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I don’t care who you are, what your opinions about Mass Effect 3 were, or how you viewed the ending… the general consensus is that it had a flawed ending in one way or another. Even people who claim to like the ending say, “If I had it my way, Bioware could have done this… or elaborated that… or expounded here…”

It’s bollox that has been covered a million times over. We aren’t being that dead horse again. We are going with my consensus: the ending needed a great big heaping of literary help.

THEREFORE!

I, the illustrious and humble, Dark Lady Sarai, have decided to help Bioware out. Here before you is the next Mass Effect game. I’m fixing everything from story flaws to giving them another storyline… fleshed out combat experiences and dynamic storytelling/cinematics. I give you:

Mass Effect 4
(complete with tons ‘o spoilers for the few of you who have no idea what happens in Mass Effect 3)

 

Picking up the pieces

The ending of Mass Effect 3 left with pretty much the entire foundation of the Mass Effect lore UTTERLY DESTROYED… no more citadel, no more mass relays… every species in the galaxy stranded where ever they were at the time Shepard pushed his/her colored button of choice.
So how does one go about creating a sequel to a galaxy spanning game, when it is now impossible to span the galaxy?

Very simple, my dear Watson, you place the game about 30 years into the future.

How does that help you ask?

Quite simple, really, you see… the alliance was about to build the Crucible in little under a year (and I’m being very generous with time here, considering that Mass Effect 3 does *** all to tell you just how long all these events are taking place… but I’m going to say it took about a year for everything to go do… probably didn’t, and I am probably missing a vital piece of information somewhere that tells me how the timeline went down, but for my story here… the lore is going to say that our fight with the Reapers actually took some amount of time. I would like to say it should have taken LONGER than a year, but… that sounds like a nice, round time length to put out there).

So, they built the Crucible in a year’s time…

It is known to us that the protheans had uncovered the ability to Mass Relay technology because of the conduit they had on Ilos.

We know that the Mars Library had the information on the Crucible inside of its archives… plus countless stores of other information, thus in Mass Effect 4 we learn that the Mars Library also contained the knowledge for Mass Relay technology. Dr. T’Soni and the combined forces of the Allied Fleets spent every ounce of their effort to learn this tech, formulate it, and help the Alliance to start building another mass relay outside of pluto’s orbit.

Now all those ships still have the star charts, travel data, and cooridinates/computers to calculate mass relay jumps… taking that knowledge with a newly built relay… it would allow the Allied Fleets to start branching out through the galaxy and repairing the galactic infrastructure, finding out the state of the rest of the galaxy, and getting on down the road to recovery.

This whole process (with as many people in Shepard’s alliances) shouldn’t take more than two years, going by the time it took to build the crucible.

Now, I know what you are asking: “How do all the Krogan, Salarians, Quarians, Turians, Asari… ect ect ect survive with the limited food stores?”

Simple!

First off we have the Quarian live ships that survived. They can grow dextro food. If there aren’t enough live ships, we have a solar system full of resources that the Allied Forces can use to build a few more. Then there is the, ahem, case of all the available real estate that just opened up on earth. Plenty of newly vacated land to put up farms, build temporary housing structures and get everyone rolling towards the goal of getting out to the rest of the galaxy.

There you go, people fed, housed, and occupied so they aren’t getting bored and killing one another.



- this is what cannon looks like, it isn't pretty but necessary.

Setting up the Cannon

The first thing you also have to do for Mass Effect 4 is to set up which choices actually happened…
I know, I know… they should all carry over into the game and have all these different… blah blah blah.

This is not a democracy!

Three games worth of variables is going to be a nightmare! Some things are just going to be predetermined in order to fix the absolute mess that the story became during the ending to Mass Effect 3. There will be people who disagree with my methods, but here are the following things that I believe have to be made cannon as the ending:

Just as Shepard couldn’t die and continue on as a save file for Mass Effect 2, thus only the Destroy option is the only one capable of being carried on into Mass Effect 4. Why? Because that is what the goal of all the games has been, to give the galaxy a chance to live without the threat of Reapers. The other two options do not give that security. The Control option is completely out of character for Shepard, because it give no true security… the Reapers are still out there, and I don’t care what some little pasty, ghost child says (I don’t trust him unless he is dead as well). Finally the Synthesis option is a horrific idea as well. Where does Shepard get off making that sort of decision for the entire galaxy? Why should the entire galaxy be subjected and subjugated to changes of that magnitude? Why should Shepard change the ending genetic make-up for the galaxy… not only that the Reapers still exist and so there is the same problem.

Thus: Destroy is the cannon ending.

Now I know what you are saying: But! EDI and the Geth!!?

Sometimes people die in war. It’s a sad, cruel fact that I was ready to face with Mass Effect 3. I was prepared to watch half my squad die and be unable to prevent that. Such a thing didn’t happen, in fact there was very little in terms of personal loss for Shepard in the entire game. EDI is an impact that should be felt.

The Geth, on the other hand, I have a work around for… because people deserve to have a benefit for how many species they were able to get to work together. Legion managed to make every Geth an individual unit, but they all still had their “mainframes”. I find it very easy to believe that the Geth would have back-up protocols built into their servers, not only that… but with their heightened awareness… they could have easily shut down before the wave of energy came ripping through their fleet. Either way, you can have the Geth reboot their individual platforms quite easily, and possibly give the player a side story about how they have been trying to work on EDI and that Joker has been living with the Geth, hoping for such a thing to happen… hope tinged with sadness.
And I’m done with the required choices… see, not so hard.

I think that the next game should indeed pull from your past choices in order to determine the state of the galaxy as you move out into it and start to rediscover it. Depending on how you acted in ME3, depending on your alliances and who you spurned, whether or not you cured the genophage, ect…  it will determine how the Salarians, the Krogan, the Asari, Turians… and the entirety of the galaxy will have been making it through while you have been trapped in the Sol system. It will give a very good foundation for the next step:



Creating a Compelling Story

So… the story, the most important part of any Mass Effect story… the crux of my entire argument. What do I have to offer? See for yourself my story pitch:

30 years after Commander Shepard saved the galaxy and ended the threat of the Reapers forever, the galaxy is still in turmoil. Despite recovery, with many species working together to rebuild the mass relay systems, many people are still stranded and without the Citadel council to keep order… the galaxy has fallen into disarray. The Child of Commander Shepard, stepping into the impossibly large shoes of a famous parent, has taken lead on an expeditionary mission to newly completely Mass Relay that will take the Alliance and Allied force back into Citadel Space… but rather than finding an empty nexus with which to rebuild the Citade, the young Shepard discovers that there is a new entity among the star… one that has already assumed a place of power and which has already been aiding this sector of the galaxy.

With diplomatic tensions already stretched thin, people starving, mourning, and angry… the Systems Alliance and what remains of the Council fleet are hard pressed to hold the galaxy together when this new faction seemingly can promise so much more. With the threat of the galaxy splintering and Civil War leaping to the forefront of all minds, Young Shepard must play envoy to the species and factions of the galaxy, using their famous heritage and influence to meet out peace… all the while discovering a deeper conspiracy lurking in the shadows.

Interested? If you read this on the back of the box, or heard it pitched from the mouth of Bioware would you be excited or bored?

What’s that? More details? How does Shepard have a kid? Oh! Alright… I shall explain as I continue.




Setting Up a New Main Character

As we all know, Bioware has said that Mass Effect 3 was the last game in Commander Shepard’s story; therefore, it is time to put someone else into the lead of the narrative. Who better than someone not only expected to live up to Shepard’s legacy, but also a character haunted by the prospect of being unable to live up to said expectations? Having a Shepard heir is the most exciting prospect because… it will allow the mass effect hero to be an alien species for the first time… here’s how:

First off, Shepard has enough space sex with human chicks to leave behind a Game of Thrones string of *** spawn (unless you were one of those people who only slept with the same person throughout the games, or didn’t have sex until ME3… but the vast majority of players had a Shepard that fooled around).

FemShep is a bit of a tougher cookie to crack, seeing as how it is very difficult for her to leave behind a kid if she is… you know… dead. Thus several of your choices from the earlier games will come into play. Firstly there is a chance that Shepard didn’t die (*spoiler*), so if Shepard doesn’t die… then there is a very easy way for good ol’ Shep to have a kid. So there are plenty of ways to have a human option for Shepard’s kid.

If Shep died… then the primary option/default for people who join the series at this point will be that Liara’s daughter is Shepard’s as well. (Seriously who waits until Mass Effect 4 to join the party though?) At the time of the last mission, Liara and Shepard had a very intimate mind melding moment that can easily be explained as a last ditch effort of Liara to preserve something of Commander Shepard, a beacon that could one day keep fighting and rally together the galaxy should the unthinkable happen and Shepard does fail. Obviously Shepard didn’t fail, but Liara was thinking for all outcomes… thus giving us our easiest way to have Shepard’s kid be the main character and also giving us the Asari option.

Now, not everyone is going to want to be an Asari so you have to find ways to offer variety.
A great many people had a relationship with Garrus as FemShep, and Tali as regular shep… whether or not Shepard survives, both of these relationships can yield an adopted child from both the Quarian and Turian species. I can definitely see FemShep and Garrus adopting and raising a Turian kid… same thing with Tali. Sad thing about war? There are a lot of orphaned children. Therefore you get your Quarian and Turian options.

Now, I suppose if you are going to go the adoption route, then you are able to give players the options of Salarian and Krogan, but I would like be a bit realistic in my expectations. From what I have heard, Krogan and Salarian voices all sound very eerily similar to one another, but not to any other species… whereas Turians, Quarians, Humans, and Asari all have varied and different voices… making the main character voice acting work still possibly to be accounted for by two actors. I don’t know the process to it, so I will leave this one up to the good people that make these decision and you are allowed to think whatever you wish… but for my proposed idea, the Younger Shepard is allotted to Human, Asari, Turian and Quarian (I don’t even know if it is possible for a Quarian/human or Turian/human hybrid so… there are always the options of scientifically exploring that, but it isn’t part of my plan).

The planned age for Young Shepard is going to be about late 20’s or early 30’s… just to give them that age of old enough to make accomplishments but still be looked upon as young, young enough that they may be strained or crack under the amount of responsibilities placed upon their shoulders, especially when being ambassador to so many different, angry and demanding factions. Their parent did it, now to follow in the footsteps of said parent… while going up against:




A Believable New Threat

Every story needs a villain, antagonist, or opposing force…. Something to threaten the main character and put them at odds with something…  be that either an idea, an action, or an individual. A truly good story will pull all aspects into this “villain” and create an entity that is not only a catalyst for eliciting growth and change in the main character, but also by potentially sympathetic for the gamer or evoke strong feelings from the gamer (be they anger, loathing, jealously, reverence what have you).

The opposing entity for Mass Effect 4 is a twofold concept… on the one hand there will be a physical force represented that gives actual resistance and then there is the clandestine concept that will be handled via a more diplomatic route. This will be brought about by a group known as the Hierarch: highly advanced and technologically superior race that has appeared in the space lanes beyond the “recovered zones”, the places where Mass Relays have been reconstructed. They Hierarch have built a station that not only surpasses the Citadel in size and technology. This station serves as a base of operations for the new race, which have not only opened their doors to refugees but have also been aiding the outlying systems.

Many alien species view the Hierarch as saviors whereas they feel abandoned by the Citadel Council and the Systems Alliance, many even going to far as the blame the starvation and destruction of the Mass Relays on Shepard and the Humans… as always with politics, lies and rumors get spread, but it become obvious that the Hierarch stands in a much better position that the former government.

As the Young Shepard travels, they will discover that beneath the glittering surface of the Hierarch’s technology and good will lies a sinister plot that involves a multi-galaxy spanning Empire, who had only been waiting for the Reaper threat to be removed before they turned their sights upon the Milky Way.

As their name would suggest, The Hierarch is and echelon based society and Young Shepard will run across entities at varying levels of power within the system. Misinformation and good intentions will abound in such a society, and it will be up to the player not only to discern friend from foe, but also truth from fallacy… and hopefully prevent a full withdrawal of several specials from the Citadel government.

In order to do this, Young Shepard is going to need all the help possible…


Creating a New Squad

Setting the story several decades in the future does one really beneficial thing for Mass Effect. It makes the original squad primarily too old to partake in the adventure. Many of the survivors from Shepard’s team will be able to appear in advisory or supporting roles, but they won’t be able to take to the field like they did previous. Even good old Commander Shepard can show up as the supportive parent, provided he/she survived…

This allows an entirely new set of relationships, characters, and concepts/conflicts be explored by the gaming audience. So let’s look at a few options:

Batarian Squad member – so many people wanted this to happen and it never did. I can understand why Bioware cut down on Mass Effect 3’s squad roster, and I am glad they did. It allowed for much more personal conversations and allowed them to give the characters more attention and depth. So I don’t think we need a large squad for this, rather a new squad with characters to develop and come to love, starting with a Batarian Soldier. They are some of the most violent and capable soldiers in the galaxy. And placing one in a group with the child of the person responsible for summarily wiping out the Batarian race? That makes for great story material. The Batarian would be headstrong, argumentative, and be that catalyst needed to push Young Shepard into a role of earning respect, not expecting it because of who your parents were.

Volus Squad member – a very overlooked species, when it comes to political intrigue, diplomacy, and clandestine deals… you don’t have a species more adept than the Volus. As Mass Effect 2 proved, you can have a character like Mordin who not only has the “know how” but also the “show how” on the battlefield. A Volus is going to be invaluable in helping Young Shepard to navigate political waters for the first time, and it will also give the players the conflict of wondering just how much to trust this character, and teach Young Shepard how to keep some secrets to yourself, while trying to learn the secrets of others.

Female Drell (love interest) – of Mass Effect 2 proved anything, it is that people liked having sex with Aliens. If the Mass Effect series in general proved anything, it is that it can create a controversy over who you can have sex with. Continuing this trend, lets show some options that are not only viable, but haven’t been seen yet. We have seen very little of the females from many of the Mass Effect species, and the Drell are definitely a different species when it comes to morality and virtues…  a female Drell love interest will give Young Shepard a look at differences in theology, morals… and of course, intimacy. A female Drell could work as a LI for both genders of Young Shepard, and it would serve as an introduction to a wider look at the Drell species as a whole. I reckon that this new Drell character would be a healer, or someone in a role of saving lives… a type of squad member who hasn’t been seen at all in the Mass Effect games yet. She would abhor death and violence and it would provide and initial point of contention between her and Young Shepard.

Krogan member – this would be one of those areas where I would like to take the choices made in the previous mass effect game and have it make a GREAT DEAL of effect. The Krogan member could potentially be a child of Wrex’s and Eve’s… provided both survived, and the genophage was cured.. The kid would look at Young Shepard with a level of idolization, and would be a good focalization point of the expectations placed up the main character. When there comes a time that Young Shepard actually fails, you could see the rose colored glasses get shattered and this character would have to deal with the concept that all heroes are flawed… even the ones of legend and even your idols. This would be a character I would very much like to have in the game, but only if the certain story elements came together… so I might leave this slot open as a slot for “specific squad member based on choices of previous saves” meaning that depending on your save data… you could get a different squad member who fills this role.

Childhood friend (love interest) – Growing up all people should have friends… Young Shepard will be no different, and depending on what you pick for your Young Shepard to be, this relationship will have interesting dynamics. I think this would be best served as a human in a gender opposite role (meaning this character would be a different gender from who your character is, and if you are play an Asari, then this character would be male). Young Shepard and this character would have grown up together, joined the Alliance military together, and been a source of support to Young Shepard whenever they felt they weren’t living up to expectations. This role would be the “ideal” or expected friendship/relationship device that would soothe your more conservative player base, but it is also a very interesting dynamic. There is always that question of whether or not a friendship is capable of surviving a relationship? This character would be one of the two Squad members you start out with.

Turian Specter (love interest) – Ah, the older soldier there in an advising capacity. This character would be one that mom and dad, or dad and dad, or mom and mom… or basically this: Young Shepard’s parents pulled some strings and this guy is along for the ride to watch out for the kid. Only a few years Young Shepard’s senior, this guy is a Turian, a specter, and a hot shot… and isn’t afraid to let the main character know it. It will be a nice change to Garrus and his relationship with Shepard, because Garrus was always the one who seemed to look up to Shepard, whereas this character will kind of look down on the kid for being carried around by “mommy and daddy” … “I have two moms,” kid shep replies. There will be fun dynamics here and of course, people like to romance their Turians. This character would be the second of the two squad members you start with.

Liara T’Soni (temporary Squad Member) –  This would be keeping in the tradition of having a squad member in the introduction that you don’t have for the rest of the game. The only member from the original crew who would most believably be able to accompany Young Shepard, Liara is still the Shadow Broker and has been working tirelessly on helping the galaxy. She will definitely want to be on the forefront of the new Relay launch, and she will be more than ecstatic to learn of the new species that is the Hierarch. Liara will serve as a good temporary companion for the introduction/tutorial portion of the game, a feeling that will be even sweeter if she is your character’s mother. Liara is an ideal character for giving tutelage to Young Shepard on their first mission, and she will have a justifiable reason to stay behind when they discover the Hierarch, wish to establish Shadow Broker operatives and gather intel on the new species. She will feed Young Shepard information and advice through the course of the game.

That would be my suggested squad. Six characters, just like the original Mass Effect. It’s a smaller number than the other games, but they are all new characters, and they deserve to be given plenty of attention, character fleshing, and spotlight… something you couldn’t do easily with a large crew, and I want this group to feel disjointed in the beginning and then to have a very intimate feeling to it by the games end, as if Young Shepard has finally stepped into the shoes of Commander Shepard. To do that, you need to start the same way: small crew.

Some people may complain about the lack of potential love interests… and I say to them this: you get three, which is the same for all the other games. The Female Drell and the Male Turian go both ways, and the human companion is gender specific… so it fills all necessary quotas. You have your “accepted relationship”, then you have all the other options represented in some way… which is more than you got in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. And just because there aren’t enough squad member options, as Mass Effect 3 proved, you have romance people outside of your Squad Members.

 

Dynamic Storytelling

I’ve mentioned this before, and with the intimate crew and the new storyline… I really want to see a difference and a discernible change in the way that the storytelling is presented in Mass Effect 4. That being said, I want the personal choices to really shine in this game… all choices.

That starts off with the choice of who you make your Young Shepard to be. If he is a human, people will react differently to him than, say if your Young Shep is a Female Turian. These differences will not only increase replay value, but also give viable depth and difference to each play through and character you create.

Young Shepard should also react to situations differently depending on his class. One of my most aggravating experiences in the first three Mass Effect games was having my adept pull out her pistol to solve every situation, while my adept squad members got to be amazing with their biotics. If Young Shepard is an adept, then the interrupt actions should be different than, say if Young Shepard is a soldier.

Say they are met with a hostage situation? A Batarian soldier is holding a human child at gun point and you get a renegade interrupt option. An adept should be able to throw a stasis around the Batarian, with a second option to then shoot him, where as a soldier might shoot the Batarian’s gun hand with a second option to shoot him in the head. Dynamic differences in storytelling will give Mass Effect 4 a nuance that the other games did not have. These little this are what make perfect harmony in a story.


Perfecting the Gameplay

Mass Effect 3 took what was good about Mass Effect 2 and made it better, while adding some things that still need to be worked on. For this game, they should streamline what they know how to do, and then make the combat mechanics more fluid. Don’t use the “A” button for some many functions, find a way to make the fighting style work with the controller and squish everything into it.
They went very good in multiplayer by giving the different species and characters different ways to move around, elaborate on this and make Shepard move around the battlefield differently based upon each class. An adept Shepard should be able to use biotics to dash, and warp through the field and be constantly moving, while a soldier will be using cover mechanics and rolling across the ground more, while an engineer will use stealth, and an infiltrator will flip and be an acrobatic assassin… make the gameplay fit into the dynamics of the character choices and you will see your gamers even more enjoying the choices they make.

While we are on it, it is time to vamp up the powers, change things and truly give the game an RPG feel to it. They got closer with the “skill trees” in Mass Effect 3, but I truly want to see some options this time. I won’t detail the world here, but let’s use the biotic power “throw” as my example. We all know how it works, single projectile launches and enemy across the screen while damaging them a little. In my vision of Mass Effect 4, each skill as a tree with six tiers and in each tier you pick one of three options: extra damage and force, extra projectile and increased cooldown, or unstable biotics. Now the first option will make your throw projectile larger, brighter, and travel faster. By the time you get to tier six, you are hurling a street fighter sized projectile that when it hits will ripple out and explode, hitting a very large radius. The second option adds a new projectile with every tier, but also increases the cooldown. If you chose this every time you would be able to throw out a swarm of seven throw projectiles that would hit one target seven times or seven multiple targets… but your cooldown would be increased by 1.5 seconds for every tier. The third option is my favorite, because unstable biotic powers tend to do unknown things. They would add effects to your powers such as being able to go through multiple enemies, a chance to disintegrate your enemies, damage over time… and each of these effects would change how your projectile(s) appear. With these different tiers, there are dozens of different combinations, and rather than feel like someone else has your same Shepard and powers, you can rest assured that not only is your game reacting to your choices, but that your Shepard is more than likely an individual in all regards with you factor in seven powers with this amount of customization.

 

Leaving the Mythos Open for More

The best thing about Science Fiction is that it can go on forever. The key to this game would undoubtedly be opening up the doors for another trilogy, but closing enough of the questions that this game feels like an adventure in its own right.  Mass Effect one was a struggle against a rogue specter, and it evolved into a war… but the first Mass Effect felt like a completed adventure once you were done. Yes, you knew there was more fighting ahead, but the sense of accomplishment was there. Mass Effect 4 will have to do the same thing. The Hierarch will still be an existing threat by the end of the game, but you will know (or think you know) what it is they are plotting, but the threats of that story will have to be wrapped up. The threat of civil war will have to be resolved, the Citadel Council will have to be restored, and Young Shepard will have to have stepped out of Commander Shepard’s shadow.

I think the story has great opportunity and I would do anything if I could write it (hell I already have most of it outlined)… and I have ideas on how to go about doing it, but it isn’t something I can do on my own. So if anyone reads this and thinks as I do… “this would be a really great way to continue the story”. Then send me a message. I really would like to get someone who knows how to code text based adventures or games, because I think doing a demo of this game as a text based/choose your own adventure game… would be a great way to show how this story would play out.

No matter what though, I would love to hear your thoughts and comment… so sound off below! Thanks for reading and this was a joy to write!