A post on the official Mass Effect forums has explained both the likelihood of how Insanity difficulty will be handled in the sequel, but also the reasons behind it being locked in the original game.Christina Norman, lead system designer, posted on the forums to respond to a question regarding difficulty levels being “arbitrarily” locked, as the first game required you to run through it several times to unlock the highest difficulty.

“As you play through ME1 you unlock bonuses via achievements that actually make your character more powerful. Consequently, the hardest difficulty becomes ‘easier.’ If we give access to insanity on the first playthrough, we need to show that it is possible to beat the game with all classes without any bonuses from achievements.We can’t release a difficulty level where it’s impossible to complete,” posted Norman.

But how does this tie in to Mass Effect 2, you ask? “On to ME2, we’re aware that some players really want to use insanity at the get-go. I’m developing our difficulty system, and I understand what players who play insanity get out of that experience. I’m very much a ‘hardest difficulty’ person. So with that said there are a few things we’re trying to do with difficulty in ME2,” Norman continued.”First we’re trying to add additional dimensions to our difficulty system. I can’t go into the details right now,” Norman added, “but there is more integration with our AI system for example. We want enemies on harder difficulties to feel smarter, deadlier, not just ‘tougher.’

We want insanity to feel like a smart experience, where you don’t die because a rocket hits you and you’re one-shot killed. You die because you face an overwhelming, deadly, force. You play extrmely well, but not well enough, and on a subsequent try you’re able to be victorious because you play better.”One the difficulty levels are finalised, Norman says that they’ll see “whether or not it’s reasonable” for players to start with access to Insanity difficulty, as Norman adds that if it comes down to insanity difficulty having to be toned down in order to be available from the start, “I will choose a harder insanity difficulty, because I believe that’s what’s important to our players.” For those a little disappointed, though, Norman has one parting comment: “Beating insanity on ME2 is going to be a real ‘achievement,’ a badge of honor, get ready.”We’re looking forward to Mass Effect 2. Really, really looking forward to it.

Check out our preview, or the second page of our E3 2009 Awards for a summary, in which the sequel features prominently as one of our best games in show.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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