Mass Effect 3: Blindly Upgrading Weapons

The weapon system has gone through a number of changes in the Mass Effect series.  In the first game, there were just so many weapons that you picked up along the way, managing them all was ridiculous. Not to mention trying to make a well informed decision about what you should be using. The disaster of that game’s inventory is well documented  elsewhere (my favorite is at gamedesignreviews.com), but suffice to say it wasn’t good.

In Mass Effect 2, they solved the problems from the first game by essentially getting rid of the whole thing. I’m not sure I ever changed my weapons in the entirety of Mass Effect 2 – that’s how much they got rid of the system. Fair enough.

So in Mass Effect 3, BioWare got back into the swing of things a little bit with a small amount of weapon customization and upgrading. For most of the game, I ran around and was happy to find weapon upgrades strewn around during missions. Towards the end, I realized there was a shop that you could go to for upgrading your weapons. Each weapon in Mass Effect 3 has five different levels, so in the screenshot below I’m looking at upgrading my Scorpion I to the Scorpion II:

The weapon upgrade screen in Mass Effect 3

I’m not sure if this screen could possibly be less useful. Elsewhere in the game, players find the ratings for each weapon that indicate how much damage it does, its ammo capacity, and some other useful statistics that help in making a good decision on what to equip. On the upgrade screen though, all that’s listed is a very generic “improved weapon damage, ammo capacity, and weight”. Well sure, that’s awesome, but the player needs some more quantitative information than that.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t ever provide any better information than what’s seen here. In the inventory management screen, the player can easily compare weapons by way of little bar graphs showing the weapons’ respective statistics. That same exact interface would be absolutely perfect for this screen! The player wants to know if the upgrade is worth their hard earned credits, and the game needs to provide that pertinent information when it’s needed. It seems really bizarre to me that Mass Effect 3 doesn’t reuse an already existing asset to help make this decision easier.

In addition to weighing if an upgrade is worthwhile for the money, something else to think about here is deciding which weapons to upgrade. With generally unimaginative names like “Scorpion” and “Mantis”, I know I couldn’t ever remember what guns my character was actually using, not to mention all of the other people in my party. It would be way more helpful if the weapon upgrade interface would provide the player an indication of which weapons they have recently equipped so it’s easier to make a good decision when choosing upgrades.

Also, there are five different classes of weapons – pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Nowhere on the weapon upgrade screen does it list which class a weapon belongs to. It’s reasonably possible to figure it out based on what the weapon looks like, though there’s no shortage of real estate that could be better utilized for this helpful information. Or, using the weapon class names as headings might be nice to break up this massive list into smaller looking sections.

All that said, I enjoyed the weapon management system of Mass Effect 3 the best out of the whole series. But that’s not much of a compliment considering how miserable it was in the first two titles. I think it’s a little silly how weapon upgrading still feels as broken as it is. Then again, it took me most of the game to find this screen at all, so maybe in development it was subjected to the business end of the 80/20 rule. What is your take? Sound off in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Mass Effect 3: Blindly Upgrading Weapons

  1. A little late to the party, just found your site through a Google search while looking at UX for a new site. I agree with everything here. One thing I learned in radio is that your die-hards are going to appreciate “insider knowledge” – e.g., knowing that their favorite radio personality drives a Subaru. In some ways, I view the weapon class in ME3 the same way. On your list in the picture there, all of the M- classifications are shotguns (if I remember correctly), but the only way to be certain is to scroll through the list and look at the picture, and even then it can be a crapshoot. Still, it seems like a huge oversight in a game where there is a huge amount of focus on customization (pieces of armor, weapon mods, etc.) to NOT put the quantitative data on what an upgrade gets me in that screen. Oh, and I found this interface my first trip back on the Normandy, as well as a myriad of ship models, because I figured I’d be spending a lot of time there anyway. I don’t think I’m part of the diehard 20%, I just got ME3 for Christmas finally so I wouldn’t think so. But, I have played the other ME games as well as a slew of other Bioware games so I anticipated hidden things and functionality where I might not expect it.

    One thing Bioware did great with this game is the “scan” interface for mineral collection. It went from blatantly annoying in ME1 (drive around in a lunar rover, find mineral deposits, get out and do a mini-game to stake the claim), to somewhat time-consuming but improved in ME2 (scan the surface of the entire planet using a computer on the Normandy – the faster the beeps, the higher density of minerals, and you fire a replaceable probe), to one-click while you’re already in the galaxy map in ME3. I still haven’t found anything with it, but I also don’t feel its as important as they made it in ME2 where you needed minerals to upgrade weapons.

    • Hey, thanks for the comment. I definitely agree on the topic of scanning for minerals. The rover in Mass Effect 1 was SO painful – I used it as little as possible. It was interesting to see how they streamlined that whole process through the three titles. I kinda enjoyed the mini-game in ME2, but yeah, it was just too time-consuming in the end.

  2. If the last guy was late to the party, I am coming in… well way later. I find it unbelievable how horrible the weapon shop GUI is. Did some googling to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Turns out, I’m not. Sigh.

  3. Wow. I easily take the cake for late replies lol. I am entirely new to the franchise and am playing Mass Effect 3 without having played the first two. I’m glad I am not the only one with difficulties navigating the weapons customization options!! Lol, I hope I’m choosing the right weapons to upgrade. O.o

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