It seems that selecting a difficulty setting in the single-player campaign in the latest Mass Effect game has more repercussions than what’s usually expected. Mass Effect Andromeda has a unique multiplayer balancing system that accordingly adjusts its game balancing based on the single-player difficulty chose. EA’s multiplayer balancing design has fell flat as some players are voluntarily sidestepping these penalties by compromising their single-player experience.
Penalties Rather than Bonuses
Since Mass Effect Andromeda released in March, it was only discovered that the difficulty setting chosen in the single-player mode also affects multiplayer. Having a higher difficulty setting simply gives harsher stat penalties in multiplayer. Giving the players outright stat handicaps are a frustrating way to “balance” out the game for all its players.
Enemies are usually given new attack patterns or better AI in the higher difficulty settings to make battles harder for the players. Mass Effect Andromeda’s multiplayer artificially boosts the difficulty by making enemies tougher to kill due to their increased health and damage output.
Multiplayer Difficulty Stat Differences
According to SRKmoob’s thread on the Mass Effect Andromeda subreddit, a lower single-player difficulty setting has few advantages for players. Players can completely sidestep these penalties if they set it to “Narrative”, which is the game’s easiest difficulty setting. However, encouraging players to play at the easiest difficulty defeats the whole system overall.
Extent of Lower Difficulty “Buffs”
The damage buffs hidden in the lowest difficulty of Mass Effect Andromeda can break its multiplayer mode just as easy. The little damage boost may just be a 20 damage difference, but it counts in long battles as enemies can be quickly disposed of.
Lastly, invulnerability windows are different between difficulty settings. The first three settings up to Normal give players a .5 seconds of invulnerability, which is reasonably normal for these kind of games. However, Hardcore only has .2 seconds and Insanity barely has any at .1 invulnerability seconds. Since maps also have difficulty levels of their own, Narrative mode can help soften the multiplayer mode’s “difficulty” ramps.
Poorly Balanced, Not Unbalanced
EA’s plan to cater to its casual players jumping on the multiplayer mode has backfired due to its effects on the whole player base. The effect of these difficulty-attached damage bonuses can grow bad habits on its other fans. The changes might just be a little but they make all the difference in the player’s battles. Fans and players will take the multiplayer mode less seriously if the easiest difficulty mode stays as its recommended difficulty.
Mass Effect Andromeda developers have definitely screwed up on balancing but it’s not entirely unfixable. EA can simply treat its multiplayer mode as a separate entity from the single-player campaign so as not to complicate gameplay balancing. EA may want to roll out the changes soon before they start losing players.