Archive for the ‘Mass Effect’ category

Mass Effect 3: EMS, Galactic Readiness, Endings FAQ Guide Thingy (pre-DLC)

June 21, 2012

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 dare you to talk about that of which we do not speak!

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…)

Coming up for air after Mass Effect (*mild spoilers*)

June 16, 2012

I picked up the Mass Effect series shortly before Mass Effect 3 hit the market. Friends (notably this friend and this friend) kept telling me how much I’d love the games.

In the sci-fi vs fantasy division of the world, I’ve been sold to fantasy. It happened on my 10th birthday when my mom’s cousin bought me the first Lord of the Rings book. I’ve been fixated on medieval stuff for so long that the idea of playing a sci-fi game just didn’t get me hot and bothered. But then I liked SWTOR. And if I liked SWTOR, it wouldn’t hurt to give Mass Effect a try.

So I bought the first game for cheap during a Steam sale.

Where it all begins.

Once ME3 had been out for a little while and fans were outraged at the piss poor final moments of the series, friends started to change their minds. They urged me to stop playing, to get out before it’s too late.

I understand. They were trying to spare me heartache.

I played anyway.

I don’t regret it. I am saddened by how Bioware painted a masterpiece and, instead of putting on the finishing touch, set fire to it. My heart does ache.

Despite the unsatisfying wrap-up, though, Mass Effect did reach into me and yank my imagination to new places. For the first time in a long time, I completely lost myself in another world. They were real to me: Shepard, Garrus, Kaiden, Liara, the others. The intensity was unexpected.

As I crept close to the credits, I cried big, round, juicy tears. You know, with shaking shoulders and reaching for kleenex and the whole deal. Not because of the ending itself (which really wasn’t very moving), but because it was over. I had to cut ties with these characters and this world that had invaded my mind for a short, but powerful, time. It hurts so much, but it was so worth the journey.

Bossy Pally and Mass Effect: A Love Story

It did take me awhile to bite on. Games have come a looong way in the past 5 years. Back in the day, we were patient. We were cool learning things by ourselves. We didn’t mind not getting it right on the first try. I hadn’t realized how badly modern games have spoiled me.

Mass Effect, the first one, starts off with a short, unhelpful tutorial. Once you sort of have an idea of how combat works, you’re dumped in puzzle-adventure game mode for a few hours. Once the game is sure you’ve forgotten everything from the tutorial, it ships you off to your first real mission. Mission, of course, where the mobs easily one-shot you if you don’t move right. Mass Effect and I wouldn’t have even become friends had fellow gamers not stepped in to give me pointers.

Next thing I knew, I’d beaten the first Mass Effect three times and got all achievements except for Insanity, AI Hacking, Assault Rifle kills and 2 last companions. (Note that I did beat the game on Hardcore. Insanity will be my next run-through.)

Graphics have come a long way too!

Mass Effect 2 and 3 didn’t have the same replay value for me. It’s sort of a good thing, really. It’s that, early into ME2, I fell hard. Hard. Like falling from the 30th story onto hot, black pavement hard.

For about 3 weeks, I barely ate, I barely slept. I spent my work hours in a daze, counting the minutes until I could go home and play. Any breaks I took involved me lying on the couch with cold compresses on my eyes, trying to relieve the strain of staring at a computer screen for hours on end (I know, I know, I should have gotten the 360 version). I played the fuck out of the game.

Aaaand the ME2 Shepard!

Same goes for Mass Effect 3 (which was included in the 3 weeks of obsessive gaming). I lived the story, I left no stone unturned. I redid a few missions to see how they could go differently. I even had to restart ME3 a few times, just to get Shepard to look the way I wanted.

That’s what happens when you wait until you’re finished the game to take all your screenshots: boring pics from your last save.

It’s a huge emotional investment, you know, getting involved in a game like that.

Commander Shepard

I think someone asked me once what the appeal of Commander Shepard is. I was still playing the first game on repeat at the time so I didn’t know the answer. Shortly into ME2, the answer is obvious:

Shepard is the space hero every kid dreams of being.

The game even takes into account that while every kid has, at some point, dreamed of being a space hero, our space heroes differ in flavor . And for the first time, I had a game who let me be a space hero the way I wanted to be a space hero.

I found that the first game gave me the most freedom to explore Shepard’s personality. As the series advances, her personality, interests and limits were a bit more pre-determined. I’m not sure what I think of it. On one hand, I missed being able to make Shepard exactly the way I want, on the other hand, I did enjoy just sitting back and being surprised by her reactions. I guess that as the game went on, she felt less like a fantasy-enhanced version of myself and more like a friend that I really click with.

The stats are what? 18% of players play as FemShep? Sounds low, but it does translate to 1 out of 5, which could be right. I loved FemShep. I’ve never been one to care much about my representation in the media, but I definitely enjoy a chunk of media more when I can relate to the main character. Generally strong female leads tend to be portrayed as men with a woman’s body. Or they start out good, only to succumb to Western society’s notion that in order to be happy, a woman must fall in love with daddy-figure and trade in her life of adventuring for diaper changing.

They did a good job with FemShep. She’s tough, she’s logical, she can hold her liquor pretty good but she’s got a warmth about her that makes her feel like your girlfriend. I’d totally have a girls’ night out with FemShep any day. And in her romances (at least the ones with Kaiden, Liara and Garrus – but I’m sure Jacob and Thane follow the same pattern), her partners are drawn to her because they admire her. It’s refreshing.

Between the excellent writing and Jennifer Hale’s brilliant voice acting, I can’t even imagine what Shepard would be like as a guy. It just wouldn’t seem right. (Though I’m sure I’ll do one playthrough as BroShep, just to see. Plus, I’ve met Mark Meer and that man has a sexy, sexy voice.)

Leaving the Mass Effect Universe

I’d only been playing for a few weeks and I was prepared for disappointment, so my last impression was one of “could have been worse“. No matter what direction the story had gone, I would have still sobbed my poor little heart out, not because of the story, but because it had ended.

But I definitely feel for the long time fans who’d been waiting years to save (or gleefully destroy) the galaxy. Had I not been expecting a let-down, the random, half assed ending would have felt like a slap in the face to me too.

I can’t, for the life me, understand how anyone thought this would be a good idea. (I’ve also heard accusations that the Mass Effect ending was plagiarized from Deus Ex but I’m not familiar enough with Deus Ex to judge.) The first two games had excellent endings. And they were simple endings. Mass Effect ends with a “good job”, Mass Effect 2 ends with “lets bury the dead if necessary and submit our reports”. Both were predictable, because, well, that’s how epic stories end.

Mass Effect 3 could have easily gotten away with “lets start rebuilding the galaxy and show how all our favorite characters are getting on with their lives”. Have Shepard-alive and Shepard-dead endings (some people prefer their heroes to live happily ever after, others prefer sacrifices). So what if it’s not creative? The entire series was creative. Mass Effect took video games and storytelling and world building and science fiction to freaky levels. There was no need to try to fit a weird last minute twist into the story.

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but personally, what I would need in an ending to get a perfect experience of the game is a slow tribute to the main characters and to the world they lived in. A gentle disconnect from the mindspace I’d submerged myself in. Some time to pay my respects.

Basically, a proper chance to say goodbye.