How I Learned to Multiplayer even though I’m Friendless and New to this RPG Shooter Thing
Mass Effect is a great game for many reasons, but I especially like that it’s super-accommodating to your play style and skill level. All those different classes – Soldier, Engineer, Vanguard, Adept, and all the rest! Your wonderful team – Liara the biotic goddess, James the human tank, Garrus the turian heart-throb (shut up) genius sniper, Tali the quarian engineer’s engineer and EDI the shiny killing machine – they will selflessly put their all into your single-player combat and pick up the slack, possibly without you even noticing (or is that just me?). And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people play Mass Effect to shoot things (or so I hear), some people play because of the story, some people love the game because you get both shooting and story in one glorious package.
I put off getting into multiplayer for ages because I thought I wasn’t very good, and I worried that because I don’t know anybody to play with I wouldn’t be able to play at all. But I started reading up on strategy and how multiplayer works, and did a bit of calculated practice in the single-player game, and also found out that it’s really easy to find matches even if you don’t know anyone, and I’ve been having a great time. But it’s a sharp learning curve, even if you’re good at single player, and so many of the guides I’ve read take for granted that you’re already familiar with online multiplayer games, so I’ve written this post to link you to the more helpful resources I found, and also to record the things I personally wanted to know before getting into playing shoot-em-up with real people on the real internet.
So here is a golden rule before you start tearing off into the strange foreign land of Mass Effect multiplayer – there is no right way to play. There are more and less effective ways to play, but effective is not the same as correct. Damage per second (dps) is a great measure, sure, but there’s more to a successful game than how quickly you personally can tear through the enemy or pull off a perfect headshot. Between the different classes and their unique abilities, and the different enemies you’re up against (Cerberus, Reapers and geth – three very different kettles of fish), there’s no one superior playstyle for all situations, just like there’s no one superior weapon or character class. Everyone has their favourites, of course, and that’s fine. Just because that whiny entitled American who’s played every console shooter ever released wants to tell you that Infiltrator with a sniper rifle is the only way to go doesn’t mean he’s right. Sure, it’s his strongest combo, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be your strongest, too. So before you go headlong into multiplayer, test out some different class and weapon combinations for yourself. Get comfortable and get as effective as you can. Then you’ll find yourself rocking those multiplayer matches in record time.
First, know your basics:
The Mass Effect Wiki multiplayer guide: http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_3_Multiplayer
At the bottom of the article there’s a super-helpful list of maps, and of course there are links to the rest of the wiki for further information about the enemies, and quite a bit of detail about how the whole multiplayer thing works.
A sarcky and profane guide to ME3 MP that loudly assumes you suck, but is quite informative despite that: http://www.toptiertactics.com/2012/03/mass-effect-3-multiplayer-strategy-tips/
Some prep you can do in single player before hopping into multiplayer
Play and replay the N7 mission maps (check out the wiki link for a list of what maps correspond to what single-player missions). Jack up the difficulty level and challenge yourself while nobody can see you die but you. 😀 Also take the time to wander around the map in between firefights to get a sense of the area, the cover, the ammo boxes and so on.
Restrict yourself to two basic weapons only and remove the mods to get used to the limited range you’ll be restricted to when starting a multiplayer character from scratch. In multiplayer you get two guns max, and you’ll start out with only the most basic models and no mods. On the up side, your power recharge time will be low. On the downside, depending on your class you might find you need to rely more heavily on your powers to inflict damage on your targets.
Wean yourself off the left shift/pause combat/heads up display (HUD) button. It’s my favourite crutch in single player, but in multiplayer pressing left shift will only get you the HUD, and picking options off it with your mouse will waste seconds that may mean the difference between life or rocket-to-the-face death. There is no way to pause and no handy combat radar in multiplayer. All your enemies have to be located visually. Needless to say, this can be a pain when new enemies spawn almost constantly, and from anywhere on the map, including right behind you. Which brings me to the next tip…
Get used to using the number hotkeys for your powers (on PC). When you create a new character in the multiplayer section, the order in which your powers are listed are the hotkeys for those powers. For example, my human engineer’s powers are listed as Combat Drone, Incinerate and Overload, in that order, which means Combat Drone is mapped to 1, Incinerate to 2 and Overload to 3. Remap your hotkeys in single player to match the multiplayer layout (which you cannot remap) and test it out for yourself so you can find those buttons on the keyboard without looking. It’s a great timesaver and possible lifesaver, too.
Be nimble and quick in your movements. Practice getting in and out of cover quickly (the bane of my life – I’m never quite lined up against those walls properly), or even staying out of cover (but not out of shelter) as much as possible. This is almost the complete opposite of the single player game, where you’re almost always advancing on a point and only rarely defending, so hunkering down is much more effective. In multiplayer, it can be fatal.
Major differences between multiplayer and single-player
Enemies spawn in waves, and they can spawn anywhere on the map where players aren’t, and sometimes even where players are (I always seem to pick the spot in Firebase White where banshees appear on top of me – such an ignomious way to die). You need to get good at looking around and behind you, and (eventually – I do hope to live to see the day where I can do this) picking alternative shelter to retreat to in a hurry. Lurk behind tall crates and walls while your shields or barriers regenerate. You don’t have to zip around the map like a mad thing (Infiltrators in particular seem to love sprinting all over the place while cloaked, more power to them) but in multiplayer you do need to be mobile, even if your strength is camping out and dealing damage from a distance. You never know when you might need to make a strategic retreat from your cosy hidey-hole. So practice your agility while moving around in single player.
Learn not to freak out too much when you lose shields and health, even if you’re seriously injured. You’re probably not going to be able to avoid dying quite a bit, especially in your first few matches, but that’s okay. Unlike single player where you get “critical mission failure” and have to restart, dying in multiplayer isn’t forever, just for that wave, unless it’s the 11th wave, in which case if you do die, try to go down behind some shelter in the extraction zone where your team mates can easily revive you at no risk to themselves.
Teamwork, or, on ME3 MP, nobody knows you’re new
Seriously, everyone has to start somewhere. And even the most experienced players might enter a match with a level one character, a complete tabula rasa, with barely any powers and not very effective guns. You can’t tell anything about a player just by the rank of their character. The only way to get get higher ranks on your characters is by playing. So ignore any twinge of imposter syndrome you may be feeling and enter yourself in a game. Here are some reassuring things you might want to know before you go:
There’s no training sandbox for Mass Effect – you just have to jump right in. But if you’ve prepared even a little, you’ll probably be okay.
A full match is around 20-25 minutes long. That’s 11 waves of enemies and eventual extraction.
You don’t have to talk to the other players. And they might not talk to you.
You don’t need friends to play because you can join any public match. “Quick game”, searching for public matches on the bronze difficulty level, is the best way to get started. It’s quick and anonymous, carries a low likelihood of player chatter (and having to join in to that chatter), and has the lowest level of difficulty, which means the best chance of success, or at least being able to learn from your mistakes before the situation becomes really hopeless.
Nobody can see what you’ve named your multiplayer character but you. The name you’re identified as playing under is your Origin account handle. (So basically I spent an hour thinking up roller derby names for nothing but my own personal satisfaction if/when I eventually promote Bomsa Wei to the single-player game as a War Asset.)
There’s no penalty as such for failing a match, except fewer experience points and credits, which means possibly not being able to afford to buy new equipment packs to replenish your medi-gel supplies, etc. In fact, if you survive to wave 10 but not to extraction, you’ll still get a good amount of credits, experience points and some readiness rating increase. So it’s okay not to win every match you go into, and don’t let it discourage you.
Still, the best thing when you’re just starting out is firstly to avoid dying, if you can help it. Be nimble and have good awareness about where the enemy is, and that will go a long way to helping avoiding death. Secondly, in multiplayer, if you are about to die (but not quite dead yet), you can quickly hit 6 to activate an ops survival pack, which will restore your shields and health. Thirdly, if you do die, and the circle around “Dying” starts running down, you have two options: you can press 7 to use medi-gel (if you have it) and revive yourself, or mash spacebar and hang out for a team-mate to come revive you. I’d recommend waiting until your “dying” circle is down to three-quarters before using medi-gel on yourself (there’s points for reviving team-mates, and your medi-gel supply is limited), but although I have that rule I’m still not good at following it. I should try to remember that using medi-gel on yourself when a teammate is about to revive you is more embarassing than dying in the first place 😦
Even if you do die (and you may get wiped out instantly – it happens, especially with Phantoms that sneak up behind you), remember you’re not out of the match; it’s just for that wave. While you’re temporarily dead you simply go into spectator mode and get to watch your team wreaking havoc. And, if you’re me, maybe despair about when you’re ever going to be skilled enough to be that gutsy with nothing but a shotgun and a tactical cloak. And, seriously, does anyone ever take cover in multiplayer, or is it just me?
So play a few matches. Keep yourself alive as best you can. Get a sense of how matches and the random mini-missions work. Then when you’re comfortable you can start helping out on those mini-missions. Ease your way into things, remember to deal damage, look around and stay alive. Good luck and have fun!
Ammo box locations for multiplayer maps: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/57145/where-are-the-supply-spots-on-the-multiplayer-maps
Enemy spawn points: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/343/index/10037557
The best Mass Effect tumblr blog ever: http://biowareaccordingtomom.tumblr.com/post/19790950882/lunch-today