Finally – controversially – is the direct connection between Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer and single player, as represented by the new Galaxy at War feature. In order for Commander Shepard to defeat the genocidal Reapers once and for all, he must amass support from across the entire universe – allies, ships, bases and other resources known as War Assets. The more War Assets he’s collected, the more ready he is to face and win Mass Effect 3’s endgame. And here’s the connection: War Assets are earned by completing missions in not only the campaign, but the co-op as well. So yes, the multiplayer does affect the single player, and yes, avoiding the multiplayer altogether will hurt your chances of reaching the best possible ending in the single player.
Before you panic, though, remember how the endgame of Mass Effect 2 worked. Rush towards the climax without checking off enough of your team’s loyalty quests, or without mining enough to purchase your team’s recommended upgrades, and anyone could die. Even Shepard. The Galaxy at War system is similar – if you’re as much of a 100% completionist as you were in Mass Effect 2, finishing every possible side mission and visiting every possible planet, you’ll bank enough War Assets that you won’t need the multiplayer. But if you’re not that obsessive-compulsive, the multiplayer provides an alternative route to experiencing the game’s optimal conclusion. The developers at BioWare aren’t punishing you… they’re giving you options.
Knowing that Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer isn’t really that necessary to succeed in Mass Effect 3’s single player, however, leaves us wondering who will actually care that it exists. From our brief hands-on impressions, the online doesn’t seem new, unique or complex enough to interest fans of similar modes like Horde, Firefight and Zombies, while the connection to Commander Shepard’s storyline doesn’t seem strong enough to attract fans of the universe. In fact, BioWare has already confirmed that established characters such as Garrus, Liara and Wrex definitely do not appear in the multiplayer.
It’s not that Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is bad or even boring; it’s just that, like BioShock 2 and Dead Space 2 before, we’re not yet convinced we’ll play for more than a couple of curious hours. Hopefully, additional time with the game – please note that we’ve still only sampled a small, incomplete version of the multiplayer mode – will surprise us. Until then, don’t worry. At least your single player is safe.