5 Things Mass Effect 3 Must Do So I Don’t Firebomb BioWare
The harder we love, the more viciously we hate. I love hard.
Mass Effect 3 is only two weeks away. Fourteen days. 1 209 600 agonising seconds.
I wish I could freeze myself and wake up when my delivery arrives.
So I’m left to wonder, ponder, brood and endlessly, mind-numbingly ruminate on all the promises Mass Effect 3 may fulfil; and what hellish shower of fiery pain I will rain down upon BioWare should they disappoint me.
It all comes down to this. There can be no cliff-hanger, no threads un-tied, no mystery left unsolved, no arc left un-arced.
It is terrifying. In the unknown there is hope. In reality there is both disappointment and only the possibility of fulfillment.
We risk unhappiness for the chance of satisfaction.
At this moment, before we cross from the threshold of hope into the starkness of reality, here are 5 things Mass Effect 3 must do so that I don’t firebomb BioWare’s head office.
Read quickly, the end approaches.
5. Creating And Solving Problems Within The Same Game
This is the quintessential problem I had with Mass Effect 2. The clean slate. The fresh start. It was a slap to me and my Mass Effect 1 hours of playtime.
It seems like every time a sequel to a story driven game is released, some marketing donkey is up and braying about how newcomers to the series are welcome and catered for.
When a guy says accessible my Spidey-sense tingles. It is simple, unarguable logic – if I spent thirty hours getting to know a world, its characters and their motivations along with the subtle web of relationships that go with it then any subsequent story cannot be accessible to a new player.
If it is, why the hell did I waste thirty hours of my life? What I mean by this is that by assuming I’ve played previous games developers would be free to create truly deep content. The stuff gaming nirvana is made of.
Instead, what most games do is what I’ve said in the title: they create new, never before heard of, referenced or even hinted at issues and then they solve those problems and call it progress.
It is not progress, it is a detour. Not a very good detour at that, it’s a circle.
What Mass Effect 2 did was to lightly coat all the new problems with undertones of Reapery goodness, ending with a little bit of real progress and then called it a game.
Release the previous games for free, or at least cheap and then make a sequel that assumes I’m not a cross-eyed chipmunk.
Why not make a game aimed at the fans, you know, the diehard people who make your lives and jobs possible.
I want real, genuine progress in Mass Effect 3.
Give me progress or give me death. BioWare’s death.
4. Don’t Make Shepard A Bland, Crew Cut Vanilla American Boy
Shepard is a character. To me, Shepard is a handsome man of goodness. He is the last thing of sanity in a world gone mad.
He defends the weak by being strong.
Your Shepard may be different. That’s the beauty.
Nothing will pull me out of my state of immersion than with Shepard behaving like an all-America boy.
Already we started to get that football playing jock in Mass Effect 2, and it stank. There was little emotion, no worry or sadness. There was maybe one line of dialogue, at the end of the game shortly before I had my way with Miranda, where Shepard shows a hint of humanity.
A part where he lies awake at night wondering if he’s worthy of the universes trust.
I don’t want him to become a whiny bitch but at the same time I’d like a bit more reaction to the atrocities around him. When people died he shrugged it off, always in control, calming other people down.
I’d like to see him lose it. Lose his temper.
Over-react. Better yet, show me something besides anger and determination.
That’s what is human, what is relatable.
I don’t only need grizzled manliness, I want to see some humanity.
You want me to worry about the Reapers? To truly wonder if we can win the war?
Show me Shepard doing it. Show me Shepard breaking down in a moment of privacy. Show me a crew member, a friend consoling him.
Then I’ll care.
I’ll care plenty.
3. Do Not Substitute Climatic Story Moments With Climactic Battles
Clearly BioWare are trying to make an action game. It’s not a bad thing. Imagine the nailbiting satisfying action of something like Gears of War combined with the depth and RPG awesome of Mass Effect 1 and 2.
That’s the goal in Mass Effect 3. Quite clearly, that is the goal. It’s a good goal, an admirable one.
But do not forget what makes Mass Effect special: the world, the story and characters, the final frontier – aliens and a society not our own; the jaw dropping magnificence of new worlds, new planets and species, new technology.
Give me a mission with no combat. Give me a stealth mission and give me resolution of story.
I don’t want to fight eleven Reapers, I want to find out how they were made, what drives them, who are the Protheans?
Answering these question will be as, if not more compelling than any huge climactic battle and I just hope BioWare understands this.
Battle is not the only way to make me feel awesome.
Let me meet the families of my crew. Let me see Garrus fall in love.
Let me be a wingman for Wrex or Grunt as they court a sexy Krogan.
These will make me shake my head in wonder. The battles are important, but no less than this.
2. Tone. Stop Making Me Re-Live Angsty Puberty
What makes Sci-Fi special? Why is the lure of space, of worlds unknown so inviting?
The wonder of it. The sheer unbridled unknown is inviting because it holds possibilities.
Somewhere along the way everything became serious political upheaval. The end of the world.
The climax is always going to be less mysterious and less about wonder than what came before. We understand the world and the cause now let’s fight. Understandable in a sense but that’s not why I’m here.
The fight for survival is a primal thing. It’s why we do amazing things when our existence is threatened. To those who even played Mass Effect 1 will remember that survival, a place in the universe is why we’re here fighting.
Sci-Fi is about the beauty of exploration, the thrill of the unexplored and discovery. The alien, life and otherwise.
I want that quiet wonder, those moments of exquisite, lonely quiet that makes the battles all the more empowering. Perspective can be powerful. It’s why we all go quiet when we stand next to huge statues or see pictures of the sun compared to Earth.
I want that calm and that wonderment so that my fight and my struggle are all the more poignant.
Give me that magic that makes me want to explore the heavens and unearth its secrets.
1. Do Not Make Earth The Focus Of The War
Earth is not my home. Not in the world of Mass Effect. To Shepard, the closest thing he has to a home is the Normandy, his family is his crew.
Earth is supposed to be an idea, a small important symbol of hope and home. We’re struggling for a place in the universe, a way for humanity to become a part of a greater civilisation and society.
Watching Earth get destroyed, watching cities and countries not my own at war is nothing new. It is nothing special and it is nothing meaningful.
Blow up the Citadel. The place I spent hours exploring and the people I spent hours getting to know. Destroy even one wing of the Citadel, then I’ll feel something.
All too quickly, Sci-Fi series and writers return to Earth as the obvious soft spot. The thing we all want to defend, whose destruction has the most impact.
I don’t give a tinkers cuss about Earth and it’s sweaty apelike inhabitants. We’ve never explored or even visited Earth. It should remain an important symbol.
Now I know that exactly 119% of BioWares sales are in America. I know that to anyone living in North America the destruction of America is the greatest tragedy ever. It’s not a bad thing, I wish I had more patriotism and more pride but I don’t. I’m proud, sure but watching another country get destroyed, fighting levels in foreign cities is not immersive to me.
Fighting on other worlds, defending human and alien alike, that is immersive.
If we got to watch the Earth get destroyed in the first few minutes of the game, then we’d have something.
Take away our home and force us to defend the Citadel because it’s all we have left.
Now we’re talking about compelling narrative.
I’ve come to care about the alien races. I enjoy the idea of a mixed society, where all races must learn to live together.
That is why the Citadel is so important. It represents just that. I want to defend that more than our little blue marble.
I just hope that BioWare understand how powerful they are. In only a few hours of playtimes, spread over a few years I already care more about their world than my own.
It sounds odd to say but it’s the truth. The destruction of Earth is too ridiculous; it’s too foreign and crazy an idea for me to ever accept it fully.
If the war is kept firmly lodged in the ethos and world of Mass Effect I will be happy, if it all comes down to Earth I will feel nothing.
I love the Mass Effect franchise. It is a space opera. I saw its inception and I’ve watched it grow into the thing it is today.
The world of Mass Effect is a far bigger place than only three games can hold, and we know there will be more.
But as the end of the trilogy, I hope BioWare do us proud. I’d like to believe. I want to believe that things will be okay.