A few months ago, I ripped into Mass Effect 3 about how I believe the game will suck. What you did not know was that I have been plotting a counter argument this whole time!!!! Yes I am a sly evil genius. Now, even though it took me five articles to point all the adversity that stands in front of Bioware for Mass Effect 3, I am not going to do that again. I got sick of myself after article three, so this time I will keep it short and succinct. What you are about to see is me, attacking myself. This should be interesting.
In my first article you may remember that I tore apart Mass Effect 2’s story. Not because it was bad, but because it was not quite the sequel it should have been. Bioware said that Mass Effect 2 was supposed to be a dark second act, and I personally felt that the game did not feel dark nor did it feel like a second act. There was very little of an emotional journey to be had and what it did have was not that great. Will this affect Mass Effect 3? In my last article, I speculated yes. That’s not necessarily true. Bioware has admitted that Mass Effect 2 was a little dry on the emotion. They have claimed to have gone to great strides to make Mass Effect 3 the most emotionally engaging of all three games. We have all read the articles about the (spoiler warning!!! Run while you can) little boy in the vents that suffers a horrific demise. This moment had audience members crying! That is some pathologically intense shit right there. The best part is, this was something they didn’t mind the public knowing about prior to the game’s release. Bioware said they are keeping a tight lid on ME3 to avoid those great moments of epicness and emotion being spoiled. If that moment is worthy of being known, who knows what’s in store for ME3 emotionally.
Another thing I chastised ME2 on was its lack of a strong central villain, and that the story never showed us enough of the Collectors and what they did to humans to inspire we players to really care. By the time we saw what the Collector’s did to humans, the time for motivation had come and gone. Well, that’s already changed as well. The first moments in the ME3 will showcase the fall of Earth. The little kid moment mentioned before occurs here. As far as I’m concerned, we have a reason to fight already. Not only that, but Earth is just the first of many worlds to fall. Not to mention all the build up with the Reapers since ME1. As far as the villain goes, ME3 could very well fall into this trap, as the Reapers are, basically, faceless drones, powerful drones, but faceless nonetheless. Just like the Collectors. Wait just a minute there, what about Cerberus? They seem to be hunting Shepard down for whatever the reason. Is the Illusive Man our Saren? Our Loghain, if you will? So far, it seems to be. In fact, Kai Leng, a Cerberus assassin introduced in Mass Effect: Retribution could very well be our Benezia/Arl Howe since he has already been confirmed to make an appearance in ME3 and we’ve already seen some kick ass concept art of his appearance. Sounds to me like Bioware has addressed the story problems Mass Effect 2 suffered from.
For Mass Effect 2 I accused Bioware of dumbing down the RPG play in favor of more guns, grit, and tobacco chewing action. I feared that Bioware may continue this trend in Mass Effect 3. Those fears where further enhanced when I saw the heavy emphasis of the combat. Then I saw the level up system and stat progression in detail. Yeah, I think this isn’t going to be a problem. In fact, when Bioware has to tell people there is an auto level up button because of how of complex the new stat progression is, it gives me an RPB, a role playing boner. Oh yeaaaaaaaaah. Bioware has also shown off glimpses of their weapon customization system and promised that Shep’s armor will work very similarly. Mmm. That’s right baby. Just like that. Extend that barrel. There has been concern that Mass Effect 3 is turning into a Gears of War clone. Based on what was shown at E3 and subsequent shows, that seems like valid criticism. But until Gears of War has moral choices with big impacts, the ability to form relationships, branching conversations and a player driven narrative experience, Mass Effect will always be Mass Effect, no matter how Gears of War-esque the action gets.
In my last article, I lambasted the E3 trailer, saying it served as nothing more than another rift between their fans. Bioware made up for it at their shows, allowing the fans to choose the new default femshep for her soon to be released trailer. They have hosted breakfasts for their fans, giveaways, trivia contests, hell the winner of the fanart contest is now an employee! Bioware has reached out to their fans more than ever in preparation for the release of Mass Effect 3. I can forgive that snoozy trailer for that. Especially if we get a launch trailer half as awesome as ME2’s. Mmmm. Yeah. Show me the good stuff.
Another topic that I reamed Bioware on was their treatment of the characters and how the ME3 is likely to throw away most of the ME2 cast. Well, I can’t defend how badly some characters were ignored or mistreated in ME2. Sorry. That does not mean that ME3 will continue the mistreatment. In fact, Lair of the Shadow Broker was a step in the right direction. Hopefully the other three characters left behind (Ashley, Kaidan, and Wrex) get some redemption. We’ll see. As far as who will be included in ME3, Bioware has been talking about their new squad mechanic system. Apparently some characters will be around as temporary squad members, and not just for one mission. They may be involved in story arcs. For example, Wrex may not be a main squad member, but he may play a significant role resolving the Krogan and Salarian (and maybe even the Turian) story arcs. I would have no problem with that, and I imagine most of the fanbase would feel generally the same way. Bioware has also confirmed that love interest characters are getting the most special treatment. Which is good. I also demanded some recognition for playing the DLC’s beyond a petty e-mail, which Bioware confirmed was being implemented into the story. That’s it. That’s the stuff right there.
Finally, I come to the last of my vicious remarks. This one was targeted at EA. And yes, I still believe that EA could very well cripple Bioware in the future. However, EA has done a lot of good for Bioware too. In fact, if it weren’t for EA’s support, I guarantee we would just barley be playing Mass Effect 2 right now. Bioware has always been behind the ball in terms of graphics. Look at KOTOR. In fact, Mass Effect was the first time Bioware was on the ball, but what happened? Pop-ins, screen tears, and assorted other technical hiccups were everywhere. No cutscene, no combat sequence, no conversation was immune to those graphical blunders. EA and Bioware merge and Mass Effect 2 is released with stellar graphics and only one or two visual speed bumps. Coincidence? I think not.
Truth be told, I have no idea if Mass Effect 3 will be good or bad. Could it be as bad as I claimed before? Yup. Could it be completely and totally fucking awesome? So awesome it can give birth to messiah babies just by thinking about it? Well maybe not that awesome, but probably pretty damn close. It could be. It could be. So basically, Bioware is looking down the same path that every game developer looks down when building a game. One path will lead to a success the other to failure. Mass Effect 3 is not special in that regard. The expectations are just higher. I remain cautiously optimistic that they can deliver. I thought Transformers 3 was going to suck, and it was the best in the series, in my humblest of humble opinions. Why would Mass Effect 3 be different? I am a Bioware fanboy, and I’m not afraid to admit it. That’s why I hold them to such high standards. Bioware has claimed that they have the best fans in the industry. I am honored that they think so. Mass Effect 3, don’t let us down. We’re counting on you.