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*Spoiler Warning* This post contains spoilers regarding the end of Mass Effect 3, you have been warned.
It shames me to admit that, when it was first released back
in 2007, I had zero interest in Bioware's new sci-fi shooter/RPG called Mass
Effect. It was mostly because I was still on a bit of a Star Wars high, having
recently finished both Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel
The Sith Lords, so anything from Bioware that wasn't Star Wars just didn't
pique my interest.
It wasn't until roughly a year after Mass Effect's release
when, one late night, I was browsing the Xbox Live marketplace for something
new to play when my cursor paused on Mass Effect's icon. By then it was
relatively cheap and I was bored and desperate for something new to play so I
shrugged, whipped out my wallet, and soon I was immersed in what would later
become one of my favorite game series of all time.
A Strong Start, A
After getting hooked on the first game, I naturally showed
no hesitation in purchasing and playing Mass Effect 2 when it was released in
2010. I even went back and played the first game again just so I could have a
fresh save to import into Commander Shepard's second adventure. Mass Effect 2
introduced me to some of my favorite characters (other than Shepard of course)
in the series such as Legion and Thane Krios and it managed to refine everything
that was good in the first game and make it even better.
When Mass Effect 3 finally debuted in 2012, I was more than
ready to suite up as Shepard once more for one final intergalactic escapade. I
was also eager to give the series' new cooperative multiplayer mode a try and
it failed to disappoint. Sadly, like many other fans, I was somewhat let down
by the trilogy capper's conclusion.
It wasn't just the fact that Shepard dies in two of the
three possible endings (though that was a pretty hard reality to accept), it
was also because most of the events I witnessed in the ending, such as the
Normandy crash landing on a mysterious planet, weren't given enough context to
make sense. Fortunatly Bioware corrected many of the ending's mistakes (at
least in my opinion) with the later-released Extended Cut DLC but even after
all that, one question still nagged at me: where does Mass Effect go from here?
Back To The Past?
As epic as it was, Commander Shepard's fight against the
Reapers was just a small part of the all-encompassing story that makes up the
universe of Mass Effect. Now that players have gotten to experience an entire
trilogy's worth of Mass Effect's present, perhaps it's time they got to venture
into Mass Effect's past?
Humanity's initial discovery of the Mass Relay system, the
subsequent war with the Turians, the Geth rebellion against their Quarian
creators, the Salarian Genophage that nearly wiped out the Krogan race forever,
these and other events are what shaped the world that players got to see
through Shepard's eyes and while it is neat to read or hear about them
second-hand, getting to experience them for ourselves could certainly drive
home just how impactful they were not only on Shepard's journey but the
entirety of the Mass Effect universe.
Perhaps we could go back even further and explore in-depth
the intricacies of the ancient Prothean race before it was wiped out by the
Reapers. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about who exactly the
Protheans were and how their race and their technology influenced those who
came millions of years after they were gone.
Delving into Mass Effect's past could be a fun new
experience for players who were invested in the original trilogy's lore and
story but as exciting as it would be to relive Mass Effect's history
first-hand, a far more tempting prospect would be venturing into a post-Shepard
New Era, New Heroes
I can see why making a game set after the adventures of
Shepard and Co. would be a tricky prospect for Bioware. The choices that
players had to make at the end of Mass Effect 3 were meant to affect the
universe in drastic ways so Bioware would have to be careful not to trivialize
those choices. However, the end of Shepard's story also leaves open many
possibilities for the beginning of a new story, one which can be influenced by
Shepard's actions but doesn't necessarily have to be restricted by them.
Now that the Mass Relays have been destroyed, a new age of
discovery (or *re*discovery to be more accurate) and adventure could be right
at the player's fingertips. Mass Effect 3's multiplayer introduced the concept
of playing as non-human races and I think Bioware should take that concept and
work it into a new post-Shepard game.
No doubt various members of the universe's different races
are now stranded on whatever planet or station they happened to be on when the
Mass Relays were destroyed which means players would not only get to create
their own heroes from the vast spectrum of Mass Effect's races, they could also begin their adventures
wherever they liked. I'd imagine that a marooned Krogan setting out from Omega
would have a vastly different experience than an inquisitive Salarian departing
This same concept could even be taken over into the game's
multiplayer, allowing players to import their created single-player characters
into the "universe at large" (multiplayer) and continue their journeys online.
Bioware did an excellent job of tying Mass Effect 3's single-player and
multiplayer into one cohesive experience and I'd love for them to pursue a
similar vein in a new Mass Effect game.
Bringing It All
Personally, I think that the ideal next Mass Effect game
would have to incorporate a little of everything I listed above. Allow players
to create their own custom heroes with which to explore a post-Shepard Mass
Effect world, let them eventually take the fight online in an expanded
cooperative multiplayer experience, but also allow their characters to relive
first-hand the events and battles that shaped their world (Prothean technology
could help with that last bit).
No matter where the Mass Effect series goes from here, I'm
sure Bioware is just as eager to give fans another amazingly epic entry to play
as the fans are to play it. Mass Effect has grown so much since its original
debut six years ago and as a long-time fan and player, I like to think that the
series' future looks very bright indeed.
Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgu.tv and on my blog "Thoughts of a Gamer."