Bioware’s popular franchise Mass Effect conjures up some divisive opinions: there’s a group of people who think that the series is a masterpiece of storytelling, contains strong gameplay, and offers a compelling world to truly immerse yourself in. Others, who also like to throw around the phrase “sell-out” believe it is a dumbed-down action game with RPG elements and unlikable characters. I’m in the former category, currently on my third playthrough of Mass Effect 2 at time of writing.
I am worried Mass Effect 3 might send me into the ladder camp.
Electronic Arts owns Bioware, so they own Mass Effect, and they market the game. There are hundreds of accusatory comments stating that Bioware has sold out, that EA controls Bioware with an iron grip (despite Bioware’s own dismissal of such claims) and possibly EA being Satan incarnate when Activision doesn’t fit that role. EA has made no qualms about marketing Mass Effect 3 to a wider audience. According to Joystiq, Mass Effect 3 was delayed to adjust some of the mechanics for the larger market.
BUT: this could have been in reference to multiplayer, which plays like a slapdash Horde knockoff at best (I’ll get to the demo, don’t you worry). Multiplayer will raise eyebrows from audiences who wouldn’t give an RPG a try.
However, there’s also the sentiment that ME3 will “contain more action-adventure,” on CVG.com. Bioware’s David Silverman said:
“It’s a natural entry point for new players: giant alien race launches all-out war, you have to rally the forces of the universe to counter and see if you can take them down. That’s pretty clear. You don’t need to be like: ‘Well, what about when I had this love affair?’ It’s like, who cares? It’s all out war!”
Despite his generalization, the sentiment is still clear: personal relationships don’t matter compared to the threat of war. One of the most vital points of Mass Effect is to interact with the characters in this epic space opera. He straight up says that doesn’t matter.
- The Demo
The single-player demo doesn’t offer anything in the way of consequences: you get very few chances to actually fucking speak during cutscenes as Shepherd, but they don’t change anything. Hell, you can’t even make a dialogue choice until after your Shepherd has said several sentences without your input. He’s supposed to be your character, why is he acting like a typical action-game protagonist?
Bioware also pathetically tries to pull at your heartstrings by killing a kid. Why is the death of one kid important in the possibility of galactic annihilation?
Gameplay-wise, it plays like a Gears-clone now. Not a bad thing, necessarily: cover feels much more fluid, and hit markers display so you know 100% that you’re making damage. However, it’s also incredibly linear and more focused on explosions than real gameplay. Biotic and Tech powers seemed completely unnecessary because I had every type of gun to kick ass with.
However, this is JUST the demo. Not fair to judge the full retail product based on it, alone.
- On Earth
And here we are at my biggest problem. The decision to make the story about Earth. “Take Earth back!” the tagline reads. Why? Why should I care about Earth? For the past two games, Bioware has shown players that humans are selfish, egotistical, and self-righteous and just as flawed as all of the other species in the galaxy. Yet, humans get special billing in the finale. Yes, the game will funnel players down corridors on different planets, interacting with different species, but it all appears to be in the name of saving Earth, a planet we have not visited, nor have had any reason to care about besides from the fact that, aw shit, I guess we should.
Sequels are supposed to expand scope, not narrow it. Mass Effect 1: the citadel comes under attack, the galactic council is in dire straits. Mass Effect 2: Human colonies are disappearing, you must find out why. It connected to the larger narrative. Mass Effect 3: not looking too good.
You know who I care about? Tali, and finding a safe place for her race to live peacefully; the complex workings of the Geth collective, as hinted at by Legion. There’s Thane, the warrior-monk whose imminent death had him at a crossroads with his violent life and his desire to see his son excel as a better (fish)man. And of course, my all-around Dirty-Harry-Meets-Batman-the-Alien with whom I have carried on a remarkable bromance with through two games, Garrus Motherfucking Vakarian.
I care for one human: Miranda Lawson. She becomes a fleshed out character during her loyalty mission in ME2, and her steadfast allegiance to Cerberus makes me wonder how she’ll react to Shepherd mowing down waves of them after they’ve been sent to kill him.
Mass Effect 3 has me in a corner. It’s the finale to a franchise that has touched many other gamers and myself in a unique way. But has that allowed EA/Bioware to count on our loyalty maybe too much, and make foolish story decisions, since they know we’ll buy it. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to tell: by buying it, and beating it.