Video Games

Life, the Universe, and Missile Glitching: A Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Retrospective

It seems like only yesterday we were traversing the galaxy as Commander Shepard, dancing terribly, saying “I should go” to people, killing Geth and Reapers with a slew of great teammates and even greater friends, and occasionally boinking. Well, for me, that’s because it was only yesterday, because I’ve been playing Mass Effect again in preparation for Mass Effect: Andromeda!

The Mass Effect franchise fills my heart with so much joy and I could talk about it for weeks on end, but we have already covered it extensively around these parts and I do not want to step on my compatriot Sarah’s toes; she is very nice and this would be impolite. However, I desperately want to let my heart sing to you all about my favorite game franchise, and thankfully there’s a somewhat smaller aspect of the franchise that hasn’t been touched upon in discussion very much here or anywhere else: the multiplayer from Mass Effect 3.

ME3 was highly criticized after release due to the controversial ending; I don’t feel any need to discuss it further here, as more than enough words have been spoken/typed/screamed loudly/wept about it at this point. Another aspect of the game that found criticism was the addition of a multiplayer component, which a large portion of the fanbase felt took away from the quality of the main single player game and was a stupid attempt to appeal to the Call of Mountain Dewty: Doritos Warfare crowd. I can appreciate this point of view, especially with many of these AAA games beginning to exclude single player elements entirely, but in the case of ME3, I feel this viewpoint is short-sighted.

ME3’s multiplayer, while somewhat bare-bones at release, was still an opportunity to knock about space as your favorite alien races with up to four of your best friends, wiping out the scum of the galaxy together. It was a frantic and intense horde mode, ala Gears of War, where you’d have to wipe out wave after progressively-harder wave of enemies until you could extract on a shuttle in the eleventh wave. On the third, sixth, and tenth waves, instead of just murdering everything in sight, the team would need to complete objectives designed to flush the team out of cover, such as grouping together as a team to hack a single computer (“circle hack”) or carrying a box of valuable technology to the extraction area (“pizza delivery”). These were the only times players could obtain credits, with the exception of the extraction wave, and they were not coincidentally the most difficult waves. The credits earned would go toward boxes in the MP store that contained new characters, weapons, weapon mods, stat booster consumables, and so on. Sometimes the RNGesus would bless you with an ultra-rare weapon, but usually it would end up being another cryo ammo IV that made you just want to put your face directly through the nearest window (I speak from personal experience).

The game saw many issues: while all DLC was free and the new content was almost always excellent, many characters and weapons were so busted upon release they were eventually obliterated by nerfs. Vanguards were dangerous to play with off-host for a long time after launch due to synchronization issues with Biotic Charge; this was eventually fixed, but vanguards are still a crapshoot off-host. Weapons that dealt explosive AOE damage could have all their ammo transformed into the very limited-use instant-killing missiles in a disheartening glitch that polluted the game until it was fixed.

Through all this, though, it was still a (usually) very smooth experience that was addicting and insanely fun. Matches usually didn’t last more than thirty minutes, which was a bite-sized morsel compared to the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the normal single player experience. Difficulties ran from bronze, where you could sneeze at your enemies and they’d explode, up to platinum, where enemy units from all the different enemy factions would show up buffed to the gills and hunting your very soul. I hovered around silver and gold, where I logged over 700 hours of play, over 2100 matches, and a top 1% placement on the N7 rankings and challenge point rankings.

I have so many fond memories of this multiplayer indelibly etched in my mind. I remember the super cool people I’ve met along the way that helped ease me into the higher difficulties, and I remember the 69Bl00dyDarkJuggal0Killer420 types that make the rest of the squad laugh when they get killed and turn into actual infants over the mic. I remember when I first clutched a round on gold difficulty after my whole team had gone down, and I remember the feeling of elation when I pulled the character card that I was most excited for coming into this MP: the Turian Sentinel. I remember it all, and it brings a tear of joyous nostalgia to my eye.

Enough about all of that, though! How about rankings of the best* characters and weapons in the multiplayer? No?! TOO BAD.

*These rankings are all based on my opinion, which means they should absolutely be viewed as the definitive and unquestionable character and weapon rankings.

CHARACTERS

Honorable Mentions…

  • The Turian Ghost Infiltrator was added to the game in the Retaliation DLC and was immediately the best character in the game if you had the right weapon for him. He was nerfed a lot and he doesn’t have a lot of options in terms of how to spec him, but he is still unquestionably tier one and pretty fun.
  • The N7 characters were all great, from throwing hundreds of grenades with the Demolisher Engineer to chopping off heads with the swords of the Shadow Infiltrator and the Slayer Vanguard, from being a walking tank making any weapon viable with the Destroyer Soldier to nuking enemies with combo detonations with the Fury Adept and Paladin Sentinel, they were all powerful and fun; humies are boring though.
  • The flashiest boring human was the vanilla Human Male/Female Vanguard from the base game: their unreliability off-host keeps them off the top ten list, but playing with them without lag issues is frenetic, terrifying, and a treat.
  • The Geth Juggernaut Soldier was and still is the biggest crutch character in the game, with the highest health and shields pool in the game in a walk. Incredible for drawing aggro as he cannot be picked up by bosses for an instant-kill, the only character with that ability; he is limited to the role of “here I am, please shoot me instead of them” in the hands of inexperienced players, though, which is pretty much the only people using him.

10) Awakened Collector Adept – The most batshit insane inclusion in the multiplayer with the exception of maybe the Volus, the Collector shouldn’t exist from a lore perspective but there he was anyway. He had so many different options for speccing, from ripping enemies apart with Collector weapons to sucking the life out of everyone with biotic damage over time to tossing biotic explosions faster than every character this side of the Fury Adept (my personal choice, equipped with a Collector Rifle). Endless possibilities! But man, he really shouldn’t have been there and still elicits so much rage in lore hounds.

9) Turian Sentinel – The Turians are mostly stuffy and boring military dorks but there is so much residual love for Garrus that it doesn’t matter and they’re amazing anyway. Seeing that a Turian in multiplayer had not only Warp and Overload but Tech Armor was a layup for me, and I had to have him. His unfortunate lack of mobility was ultimately a major deterrent, but the character remains arguably the most balanced in the game even with that flaw. Could prime and detonate both tech and biotic combos, could churn out weapon damage with the ample Turian racial combat bonuses, and could take a beating. Still, the lack of mobility kept him glued to cover a lot of the time.

8) Batarian Sentinel – The Batarians’ debut in the multiplayer brought with them something I never imagined I would see in Mass Effect: the Falcon Punch. Seriously, the Batarian Brofist was amazing, and the Sentinel character was totally designed for you to just run around and whomp minor units’ asses. His (initially) unique power, Submission Net, was like a jerk slaver version of Stasis so you could lock an enemy down and go punch their head in. Some of the sheen was lost when the Brofist Gauntlet was added as an equipment and allowed ANY unit to use the Brofist, but the Batarian race was the OG and the Batarian Sentinel was the golden gloves champion.

7) Krogan Warlord Sentinel – The vanilla Krogans, N7 Shadow, and Batarians liked to melee things, but the Krogan Warlord raised the bar on melee so high he practically threw it into the sun by running around with A HAMMER. And the thing was incredibly versatile, as you could turn it a biotic or tech hammer to detonate combos on top of the insane regular melee you got from him. He just felt innately Krogan, but the character was mightily hampered by the fact that he couldn’t take cover AND could still be instantly killed by boss units. These issues were glaring but there are still few things in the Mass Effect franchise as much fun as running around and hammering everything in sight.

6) Alliance Infiltration Unit Infiltrator – Also known as the EDI-Bot (also known as the Sex-Bot by the mouth-breathingest neckbeards), the AIU was the only Infiltrator kit that had bonuses to shotgun damage in her Cloak tree instead of sniper rifles. This, coupled with ridiculous maneuverability, the most busted ability in all the multiplayer (Repair Matrix), and the less-busted-but-also-busted Snap Freeze, turned the character into a close-range murder-death-kill machine with almost no downside. A definite crutch, she nonetheless was and still is one of my go-to characters on higher difficulties with the AT-12 Raider equipped (and no Repair Matrix because there’s no fun in that).

5) Talon Mercenary Engineer – The Talon Merc basically allowed you to run around as Zaeed from the main game (recycled his character model), which was a cool tribute, as his voice actor (Robin Sachs) passed away not long after the release of the game. On top of being a loving gesture, the character was also the undisputed king of zoning with his unique Tripmine power. Coupling that with the fact that the character could respawn his own grenades, you already had an insane kit, but that’s not all: the character’s melee attack was a crossbow that locked onto and tracked enemies. The final Reckoning DLC pack presented us with perhaps the six most insane character kits in the game, with four of the six making this list (Collector, Warlord, AIU, Talon) and a fifth (Geth Juggernaut) in the honorable mention section (the sixth and final, the Cabal Vanguard, was nothing to shake a stick at either, but the wonkiness of the kit warrants exclusion from the list).

4) Geth Trooper Soldier/Vorcha Sentinel – The yin and yang of the incredible Flamer power; arguably, this slot is for the Flamer power in general. The Geth Trooper had amazing survivability with Fortification and the Geth shield abilities, which counteracted the Hunter Mode debuffs the character accepted in order to output more damage. This character and his version of Flamer were arguably the more straightforward version, aimed at keeping it running longer and melting targets, while the Vorcha’s Flamer was arguably more versatile because the Vorcha had an incredible detonator power in Cluster Grenade. Killstreak bonuses were a cinch to achieve without the use of a missile if there was a Vorcha Sentinel on the team. Flamer was bonkers, and thanks to it both of these characters were incredible in their own ways. The Vorcha Soldier had Flamer as well but the kit was weaker than his Sentinel counterpart as his only detonator was the vastly inferior Carnage.

3) Drell Adept – The Drell kits were squishy as anything, but this one in particular was the game’s definition of a glass cannon. Boasting a great compliment of powers in Reave and Cluster Grenade (ignoring Pull in this particular build), impressive passive abilities, and blistering movement speed, this character kit made up for his lack of pure survivability by running around the map like a maniac and nuking spawns with a Reave/Cluster Grenade wombo combo. As Reave was the only move with a cooldown in this build, slapping a M-300 Claymore into his hands to further augment his already ridiculous damage output was an inspired and nightmare-inducing choice for any enemies that could actually follow his movements.

2) Geth Infiltrator – The original runaway tier one character, the Geth Infiltrator was equipped with Tactical Cloak, Proximity Mine, and Hunter Mode, and was easily capable of the highest damage output in the game. This character was napalmed with nerfs not long after release, but the inferior Geth Engineer class was the one that truly suffered: the Hunter Mode power was nerfed, and the poor Engineer did not have the same options to counteract this that the Infiltrator had. Having said all that, the single shot damage output on this character was and remains out of control; equipping the M-300 Claymore on this character, with a smart choke and accuracy bonuses in Hunter Mode, turned this shotgun into essentially a sniper rifle.

1) Krogan Battlemaster Vanguard – I often refer to this character as the Brogan Manguard. With the highest pool of health and shields other than the Juggernaut and Warlord and a unique Biotic Charge that hit like a wrecking ball (and still restored 100% of these already crazy shields on hit like the other characters’ Charges), the Battlemaster was easily the most survivable character in the entire game (unless he charged into an instant kill enemy like a doofus). His only weakness was damage output, a weakness which was completely invalidated with the addition of the Reegar Carbine shotgun to the multiplayer. The Krogan are arguably the most iconic race in the franchise, and the Battlemaster embodies everything that it means to be Krogan: hit like a truck and survive.

WEAPONS

Honorable Mentions…

  • As mentioned above, the Reegar Carbine, what amounts to an arc-thrower shotgun, was a godsend to the Battlemaster, but the weapon still had a substantial weakness: it could only damage as far as the electricity traveled, which was basically directly in front of the character. In its range, though, the damage on the weapon was unparalleled.
  • Similarly, the N7 Piranha, an auto shotgun with a wide and unwieldy spread, put out a ridiculous amount of damage at close range but suffered in the hands of anyone who didn’t have accuracy buffs in their powers. This gun was also sweet because it sounded like someone walking heavily in snow.
  • The Acolyte pistol had one job and did it splendidly: decimate shields. You were basically shooting overpowered Overloads out of it with each shot, and enemy shields vanished almost instantly when hit. The gun did basically nothing against armor and health, which is why it’s not on the main list. When paired with a Flamer-caster, though, that character could become virtually unstoppable.

10) Geth Pulse Rifle – A super-light assault rifle with an amazing fire rate, pinpoint accuracy, virtually no recoil, and a higher headshot damage bonus than almost all weapons in the multiplayer, this gun really awarded patience and precision. An under the radar great choice on a caster, like an ammo-power-Concussive-Shot-combo-spamming Human/Turian Soldier or an Asari Justicar Adept with Warp rounds (who also carries a Disciple in my build). Also one of the most iconic-sounding ME weapons, with its rapid pew-pewing.

9) Cerberus Harrier/M-7 Lancer – There was a lot of debate over the merits of these two weapons, which were high damage assault rifles considering their fire rates. The Harrier had basically no ammo, it was pretty heavy, and the sound it made when firing was grating, but the damage output was perhaps the highest per second in the game. The Lancer had lower damage, but sounded fine, was actually fairly light, and recharged its own ammo over time, one of the only guns in the game to do that. It was difficult to choose one over the other, but the debate intertwines them both in one spot on this list.

8) M-6 Carnifex/M-77 Paladin – The M-6 Carnifex was the most iconic pistol in the series, hitting hard and with accuracy, and yet still weighing very little considering its damage output; putting this on a caster of any kind was never a terrible choice. The gun had a somewhat small magazine and slow firing rate, but that put it about in line with a Magnum from other games. The M-77 Paladin was the Carnifex’s angry kid, hitting even harder but with even fewer shots in the magazine. The weapons were basically interchangeable, but the Paladin suffered because it is an ultra-rare and was extremely difficult to level up.

7) M-99 Saber – The most fun guns in this multiplayer were the ones that upended expectations; the M-99 Saber is the first of that ilk on this list and certainly won’t be the last. The Saber was essentially an unwieldy sniper rifle sitting in the assault rifle slot, boasting a slow single shot semi-auto firing rate. When comparing the weapon to other snipers and assault rifles, the weapon could be fired from the hip with no damage penalty and had a comparatively massive clip size (unlike most sniper rifles) but the accuracy was not pinpoint without a scope, which would severely impact the already-poor handling of the weapon while aiming (unlike most assault rifles). The gun was and remains a treat to use, though, and has arguably the most satisfying firing sound in the entire game.

6) N7 Crusader – Another weapon that destroyed preconceived notions regarding its weapon type (shotguns in this case) was the N7 Crusader. The Crusader did not shoot pellets, as all the other shotguns did: it fired a single slug with immense stopping power. The gun was a sniper shotgun in the truest sense of the word, and was arguably the best weapon choice for melee characters that didn’t care about cooldowns: you could put the potent shotgun melee booster attachment onto it in lieu of using the smart choke and give melee characters not only a huge boost to their melee abilities but a great range, something most melee characters lacked. This was one of the only ultra-rare weapons I had the good fortune of leveling up to Level X: the gun rewarded my luck by being a real gem.

5) AT-12 Raider – The AT-12 Raider was a more difficult weapon than most to tame, but it rewarded a player who did so with ungodly firepower. The Raider had one of the shortest ranges of any shotgun in the game; to make up for this, it held two high damage bullets in the clip that could be fired in succession as fast as you could pull the trigger. On a character that could close the gap quickly, like vanguards or the AIU, and utilizing the controversial reload-cancelling mechanic, a player could mow down entire spawns of enemy units in seconds.

4) N7 Hurricane – Much like the Raider, the N7 Hurricane was a bucking bronco of a gun, throwing inexperienced riders and heavily rewarding those that could control it. Each round fired counted as two, depleting ammo within seconds and blocking auto reloads if a mod put an uneven number of bullets in the clip. While these seem like glaring weaknesses, along with the relatively short effective range when fired in full auto, the damage-per-second produced by the gun is unparalleled and horrifying. In the hands of a Turian Soldier, with his racial bonuses to weapon stability and Marksman, the weapon spits hot death from the chamber and puts anything in front of it in the ground.

3) M-358 Talon – What if I told you you could pummel enemies into submission with a shotgun but could carry that kind of raw power around in lightweight pistol form? Your incredulous laughter would quickly morph to screams of horror at this beast of a weapon. The M-358 Talon was my weapon of choice for a long time in the game, especially on caster classes, as it boasted crazy per-shot damage and had a much larger margin for error than other pistols since it was literally firing shotgun shells. The weapon also broke the shotgun cycle as it did increased damage to enemy shields, which flies directly in the face of the functionality of shotguns. An all-around fantastic weapon with little downside, and another ultra-rare that I miraculously leveled to X.

2) Black Widow – The M-98 Widow was a rare single-shot sniper rifle of supposedly Geth design that boasted massive damage per shot, so naturally an ultra-rare modified Alliance version was created that boasted only slightly less damage per shot with the tradeoff of having three bullets per clip instead of one. On top of this terrifying fact: the Black Widow pumped out those three rounds quickly and with pinpoint scoped accuracy (albeit with high recoil). It’s very difficult to argue that any sniper rifle in the game is better, all things considered; the cherry on top is the fact that the gun sounded like it had that kind of stopping power and had a gorgeously sleek design. A delicious cocktail of a sniper rifle.

1) M-300 Claymore – If the Black Widow is a delicious cocktail, the M-300 Claymore is a full keg of beer. The Claymore is a single-shot shotgun that hits like an atomic bomb and transforms into the best sniper rifle in the game when the smart choke is applied, allowing you to harvest souls at ranges a weapon of this design has no business reaching. It’s loud (reminiscent of a metal forge), it’s hideous, it’s massive, and it’s everything a shotgun of Krogan design should be. There are very few characters I am not insane enough to make carry this weapon, and I would still make them if I wasn’t concerned about their cooldowns. No gun packs this kind of punch and the fact that it’s excluded from the weapons brought over to Andromeda should be punishable as a war crime.

***

Andromeda releases tomorrow after five long years, promising to give us an entirely new world in which we can (role)play and bringing with it the triumphant return of the multiplayer component. Numerous changes are coming in the new game, many amazing (Jetpacks! Different factions! Remixed and different characters!) and some not-so-amazing (No Claymore!). Nonetheless, it appears, at its core, to be the same old ME MP that kept me entertained for such a long time and my excitement level is nearly at a fever pitch.

Check back here later in the week for my impressions of the Andromeda multiplayer, as well as Sarah’s single-player impressions!

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