Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Mass Effect

Crowd control effects are really problematic to balance.  This is something I am really coming to notice in Mass Effect now that I have started playing through on Hardcore difficulty.  Initially I started on Veteran with a pure Soldier build but I decided to do something different for Hardcore and went with a mixed Biotic / Combat character.  What this means to those who haven't played the game:  Biotic abilities are mostly crowd control powers that have cooldowns.  You can toss people around, lift them up, disrupt their abilities, etc.  Combat abilities mostly give you passive damage reduction, more hitpoints, more damage and more healing.  This seems to work out fine in most circumstances because when random enemies attack you it is very useful to use Biotic abilities to wreck them but having better numbers helps a lot too.  When there are groups of enemies attacking both builds seem solid and reasonable because they each have advantages and disadvantages.  Problems start to arise though when you fight just 1 enemy.

If the 1 enemy you fight is a dork then Biotics are ridiculous.  First the dork takes a bunch of damage and gets a debuff that makes him take more damage.  Then he gets knocked down.  Then he gets to float around in the air for awhile.  While he is taking these vacations he is getting shot by your entire team and dies exceedingly quickly.  The other end of the spectrum is found when you fight a boss because they are immune to Biotic attacks.  Try to knock them down?  Nope.  Try to toss them around?  Nope.  You basically end up relying on a lot of shooting and ducking and getting hit instead and the Combat abilities become paramount.  You might think that this is all fine because Biotics are good sometimes and Combat is good other times but obviously that would require boss fights and fights against 1 dork to be equally important.  Because bosses are hard and 1 dork is trivial then the game becomes a lot more slanted towards being a Soldier type and just having big numbers on your side.

I certainly found Hardcore to be a real challenge unlike Veteran.  I don't know how much to chalk up to difficulty setting and how much to my new build being inferior in very specific situations though.  In particular the Krogan Battlemaster boss (while rescuing Liara) pretty much acted like a WOW raid boss.  He stood behind pillars and shot at me, which was survivable but unpleasant, and occasionally would try to rush me.  If he rushed me it was very bad because he shot for 20% of my health bar and hit with his fists for 80% of my health bar.  Also when he was in melee range my character defaulted to melee attacks ... which he is immune to.  I had situations where I engaged him at range, brought him down to 20% of his health with my entire team at full with all cooldowns up and he charged in and murdered all three of us quite trivially.  I ended up having to develop (over the course of 15 wipes) a strategy where I kited him behind pillars and refused to engage except when he was mostly under cover sniping me.  Killing him from that position was annoying and slow but it was doable while letting him have a direct line to me (even at maximum range) was death.

For most of Mass Effect I fight in ways that seem really sensible from a roleplaying perspective like ducking behind cover, retreating to draw enemies into traps, sniping when possible, etc.  but for this fight it was pure AI abuse.  I figured out the AIs attack routine and made sure it never got to a spot where it would decide to charge and ruin me.  Obviously that is what you do in video games most of the time; you figure out the hole in the boss' attacks and abuse it over and over until the boss dies.  It is a little unfortunate in this case though because otherwise the game's fighting strategies and roleplaying really played nicely together and in this case I had to game the system pretty severely.  The Krogan Battlemaster fight certainly had my heart pounding but it definitely didn't have me playing in character.


  1. Assuming by Biotic/Combat you mean Vanguard; You may want to work on pulling off biotic detonations more often if you feel like you are weak against the larger units/bosses. Take your Adept member with you, have them Warp your target, then you biotic charge them and do a ton of bonus damage. Also, if you max out biotic charge and drop to one weapon, there are few things/groups in the game capable of killing you between charges.

  2. I am playing Mass Effect 1; there is no such ability. You guessed correctly that I am playing a Vanguard, but my abilities are Throw, Lift, Warp and Barrier.

    Biotic Charge was introduced in ME2 and continued in ME3.