Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode employs a trading card-style unlock system, where you purchase “packs” of mystery items that include one-time-use boosts, new weapons, new characters, and new appearance customization options (don’t get excited — they’re mainly just different colors).
After the multiplayer demo came out, developer BioWare acknowledged players’ concerns that the unlock system seemed unbalanced, promising that the retail version would be notably more rewarding. We decided to put that to the test by dropping $100 on multiplayer unlock packs and seeing what we got.
You can purchase three different packs — each with potential items of varying quality — with either Credits (in-game money) or Microsoft Points (real-world money):
Recruit Pack: 5,000 Credits
Includes five random items or characters, with a small chance for an Uncommon.
Veteran Pack: 20,000 Credits or $1
Includes five random items or characters, with at least one Uncommon or better.
Spectre Pack: 60,000 Credits or $2
Includes five random items or characters, with at least one Rare or better.
Note that you cannot purchase the Recruit Pack with real money. We found that the Spectre Pack, however, makes all the others irrelevant, so this experiment focuses solely on the top-tier option. The other two provide very little return for the investment.
Now the test: GamesBeat sunk $100 into buying Spectre Packs (50 total). We’ve broken our results down into milestones ($20, $50, and $100 total spent) to give an idea of what you might get even if you weren’t planning to drop a Benjamin — and let’s be honest, who is?
Keep in mind that every pack is random, so this is only one of countless possible outcomes.
Also note the math behind this. $100 of Spectre Packs would cost 3,000,000 Credits. A typical bronze (easy) difficulty playthrough on any map will yield roughly 15,000 credits in 20 minutes. The most efficient way to earn Credits and XP is by playing on silver difficulty, which should produce 35-40,000 Credits every half hour, assuming you have a full squad of four skilled, leveled-up players.
Going the silver route, it would take an estimated 40 hours of multiplayer to earn 50 Spectre Packs’ worth of Credits. But would it be worth it, especially when it takes considerably less than that to maximize the Galactic Readiness rating?
$20 buys 10 Spectre Packs, which would have cost 600,000 Credits otherwise. Two of these Spectre Packs include two rares, while all others only included the guaranteed one, though there were also some uncommons.
Rare character cards add 100,000 XP in training, so even if you already have that character, you still get a nice boost to the entire class. Common character cards only provide 12,500 XP, while Uncommons provide 50,000 XP. All character cards unlock additional appearance customization options.
- Asari Adept
- Krogan Soldier
- Quarian Engineer
- Salarian Engineer
- Salarian Infiltrator
- Drell Vanguard
After $20, our class levels had been bumped up quite a bit (from level one):
- Adept – 5
- Soldier – 5
- Engineer – 7
- Infiltrator – 5
- Vanguard – 5
Nothing too amazing here other than the Geth Plasma Shotgun, which when fully charged can kill pretty much any unarmored enemy and severely damage the rest.
Geth Pulse Rifle I
M-15 Vindicator I
Assault Rifle Precision Scope I
M-5 Phalanx I
M-3 Predator III
Pistol Magazine Upgrade I
Pistol High-Caliber Barrel I
Geth Plasma Shotgun I
Shotgun High Caliber Barrel II
M-25 Hornet II
M-9 Tempest II
SMG Ultralight Materials I
SMG Magazine Upgrade III
SMG Heat Sink I
M-98 Widow I
Not bad, but not great either. We’re still missing a lot of character slots, and there are plenty of much better weapons yet to be obtained. Considering $20 could buy two quality XBLA games, or grant copious amounts of loot in Infinity Blade II on the iPhone, our investment’s not really paying out that well…yet.