While the gaming world is finally returning home from midnight launches to pop Mass Effect 3 into their systems and take on the Reapers once and for all, it seems fairly disappointing and mind-boggling technical issues are already starting to appear. Specifically, players on PC or Xbox 360 who attempt to import their custom characters first designed in the original Mass Effect are instructed to recreate their character's face codes from scratch.
Unfortunately, the extensive levels of customization that were first given to fans with the original game in the series also mean that replicating said selections from memory - since the numerical face codes result in different faces in Mass Effect 3 - is a tall order. This issue seems to only be affecting hardcore fans who have stuck with the series from the beginning, so it goes without saying that this is an unpleasant surprise for what was expected to be a terrific launch night.
In a cruel twist, even players who started with Mass Effect 2 seem to be able to import both the choices and physical appearance they made into ME3. Provided, that is, that they've already removed any saves from the cloud. Fans who fall into the category affected have already taken to the official forums to ask how an oversight like this could have possibly gone unresolved, especially with so much time and money behind ending the trilogy on a high note.
At this point the official stance from developer BioWare seems to be to simply do what the game instructs: if you need to remake a face from scratch after two entire games, then that's what you have to do. This is not the kind of support or advice that any gamer wants to hear, so hopefully the team will have a better explanation soon.
For those who are jumping into the series for the first time, or for those who picked the franchise up with the second installment (and its variety of DLC), this may seem like a cosmetic issue, and the resulting uproar more vain than legitimate. But in the minds of players who put their faith in the Mass Effect series from the very beginning, it's hard to think of this as anything but a horrible sign that their fears have been somewhat founded.
The minds behind the game have spent the last year or more explaining why Mass Effect 3 would be bringing a 'satisfying' end to the trilogy, and claiming that their desire to bring more players into the franchise wouldn't be affecting their dedication to loyal fans. At no point were fans made aware of this lack of imported save support, which is nothing short of baffling. Considering how many improvements and visual changes have been lauded, such a simple yet disappointing glitch only seems more odd.
Throwing fans such a curveball without any warning will certainly enrage many who felt that the series was straying from its roots, especially with the development team finding the time to craft close to $1000 worth of extra ME3 content, but we won't jump to conspiracy theories or hyperbole just yet. And while the game will almost certainly prove to be one of the best of this year, having it start on the wrong foot for the most dedicated of fans is regrettable, and completely unnecessary.
There may be technical reasons for the glitches - like tweaking an imported face in ME2 as BioWare is claiming - but the complete lack of warning or discussion among fans certainly won't be earning the developers any goodwill in the eyes of those affected. So while we await any fixes or actual explanations, it seems that fans will need to put their visual memory to the test, unless they want to erase the Shepard they've come to know and love for the past two games.
Update: BioWare has addresed the face importing issue on its forums. While no solution has been offered for Xbox 360 owners, a fan made tool may be able to help PC players.
We are aware that some players are having issues importing the faces of characters from Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 into Mass Effect 3. The issue is likely in how faces were detected when imported from Mass Effect 1 into Mass Effect 2, and we’re working on the best way to correct it for affected players.
As our teams work hard to address the importing of face codes we would like to call out a fan made tool that may be able to help PC users in the short term:
Have you encountered these issues yourself? Do you share our disappointment in the lack of support or communication, or think this is a small issue in the grand scheme of things?
Mass Effect 3 is available now for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. As is the day-one DLC 'From Ashes.'
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.