Mass Effect 3 Narrative Mode and Action Mode explained

Tom Francis at

Mass Effect 3 Action mode

When you start Mass Effect 3, you don't pick a difficulty, but you do pick a mode: Action, Role-playing or Narrative. Role-playing is how we've played both previous games. But the other two are radically different.

Narrative mode makes all combat trivially easy. You can't skip it, exactly, but even standing in direct fire of multiple enemies, your shield is barely hurt and regenerates quicker than they can hurt you. Even the AI is different - enemies amble idly rather than trying to flush you out or surround you.

Action mode rips out the other half of the game: the combat stays the same, but you don't get to create a character, you have to play with the default male Shepard, you don't get to choose a class, you can't choose how you level up, and you can't even choose dialogue options - every conversation is just a pre-scripted cut-scene.

I actually think it's cool to provide options for radically different types of player. The narrative option in particular will open Mass Effect 3 up to a large and under-served group of people who are excited to explore the worlds games create and the stories they tell, but don't enjoy the challenge of combat. As hardcore gamers, we sometimes forget that even easy mode isn't easy for everyone.

Action mode is harder to appreciate. I would have thought that the kind of gamer who itches to get at the combat and doesn't care about the story would be the kind who wants to unlock cool new abilities. There's already an auto-level-up option in role-playing mode, if you want to skip the decision.

I'd understand better if it let you skip the story stuff, but it doesn't - as in all the other modes, you can only skip individual lines in certain conversations. Are there people who are allergic to choice? How much do we want to cater to that mindset?

I can hear myself being a jerk, here. I don't think anyone should begrudge the option of Narrative mode for the combat-averse, and here I am begrudging Action mode for the choice-averse. Really, I'm just disappointed it's not an Impatient Jerk mode that lets you skip anything and everything you want - something I'd actually really appreciate on a second playthrough.