I never expected to find myself getting stuck back into Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode in 2020, but that's exactly what I've been doing over the last few weeks. The next-generation is here with the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and a barrage of great games have been hitting the virtual shelves this past month. So why am I playing the multiplayer mode of an eight-year-old game? Well, I have the Mass Effect Legendary Edition to thank for that.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't play multiplayer games very often. I've always leaned more towards single-player campaigns, but something about Mass Effect's multiplayer has always seemed so much less intimidating and more appealing to me. Maybe it's because of my deep fondness for BioWare's fictional universe and its characters, but for whatever reason, I ended up playing it quite a lot back in the day on my Xbox 360. Was I ever a pro? No. Did I die a lot? Sure. But I had a whole lot of fun playing it.
On November 7, better known in Mass Effect circles as N7 Day, I raced over to the BioWare blog and consumed each word of the Legendary Edition announcement like it was a gift sent from the heavens. While I squealed over the prospect of seeing how Garrus Vakarian will no doubt benefit from the enhanced visuals of the remaster, I couldn't help but notice any mention of the multiplayer mode was decidedly absent.
Could this mean it won't be carried over to the remaster? And if so, what does that mean for Mass Effect 3's Galaxy at War system? Will that even be a feature? I also start to wonder if there's much demand for it to return, if anyone's still playing it today, and if it's even as good as I remember it being. With all this in mind, I came to a decision: I'm going to jump right back into the multiplayer mode in 2020, and see for myself.
As you may already know, the multiplayer mode in Mass Effect 3 works in much the same way as any horde mode you may have come across. Fighting off waves of enemies, you're often also tasked with different objectives like taking out a particular set of foes, or hacking into a system, before holding out at an extraction point after defeating so many enemy waves. Filling the space boots of an N7 operative, you can play as your preferred class just as you can in the main campaign; from the biotic specialist Adepts to the gun-toting Soldiers, and everything in between. Organised by tiers of difficulty, you join matches and level up to add more powers to your skillset.
The mode isn't just tacked onto the game for the sake of it, though. It also ties into the main campaign. In Mass Effect 3, a system known as Galaxy at War is introduced, where you can manage your resources to better prepare for the big final showdown against the Reapers, measured by your Galatic Readiness Rating. One of the easiest ways to increase your Readiness Rating is through the multiplayer mode that was only featured in the last game of the trilogy. There were also some now-removed apps I never personally tried out - Mass Effect: Datapad and Mass Effect: Infiltrator - that could also help boost your level. Each location you can jump into in multiplayer matches will raise your Readiness Rating in each of the systems on your galaxy map.
I often think back on the multiplayer mode so fondly because it helped stretch out my time with the final game. When I first fell for Mass Effect, I fell hard. So much so that when I came to play Mass Effect 3, I didn't want to reach the end. I was determined to make it go on for as long as humanly possible. Squeezing out every side quest, collectible, and resource I could find to keep me away from meeting the game's end, I eventually turned to focus on trying to get achievements instead. One achievement I always wanted to accomplish was called "The Defender". In order to earn this trophy, you're tasked with attaining the highest Readiness Rating in each theatre of war. This achievement is what initially pushed me to jump into the multiplayer mode, but I've still not managed to attain it to this day.
Galaxy at War
With so many fond memories of the mode, I did wonder if I was seeing the multiplayer side of Mass Effect 3 through rose-tinted glasses. Feeling a little rusty, and starting fresh on PC, I was surprised at just how quickly I joined a match on a weekday evening. Admittedly, joining at random was perhaps not the best choice I've ever made. Thrown into the heat of battle against Cerberus as a level one Engineer (who's packing some basic guns), I'm sure I was more of a hindrance than anything.
But just like all those years ago, I'm buoyed by the camaraderie of this group of strangers playing an eight-year-old multiplayer mode alongside me. Quick to have my back and revive me as needed, my squad are a supportive bunch, and I quickly begin to fall into the flow of battle as we take down each enemy wave. In what was my first match in years, I find myself thoroughly enjoying every second. It really is still as good as I remember.
After doing a little digging online, it didn't take me long to realise Mass Effect 3's multiplayer continues to hold a special place in so many fellow fans' hearts. Not only that, but many continue to play to this day. With Discord servers dedicated to finding other players to jump into matches with in 2020, and many expressing their fondness for the mode on Reddit, there's a lot of love for the multiplayer side of the game. Clearly, I'm far from alone in hoping it finds a place in the Legendary Edition.
Confirmation of Commander Shepard's return with the upcoming release of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition shined a little ray of light into this hell year. Just knowing I'll be able to jump aboard the Normandy ship once again and see all of the characters I hold so close to my heart is as exciting as it is comforting. Complete with enhanced graphics and a faster framerate, I haven't stopped thinking about how good everyone and everything will no doubt look.
Long story short, you better believe I'm more ready to send the Reapers packing all over again. But with no sign of the multiplayer mode in the announcement, we still don't know for sure if it will make a comeback. While it could very well be included, I do wonder what it will mean for the Galaxy at War system if it isn't, and if there'll be another way to increase the overall Readiness Rating if it is excluded. One thing's for sure: BioWare has just restored my hope, not just for Mass Effect's return, but for my chances at finally earning "The Defender" achievement after all.
Looking for something to play while you wait for the Legendary Edition? These 10 games like Mass Effect will keep you busy.