Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mass Effect 3 is Going to Suck pt. 4: Where are my Characters


Here we go again. Another day, another article. Join me as we enter in to part 4 of 5 of my series detailing the horrible possibility that Mass Effect 3 may actually be a huge disappointment. In my past articles I discussed Mass Effect 2’s shortcomings as a sequel, which could affect Mass Effect 3 as a sequel. I also talked about the constant streamlining taking place across all of Bioware’s recent titles and their recent trend of ignoring the fans and operating on behalf of the folks who hate their games. Today, we’re going to talk about the characters in the ME Universe and why some of the most essential and beloved characters are going to get the shaft in ME3, and potentially ruin some peoples’ gaming experience.

Mass Effect 1 had a small cast of Shepard and 6 companions. As Bioware said, this was the primary cast of the Mass Effect trilogy. However, Mass Effect 2 rolled around only featuring two these companions in significant roles and one had her own DLC and a comic book series dedicated to her. Some fans felt that Bioware was playing favorites. Ashley, Kaidan and Wrex were left in the gutter to looking on enviously as Garrus, Tali, and Liara were featured heavily in both games (and inevitably, 3 games). B-Ware could only manage to bring 3 out of six characters back in action, and those who don’t buy DLCs only got 2. Mass Effect 2 introduced 10 new companions. If you want to get technical it was actually 11 new companions. Let’s roll call and see how many companions exist in total: Kaidan, Ashley, Garrus, Tali, Wrex, and Liara filled out your team in ME1 while Jacob, Miranda, Mordin, Zaeed, Kasumi, Jack, Grunt, Thane, Samara, Morinth, and Legion were added in ME2. 17 companions. 17 main characters! Holy crap!! But wait there’s more, Bioware already confirmed that James Vega will be a main character in ME3, bringing our grand total to 18 main characters, with more new companions to be revealed!

It’s obvious that ME3 won’t have Shepard roaming around with upwards of 20 potential squad members. B-Ware then confirmed that the squad in ME3 will be smaller and focus on building deeper relationships. With that, we already have 6 returning cast members, filling out 5 slots. What about the other 12? Apparently, some will be temporary companions similar to the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. I personally don’t mind this. Mordin for example doesn’t need to be a full time squad member to play a satisfying role. But what about Miranda, Jack, Thane and Jacob? These characters are love interests and as love interests, they are somebody’s favorite character. In fact, according to most traditional stories, being a love interest means that they are in effect main characters in someone's story. Main characters sometimes play supporting roles is the second act of a trilogy, but they never do in the third act. Never.

Everyone has their idea of who the main characters are, and almost nobody agrees on which characters are the main characters. Everyone wants their favorites to play major parts in the final chapter. Everyone wants their love interest to be active in the overall plot of the game. I hate to break this to you fan: that is not going to happen for everyone. B-Ware once said that all love interests were equal, but look at the way Liara was treated in ME2 compared to the Virmrie Survivor (Ashley or Kaidan). They are all love interests in ME1, but only one of these characters is featured heavily in all three games. Only one of these characters has her own comic book. Only one of these characters has more than two scenes in ME2. Only one of these characters required their respective voice actor to show up for more than one dialog session. Liara has already been given a healthy dose of favoritism, so no; B-Ware does not treat all love interests equally. Miranda, Jack, Thane and Jacob will likely have cameos in ME3. Miranda, Jack and Thane may have large quests similar to LOTSB and one of them may even be recruitable, but Jacob probably won’t (nobody likes him you see). This will inevitably anger these respective fanbases in a way very similar to the VS fanbase was upset by ME2, only it will likely be worse, because the VS fans had the notion of getting their due in ME3.

I know it’s too late now to tell Bioware that at very least all love interests should have been recruiatble in ME3, and that adding new characters is just a plain old bad idea. Afterall, the third act is about closure, not more introductions. It's unfortunate, but some fans are inevitably not going to get the ending they deserve. I am a big Ashley fan, and I felt that ME2 was not the sequel I deserved because a principle character in my Shepard’s story was absent. This caused the game to feel hollow. I didn’t mind too much, because I thought Ash would be back in ME3. I would rather have her absent in the second act than at the end of the story. A lot of people feel that way. Most of them are going to be disappointed. B-Ware may have actually built a foundation of failure when they came up with the idea of a suicide mission. People get really attached to their favorite characters and the disapproval of certain fanbses last time should have showed them that. I doubt they listen to the fanbase in the way they claim they do, but we’ll see. ME3 is already a disappointment to some fans out there. They just don’t know it yet.

There are many fans out there who see Miranda as the primary female lead in the Mass Effect series. It is not terribly uncommon for trilogies to introduce the main love interest in the second act. Look at Star Wars for example. Princess Leia may have been introduced in A New Hope, but the romance story didn’t start until The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, many trilogies do not introduce the love story until act 2, so is it really so hard to believe that Miranda could in fact be the principle female lead to some people. I like Miranda as a character. She is one of my favorites in ME2, and the notion of not having her return in ME3 as a squad member pisses me off. She is not even my love interest and I’m miffed about this whole scenario. I know what it is like to be short changed, and it sucks a lot. By excluding Miranda from the third act, Bioware is compromising the story of some players. The same logic can be applied to Jack, Jacob, and Thane.

The only announced squad members that are returning are from ME1, so far. What is very interesting is that some fans out there preferred the cast of ME2 over that of ME1. I visit the ME forums frequently, and there were tons of fans who believed beyond all doubt that the ME2 team was the principle cast of the ME series. I found this notion to be stupid because nobody in their right mind would introduce the main cast in the second act, especially if the cast from the first act are all still alive. Many players didn’t realize that the cast from two was expendable. That’s why most of the ME1 cast was left out, because they were the main characters. Miranda, Jacob, Zaeed, Grunt, they are all tragically usleless to the overall trilogy. Players did not realize this, and Bioware faield to realize how popular these characters would become. Think I’m being harsh on the ME2 cast? Why is that nobody exclusively available in ME2 has been announced yet? Ouch.

If I asked any fan to narrow their preferred ME3 cast down to 8 squad members, I know I would get a wildly different answers across the board. Personally, my preferred cast for ME3 would be Ashley, Garrus, Liara, Wrex, Miranda, Thane, Legion and Zaeed. I am actually one of the more fortunate fans out there because 3 of my preferred characters are returning. Somebody out there may actually be saying, Wrex, Miranda, Kasumi, Mordin, Thane, Grunt, Samara, and Jack. I feel bad for that guy. Not a single one of his favorites are currently returning on his squad. For the record, I believe the ME3 cast will have a total of 9 potential squad members. Ashley, Kaidan, Garrus, Liara, Tali, Vega, some DLC companion, and at least 2 more new characters. I believe every returning squad mate has been announced. Anyone else is a brand new character (and to be honest, I'm not fully convinced Tali is going to be a full party member).

The most disappointing thing about ME3 is that every charcter introduced thus far is worth exploring further. Out of sheer neceesity, they will not be, or at very least, they won’t get the justice they deserve. I know that the forums will be buzzing with hatred only hours after ME3 is released, and for some, simply not including their favorite charcaters will be enough to sully their experience. I know because I’ve been there. Mass Effect has already ruined some players personal story. It's unfortunate, and I personally think that regardless of the games quality, ME3 will be the most polarizing game in the series due to this fact. Join me tomorrow as I touch on the final problem that Bioware faces with Mass Effect 3. They have an Evil Associate pulling their strings. Who on EArth could it be?

9 comments:

Klaus said...

" I am a big Ashley fan, and I felt that ME2 was not the sequel I deserved because a principle character in my Shepard’s story was absent."

Well written, but poorly argued. Your overall tone is one of entitlement, as quoted above. Why the hell does BW owe you, me, anyone, apart from its creditors and staff, anything at all?

I've read all your posts so far, and your criticisms amount to nit-picks or you are just second-guessing a game that isn't out for 7 months, and criticising things that do not exist.

BTW, it is obvious that not all the characters can get full squad member status in ME3, and was from the beginning, as it is clearly economically impossible to accommodate all of that.

ME2 was brilliant, but not without its flaws. For the record, I would have preferred a more full bodied inventory and upgrade system, and somewhat less boxy level design. But the thing that niggled me the most, that got my goat, that really frustrated me, was the fact that I couldn't change my hairstyle. Did not ruin the game in any way, nor did I blame BW or EA.

And that's the kicker. You end this post by bringing up the childish conspiracy theory about EA. This is just a misunderstanding of the economics of the videogame industry in the 2010's. EA will have some influence, especially over marketing (which, most of your criticisms are a overheated extrapolation of), but they're not going to get involved in the day to day design decisions.

Based on these blogs, ME3 is never going to live up to your expectations. They are so unrealistic.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the comment! I always love to get constructive criticism. I did want to comment on a few of your points though as you made some good ones, and I wanted to rebut.

1. Bioware technically doesn't owe me anything at all, however, they have confessed that they take the opinions of their fans very seriously and welcome all kinds of feedback. I'm just doing my part. My point of Mass Effect 2 being a hollow experience for me was merely pointing out how personal these games are to most players. Though I may sound entitled and nitpicky, that is merely a bi-product of the choice based gaming that Mass Effect incorporates. We all get very attached to this or that because its so personal, therefore we all feel as if the game was made for us. And in a way, it is.

2. I am neither second guessing a game that isn't out nor am I criticizing things that don't exist. I am speculating and making predictions, and offering sound advice in some cases. Now, my speculation may indeed be born from a pessimistic perspective, but that's neither nor there.

3. My personal expectations are not unrealistic at all. I'm considering the expectations of a very wide audience. The only thing I want in ME3 is better RPG elements, and an awesome conclusion to this great series. I'm the easy one. There's a few thousand other people out there who are not going to be so easy, and I am considering their view points as well.

4. Come on, you don't think EA is a little bit evil? Not even slightly? Besides EA and Evil Association, I couldn't resist.

5. You're too easy going. You need to be more judgmental like me. If you were you would agree with me 100%. ;)

Thanks again for taking the time to read my entitled nitpicks! I have one more tomorrow.

Ryan said...

One more thing: "it is obvious that not all the characters can get full squad member status in ME3, and was from the beginning, as it is clearly economically impossible to accommodate all of that."

On the topic of squad members returning, it clearly wasn't totally obvious that not everyone was coming back. Many on the BSN believed it was feasible to have each and every character as full time companions. I made the point of saying that it wasn't going to happen. I wasn't saying it was even remotely possible to bring back each squad member. My point was everyone has their favorites and many folks are not going to be as easy going about who returns as you or I. Mass Effect 2 disappointed a portion of the corps audience. Some of those folks won't be buying ME3. If enough people are disappointed in ME3 and are as vocal as the DA2 crowd, that could potentially lead to abysmal sales in ME3's future. That would be two games selling below expectations from Bioware which would hurt EA. EA would be forced to knuckle down on Bioware in order to flourish as a AAA studio.

LucidFox said...

Miranda as the primary female lead?

Isn't that role more suitable for someone like... I don't know... Shepard?

Oh right, you played male, and you consistently refer to Shepard in male pronouns. But don't assume everyone else did.

Ryan said...

When I referred to Miranda as the primary female lead, I meant among the squad members. Likewise, if I mentioned Jacob, I would have referred to him as the primary male lead. Perhaps I should have said, "The leading female among the squad members," to avoid confusion.

About me constantly using the male pronoun, well yeah. My Shepard is a guy and I would rather speak from experience than make assumptions to how I would feel if I played a female Shepard, which I have never done. Not that I haven't tried, mind you, I just have a lot of trouble letting go of my Colonist/War Hero/Male/Soldier Shepard. Also, I primarily said "he" because it's easier on me. It's either "he or she," which is too many words, or "she," which is too many letters. ;)

Thanks for the comment!

Unknown said...

I agree with everything in the article anyone arguing is totally blind to this argument. Choosing a select few squadmates is a poor decision on BW part. They could have ultimately pushed the release farther back to make at least every love interest a companion. It is the conclusion to your story. Bioware does owe their fanbase their stories as without great fans buying your products you ultimately don't sell. I agree that they don't owe you or I anything but as stated stated in the article many fans are going to be upset.

The biggest chunk of messing up comes from introducing new characters that could have been old squad members from two and also having only two members that could potentially die come back as squad mates as this short counts a couple of thousands of people who chose to let Garrus and Tali die.

Article is dead on correct thanks for your logical post I agree with you 100 percent.

Ryan said...

Thank you for the comment Unknown. I wonder if that's your name, or if you are just unknown. Mysterious.

This is a pretty old article. At the time, it is was still up in the air if Tali was really on the team, much less some of the more spoilery companions. Now, there is only 1 companion that has not been officially announced (which despite not reading the leaks, I do know who that is).

Now, I like the cast from ME1 way better than ME2, so I am pretty pleased with ME3's cast. There are some standouts in the ME2 cast, but I just don't think they gelled as much as ME1. Some people disagree with me on this one. They may prefer the ME2 cast over ME1's, which is great. I like that everyone has their own opinion because it allows us to play differently, making the entire concept of choice in the game matter.

I can't help but think that Bioware may have shot themselves in the foot with that suicide mission idea. I could be very wrong though. It is possible that each ME2 characters have such great roles in ME3 that everybody is generally cool with it. I, for one, will being finding this out in 1 day and 14 hours. I'll be proud to be an American that day!

J.M. said...

@Klaus

It's true that BW owes directly to its creditors, but you are disregarding something very important: In order to please their creditors THEY SHOULD first please their consumers, otherwise NO SALES=FRUSTRATED CREDITORS. Anyone who's ever handled a business knows there should be a balance between the service level and satisfaction and profits.

So far I only hope the author of this article is wrong about ME3 but his opinions are spot on. and LucidFox please don´t apply Political Correctness to game, everyone has the right to play Shepard as he or she without having to give disclaimers for it.

J.M. said...

@Klaus

It's true that BW owes directly to its creditors, but you are disregarding something very important: In order to please their creditors THEY SHOULD first please their consumers, otherwise NO SALES=FRUSTRATED CREDITORS. Anyone who's ever handled a business knows there should be a balance between the service level and satisfaction and profits.

So far I only hope the author of this article is wrong about ME3 but his opinions are spot on. and LucidFox please don´t apply Political Correctness to game, everyone has the right to play Shepard as he or she without having to give disclaimers for it.