Better Enemies in Mass Effect 3

2 Apr

Normally I wouldn’t even consider thinking about possible changes to a relatively small multiplayer component of a predominantly solo-focused game. Mass Effect 3, however, has been showered with a surprising amount of post-release TLC; it’s already had several notable rebalancing patches and what turned out to be weekly one-off ‘events’ (Kill 3 million of one enemy type, bonus XP etc.). That, and Bioware’s apparent willingness to go back and tweak the game’s ending after a particularly vocal backlash, makes big changes to what might have been a half-assed piece of co-op padding a very real possibility.

As it happens, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is fantastic. Combat is rarely noted as a series strength (RPS’ Jim Rossignol “loathes” it) but I could play it with three other not-Shepards for hours. Every bullet, tech attack and biotic strike carries such a tangible weight and hits with such a loudly audible sense of impact that every single one of a round’s eleven waves turns into a spectacularly rich display of fire explosions, miniature black holes and headbutting. With that said, there’s a lot of bullshit too, pretty much entirely on the part of enemies – canned animations that unavoidably one-hit-kill you, irritating insects that punish you for killing their mother too efficiently, boring and useless smoke grenades… I don’t honestly expect Bioware to implement any of the possible changes I’m about to pull out of my backside, but at least ME3 multiplayer’s post-release support has been strong enough that I don’t feel stupid simply for pondering them.

Cerberus Centurion

Ditch the smoke grenades. These throw up an unconvincing 2D jpeg of some smoke which rotates trees-in-Tony-Hawks-Pro-Skater-style depending on where you’re stood, and thus suck. More importantly, they serve no other purpose than to annoy – smoke means you can’t attack effectively, but troops themselves don’t even use it to advance or cover their buddies. It’s just there to get in the way, creating dull waitaround periods that break the flow of a good battle. Atlas mechs use them too, to even lesser effect, since the smoke doesn’t even cover their hulking frames.

Cerberus Nemesis

Give her a melee attack. This is partly for my benefit; despite being snipers, as an Engineer or Sentinel I’m constantly engaging them at close range, though her sole reliance on sharpshooting means she usually just scuttles away. Letting her fight back with a swift omni-blade attack of her own would both slow her down, resulting in less lame chase sequences (“Get back here so I can hit you in the face!”) with the tradeoff of her kicking my ass should I fail to strike the first blow.

Cerberus Phantom

Those bitches. Obviously she fills the Cerberus’s agile, durable melee fighter quota, so let’s not change that. Do, however, get rid of that horrible insta-kill stab attack. The problem isn’t the prospect of a swift death itself, but like the equivalent moves of the Atlas, Banshee and Brute, the attack will unfairly lock you into place – sometimes forcing you to involuntarily slide halfway across a room so you’ll be in the right position – before brutally bypassing all your health and shields. If you want one-hit-kills, balance them with a dodgeable charge-up animation, not one that fucking teleports an escaping player back into range then locks them in place. It’s not challenging, it’s just cruel.

Alternatively, since the Phantom has a sword, why not take a cue from this utterly brilliant Renegade Interrupt (singleplayer spoilers, skip to 0:35) and make the animation a high-risk but satisfying QTE?

Geth Pyro

It’s not just bad guys who need a nerf right now. Anyone who plays Krogan and has a functioning brain stem is pretty much guaranteed to trounce everyone else on the server, thanks to their ridiculous shield/health numbers and a massively damaging charge attack. It’s great fun to play, I’ll concede, but it’s a bit silly that they can run straight up to the nozzle of a raging flamethrower and pistol-whip the robotic owner so hard they go into orbit. These guys, as tough close-range damage dealers, make appropriate rivals of the Krogan, so their flamethrowers should be especially harmful to them.

Geth Prime

Enough with the stunlocking. I can’t even articulate a decent reason why they should change this, it’s just immensely annoying.

Reaper Banshee

See Phantom. Also, undo the recent health buff. No-one likes a sponge.

Reaper Brute

See Phantom.

Reaper Husk

See Phan…wait! The canned animations of the Husk’s grab attack almost certainly won’t kill or even significantly hurt you, but it’s still an incredibly cheap way of getting you to stand in place while Cannibals and Marauders pump bullets into you whilst Ravagers shoot you with their blatantly overpowered automatic rocket launchers.

Reaper Ravager

Lose the blatantly overpowered automatic rocket launchers. Want them powerful? Sure. Want them fast? Go ahead. Want them accurate? Okie doke. Want all three at once, with a big AOE and a fired from something with a metric shit-tonne of armour? You’re insane.

Only slightly less tiresome are the Swarmers, tiny Reaper-ised bugs that pop out of Ravager sacs when shot. It’s bad enough that having the apparently unacceptable gall to target a Ravager’s weak spots will create a group of these little cretins without the fact that stamping on them (clearly a reasonable response to seeing a hefty insect) is a big drain on your shield. Make their hitboxes bigger so just shooting them is less of a chore, or just cut them entirely. Even the game doesn’t consider them a ‘real’ enemy.

Banshee, Brute and Phantom again

Seriously, it’s absolutely dreadful. Did nobody at QA complain? Not one?

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