With Mass Effect 4 being announced late last year, it begs the question whether another game is needed in the series after, what many say, was the disappointment that was Mass Effect 3. The story of Shepard is over, but it seems that the Mass Effect series is still going strong. Although Bioware claimed that the story of ME4 would be vastly different to its predecessors, it makes me wonder whether they should perhaps concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Bioware have always been known, well they used to be at least, for having good and deep stories for their RPGs but after Dragon Age 2 and ME3 I really wonder whether they’ve reached their pinnacle and it’s all downhill from here.
I won’t lie, I’m a Mass Effect fan-boy. I loved the first game, the universe intrigued me, Shepard was my hero and the mix between 3rd person shooter elements and RPG was a resounded success. After playing ME2 I wanted more, Shepard could do no wrong and I wanted to see him face the reapers head on. I pre-ordered ME3 within hours of it being announced and psyched myself up for the epic finale. When it was finally released I was prepared, my tea on one side and my scone on the other. The heating was cranked up, my room was ready to be transformed into the flight deck of the Normandy. A few hours in and my smile was reaching from ear to ear, the more I played the more I loved. Shepard was back, the universe was going to be saved. Bioware even threw in a few cheeky plot twists that had me doubting whether he would succeed but in the end he did. Although I was at first disappointed by the ending, it was more that it lacked any meat per se. I agreed with Bioware’s choice to have Shepard disappear/die, if he stayed alive there would be hope for a sequel, we’d want more. The extended cut sorted everything out for me though and I was happy. Sure I’ll still pop on for some cheeky multiplayer battles and maybe run another play through in a few months but Mass Effect was over.
I was already losing my trust in Bioware though, the sham that was Dragon Age 2 made me doubt their ability to put out a good sequel or even a new game series. Mass Effect 3 may have brought back some hope, but it alienated a lot of fans. You’ll always get people complaining about a game’s ending, but the sheer number of people that were disappointed with ME3 has rocked the foundation that is Bioware’s fan-base. When you mention Mass Effect to most gamers, they won’t think of the Asari race, they won’t think of the citadel, they won’t think about the reapers; they’ll think about Commander Shepard. The ME universe may be vast and although there’s a lot of lore and potential in it, it’s still nothing without Commander Shepard. Bioware have put everything on his shoulders, throughout all 3 games we’ve bonded with him. You’re not playing a Mass Effect game when you run through all 3 games, you’re playing a Commander Shepard game that happens to be in the Mass Effect universe.
An argument could possibly be made for an origin game, who is Shepard and what made him into the Commander, but a ME game with no Shepard? It seems ridiculous. Throw in the fact that Bioware is not only working on Dragon Age 3 but also trying to revive their on-line Star Wars game and I wonder whether they’ll put in enough effort into ME4 to keep the fans happy. Bioware has claimed that the story of ME4 would be in a “very, very different context”, it makes me wonder whether they should just concentrate on another game series entirely. It may be a very different story and have almost nothing in common with the other games, it may even have some new species but it seems like Bioware are just trying to ride on the wave of the ME series by releasing another game.
The whole point of being a game developer of course is took make a money and what better way than to keep an award-winning series alive. Infinity Ward and Activision have already shown us that a game doesn’t need to be any good or different than its predecessors, it can ride on the fame of the series. Is this what Bioware are going for or will they surprise us? Will Mass Effect 4 be a flop or will it create a new trilogy that will out-shine the first? I guess we’ll have to wait until 2014/2015 to see.
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