Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer: thoughts, strategies, and a guide or two

The N7 Shadow Infiltrator melee attack, with flame sword.

The N7 Shadow Infiltrator melee attack, with flame sword.

Continuing the trend of abandoned games I’m recently just getting back into (see: Battlefield 3, ARMA 2), I’ve been playing Mass Effect 3. I’m now all up to date with all the single player DLC; I’ve re-taken Omega with Aria T’Loak, I’ve investigated Leviathan, and I’ve had a ball in my swanky new apartment on the Citadel (and even invited a few friends over — if you’re a fan of the Mass Effect series and haven’t played through the Citadel DLC, you’re doing yourself a disservice).

But enough about singleplayer and its DLC temptresses. Let’s talk about multiplayer! On the face of it, ME3 multiplayer seems like the worst thing ever, or at least, not the most appealing. It’s four-player, peer-to-peer coop set in a variety of locations from the single player side missions, against a variety of the enemies. It follows a pretty simple formula: choose a location (there’s quite a few so I’ll link you to the appropriate Wikia page), choose an enemy (Geth, Cerberus, Collectors, Reapers), and choose a difficulty (in order of least to most difficult: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum). From there, you form a four-man squad of varying races and classes, all of which have their own unique skill sets (even though their skills will be shared by other characters, no characters have the same set of skills), choose from a massive variety of weapons, and kit out your characters.

There’s actually quite a bit to it. There’s millions of possible equipment and weapon combinations alone, which makes for unique games. You can be playing with four of the same characters, but each of those characters could have different playstyles (and hence carry a different weapon loadout and consumables, etc). Plus, there’s a heap of stuff you can unlock. 62 weapons, each of which has 10 “levels”. 65 characters over 6 classes. I’m not even counting all the weapon mods, character appearance customisations, consumables, or gear. You can see my stats and what I’ve unlocked so far here.

I’ll get to talking strategy in a sec, but first, a few quick tips.

Narida’s Class Builder is an amazing ME3 multiplayer resource where you can choose how to spec your character. It lets you choose everything about your character, including what weapons, how much damage your character does, what different evolutions your powers can take on and how that affects your damage/other stats, and so on. It’s fantastic. When you’re speccing a new character, consult the class builder to get an idea of what powers do what, and how that affects your cooldowns, that sort of thing. The only place where it falls down is giving you a sense of how fast things happen in game: a five second cooldown might not sound like much, but it’s an eternity when you’re trying to reload your Widow sniper rifle and dodging that Geth Hunter that appeared out of nowhere. For everything else, Narida’s Class Builder is your ME3 multiplayer bible.

Now, a lot of the game resides in the characters, and the classes you play. A lot of it depends on your particular play-style — any decently skilled player will be able to pick up an entirely new (level 20) character and do well enough at the bronze and silver levels, but I find gold and platinum require a higher plane of thinking.

The Krogan Warlord. I named my Warlord Thor, for obvious reasons.

The Krogan Warlord. I named my Warlord Thor, for obvious reasons.

As an example, take this particular Krogan Warlord build. The Warlord is a good character for smashing trash mobs on silver and lower difficulties, but like pretty much all melee-based characters, you generally don’t do enough damage to make it worth your time getting close to bosses (Geth Primes, Cerberus Atlases, Collector Praetorians/Scions, Reaper Banshees/Brutes), which means on Gold and higher, you’re generally going to have a bad time if you run in and try and hammer everything. I remember the first time I played the Warlord. I built my Warlord similar to the build linked above, and, thinking I was some kind of god, charged in and attempted to break all the enemies into little pieces with my hammer. That worked pretty well, at least up until the boss characters — the banshees, brutes, scions, praetorians, and atlases — who proceeded to insta-kill me, every single time I got too close. It was during that game that I discovered that even Brutes have their own insta-kill animation. Up until then, I had no idea brutes could even insta-kill you. But now I know, and these days, I tend to keep my distance with my Warlord — at least until I know I can take a boss down with one hammer attack. And that’s really what ME3 multiplayer is all about, working with the skills you have in order to be an effective asset to the team. It’s about knowing your limits, and playing it smart.

One of the first things I do when I unlock a new character is to look up “builds”, which tell me where I should put points into powers. But builds are only half of the story, and they’re almost worthless without knowing the strategy for that build. So many builds don’t have a guide on how to play that particular character/build, so you have to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t — but then, what’s the point of a build in the first place? Isn’t the whole idea of a build where someone else has already done the experimentation for you, and can just tell you what to do to win? Another thing I found really annoying is how builds recommend specific weapons. What happens if you don’t have that weapon unlocked? For this reason, these guides will recommend what weapon I run with, then suggest alternatives if you don’t have it. Which is why I’m going to open my little strategy guides under the proviso that they work for my particular playstyle(s). I have a few different play-styles — some are easy, others require a little more work on your part.

These are less strategies, and more just me telling you what I’ve found to be effective with any given build. In no particular order…

So, Krogan Warlord. With the build above, the strategy is pretty much get up close, smash them with the hammer, then finish off anything still standing with the Reegar, which should be staggered and not firing back at you. If you don’t have the Reegar, then any kind of up-close, damage-dealing shotgun or assault rifle. You might even get away with a SMG, although I’m not sure that will do enough damage — but an SMG might work if you soften up targets before you go in for a little hammer time.

As I alluded to above, smashing bosses doesn’t really work unless you know you can take them down in one hit — the insta/sync-kills just spoil your fun. Keep your distance. Power cooldowns aren’t really an issue with the Warlord, but you do want to be able to use your Biotic/Electric hammer to add extra damage to your melee attack.

The Krogan Warlord is a capable silver character, but the numerous bosses in gold mean he’s unsuitable for anything besides Geth (primes don’t have insta-kill attacks).

As a Geth Juggernaut, you'll be doing this a lot.

As a Geth Juggernaut, you’ll be doing this a lot.

The Geth Juggernaut. The biggest advantage about the Juggernaut (especially compared to the Warlord) is that the Juggernaut is immune to insta-kills. This means the Geth Juggernaut is a pretty effective tank character — it’s not uncommon to see a Juggernaut take on two banshees and a brute at the same time, all because his heavy melee attack restores his shield. With that in mind, spec him for melee damage — Hardened Platform 6 can go either way, but I prefer more health and more shields restored for more tanking ability. You can’t duck or move fast, but you don’t need to — you’re pretty much a tank.
Take whatever assault rifle you want — preferably something hard hitting, but the basic strategy here is soften up targets as they come closer to you, then heavy melee them until they die.

You can employ the same tactic with bosses to great effect, only I’d add in a hex shield deployment before so you get protection from whatever else might be shooting at you while you’re doing your power-sucking thing.

I don’t put any points into Geth Turret only because I’ve heard it’s less worthwhile than the other skills. Your mileage may vary.
Always have siege pulse charged and ready to go, as that decreases the damage you take.

The Geth Juggernaut is a capable gold character, even if it does lack the raw damage output of some other characters. Charge your shields and go for it.

The flame sword of the N7 Shadow Infiltrator just looks cool.

The flame sword of the N7 Shadow Infiltrator just looks cool.

Not one, but two N7 Shadow Infiltrator builds. The first, based on Shadow Strike, is a melee-based character. Based on a guide from the BioWare forums, you can spec out of Electric Slash and just take things out one at a time with your cloaked Shadow Strikes — this may seem slow, but if you spec Cloak right, you can get two Shadow Strikes in before you de-cloak, giving you enough time to cloak, shadow strike, shadow strike again, then run away. This works out pretty effectively, but like any melee class, gets you up close and personal with mobs. Bring a Reegar — range isn’t normally an issue as you can teleport all around the map with SS anyway. If you come up against a boss that you can’t SS just cloak and blast him from close range with the Reegar.

You can take the Shadow Strike-based Shadow Infiltrator on gold-level matches, but make sure you’re amping your melee damage with mods. Oh, and make sure your cooldown is reasonably high too — at least above 150%, otherwise you won’t be able to do two shadow strikes and remain cloaked for both of them (yes, even with the duration cloak power).

The second Shadow Infiltrator build is pretty cheap. It’s based around the fact Electric Slash can be effective up to 30m, which covers you for a large potion of the smaller maps. Spec ES for distance — you can spec out of SS if you want, but it might come in handy if someone gets too close. The way you play this ES based Shadow Infiltrator is pretty simple: sit behind a wall, and spam ES. Like I said, it’s pretty cheap — but because ES can set off tech bursts and stagger most trash mobs, it’s reasonably effective against anything but bosses. Fun to play, though.

The Sniper Salarian Infiltrator. Keep your distance.

The Sniper Salarian Infiltrator. Keep your distance.

Which brings us to my favourite build of them all, the one that’s easy to play and can also deal damage where it counts. The sniper Salarian Infiltrator. This was mostly ripped from a Stack Exchange post, so I’ll quote the parts here:

Again, you get fitness, your class power, and tactical cloak (take sniper damage, not bonus power — trust me). However, you also get Energy Drain (ignore proximity mine). This is your life saver on Gold. There are a couple of things to note when not taking bonus power:

  1. If you break cloak with an energy drain, the recharge time is the recharge time for cloak, not energy drain (if you were only cloaked briefly, this means that the recharge time is fast).
  2. When you break cloak, the damage bonus sticks around for about 2 seconds (this means that if you break cloak with an energy drain, you have enough time to get a sniper shot off that benefits from the cloak bonus damage)
  3. Energy drain (and other powers) benefit from the cloak damage bonus.
  4. Energy drain often knocks back/stuns the target, making your follow-up sniper shot easier to land.

Put together, this means that you can cloak, use energy drain, and shoot with your sniper rifle, and then wait for reload/power recharge. The energy drain will punch through most shields in one shot (phantoms, hunters, and pyros will take two energy drains, but other infantry will generally only take one), the follow up sniper shot will one-shot the now-unshielded enemy, even with a body shot. This works reasonably reliably, even on Gold (its my favorite class/build on Gold). Energy drain also gives some free bonus damage against larger targets and replenishes shields, as well.

Seriously. Cloak, drain, shoot. Rinse and repeat. It takes about 4.2 seconds for your Widow to reload between shots, which just happens to be the exact time it takes for your Energy Drain to cooldown, and as you can see from Narida, that thing is doing 3000+ damage with a body shot — double that for a headshot. And that’s without any damage amps, gear, or ammo mods. With a 30% weapon bonus and another 35% for ammo, you’re laughing right in the face of that brute you took down in two, three shots.

And because Energy Drain also replenishes your shields, you also get massive survivability — if your shields are depleted, just cloak, drain, and shoot. You’ll replenish your shields and take down a mob, all at the same time. It’s an amazing build that works on every difficulty level, provided you can aim. Platinum is still challenging with the Salarian Infiltrator, but you can put points on the board.

This is already long enough, but we’ve only covered five different builds for a variety of build styles. As you can see, there’s a heap of complexity in ME3 multiplayer, but most of it depends on how you play and what your particular play-style is.

P.S. I made GIFs of basic gameplay with each character. Krogan Warlord. Geth Juggernaut. N7 Shadow Infiltrator. Salarian Infiltrator.

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