February 26, 2013
Mass Effect 3: A lesson in Support.
I am going on the record now and stating that Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is the best supported multiplayer of this console generation. Yes, some may argue that all it is, is a glorified horde mode; and they would be right. The multiplayer is you and three others fighting 10 waves of enemies plus an extraction wave. There are sub-missions on waves 3,6,and 10. These missions can vary from taking out specific targets, to holding a control point until an upload is complete. But if you set aside the sub-missions and extraction, it really isn’t anything that you haven’t seen done in Gears of War or Halo. What does set it apart is the 6 character classes, different characters that gain levels, with unique abilities per character, a smorgasbord of weaponry, various equipment to arm your characters with, several enemy types, and some truly awesome maps. This alone kept the game alive for a while but what we received over the next year would keep it alive longer than anyone thought.
Typically with the present EA, we get online passes, loads of paid DLC, even paid packs that unlock things in the games for us so we don’t have to work. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 showed that you could do DLC map packs for free and yet do a big expansion that was worth your time and money. BC 2 hits second on my list of best supported games. There were 7, count that 7, FREE map packs that added 16 new maps across all game types. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 added 12 new maps last year, in 3 downloadable packs costing $15 a piece. $45 for what BC 2 did for free and then some. Now, Bad Company 2 added a sizable expansion with Bad Company 2: Vietnam. The expansion, which was retailed at $15, consisted of 5 new maps, 6 new vehicles, 15 new weapons and 49 music tracks; I had CCR’s “Fortunate Son” stuck in my head for weeks. Most of us here, agree this is one of the best expansion made this generation. With Mass Effect 3, the gift of giving free DLC was expanded.
According to a post on vg247, they found statistics on NeoGAF, about what the people at Bioware have given us over the past 5 DLC packs; the numbers are staggering. 41 new characters; 19 weapons; 7 weapon mods; 7 consumables; 7 new maps; 6 “hazard” variations of current maps; a higher difficulty setting; a new enemy faction; 2 new current enemy units; 2 objective mission types; 38 pieces of equipment; and a challenge system with unlockable titles. Now, please keep in mind this was all free. What other game this console generation has given you a epic 40+ hour single player campaign, an already impressive amount of multiplayer content, and then adds almost an entire game worth of content for free? There have been plenty of good expansions that have come and gone, most of which with a price, but I can not think of one that has done the tremendous support job Bioware has with Mass Effect 3. More studios need to heed what they have done here, and support your game for the love. Yes, Bioware is a large developer, and DLC does cost money to produce, but post launch support is needed especially for games with a multiplayer component. Battlefield 3 is a good example of something I love but unwilling to buy anything post launch. I love playing BF3, but $15 a map pack, which may consist of very good offerings, is just too much, especially when there is 4 packs to be bought. Mass Effect 3 has thrown so much content at me and my friends that play that, despite throwing just over 124 hours over the past year into it, we have yet to unlock some equipment and characters from packs that were released months ago.
Sadly, the multiplayer DLC that hit today, will be the last Bioware pushes out for the multiplayer. While there still is plenty of enemies to take out, firebases to save, characters and equipment to collect; nothing new will be coming after today. Developers and publishers should take Bad Company 2 and Mass Effect 3 as models on how to do proper console multiplayer support. The PC has excellent support though companies like Valve and the huge mod community. Mass Effect 3 does have some wonky aspects of gameplay in the multiplayer, especially when it comes to picking up teammates, but going into a gold or platinum game with 4 friends, our favorite characters, and using everything we have to over come dire odds; well, it just doesn’t get any better. This article may seem like a letter of love for the game, but I am trying to heed one important point; great support will keep players interested and involved. Call of Duty is massively popular, but paying $15 for map packs that contain only maps, no extra content, and some of those maps may or may not be rehashes is just insulting. With the weight of next gen finally hitting Microsoft and Sony, they really need to look at the DLC business model and use these two games as examples. Paid single player DLC is one thing, but multiplayer is what typically brings players back. So please, developers and publishers, be appreciative of your communities and support them the way Bioware has supported the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer community.