Mass Effect 3 Skill Analysis: Throw
I wanted to highlight one of Mass Effect’s more interesting skills, Throw, to help show what separates good and mediocre skill design. Throw is one of those skills that could stand at the center of a lesser game and shine, but ends up standing shoulder to shoulder with any skill in Mass Effect 3’s ample roster.
You don’t need to have played Mass Effect to understand what makes this skill work: for the less familiar, Throw is basically a medium-speed projectile that does light to medium damage and displaces (or at least stuns) its target(s). Here’s a quick look at the skill in use:
(For reference, here are its in-game stats).
It seems clear this skill was made to fill two major roles:
- limited (usually single target) crowd control
- combo detonation (some skills inflict an effect that can be “detonated” with other specific skills for a wide radius of extra damage; Throw is one of the latter skills that detonate the combo).
It also adds a side of supplementary damage to sweeten the pot (both direct damage and contextual damage from the impact of whatever the target is pushed into).
In my experience, these are the situations where Throw really shines:
- Advancing enemies are trying to flush you from cover.
- An unshielded enemy is in your sight.
- An enemy has a few bars of health left, and firing again is impractical (you’re using a slow rate-of-fire weapon, need to reload, or drawing a bead on an enemy takes too much time).
- You (or another player) triggered a combo that Throw can detonate.
I find that meeting at least one of these criteria happens fairly often, making Throw a truly bread-and-butter skill for any class that has it. It’s a great skill tactically, but let’s look at the specific ingredients that make it shine:
Opportunities for mastery
- The projectile can be “curved” around corners. This lets you hit foes you can see but can’t easily hit directly, and also lets you finesse the angle of impact. It makes the player feel like a pro when they use it well.
- Timing matters: In order to get quicker kills, players have to know when to fire. Specifically, they have to have a general feel for the projectile’s speed, how many bars of health it removes, and most importantly, how much damage their weapon does (both variable depending on how the weapon or skill is customized). If your aim is good, it’s also possible to unload a few shots at your target while the projectile is still in the air.
- The distance enemies travel in the ragdoll-style knockdown animation is highly satisfying: there’s a dopamine release almost every time the projectile connects with an unshielded enemy. The pleasure is magnified when you detonate a combo using Throw.
- Seriously, it can be curved around corners. It is very fun to use.
- The sound effects of launching the projectile and the resulting impact reinforce the “heaviness” of the projectile.
Minimal negative feedback
- The incredibly low recharge (as low as 1.4 seconds, around 2 seconds average) is gratifying because it downplays the “punishment” of losing access to your skills after using it.
- Though you can miss with this skill, it isn’t terribly frequent.
Skills that reliably add all this to the experience are the kind of skills you want. Imagine if Throw was designed solely for combo detonation and didn’t ragdoll or stun enemies? This is definitely a great skill to study to make sure you’re getting the most out of your gameplay.