your way. A different scenario is you’re trying to run away, but you are within range of an objective and instead of breaking into a run, your character bends down to start hacking a device or something. In either case, you are incapacitated, and either one of your allies has to put themselves in danger to revive you, or you have to expend one of your limited number medi-gels to get back into combat.
Separating sprint, cover and activate to 3 different buttons would be help to prevent this from happening. Have the Left Shift key as your sprint, like all games do, and use the E key as your activator, either to revive downed allies or engage a mission objective. Use the Q key as your cover button – when you’re sprinting towards a wall, simply hold the Q key and the second your character is within cover range, they put their back to the only in one fluid movement. The cover feature might be toggleable as well, so that if you want to retreat, turn it off with Q to avoid accidentally entering cover, and run away safely. Press Q again to re-enable cover. Problem solved.
An alternate solution given to me by a friend would be to simply add in a crouch key instead of having a take-cover method. While I personally enjoy the cover mechanic, having the option to crouch would increase one’s chance of survival on certain levels where there are half-walls, allowing you to move around without being required to be glued to said walls.
Mass Effect 3 multiplayer tends to have lag issues, and this is mostly due to the fact that game hosting is peer to peer, meaning the host is one of the players. If that player has a bad internet connection, then the other players will suffer. In the year that Mass Effect was released, I had a rather poor internet connection and suffered from a lot of lag issues. However, even though my bandwidth has improved significantly since, I’m still getting lag and seeing my character teleport around from time to time. The netcode for Mass Effect 3 in general is said to be quite unsophisticated, but at that point Bioware had not had much experience in making a multiplayer experience, so it was understandable. However, they have made other games since, with multiplayer. Call me an optimist, but I’m hoping they managed to get better at this, and improved their netcode.
Another solution would be dedicated servers. While this may seem like an unrealistic expectation, if Bioware decides to go big with the multiplayer, this might be an avenue to consider. At least it might prevent animations from decoupling and just ignoring the physics engine.
Disconnecting the middle of a match is one of the most infuriating things that can happen to you. Not only do you lose all the Credits earned so far, but all of the consumable supplies you’ve equipped will be also gone. You will still be able to rejoin the game, but you will do so as though you were never part of it in the first place. Imagine dropping from a game on the last wave, after you’ve sat through all the grueling encounters. Not only was your time wasted, you get no Credits, and you have burnt through your supplies for nothing. If Andromeda is to have a multiplayer mode, the re-connection must remember your character so that you may rejoin without much grief. As a developer, you simply cannot expect your entire player base to have top-notch, super stable internet connection when it’s not even a reality everywhere in a country like America.
It’s not that I think the game controls are terrible, but they would benefit from some fine-tuning. Some of the grievances I’ve heard were that the recoil behaves oddly when firing from cover – if you shoot while zoomed in, the recoil seems to behave as it should, but otherwise, the reticule doesn’t move. This means that while the bullet spread physics is still happening, your aim remains perfectly steady. It’s unintuitive to have recoil behaving in different ways. That being said, firing from cover should benefit you with improved weapon handling and as such, the kickback from firing a gun should be less severe.
Another problem that a lot of players have with the multiplayer is the screen-shaking. Suppose you’re playing a sniper and you have the misfortune to have an ally with the Shockwave ability, well, prepare to miss most of your headshots because your screen will be convulsing like you’re having a seizure. In a multiplayer context, screen-shaking just shouldn’t exist, unless if it’s meant as an ability the enemy uses to purposefully affect your accuracy.
Making melee attacks more responsive is another thing that I’d love to see. The current state of melee attacks is that you are locked in an animation that will be aiming the wrong way if you were not facing the enemy at the proper narrow angle. It’s not that the Mass Effect 3 melee attacks are unusable, but allowing a certain level of control during the animation could help, including cancelling the animation altogether.
The last point is with the third-person camera itself. It can oftentimes be difficult to tell when an enemy has you in their line of sight depending on where they are, because the camera is always locked to observe your right side. In a game like Warframe, it’s possible to switch the camera from side to side so that your field of view shifts from left to right, allowing you to overcome your blind spots. Not having this feature in Mass Effect is a drawback that negatively impacts gameplay.
Banshees, Brutes, Praetorians, etc. The list goes on. These enemies, if allowed in close proximity to you, can execute you with an unblockable move. This absolutely needs to go, or at least be counterable is some way. The reason? Well, for one, it’s just anti-fun since such executions are lethal, so for the duration of the current wave you can only spectate. Secondly, when you revive with Medi-gel or by a team-mate, if there’s a Banshee or Phantom on top of you, the chances are that she may just lock you in an execution animation the second you become targetable and incapacitate you for the rest of the wave. Thirdly, we’re talking about an online game mode, here. Lag will happen, so getting cheaply murdered for no reason other than an enemy unit lag-grabbed you from a distance is just bad game design.
To get new weapons and characters in Mass Effect 3, you need to buy packs with credits that you earn from playing games. The issue I have with them is that the loot you get from the packs are completely random, so the chances of getting the gun you want will require an obscene amount of games, not to mention weapons can be upgraded by getting them multiple times from the packs. This considerably increases the amount of packs you need to buy.
There are also characters to unlock, and just like weapons, you can unlock the same one multiple times, but instead of making them stronger, it merely conveys bonus experience (it also unlock some customisation features, but those are barely noticeable changes). A measly reward when you consider how easy it is to earn experience.
The packs system doesn’t have to be abolished altogether, merely tweaked. Instead of buying a Premium Spectre Pack that may contain anything from an uncommon gun to an Awakened Collector, have very specific packs that will for sure give you either rare weapons or characters even if those cost more. For instance, you could buy a crate that only gives you Assault Rifles, but which ones you get will still be subject to randomisation.
Rescpeccing, the act of re-distributing skill points to specialise your character in a specific way, is limited. You can obtain respec charges from packs, but they’re rare. Normally, you’re encouraged to promote your character to reset their level to 1, which clears their abilities. You will then have to grind all the way back to level 20 to get to get the opportunity to give your character a new set of skills. Ideally, abolish levels entirely for individual classes so that you can focus fully on always having the optimal build for the style you want to play instead of having to burden other player to carry you back to level 20.
The idea of consumables (Warp rounds, Cyclonic modulators, etc) is just not fun. I find that whenever I’m equipping one, I go into frugal mode and ask myself, what if I need that Disruptor rounds III for a Platinum game? So I end up not taking any with me when I could have been rocking some nice bonuses. I propose to make ammo, armour and performance bonuses function just like the gear bonus – you unlock and upgrade them, but they never go away. Instead, what you have to do is decide which one you want, so you can customise your character’s play style even further.
A wave-based PvE (player versus enemy) game is fun and all, but the problem is that if this is the only way to play your game, things can get a bit tiresome on the long run. Mass Effect Andromeda would strongly benefit from multiple game modes, like a level progression similar to games like Left for Dead, or, more recently, Vermintide. Other of the more classic multiplayer game types like capture the flag could also make it in, but PvE, as I would rather Mass Effect not toy with player versus player modes due to how the game works. The lock-on mechanics of abilities would just make the game an incessant dodge-fest. Maybe it could work, but that doesn’t sound like very satisfying gameplay to me.
I get it, consoles are cheaper than gaming PCs. That’s no excuse to have a bad port for the PC. Lists may be the better way to navigate through stuff on consoles, but when you have a mouse and keyboard, scrolling through lists is just tedious and just reflects shoddy design. In all likelihood, the stacked button functions talked about in the ‘One button to rule them all! Not.’ segment is directly a result of bad porting to PC, since controllers have limited buttons themselves.
Another problem is the lack of text chat support. While on consoles you can’t have anything else besides voice chat to communicate, on PC we can type. PC users like to text chat, since not everybody is comfortable with speaking to strangers, or straight up don’t own a mic.
While the consolitis is not as egregious as it is in a game like Dragon Age Inquisition or Fallout 4, it can’t be stressed enough considering a lot of developers seem to take the easy way and do poor work porting their games to the PC and entirely prioritising consoles.
Also why you would play a shooter, third person or otherwise, on a console is beyond me. I guess the lower difficulty curve can be used as an argument, though, if you ask me, you deserve to get gunned down by Torbjörn’s turret if you play Overwatch on consoles. Filthy, filthy peasants.