THE PCG Q&A
Everyone who played through the Mass Effect series has their own theory about what the ideal direction for the next game would be, and not just in terms of its physical location. Do you want it to be a sequel or prequel? Would you rewrite the ending of Mass Effect 3, or pick one and make it canon, or ignore the whole thing completely? Make it another game about being a spaceship captain or something different? Stay in Andromeda or go back to the Milky Way?
Where should Mass Effect go next?
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
Robin Valentine: Maybe it’s pessimistic of me, but I don’t see a way for the series to bounce back at this point. Whiffing the grand finale of your trilogy is one thing, but to then attempt a dramatic fresh start to clean the slate and whiff that too? That’s just too much of a cloud hanging over the next instalment, not to mention all the narrative paths Bioware has closed off for itself.
Even if they can square that circle, and shake off all that bad feeling, I just don’t think Bioware as it currently exists—having lost huge amounts of the original talent who made the games work, and seemingly laboring under ineffective management and oppressive oversight from EA—has given any of us any reason to keep the faith. It’s not the studio that made Mass Effect 2 anymore, it’s the studio that made Andromeda and Anthem. It’s been six years since the studio last made a good game (Inquisition), and even that was a very mixed success. It feels like a shadow of its former self.
I’d love a great new Mass Effect game, but right now I don’t see a path to one—at least, not until modern Bioware can show us it still has some magic left.
Fraser Brown: Into the bin.
Wes Fenlon: Somewhere completely new. I know there are people who got really attached to Mass Effect—I still see N7 hoodies from time to time—but I always thought its lore was really boring. Remember how exciting the original Mass Effect seemed before launch, this new high fidelity sci-fi RPG, and then as soon as you get into the game, the story revolves around yet another advanced ancient alien civilization? It’s the most hackneyed sci-fi trope of them all! It was the characters, and occasionally the settings, that really made Mass Effect work. How much benefit is there to tying another game to krogans and asari?
Just jettison all of it and make a new RPG with a completely new setting. Call it Mass Effect if you want. It’s a great name. But leave the baggage behind. And for the love of god, don’t make the basis for all science in the galaxy some mysterious ancient civilization! Just let people invent cool shit.
Chris Livingston: A story on a smaller scale would be nice. I don’t need to be saving the entire galaxy from extinction by ancient evil robots or whatever, I’d be happy just having personal drama and quests alongside the Mass Effect backdrop. Our journey could tie into major events but maybe just around the edges, kinda like how Foyle’s War was about a detective solving murders during World War 2. Yes, the horrifying, world-shaping events are all there and you never forget them, but he’s mostly just doing his own grim job amid the global nightmare. You can still create powerful stories without the main character being the most powerful person in the universe.
James Davenport: Make it a scary, intimate survival story.
Andromeda’s announcement was exciting to me because I thought we were going to get some truly ‘other’ sci-fi. Creatures beyond comprehension, inhabitable and unpredictable environments, and a crew of interesting characters moving through it all. Pin the stakes to the mission, but keep the scale small. Mass Effect—hell, all Bioware games—are beloved for the characters above all else. Make the whole game Mass Effect 2’s finale, a venture into the mountains of madness, a Lewis and Clark journey that confronts the colonialism. Just put the characters first, and make them very, very stressed and unhappy.
Tyler Wilde: Echoing the others, I think we just like dramas set aboard cool spaceships, and if the characters have amusing mannerisms like poor dancing skills and interesting values, beliefs, and prejudices, which are tested over the course of away missions and then reflected upon on the ship, then I think we’re going to enjoy it, at least if those missions are any fun. Realizing that what I’m saying boils down to ‘make the characters good and the game fun,’ I’d more specifically be up for totally non-Mass Effect-ey combat and mission design. A lean toward horror could be interesting. I’d even be fine with it ditching the RPG pretense altogether and just going full Gears of War. I honestly never found skill points to be the interesting part of Mass Effect.
Andy Chalk: I want a Mass Effect sequel that explores what happens when the reapers win (as they should have, by any reasonable measure) and the asari, turians, salarians, and everyone else who’s evolved beyond throwing rocks at their neighbors is cindered. It’s a pretty simple setup: The reapers, having done what they do, withdraw to dark space to wait out the next cycle, and left behind are a few remote outposts, a handful of ships on the galactic periphery, maybe some scattered survivors beneath the rubble of advanced worlds, and the Citadel. What happens next? Do they die off in isolated pockets, or do they maybe figure out something else? That’s something I’d like to play.
The trouble is that it would require a big swing of the retcon bat to pull off, including a complete invalidation of the ending of Mass Effect 3. I don’t think that’s a big deal—just say Shepard had half his skull blown off by a massive reaper shell the moment he stepped out of cover to start the final assault, and what we witnessed from that point on was an explosion of misfiring synapses, stretching his final milliseconds of life into a wishful victory fantasy (not all that terribly different from the Indoctrination Theory, really, just a lot faster and with less guesswork)—but I’m told that fans might not care for that sort of « it was all a dream » re-telling. (Which I really don’t get, everyone hates the ending anyway!)
Do that, and I’m in. Otherwise, eh, it was a great trilogy, it’s done, and so am I.
Jody Macgregor: The heart of the Mass Effect trilogy was the Citadel, a city in space where you’re always turning the corner to meet another new species. Give me a game that goes back to the era of the first Mass Effect, but let me play an actual alien this time, someone who lives on the Citadel and has to deal with all the conflict that goes on there. Maybe an agent of the shadow broker or a detective or some duct rat in over their head who has to deal with internal threats to the station while. And at the climax, in the background, Shepard is over there climbing Citadel Tower to stop a reaper.
ZedClampet: People probably won’t agree with me, but if I were in charge of the series, I’d find some way, plausible or not (think daytime soap operas) to bring Shephard back to life, throw in a new, unspeakable enemy and start a new series. So I guess maybe re-write the ending of 3 a bit. Definitely don’t want a prequel.
What galaxy they put it in doesn’t matter to me. Galaxies are rather large. In reality they should only have scratched the surface of both the Milky Way and Andromeda.
Spaceship captain? Sure. Bioware needs a hit pretty badly. They can’t afford to experiment too much.
My biggest concern is that Bioware has been completely mismanaged for years, based on employee reports after the last two games came out. Has this been fixed? Because if it hasn’t then this is all a waste of time. You can’t make great games under the conditions these people were working. Also, writing. Andromeda had the writing quality of high school level fan fiction. If they haven’t also addressed this problem then, again, all this work is for nothing.
Krud: I think I could be on board with a prequel game that basically tells the story of humanity finding the first Mass Effect relay. I think that could be interesting, even if we already know where that eventually leads. Setting it that far back could also eliminate any concerns about retconning Shepard. And as much as I love(d) the character, I do NOT want them resurrecting her. (Or him, whichever you prefer.) I’m also not particularly on board with any sort of « reboot », plot-wise.
I would rather it not take place in Andromeda, as I see no point in taking it to a whole separate galaxy. As Zed pointed out, the Milky Way is huge, and there should be plenty of nooks and crannies left to explore. At least for humans. That’s the other thing, I think it should still be played from the perspective of a human, unless they can manage something akin to Dragon Age Origins’ opening choices, but at this point I don’t trust Bioware to pull that off.
Edit to add: The more I think about it, the more I really like the idea of a « humans meet the other aliens, learn to get along » story. Because that clearly had to have happened before the events of the first Mass Effect. Perhaps with the war as a backdrop, since it wouldn’t be much of an RPG if you spent the whole time just fighting Turians. Or a prologue that starts in the war, with the main game happening near the end of the war. I don’t know, that’s for them to sort out.
Maddmann: I would either be on board for a prequal, kind of like Krud said, an MMO set just after the end of Mass Effect 3, or my personal and probably disagreed with opinion, actually finishing Andromeda.
For a prequal, I think it would be fantastic to do so in a style closer to Dragon Age, where you get to choose your starting race, some background options, and so forth. This way you can get a different perspective like you did when you played through the original Dragon age.
For an MMO, it seems like the perfect time to start. Every world has been practically decimated, now its time to rebuild. Let the players become the new heroes (its a dream, but would be fantastic if it was in the same style as Star Wars Galaxies full of player made cities and industries). This gives ample room to allow for creative freedom in stories and TONS of expansion capabilities. My only fear for this is the fact this series is still owned by the worst gaming company out there and based on how they did with Anthem I have serious doubts.
Andromeda… well it would need a new team. The story was still fun and I would like to see a resolution. It ended on a hell of a cliff hanger that at this point I doubt we ever get to see answered.
All in all, what I would really like to see happen with Mass Effect, is for Microsoft to get it. With Black Isle now on board with them, it seems there may still be a team out there that can restore this amazing series to what it used to be.
Frag Maniac: I just want EA to give Bioware the freedom to bring back some decent writers. I’d also like to see the dark, gritty atmosphere of 2 and 3 return. Andromeda is so weak on atmosphere regarding enemies that really creep you out, like the Collectors in 2, and Banshees in 3.
The hardest enemy to kill in Andromeda, is some almost robotic looking space worm that is so unforgettable I don’t even remember what it was called. I also want more dark locations like 2 and 3 had, often times in complete darkness with nothing but your flashlight to light the way.
With a good crew, Bioware can get back to their creative genius, and I’d really rather not know what direction it takes them in ME. EA should know by now their draconian attitude over their dev teams is choking their creativity and ruining what were good franchises.
We all know the examples, the great Visceral Games team yanked off the great Dead Space series, and relegated to the horrible Battlefield Hardline, and now defunct. Respawn tasked to bringing back the Medal of Honor series, but only as a VR experience.
We know too well what they did to Bioware and Mass Effect, and Anthem was overhyped and underdelivered. It’s time EA get sensible before they completely implode like Ubisoft is doing. Even the biggest pubs can eventually go down if they become self destructive.
EA need to get a clue why they are often called by gamers, the place great dev teams go to die.