Mass Effect 3 Preview

Mass Effect 3

The Reaper invasion has finally arrived. You’ve killed their herald, destroyed their abominable creation, the Collectors, and blown up a Mass Relay, but none of it could prevent the ancient machine race from wreaking ultimate havoc on the Milky Way. It’s all-out galactic war in Mass Effect 3, and at E3 2011, BioWare showed just how gigantic the battles will be and what can be expected in the conclusion of this epic sci-fi trilogy.

The first bit of gameplay appeared at EA’s press conference earlier in the week, but offers no less excitement upon revisitation. Shepard and his crew are in the midst of attacking a Reaper base somewhere in the galaxy. Needing a bit of extra firepower to take out the base, Shepard calls in Joker for an aerial strike from the Normandy. The bomb takes out the subterranean complex, but awakens a stadium-sized Reaper nearby.

Fleeing from the hulking monstrosity, Shepard and his squad take out a few indoctrinated troops before reaching a tank-like vehicle with a turret. This brief segment and a transitional cutscene gives us our first look at Garrus and Legion in the game, with Liara also making a appearance. Upon reaching the vehicle, Shepard mans the turret and desperately unloads suppressing fire that seems to not even phase the pursuing Reaper. Watching one of these enormous vanguards of destruction bear down in its massive glory invokes awe and terror. Shepard and the tank seem as ants.

When all seems lost, Joker chimes in to let you know that the Normandy is coming to the rescue. After delivering a fly-by assault on the Reaper, it appears the mammoth machine had been downed for good as it collapses in a massive heap, bringing a dust storm of debris roaring around Shepard.  As the dust settles it looks like all is well, but then the foe’s lights reignite and it quickly rights itself, appearing more furious than before. Shepard yells at his team to drive as he reopens fire. The Reaper gains on the crew as the demo cuts to black.

The next portion of the game shown was combat heavy, giving us a look at the minor tweaks BioWare has made to improve on the critically acclaimed system from Mass Effect 2. Shepard, Garrus, and Liara are attempting to rescue a fertile Krogan princess, a key mission in righting the wrongs of the Genophage and completing a peace agreement between the Krogan and Salarian races. Aiding you by protecting the princess in her cell and analyzing incoming threats is the lovable scientist Salarian, Mordin Solus.

Shepard and team climb levels of a base with beautiful, luscious backdrops of vegetation, waterfalls, and other portions of the complex while battling Cerberus troops. Mordin confirms that Cerberus is after the team because the pro-human organization has become indoctrinated by the Reapers, and the mechanical antagonists don’t want the Krogan and Salarians to align and create a possible threat.

Mass Effect 3

New additions to the action tool kit include the hand grenade and Omni-blade. The Omni-blade, or "holographic switch-blade" as BioWare describes it, creates variety when up close to enemies. It is unknown if it replaces general melee, but it is damn effective. Each use of the blade is a one-hit kill. It does, however, seem like a last-ditch attack and it may only be a means to finish weak opponents. Another change to combat is the ability to finally vault over objects and cover, allowing Shephard greater efficiency when taking on the baddies of the galaxy and the obstacles in between.

An upgrade bench shows how the series’ weapon system is once again getting a major facelift. A happy medium between the complex system of the original Mass Effect and oversimplified one of Mass Effect 2, weapons can be modded and customized with items obtained during Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy.

Mass Effect 3‘s powers and abilities are a little more in depth than its predecessors as well. The old system is still visually present, as players can spend points on characters to further improve the level of their power. A separate menu shows a branching system of ways to expand upon and evolve these abilities. It’s not clear whether or not experience points need to be shared for both ability leveling and branching. Like previous entries in the series, combat can be handled in many ways. Your team can use biotic or tech powers to overload shields and suspend foes or use the tried and true strategy of flanking.

After sending the princess to her escape pod, a Cerberus Atlas mech lands itself in front of the squad, cueing a boss battle. But the Atlas mech isn’t just a boss; it’s a future vehicle that Shepard can pilot himself later in the game.

The final and most story-driven portion of the entire demo session dealt with one of the most shocking moments of the entire series: the Reaper invasion of Earth. Before getting into this part of the demo, a fair warning: The next portion of this preview will include heavy spoilers as to the events of the beginning of Mass Effect 3.


Mass Effect 3

Shepard’s trial is cut short when the Reapers land and begin to wreak havoc on a helpless Earth. The scene starts on Shepard as he and Anderson must fight their way through husks to make it to the Normandy and escape the besieged planet. Yes, you heard that right. Anderson is a squad character in the beginning of the game.

Our attention is drawn to the jaw-dropping and horrifying background. Reaper ships are descending and landing upon the cityscape; their massive beams of energy destroy entire skyscrapers. Buildings burn and smoke rises throughout the crumbling, futuristic urban skyline. The sounds of battle and screams of the helpless can be heard. It’s as bleak and dismal a scene as any before in the series.

While traversing quickly through a nearby building, Shepard encounters a young boy huddled in an air duct. After trying to convince the child to come to him, the boy responds "You can’t help me." Shepard looks to Anderson for help, but when he turns his attention back to the child, he’ gone.

Upon exiting the building and reaching the rendezvous point with the Normandy, a nearby Reaper utterly destroys a massive Alliance starship. The ensuing explosion sends out a deafening boom and knocks both Shepard and Anderson back before the balcony collapses and the duo tumbles down below.

mass effect 3

We see a new version of the husks, called cannibals, that look like an ancient alien race that has been enslaved, turned by the Reapers long ago. After duking it out with the hollow machines, the Normandy finally arrives for the rescue, but Anderson isn’t coming. He informs Shepard that all the terrified refugees of the city and planet will need a leader. Anderson reinstates Shepard’s commander status with the Alliance and tells him to bring back every possible ally in the known universe before heading off to save anyone he can.

It’s here where the emotional tone of the game’s opening hits its fever pitch. As the Normandy begins to take off for space, Shepard spots the young boy from before amongst a group of civilians and soldiers trying to flee for escape ships. The boy makes it safely onto one of the transports. But as the vehicles take off, a nearby Reaper spots the transports and in an instant blows them both into burning pieces with a quick blast of its energy beam — no hesitation or remorse.

In one expression, Shepard shows all the same emotions we feel at that moment. Sadness and regret for not being able to save the poor child, pain for failing to convince everyone that this day was coming, and a tinge of anger, a desire to take vengeance. He’ll get his chance when Mass Effect 3 releases on March 6, 2012 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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