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Come for the Fall of Earth, stay for the co-op: BioWare introduces four-player co-op play to Mass Effect 3

BioWare has saved one last surprise for its third chapter in the Mass Effect franchise. The game developer has added a brand new, four-player cooperative mode to Mass Effect 3. The new mode will further expand the game’s story and offer a new perspective on the Reaper invasion.

“Each of the games have been building up to this overall galactic invasion,” explained Aaryn Flynn, studio general manager for BioWare in Edmonton. “We wanted to do something really interesting and innovative that presents the players with this idea of an entire galaxy of war. As we thought about this, we realized that Shepard’s story of going after and destroying the Reapers, is one really important aspect of that galactic war effort. But there are lots of other stories to tell about various people who are going off and fighting different battles elsewhere. That’s the story we’re telling through the four-player co-op.”

While Mass Effect 3’s distinct, single-player campaign is the conclusion of Shepard’s story and the invasion of the Reapers, there are other operatives fighting the galactic war who are tackling entirely different missions that may be unrelated to Shepard, but could be vital to the war effort. That’s where the four gamers playing the online co-op will come in.

“Both campaigns are part of the overall Galaxy of War design we have, which lets the results of each single-player campaign, and the multiplayer efforts, feed into the overall galactic war effort,” said Flynn. “Using a Galaxy of War map, you can tell what feeders of operation are being controlled right now, whether it be through single-player or multiplayer play.”

Co-op offers gamers six different races in six different classes. The entire experience is customizable, so that players will be able to create their own character and arm him or her with an assortment of weapon upgrades and other cool stuff. BioWare has also designed brand new levels for the action to take place in. At the EA Vegas Game Show, there were two playable co-op levels on display — Slums and Noveria.

“We’ve really designed these levels to support the idea of four players running through an environment at the same time,” said Flynn. “Slums and Noveria are the two maps we’ve revealed. They’re both really exciting maps that were designed for co-op gameplay from the ground up. We’ll have more to announce about the levels and the maps we’re showing later on.”

With shooters from the Gears of War series to Resistance 3 offering co-op gameplay, Mass Effect 3 is the latest franchise to add additional story and replay value to a successful franchise.

“Certainly other games are doing it now, but when we made the decision to do it, it really came down to what the story we could tell,” said Flynn. “Luckily, with the overall galaxy at war story, and Shepard’s trying to defeat the Reapers, it really helped us with the idea that it was much more logical, and a good opportunity to tell a multiplayer story.”

Flynn also confirmed that the improved cover system in the game will be utilized in the co-op gameplay. In addition, the fine-tuning of the animation also works well in showcasing the co-op gameplay experience, just as these improvements to the Unreal Engine 3 enhance the single-player campaign.

“We’re really excited to finally give players a taste of what it’s like to be in a galaxy at war,” said Flynn. “This game offers an entire galaxy of planets and races fighting against one common enemy. I think people are going to really enjoy what they play.”

Co-op will be an important piece to the overall experience that players will have next year. Flynn said the final game has been challenging to develop because not only has everything  been buidling to this third title, but the expectations of gamers, and the game creators themselves, have been raised with each game.

“There’s a lot of complexity when you’re building a game that’s on top of two other games,” said Flynn. “Just the fact that we really want to do a better job with each game and tell more emotional stories, provide better AAA action and gameplay, etc. ups the ante. When you go down the list, it just makes more and more work to make these games. As players who have played Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 come into Mass Effect 3, we have to take into account a lot of the decisions they’ve made, and we want to show the impacts of those decisions.”

While the Mass Effect trilogy may be coming to an end, there’s a new science fiction adventure taking flight based in this rich mythology. Legendary Entertainment is developing a new Mass Effect film franchise with game creator Casey Hudson collaborating with screenwriter Mark Protosevich on the adaptation.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Flynn. “It’s not often that you work on a game and it becomes a movie one day. You sometimes imagine what if that would happen. But to see it being developed is something else. We’re just really excited to work with Legendary and see how that all comes together.”

Flynn said that working with Legendary Entertainment, the company behind the upcoming World of Warcraft movie tentatively titled Warcraft, has been great.

“They’ve been really respectful of what we’ve done with the IP and where we’re taking it,” said Flynn. “We’ve been telling them a lot about what’s going on, and they’ve been just great partners. We’re really excited to work with them.”

Gamers will likely be excited that BioWare has finally answered their request for co-op gameplay in the Mass Effect Universe. The final battle for the galaxy is shaping up to be an experience.

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