Mass Effect 3 will have multiplayer

Mass Effect 3 will indeed have multiplayer, a major change for BioWare’s space epic that will no doubt spawn countless Internet arguments over whether multiplayer makes sense for the popular series or whether the developers still make the kind of RPGs that made them famous.

I, for one, don’t care whether a game meets genre expectations as much as whether its fun. I can understand why the serious RPG fans among Mass Effect’s players did not care for the (choose your own bias) simplifications/streamlining/dumbing down that BioWare employed in making the game’s sequel, but I personally enjoyed both games and didn’t miss the lack of extensive inventory management while playing the sequel.

That said, the addition of multiplayer, called Galaxy of War, strikes me as a strange choice for ME3. As anyone who has played the games knows, Mass Effect puts players in the role of one Commander Shephard who fights to save the galaxy as he or she sees fit. The games’ appeal stems significantly from its dramatization of space exploration and the moral choices that players must make as they go about their mission.

The kind of multiplayer gameplay that BioWare and game publishers Electronic Arts confirmed today takes some of the focus off Shepard. As announced, multiplayer mode will let players join four-person teams to achieve a military objective that will be relevant to the players’ single-player mission. Shephard is still the star, but Mass Effect 3 will let players join something like a galactic special operations squad if they want to try another type of gameplay.

I can see a number of pros and cons here. On the pro side, I’m happy to see a developer attempt a variation on multiplayer different from the deathmatch modes we’ve seen so many times before in Goldeneye, Medal of Honor, Counterstrike, Halo, Call of Duty, Resistance, etc …

I also like that the idea that multiplayer will let players try different character types, e,g, solider, sentinel, adept, without having to start a new playthrough,

Now for the cons. Adding an entire new mode to what players expect to be the final chapter of an epic trilogy doesn’t make much sense to me. I doubt EA is going to induce new legions of fans to buy the game just because it has multiplayer. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say they would buy Mass Effect if it had multiplayer.

I’m also not crazy about multiplayer affecting the single-player campaign. Although the idea of soldiers fighting across the galaxy makes sense, those soldiers are not the focus of the story. The multiplayer press release says Galaxy at War is an alternative method of achieving single-player campaign objectives, but the idea of breaking from the game’s narrative to take on the role of a minor character seems like it might be kind of a chore.

If it was up to me, I would have produced Mass Effect 3 as a single-player game and developed the multiplayer as a separate budget title or DLC for fans who want more Mass Effect after completing the trilogy. But then again, I don’t run BioWare nor EA.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to come out in March.