The next Mass Effect 3 multiplayer DLC, referred to as "Take Back Earth" or simply "Earth," was showcased down in San Diego this week at Comic-Con, and we had a chance to try the new classes, maps, weapons, and frightening Platinum difficulty.
We already know that the new DLC adds a new human character to each class, some of which borrow heavily from existing characters or enemies. The Adept N7 Fury, for instance, borrows from Javik to bring Dark Channeling to multiplayer. The new Infiltrator N7 Shadow is modeled after Kasumi and the Cerberus Phantom, armed with a blade and the ability to pull off a cloaked backstab. The Vanguard N7 Slayer comes armed with some of Kai Leng's skills, including sword attacks and that annoying palm strike.
The New Kids
Of the classes I tried, the Fury was the most viable at face value. Her channeling ability sets up for biotic explosions, and her AOE biotic shield makes her dangerous even at closer range. Her heavy melee actually teleports her a short distance forward before unleashing a shockwave attack like the asari Adept's melee. For a quick escape, you can simply use her "dash," though instead of rolling, she'll teleport away -- through solid walls if necessary. Out of all the new additions, only the Fury and Slayer have this special "dash" ability.
If you're not as fond of the whole glass cannon route, the new Soldier N7 Destroyer and Sentinel N7 Paladin may offer a viable alternative. The Destroyer is probably the tankiest character you could have in multiplayer right now, and his Devastator Mode (skill) turns him into a walking turret in the middle of combat. When activated, all his stats are boosted, including health and firing rate. In addition to grenades, the Destroyer can also whip out a shoulder missile launcher, so that's kind of awesome.
As for the Paladin, players get a melee-range ice attack similar to the vorcha's flamethrower, though obviously without the burning effect. An energy shield offers protection for you and your team, turning you into an immobile Guardian-esque unit. Unfortunately, the shield stance doesn't transition into any kind of charge attack, though you can follow up with a heavy melee strike on close enemies.
The Engineer N7 Demolisher, despite its name, can throw down excellent support with the aid of a Supply Pylon, a cache that can be placed anywhere on a map -- preferrably some place defendable. I didn't get to try this out myself or see the unit used often by others, but there's obviously potential there. As for the new Infiltrator N7 Shadow, the lack of Energy Drain might keep her a notch below the salarian, but she can practically one-shot weaker enemies on lower difficulties or distract tougher enemy units a la Kasumi.
Needs More Gun
New weapons are almost as fun as new classes, and the "Earth" DLC adds three more. Joining the existing arsenal are the hard-hitting, recoil-tastic N7 Typhoon assault rifle, the rapid-fire Piranha shotgun, and the charge-based Acolyte asari heavy pistol. All have their benefits and drawbacks, though as a fan of ability-driven characters, I gravitated toward the pistol first. The Acolyte, like the Disciple shotgun, is one of the lightest weapons in its category. While not up to par with high damage options like the Carnifex, the Acolyte is actually capable of shooting curving shots like a biotic attack. To balance this, every shot needs to be charged up at least a few seconds.
New weapon mods were also available for testing, but I admittedly stuck with most of the old ones, with the exception of the new omni-blade bayonet. It's an omni-blade bayonet, so that pretty much speaks for itself.
Escort Missions, New Playgrounds
The three additional maps were interesting, to say the least. Since the DLC is based around Earth, the new maps are all based on major cities: London, Rio, and Vancouver. Firebase London drops players in familiar territory, taking us back to the last moments of the single-player story when Shepard has to defend the missiles. The multiplayer version is obviously modified to suit the format, but the resemblance is uncanny, something everyone pointed out during our play time. Firebase Rio drops us in a claustrophobic environment out at sea, some ways off the shore, with a view of Reapers falling upon a burning city in the distance as the iconic religious statue looks on. Firebase Vancouver appears to be the top of a skyscraper, somewhere between London and Rio in terms of size, but with slightly more defensible zones (always a plus).
These new maps also feature the a new mission type, Escort. Be warned that not everyone is going to dig these. The Escort missions will spawn a drone, which players will need to stand near in order for it to move forward. Like the current hacking missions, more players within the marked radius pushes the objective at a faster rate; in this case, the drone will move more quickly toward its destination.
Cerberus and Geth and Reapers, Oh My
So how about that Platinum difficulty? As a regular Gold player, I can honestly say that Platinum is sufficiently challenging. Okay, so I may be underplaying it a bit. During our first attempt at Platinum, we ended up dying on Wave 1 against Cerberus, though this is mostly attributed to all four players choosing new characters and trying an unfamiliar map. Hey, all viable excuses. The moment we spawned in London, the game was sending Atlas mechs, Phantoms, and everything else on Cerberus' roster at us. After a grueling hit 'n' run session, we hit Wave 2, only to get swarmed by the same Phantoms and even more Atlas mechs. All while Guardians, Centurions, and the rest of their happy family advanced with their shields and smoke grenades. Did I mention the Black Widow X was doing nothing?
On our second attempt, we managed to last much longer and hit Wave 4. This time, we tried Vancouver, with a mixed team of classics and new characters. Thinking that the Geth couldn't throw any instant kills at us, we went with those guys, but by the fourth wave, Cerberus units were spawning alongside the Primes, Pyros, and Hunters. So in addition to every Geth in the book, we also had every Cerberus unit short of mechs coming at us. No, it did not end well, in case you were wondering, even with the different enemies occasionally fighting amongst themselves. I can only imagine what the Platinum Reapers would've been like.
Going by how more successful parties managed, it seems the classic setup of Engineer, Infiltrator, Adepts-sometimes-Justicar on Firebase White may be your best bet for victory. The salarians' decoys and tech abilities coupled with biotic explosions seem to work just as well against Platinum enemies, though teamwork is more important than ever against these tougher and highly aggressive enemy A.I. Still, we're sure the community will figure out a way to work the newcomers into the meta, given enough time. If you do find a working formula, be sure to let us know. With her biotic combos, the Fury looks to be the most promising right now.
Despite the unbelievable difficulty, Platinum offered a refreshing change of pace, and anyone who may have grown bored with farming Gold on Firebase White will finally have some new challenges to sink their teeth into. You wanted something hardcore? BioWare is giving you hardcore, short of bringing in Harbinger himself (as hilarious as that is to imagine on the London map). The "Earth" DLC will be arriving this coming Tuesday, July 17, as a free download.
BioWare did mention there being single-player DLC on the way, but no details beyond that were divulged.