EDIT, June 26, 2012: Figures this post would only start getting attention on the day it became obsolete. This guide was written before the Extended Cut DLC. I’m going to leave it as is for now, just in case someone is playing the game in its original format. I may rewrite the guide in light of the DLC, but I’m not sure it will be needed. The new take on the ending is a lot more straightforward.
If you are looking for the answer to “How much EMS do I need to unlock all the ending scenes post-DLC?”, it is 3100, according to Bioware.
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Yeah, I know there’s a lot wrong about posting a non-WoW guide on my WoW blog, for a forsaken game, about the very part(s) of said game that we refuse to acknowledge.
I decided to write this FAQ/Guide is because, well, when I game, I game obsessively. Details nag me, okay? So despite what I kept being told about “EMS doesn’t matter, the endings are all mostly the same and suck equally“, I had a lot of questions as I got closer and closer to my last mission.
A lot of questions with not a lot of answers. The information I found was scattered or vague or just plain wrong. It was especially hard to find answers without totally spoiling the game for myself.
So after playing the last Mass Effect 3 sequences a few times and experimenting with different options “in the name of science”, I figured I’d share my discoveries with the world. Just in case there are other detail-obsessed latecomers looking for answers before they make their final push.
How This FAQ Will Work
I want to give the answers that I wish I’d received when I was getting ready for my last few missions. I especially want to give those answers with no more spoilers than necessary. The way I found to dodge the blatant spoilers is to give this FAQ a certain order. The first few questions concern the format of the game and not the story. As the FAQ goes on, the story-related Qs and As get juicier and juicier. When you reach a point where you think you’re getting spoiled, stop reading there.
There will be a spoiler warning and a cut (for those reading the post on the main blog page) when I transition from basic game to story.
1) What is this War Assets, Galactic Readiness and EMS table?
In the Normandy’s War Room, you can open a screen that shows your War Assets, Total Military Strength (TMS), the Galactic Readiness and your Effective Military Strength (EMS).
The War Assets are points you get based on different decisions you make. The sum is your Total Military Strength. Galactic Readiness is a multiplier. It defaults at 50% and you can increase it up to 100% via multiplayer or the iOS apps Mass Effect: Infiltrator and Mass Effect 3: Datapad (Infiltrator is also supported by Android while Datapad, as far as I can tell, is Apple exclusive).
The result of your TMS multiplied by your Galactic Readiness is your Effective Military Score. The EMS is the only value that really matters and it does affect the ending. Though, as the game stands now, before DLC is released, the effect tends to be mostly (but not totally) in your imagination.
2) How does Multiplayer affect my Galactic Readiness?
In the Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, you build a character then drop it in a familiar fighting map along with up to 3 other players. Then you face 11 waves of mobs. Some waves include bonus quests such as killing specific targets in a given amount of time, hacking into a computer while defending an area or interacting with 4 posts around the zone within a timeframe.
If you choose a specific zone, according to the Mass Effect Wikia, you get 8-9% galactic readiness to that zone. If you let the game choose a zone for you, you get 3 or 4% overall for reaching the 10th wave (I got 4% on my first successful mission, got 3% ever since), or 2% for reaching the 6th wave. Every mission-fail group I’ve been in wipes on either the 6th wave or the 10th, so unless you’re trying to solo the maps, you’re pretty much guaranteed at least 2% per mission.
Supposedly Infiltrator and Datapad can also increase your Readiness, but I won’t sell my soul to Apple, so I have no firsthand experience with the apps.
Your Galactic Readiness will decay when you’re not grinding it. Rate seems to be around (and this reflects my experience too) 1% per 8 hours, with decaying slightly slowing down as your Galactic Readiness gets lower. Keeping your computer offline may temporarily stop the decay, according to the Wikia, but my experience is that it catches up as soon as you’ve back online. The War Assets board seems to think your Readiness is 0% when you’re not connected to the EA servers (at least on PC), though I don’t know if playing offline causes you a O EMS ending. (That would be the pinnacle of shittyness.)
3) How much does my EMS impact the ending?
As the game stands now, there are slight differences (an EMS below 2050 will give you a particularly depressing result), but the bulk of the differences will be in your imagination. The DLC may change that, but who knows?
4) Do I need to do multiplayer to get the “best” ending?
Depends on what you mean by “best” ending.
The ending that Bioware seems to consider their “best” ending becomes available at 2800 EMS. The ending that players consider the best or “perfect” ending becomes available at 4000 or 5000 EMS (depending on another choice you make).
If you want to spoil yourself and check out the different endings, these guides (in order from less spoilery to most spoilery) have EMS breakdowns: ING, Just Push Start and Rarity Guide. The breakdowns on each guide vary slightly (see what I meant when I said it was hard to find consistent information?), notably concerning the impact of the Collectors Base that you saved/destroyed in ME2, but the differences are negligible.
According to the Wikia, the highest possible War Assets score is “is above 7700″ but below 8370 (which is the sum of all existing assets, but including assets you can never obtain together, such as Ashley and Kaiden). At 50% readiness, obtaining 4000 EMS is probably impossible. 2800 EMS, though, is easysauce.
If you want a gage, I was very much a completionist for all 3 games but didn’t do the Bring Down the Sky or Pinnacle Station DLC (I did all the others) nor followed any War Assets guides. I finished with 7185 War Assets.
5) I don’t do FPS. Any advice for me?
Relax. I was furious too when I found out Bioware’s little scheme to coax hardened solo players (like me) into multiplayer. Then I tried multiplayer and discovered it wasn’t scary at all.
The worst part was finding other people to play with on PC (apparently all the social players are on 360). I’d even enter maps on my own, praying that others would show up up early in the first wave. (This is worked out well for me most of the time.)
In Bronze difficulty, pretty much everyone is friendly which takes away some of the scariness. I’m the most clueless person ever when it comes to FPS, yet I didn’t have any problems with my teammates. Most of them didn’t use mics, those who did were extremely helpful.
Equip a slow firing distance weapon like a sniper and a rapid firing close up weapon like a submachine gun (some tactics guides may tell you otherwise, but as a complete noob, I found this weapon combination to be my saving grace). Find a teammate that seems to know what they’re doing and stick to their ass. Assist their kills, rez them when they die and learn from their choice of targets and cover spots. When guarding an area, have 2 people watching each side. Watch what your teammates are doing. If you’re the most junior player, it’s up to you to adapt to their decisions. I find teams that stick together kick more bad guy ass than teams where everyone just runs off on their own.
Use your weapons and abilities in combination and LEARN THE KEYBINDINGS. As an infiltrator, I’d hit “2″ (the frost bolt), immediately followed by gunfire. I also used my Tactical Cloak (“1″) whenever I changed positions, needed to escape an enemy or made a dash to rez a teammate. Mousescroll swaps weapons. You can’t pause the combat in multiplayer, so become one with your keybindings. There’s no other way.
Good information sites for completely new players seem to be scarce. You’re stuck with the harsh teachings of trial and error. Once you get the hang of it, you might enjoy reading this site.
It takes a couple of hours to grind your Galactic Readiness really high, but it goes by quickly. Even as a complete n00b, I managed to get my Galactic Readiness from 50% to 97% in one sitting (my eyes burned like heck after that feat of strength!). Fitting multiplayer into the single player game is definitely a ploy to get solo players to sample the multiplayer, but that’s all they want you to do: sample it. If you don’t like it, it’s over fast. But most people seem to really enjoy it, myself included.
Spoilers Start Here! (more…)