This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of Mass Effect 3, and Bioware has chosen today to release the final piece of single player content for the game. Oddly enough, I also recently played through the game again for the first time in over 11 months, so I’ve got Mass Effect on the brain. This recent playthrough was the first time I had played through the game completely with the DLC and extended cut ending fully implemented into the game, and I have to say they definitely improved the overall experience, especially the infamous ending. Playing ME3 removed from the hype of its initial release, I still really enjoyed myself, and I stand by my praise of the game at the time of release. With the Mass Effect 3 saga coming to a close with this last piece of DLC, which I will review later this week, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see in the next Mass Effect game. With the core trilogy concluded, there are a million different places Bioware could take the next game in the series, and these are just some of my thoughts about what I’d like to see next.
10. Remove Arbitrary Party Limitations
Even if it wound up being something a bit different as the series went along, the core idea of Mass Effect was rooted squarely in the concepts of party based RPGs, in particular things like Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Unfortunately, a major concept from that style of game that persisted throughout the series was the idea that your squad could only consist of a limited number of characters at a time. When you have a crew full of highly trained soldiers and experts in a variety of fields, it just felt out of place to leave the majority of the team twiddling their thumbs on the ship while only three of them took part in dangerous missions against dozens of enemies at a time. I understand this is a logistical decision born out of gameplay concerns, but it breaks immersion in a series that is all about narrative and believable universe building.
9. Implement Motion Capture
I understand the reason that motion capture wasn’t used in any of the Mass Effect games; the financial and technical hurdles involved with implementing motion capture across a 30+ hour game with absurd amounts of dialogue are immense. However, understanding why it isn’t feasible doesn’t make me wish the series had it any less. The handful of canned animations that get used during conversations became more and more noticeable as the series went on, and it would be really great if this issue could be resolved. If they could find some way of implementing motion capture without going over budget or extending development time, the game would really benefit.
8. Better Sense of Scale
This is an area where the fiction really clashes with the technical limitations of game design, and in some instances, writing to please fans. The galaxy is huge, filled with countless billions of individuals from over a dozen species spread out across thousands of inhabited planets. However, in the games themselves, the galaxy feels small. Hub areas on planets consist of a small map and a few dozen individuals and for some reason Shepard just keeps happening to run into the same people all over the galaxy. I want the galaxy to feel just as vast in the game as it does reading planet descriptions and codex entries, and hopefully with the near guarantee of the next Mass Effect being a next gen release, this is strong possibility.
7. No Need For Human Focus
It makes sense for the trilogy to be told from the perspective of humans. When the series began, we didn’t know anything about any of the other races or the political situation of the Citadel and the galaxy as a whole, so it makes sense to introduce us to these things from a perspective every player is familiar with; humanity. However, three games and 90+ hours of gameplay into the series, fans now have a solid understanding of the these things, so the next game doesn’t need to revolve around humanity. I would love to see a game in this universe told from the perspective of one of the other races, allowing us an inside look at things we’ve only observed as outsiders thus far. Whether this means allowing the player to select the race they want to play as with different story ramifications like Dragon Age Origins or simply having the game star a predetermined alien character is fine by me; I’d love to see either of these scenarios.
6. No More Binary Moral Choice
I think the paragon and renegade system was a step in the right direction as far as moral choices go, for the most part it avoided being straight up good vs. evil, but it was only marginally better than a good vs. evil system. The biggest problem with the system was the idea of earning paragon and renegade points for making choices. It forced you to make decisions based on alignment rather than based on your gut, which pretty much negates the whole idea of choice. I want the outcome of choices to be observed in the story or the world, not on a meter in the menus. Choice in games is the future of storytelling, but only if there is a real choice and not a “good” or “bad” option. To be fair, a lot of the choices presented throughout the trilogy would be really tough if not for the fact that most players just go with the one that matches the alignment of their character.