Hello fellow Mass Effect acolytes, I thought I'd spend some time talking about one of the most controversial questions concerning Mass Effect 3: whether or not the inclusion of EMS was appropriate for the game, especially considering the way that it was implemented. However, this subject is one that is subtle and requires a larger range of perspective than my own, so I thought I'd gather the opinions of a few others with expertise in the field. They each work hard at securing galactic peace, so I have chosen to conceal their identities so their missions will not be compromised in anyway by referring to each by their codenames.

Here with me in this discussion are Archibald Shepard, Batman Shepard, Blake Shepard, Chris Shepard, John S. Shepard, James Shepard, John Shepard, Dave Shepard, Dood Shepard, John C. Shepard, Marston Shepard, Jotale Shepard, Catherine Shepard, Colin Shepard, Cameron Shepard, and Phil Shepard. I'd like to thank them all for participating in this dialogue, and I'll now surrender the floor to them. (Spoiler warning!)

So, let's see these legendary figures offer their input, in alphabetical order:


Archibald Shepard:

"I am not a fan of the EMS integration relevant to the success rate of my overall victory or defeat when dealing with the Reaper threat. To begin with, I never passed geotrigalculus in community college, so I wasn't really sure how the heck it even worked. I did every single side mission, I mean EVERYTHING, and the absolute best I could hope for was 50%. 50% of what exactly? What did it do, what does it mean? What is the difference between my Galactic Readiness, Total Military Strength, and Effective Military Strength? Supposedly to be able to get my TMS over 8,000, which it needs to be so that I can have my EMS over 4,000, I would need to save Kaidan and Ashley, sacrifice and save the Council... again, not the sharpest mathlete in my fifth grade class, but I can figure out when something isn't possible. Fortunately, I learned that I can stop my momentum during my campaign playthrough right before the end, and play MP for 3 days to get my Galactic Readiness up high enough to make up for my shortcoming in my EMS even though my TMS is just fine. GTFO and STFU!

"Now, that the rant is over... I didn't hate the idea, just the implementation. I don't feel it should have been used as a way to get people to spend more money, which it totally was in my opinion. Almost a "pay for the best ending" sort of deal. Sure, the MP was free with new copies, but who wasn't enticed by those weapons and equipment packs? Alternatively or additionally, you could buy the iPad game and or the iPhone app(I did both) to help boost that score, which conveniently goes down if not  paid attention to.

"As a completionist gamer, I think that spending 70+ hours in the game making sure that I did everything possible, should warrant the same effect. I don't mind the "pay to win" model for those who want it, but make it one or the other, not a combination of both. In the end however, things got so convoluted and confusing that I am not sure I would have known the difference.

"To this day, I do not know what the difference was between a <>50% EMS rating; was it the breath that has everybody wondering if Archie is still alive? Was it the difference between Hammer having a relatively easy go of the last push, or being fought at every intersection? I dunno."

Orochi: Ah, yes, I remember those problems. A lot of ME3 players I've spoken with were confused about this, re: the differences between EMS and TMS. It actually took the datamining of the entire game by a few devoted fans to prove to Bioware reps that it was impossible for players who didn't play multiplayer to get the optimal ending. Thankfully, they listened.


Batman Shepard:

"EMS was a feature that I would have had no problem with had it been relegated to the Campaign alone. I understand that Bioware wanted to pique some interest in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer - and realistically it was an excellent strategy - but for those who have no access to online play, or have no interest in multiplayer, they missed out on some interesting endings."

Orochi: This is definitely a recurring theme I've noticed. I think that including multiplayer and giving players the chance to import characters to the fight was rather tempting as an idea, but it's clear that their concern with multiplayer definitely dumbed down aspects of the single player experience as it pertains to acquiring EMS.


Blake Shepard:

"The EMS was one of the most wasted opportunities I've ever seen in a video game, ever. Why? Bioware had a real chance to make all the effort... all the struggle... of the players amount to something the likes of which the gaming industry had never seen before. And they flubbed it up on such a monumental scale that my brain is screaming in agony as we speak. How they should have done it was allowed the played to look at their collected assets amassed throughout the course of the entire series, and then allowed the player to appropriate resources to battles/points of interest that they saw fit.

"Imagine if during the final conflict on Earth, Shepard was allowed to take a moment and look at how the battle was progressing.  Let's say that there were 30 Sovereign-grade Reapers attacking Italy and that a massive assortment of Harvesters were attacking France. Do you send the Turian's to take on the Reapers? Or do you use that same force and let Italy fall, but guarantee the survival of France? These are the kind of choices that I think could have really set Mass Effect 3 above being a simply fantastic game and would have thrust it into the annals of video game classics.

"Yes, the EMS should have been more critical to Shaperd's success than just "get over 5,000 and you win herp". The EMS should have been the culmination of all the players hard work. Instead, it's just some number that doesn't feel like it carries any weight.

"I can imagine in my head how awesome it would be to have a more in-depth way to influence the final outcome of the Mass Effect trilogy. They could have made it to where every major decision we did mattered and have those same decisions carry weight at the final sprint. Instead they're like 'nope, godchild and MacGuffin.' -_-"

Orochi: Now that's definitely a brilliant way to use EMS, Blake! I'm still perplexed as to why they didn't think to make these War Assets have more engaging relevance. That would've added an interesting new strategic component to the Reaper War that made it feel like you were truly making important decisions and involved in the war on a larger scale than before.


Cameron Shepard:

"I just wish EMS was integrated better within the storyline. I understand that they wanted to get across that Shepard has to rally the troops of all races for the final battle, but it also kinda trivializes the choices made in previous games as they all come down to just another number now. The lowered EMS threshold for all the endings in the Extended Cut DLC was definitely a good step forward."

Orochi: I can only agree here, and numerous players do with you. I myself was especially happy about the EMS change.


Catherine Shepard:

"As a mechanic, Effective Military Strength makes sense. It's a nice, transparent representation of the player's war efforts. However, therein lays its weakness: By assigning numerical values to the player's choices and effectively scoring their decisions, Mass Effect loses some of its magic. I can only speak for myself, but my sense of immersion was weakened by the presence of that stat. As a result of the inclusion of EMS, I often found myself making judgments not based on what I considered most reasonable or morally sound, but which option would net me more war points. I would have preferred something different, but since it's so integral to the game's design, it's sort of unrealistic to say that it shouldn't have been in the game at all. It would have at least been a little more effective as a hidden value, perhaps shown to players after completing the campaign."

Orochi: Yeah, I found the numerical value aspect of the game to be bit lacking. The saddest thing about this is that in order for those playing default to get the optimal ending you'll find yourself doing some pretty despicable deeds. I'd rather have seen it as a series of checks and balances like in the effectiveness of the Suicide Mission and in the survival of your squadmates instead.


Chris Shepard:

"I think EMS was an effective way of tracking your Shepard’s progress throughout the entirety of Mass Effect. As for whether it was used effectively, I’d have to say so, I can’t imagine how it could be improved within the realm of possibility, but if I could have my way you’d be able to personally manage each resource and where you put them against the fight against the reapers, but that’s unreasonable. Micromanagement wasn’t in the history of Mass Effect (save for weapon mods in ME1, but apparently, that was too confusing for general audiences… (grumble grumble)"

Orochi: Now that's an interesting twist. Perhaps making them more interactive would be an excellent way to give them more than peripheral relevance. As for weapon mods, I think the terrible inventory system is what made it confusing.


Colin Shepard:

"In my opinion, EMS was not needed. They could have easily made it where we can do the same stuff without some invisible standard."

Orochi: A lot of people have criticized the numerical system implemented into EMS. I think if they'd simply made it similar to how they handled requirements for the Suicide Mission - meeting certain criteria based on how well prepared you were - EMS would've been unanimously received by players.