That is a long title…
The next Mass Effect game is one of the next generation projects that I am most intrigued to hear more about, even more so considering the backlash after 3 and the massive strides in quality Dragon Age Inquisition seems to have made from DA2. However as much of a fan as I was of the original 3 games, there were grievances I had with it that I really hope will be ironed out in the new Mass Effect games. So here are the ten things that Mass Effect 4 needs to do to improve upon the original trilogy. I will be interested to see peoples thoughts especially on point eight.
If someone were to ask me what game mechanic I am most drawn to in a new game, I would respond by saying a good dialogue system. For me BioWare and maybe TellTale are the stand outs in this regard. Mass Effect 1 & 2, Dragon Age Origins and 2 really had me immersed in this mechanic for interacting in the world BioWare had created and in those examples I felt like they were executed to a very high quality. However Mass Effect 3 tore a large chunk of this mechanic, restricting who you could talk to and when. Especially on the Normandy where I am meant to be the boss, nobody would allow me to talk to them beyond very scripted dialogue sections, where as in ME1 and ME2 I felt important as everybody responded when I wanted to speak to them, unlike in 3 where I was largely ignored.
It removed the freedom, and that broke immersion for me. I sincerely hope this was a design choice made from a lack of time to flesh out the mechanic as opposed to BioWare actually thinking this was better. BioWare needs to revert to the original freedom for me, especially given the new game will hopefully bring about a new crew and set of characters, and restricting when we can learn things about them will be nothing but detrimental to the game.
2) Morally Ambiguous Choices
I will always remember the first Mass Effect trailer I saw, one where Shepard had to make a dark choice for the greater good. “Many decisions lie ahead, none of them easy.” Yet that was the problem with the original trilogy, with the exception of one or two choices, they were all easy. They were clearly good or bad, but the trailer shows how these decisions should be, how they should tear your soul in two about what needs to be done. Dragon Age suffers from the same problem but I feel Mass Effect has always been the one to have the issues shown up more mainly because of having a voiced protagonist with real emotions (unlike Dragon Age Origins) and also because it’s use of it’s Paragon/Renegade meter where Dragon Age utilised a companion affinity meter instead.
Watch this trailer and tell me that you don’t want more decisions that really make you think about difference between what it morally right and what is needed.
3) New Worlds and Races
We have spent 3 games and 7 years with the Mass Effect series at the time of writing. In that time we have poured over everything the universe has to offer in terms of learning about the races, worlds and history. Now of course you cannot change history, but in order to freshen up the series and keep it feeling new and separate from the original trilogy, I would want to see a fair few new races to learn about, and lots of new worlds and stories to discover. If in the next Mass Effect we never returned to one place from the original trilogy, I would not complain.
4) A More Personal Story
In the AAA market today, I feel overwhelmed with save the world/universe stories. If you keep raising the stakes eventually it loses it’s impact and for me that is proving very true. However a few stand out games from last generation broke that mould a little more for me, where I felt that it was me the character the story was about and not another ‘save the world’ mission. One being The Last of Us, and wait right there I know what you’re going to say; “but that was about saving humanity” yes on a fundamental level it was, but the way it was painted it never felt like that. It was Joel and Ellie’s story, and until the very end it never felt anything more than one of many stories happening in the world. The other game that springs to mind is Spec Ops: The Line which takes a brilliant look at to the real horrors of war and the effect that has on those involved as opposed to a power fantasy that we see in most shooters. Because of the personal nature of these two games both made me as a player feel more vulnerable to being emotionally hurt, and that’s a powerful thing in video games because it means the player is really connecting to the character, which makes the events of the game that much more meaningful. Mass Effect’s best moments came from similar circumstances, with Mordin for example and other side characters, but in the next game I want to see what BioWare can do with this as the cornerstone for the games story as opposed to a few side missions.
5) Better Side Quests
On the whole this is maybe one of the smallest issues for me on this list, however Mass Effect 3’s over use of fetch quests was worrying, it was either lazy or it was down to a lack of time, but either way Mass Effect 3’s scanning planets for items to deliver to people you could not interact with was beyond disappointing. It became a chore to do these, and given BioWare’s proficiency with narrative and writing, it was almost insulting to play as a fan of theirs. Better and more story driven side quests are what we want BioWare, not artificial lengthening of game time.
6) Controller Support on PC
Okay so this one is a little specific and will mean nothing to console players. But as someone in the transition from console to PC gaming, attempting to play Mass Effect with a mouse and keyboard feels near impossible. Then to find there is no controller support either just feels like BioWare does not give a damn about some players. Sure most people will prefer the emphasis of mouse and keyboard, but isolating those who do not is not right.
7) Variety of Playable Races
I thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer component, despite my initial concerns. However this aspect to the game also showed something else besides multiplayer not being totally unsuited to BioWare. It showed just how many people wanted to play as other races, and it has only made us more keen to be able to play as other races in the main game too, just as Dragon Age Origins allows us. Although I still want there to be the option of a Human playable race too. Options are good.
8) Paragon/Renegade Bars
Okay, this one will probably be a little controversial. But I hate the paragon and renegade bars, I love the cool interactions mid conversation, but the bars themselves I find break my immersion in the character, and make my decisions for me. It’s too predictable, and there is no benefit to being neither good nor evil. It made choices too easy, and felt like it was a way of distracting the player from showing their choice of character personality actually had no impact on the people around you, they did not react differently to you. Because you were cut off from certain choices by these meters, it felt like completely unrelated choices were affecting the game as opposed to choices that should influence the moment. It felt like I was constantly thinking, okay I need to make paragon choices just in case I need to make a paragon locked dialogue choice in the future. Maybe it is just me but I don’t think that’s how the game should be played. Comparing that to Dragon Age which has a similar system but it represents your companions affinity to you, and affected their dialogues and actions towards you, this really made the choices feel meaningful to someone other than my character and like I was really affecting the people around me. I would love to see Mass Effect adopt this approach too, however I don’t think it is particularly likely.
9) Vehicle Sections
I think the vehicle sections are cool in principle, as is the scanning of planets for resources, but I feel like both could be executed better. I love Mass Effect 1 but I rarely do all the side missions and explore all the planets, why? Becuase it is near enough traumatic to try control the vehicle. It does not feel fun and ultimately makes me not explore the universe I want to explore and learn more about. I think in a new setting vehicles and planet scanning could be more prominent especially if the player character is not a marine this time.
One of the questions asked most frequently by Mass Effect fans is whether the new game will be a prequel or sequel to the original trilogy, and whilst I am certain BioWare could pull of either. I find myself more drawn to a sequel, we know how the galaxy was before the reaper invasion. We know how it worked and where the power lay. To go back far enough for that to be different we no longer have humanity as a playable race, which for me always is a good staple in a game with race choices, as the bog standard for new players to learn and explore the universe with a race they don’t need know about before playing as it. So that means the future is the most viable option in my opinion. Especially in order to see how the galaxy moves forward after the reaper invasion and how each race’s position in the galaxy may have changed, the Salarians for example who were very cautious about helping the rest of the galaxy, and how the Krogan may be viewed after their sacrifices made to save other races’ homes. That just leaves the problems with of the endings and whether one will be made cannon.
But there we have it, those are the 10 things that I feel will make the next Mass Effect better than any of the previous games.
So what do you think the next Mass Effect should have? Do you agree/disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments 🙂
Feedback to help improve the article would be appreciated too!