I sat down to play Mass Effect 3's new ending content yesterday, only to realize that I had never completed the game with the "effective military strength" score required for the "best" ending. So, I played multiplayer, and it was awesome.
Bioware wanted all your decisions to matter, for everything you do in the Mass Effect world to impact your particular ending. Their execution on this has been a matter of hot debate.
Everything you do within ME3’s single player contributes to your military strength score. Mine was around 7000, which is about as high as it can get in a completionist playthrough. Everything (multiplayer, mobile stuff) you do outside of ME3's single player contributes to your "Galactic Readiness Rating," a percentage (defaulted at 50%) by which your military strength score is multiplied. These two combined make your "effective military strength." In order to get the "best" ending (arguable), one must exceed an EMS of 4000. I had 3500.
In short, you must play multiplayer to access a (pivotal) 5 second scene following the end cinematic.
At first the task was daunting, knowing so many people have already been playing. I figured I wouldn't be able to contribute to the team effectively without gearing up, leveling, or whathaveyou. Thanks to the starter pack and various free DLC packs though, I managed to start off just ahead of square one (with a level 4 Turian soldier), but I don't think I did very well on my first mission. It was easy enough, on the lowest difficulty. Others playing with me were far more advanced, outgunning me easily.
I earned 15,000 credits in 15-20 minutes. These credits got me access to the grab bag packs of weapon upgrades, character unlocks, and one-time-use performance-enhancing items. For 5000 credits, I could get the basic pack of five items, generally a weapon upgrade at best. I got a few character unlocks from this tier, but nothing amazing. For 20,000 credits (or 80 points/$1), I could get the next step up, a pack containing rarer items. Two other pack tiers are available above this for 60,000 (160 points/$2) and 99,000 (240 points/$3). A jumbo mid-tier pack with ten items is available at 33,000 (120 points/$1.50).
I spent real money on this stuff. I didn't even hesitate, and I don't know why I did it. It was available, and those small numbers are so tempting… I didn't get any character unlocks I wanted. Some of the iterative upgrades were useful, though minimal. Ultimately, I ended up playing an out-of-the-box Human Vanguard (same as my single player class), because it was most comfortable. Once I unlock another Vanguard race, I'll switch, happily continuing my progress with the class (now level 14 out of 20). I've already maxed my powers strength.
All of that BS — spending money on a randomized loot system, skill/level hurdles for new players, fear of not being an effective teammate, playing just because I wanted the best ending — none of it stopped me. I still had fun. I had a lot of fun. I queued up for low-difficulty random matches, and just went wild. Each team was gracious and cooperative. I got my EMS up to 4000 within 2 matches, at most. But I was having so much fun, I just kept going.
I can't wait to play again. I’ll get to that ending content eventually, once I decide I’m ready to replay the last 4 hours of the game again.