There are certain games that come along that change everything you know about gaming! For me, that was Bioware’s Mass Effect series. Without a doubt, this is my favorite game franchise of all time! Having played everything from “Knights of the Old Republic” and “The Elder Scrolls” series, to “World of Warcraft” and “Guild Wars”, I can honestly say, no game has EVER pulled me into their world the way Mass Effect did. This was story telling on the highest level! The scope of this universe felt huge and alive, and was only seconded by the deep emotional bonds you made with the most amazing characters in all of fiction! Many would compare the first Mass Effect game to the original “Star Wars” (I refuse to call it “A New Hope”) and Mass Effect 2 to “The Empire Strikes Back”!
The problem is, Mass Effect 3, which felt like I was watching a Star Wars “fan-film”. Don’t get me wrong, on its own, not the worst game I’ve ever played, but, compared to the two stellar games that came before, IT DID NOT LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS AND HYPE… not even close! And most fans (including myself), suspect this was all of EA’s doing! EA (Electronic Arts) purchased Bioware right after Mass Effect 2 came out. The game felt rushed, it was glitched, no great side missions that you had in past games, first day DLC, and the biggest problem, which everyone who played will agree, was the ending! It was confusing, nonsensical and did not deliver on the promises that were made in the first two games! And believe me, as one of the biggest fans of this series, that hurts to even say!
(By the way, there are those out there that have a hard time excepting this was not the game we were promised, and will go on to defend the bad choices that were made. THEY ARE WRONG! They’re not wrong for liking the game “in spite of” the flaws, they are wrong for thinking there were no flaws! This game is RIPE with flaws! They have said things like, “people just wanted a happy “Disney” ending” or “it was “too sophisticated” for most people to understand”. Again WRONG; I understood the ending just fine. The problem wasn’t my “understanding” of the material, it was that the choices I was given made no sense when compared to the first two games!
Let me put it to you in terms of movies: If you have a film franchise that was always this big budget, “James Cameron-like” action and adventure trilogy, you don’t all of a sudden, in the last fifteen minutes of the third movie try to make it a ridiculous “M. Night Shyamalan” suspense thriller!)
From the questionable ending, to the weak game options, to the addition of a separate multiplayer element, saying this game was a little controversial is like saying we had a little war with Germany years ago! The “Retake Mass Effect” movement really made a lot of noise regarding their disappointment with the ending! They took to Facebook and Twitter demanding they “fix” the ending. Months later Bioware put out a free DLC extension that not only added more to the ending, but also fills in a lot of the holes in the story. But for some, it was too little, too late.
WHERE DOES MASS EFFECT GO FROM HERE?
There have been tons of whispers for the past year and a half about Bioware going back to the drawing board and working on a new Mass Effect game! They’ve been more than vocal about the latest game in their Dragon Age saga (which believe me, has its own problems), but nothing about the next Mass Effect. Many even believed that Mass Effect was completely over and done with after what happened with the third game! This was until about a year ago.
On November 7th 2013, a couple of pieces of artwork and game images appeared on Bioware’s Twitter feed. It looked like concept art of aliens of some sort and a pic of the original “M.A.K.O” (the planet exploration vehicle from the first Mass Effect game). From there questions started pouring in; specifically one major question: Does this new game take place after the events of Mass Effect 3? (For those who know the ending… or “endings” of Mass Effect 3, you know why this is important!)
WHAT WE KNOW NOW?
Bioware kept it pretty hush-hush about the leaked pics. Up until E3 2014 where “Casey Hudson”, Bioware’s Project Director and “Mike Gamble”, Mass Effect’s Executive Producer, premiered a video discussing what many had already suspected, an all-new, “Shepard-less” Mass Effect game!
This game will feature a “new” protagonist to the series, and whether it is another humanoid leader, or a hero of a different species remains to be known. It’s still unclear as to whether the game is happening after the events of Mass Effect 3, but is heavily implied that it is. We also know that this new game will not be called “Mass Effect 4”, but will likely have a subtitle. Hudson includes that the game will take place in a different part of the universe, that hasn’t been explored in the previous games, and with the return of the “M.A.K.O”, it’s pretty much certain space exploration is finally due to come back. The latest word is they will be introducing two new alien races of relative importance to the universe. What role will they play is anybody’s guess for now. With the technology of the new current-gen systems, they also boasted of being able to really go deeper into creating more detailed and elaborate worlds for the new “crew” to tread, and amazing new enemies to fight.
SO SHOULD WE BE EXCITED?
Honestly, I don’t yet. I will say this, If Bioware brings back the elements of Mass Effect that we love: “Real” RPG gameplay, space exploration, deep story telling, decisions that mean something, etc, done with new-gen graphics and mechanics, then Bioware will have another hit on their hands, and all is forgiven!
But, there is one huge green elephant in the room, EA! If Bioware doesn’t figure out a way to wrestle EA’s claws out their back, EA will continue to call the shots and create the game they “think” will make them the most money, instead of us, the fans, getting the vision Bioware has for the series! I want to be hopeful that we get another Mass Effect game worthy of the previous games, but as of right now, there is dark cloud (EA) hanging over this franchise!
The thing Bioware needs to realize is this:
They lost a lot of fan loyalty with Mass Effect 3! And with that distrust, there aren’t going to be tons of fans lining up on opening day to buy a new Mass Effect game without being 100% the game is solid. They have one chance to get this right, or the company that had so much good will from the fans, could be on their last leg. I’m personally watching with a skeptical eye myself and will be following this story till we get an official trailer. The game is rumored to be released in the fall of 2015. Hudson and Gamble really appreciates fan input and welcome new ideas on the new Mass Effect game via Twitter (@GambleMike, @CaseyDHudson, and @bioware) and the “official” Bioware forum (http://forum.bioware.com/). Make your voice heard!