How Mass Effect 4 Can Be Great, in 5 Steps

Don’t Learn The Wrong Lesson From Mass Effect 3

We’re not here to dredge up the discussion of the controversy, but this has to be said: The problems with the Mass Effect 3 endings are mostly to do with things that didn’t make a lot of sense, or appeared to contradict core promises BioWare made about how the series would turn out. By no means were fans angry that Hudson and Walters tried to wrap things up in an insane, classic science fictional way. That’s why it’s critically important that BioWare doesn’t look at the reaction to Mass Effect 3 and think the that the lesson is “You can’t do edgy, experimental stuff because the fans will whine.”

Take chances. Take BIG chances, in fact, and feel free to make Mass Effect 4 as weird as possible. Ancient civilizations? Why not? A planet-sized space station called Unicron? Sure, Ok. Perhaps even a Human-Asari-Krogan centipede? Sky’s the limit! Indulge every whim you’ve ever had during a lifetime of reading acid-soaked sci-fi written in the ’60s and ’70s. All you need to do in order to avoid another backlash is to be very careful in what you promise, and make absolutely certain you deliver it1.

And that means…

Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate

Mass Effect doesn’t need to be treated like holy writ. When we say Mass Effect 4 should be a Mass Effect game, we don’t mean it should slavishly follow the example of the original trilogy. A return to the series is a great opportunity to ditch things that aren’t working, fiddle with things that could be improved, and experiment in ways that provide a satisfying gaming experience without sacrificing core aspects.

For example, the series has always suffered from side missions that feel somewhat half-baked. In Mass Effect, these missions at least had cool premises, but they tended to involve traveling to a planet, exploring yet another identical alien terrain, then engaging in identical battles set within identical bases. By Mass Effect 2, side missions had a bit more variety (we love the one with a racist bartender poisoning human patrons), but they were largely based on whatever world you happened to be on. Unfortunately, with Mass Effect 3, side missions were largely turned into pointless fetch quests, particularly galling when you realized that those missions which actually let you travel to complete them were the worst offenders.

Take a page from Rockstar Games. Regarding the side missions in GTA V, they’ve said “It’s better to have one really good mini game than five half-assed ones that aren’t fun.” If any franchise can benefit from that, it’s Mass Effect. In fact, we believe the series is particularly well-suited to an L.A. Noire-style investigation system, a possibility touched on in The Leviathan DLC. Give players the ability to build evidence, come to their own conclusions, and take action based on those conclusions, and side missions suddenly provide a personal experience that no longer wastes the player’s time.

But BioWare doesn’t need to just copy Rockstar. Instead, they should approach the game as an opportunity to fix one of the biggest problems in the series, the fact that solutions, particularly in side missions, were handed to you simply because you touched or highlighted the correct object. Instead, give the player places to explore and discover, and most definitely make it challenging. Mainly, if you’re going to provide the player with something to do, make sure it feels like there’s a real payoff at the end of it, not just the sensation you’ve finished a homework assignment.

1) Also, seriously, try making sense too.

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12 Comments on How Mass Effect 4 Can Be Great, in 5 Steps

Kevin

On November 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Go forward maybe 30-40 years. Show a universe that, while the Reapers were defeated, it comes at quite a cost, as there’s a huge power vacuum.

The Asari are devestated and they actually took a huge brunt of the attacks from the Reapers. The Turians Navy is not what it once was. Humans are quickly becoming the dominant race. The Krogan don’t like that, they think it is there time to become dominant. And still there are others who are tired of the “dominant race” cycle of Protheans, Asari, humans etc. Show these ways interacting and conflicting, and give it the Witcher 2 treatment, where the game can really be a completely different play experience, and most importantly, there is no “good” or “evil” side. All have their paragons and renegades, and all have their altruistic or selfish reasons for doing what they are doing.

Sachel

On November 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm

This is what I know:

1) It is a prequel about the First Contact War between humans and Turians.
2) It is being developed by EA Montreal with no involvement from the western branch.
3) It Will be a first person shooter in the frostbite engine.
4) It will focus more on multiplayer/co-op.
5) It will “stream-line” the role-playing assets to be more inclusive to a wider audience.

6) As of February of 2013 BioWare Edmonton will be working on DA3 and an unnamed Project.

I’m sorry to anyone still scorned by the ending of Mass Effect 3.

David

On November 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

@Sachel

“5) It will “stream-line” the role-playing assets to be more inclusive to a wider audience.”

*SIGH*

Isn’t that exactly what Bioware has done over the first three installments.

And hasn’t it become clear that isn’t really the way to go?

I mean…if you’re going to copycat another franchise…why not copycat Splinter Cell with something based on the Salarian STGs?

Kevin

On November 14, 2012 at 6:36 pm

@Sachel: Well I haven’t seen any of this kind of info here on Gamefront, so I must ask, can you prove any of this?

Sachel

On November 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Not exactly sure what you would want as proof since employees are not given this information in paper form but are simply told it while working for the company.

Wait a few months and it will be proven true.

I was also in an earlier series of posts commenting about the Mass Effect 3 controversy.

Mark Burnham

On November 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm

@Sachel I’m tired of your disingenuous assertions.

Kidding!

But seriously, if you actually are a BioWare employee, drop me a line at feedback@gamefront.com.

Axetwin

On November 15, 2012 at 12:09 am

If what Sachel says is true, then I’m done with this franchise. It just proves what Ive been saying for the past few years. EA is only listening to yes men and players whose main gaming interest are military shooters with a heavy focus on competitive MP.

Patches

On November 15, 2012 at 12:54 am

Also…

- Leave EA family ASAP (won’t hold my breath on this one though…)…

- Keep Hudson away from ‘Artistic Integrity’ final decisions…

- Gives us the choice of playing an other race than human…

- Less Main story and more side quests…

- If you can’t make a trilogy with the same hero right, then uses a ‘one game – one new hero’ formula…

- And keep in mind that real different Story/LI endings, more than playing a new classes/races is what makes peoples want to do another playthrough…

Remember the 1st KOTOR:
1 game = 1 hero… Story = interesting main story, but also interesting side quests too… Ending = you can have a good or bad Jedi or Sith ending… LI = you could end killing Bastilla or making her admit she loves you and to hell with what the Jedi Order will think…
All these helps the 1st KOTOR to be considered a classic…

Nulltron

On November 15, 2012 at 4:19 am

Ross,

What you say, can be said about any game. I have trouble understanding what all you say can have anything in particular to do with ME, except the universe of course, i.e. the characters, their history and culture and so forth. Like say, the Lord of the Rings universe or some other well developed environment to tell a story in. Accordingly I wonder why you say that the storyline and main characters of the trilogy have to be laid to rest, since that is the only way that a further milking of the franchise can happen. Obviously no one likes to work for the Reapers, which has been the net sum of the trilogy. That is why the ME universe is doomed. The only chance that “universe” has is taking the funny road, a la Borderlands or even Fallout. I mean, there is no way you can ignore the elephant in the room. Maybe for new players to the game, but not those who have played through the trilogy.

End the Pain

On November 15, 2012 at 5:02 am

The best thing they can do is not make a Mass Effect 4. If they want to have something set in the same universe, call it something different. The Mass Effect name is a poisoned chalice – it’s guaranteed to see whatever histrionic brainless nonsense you put on the shelves lauded by the critics and soaked up by the casual market, but it’s also guaranteed to totally alienate those who a) still feel betrayed and belittled by the ending of ME3 and the subsequent siege-mode fallout from the self-anointed industry elite, and b) were bought on the idea of Mass Effect as a trilogy, who honestly felt that BioWare would stay true to its word and deliver a coherent three-part experience. They should come up with a totally new IP based in the Mass Effect realm, and give it a totally different name. Start afresh. Name it after something discovered in the first game of the new series and base it around that. Mass Effect has run its course, it’s a questionable name to begin with since it only focuses on the technology that created the links between the galaxy and not on the galaxy itself. It would be like calling Star Trek ‘Warp Drive’. I’ve always thought it was a stupid name, even moreso now that the Shepard trilogy has ended in a damp squib. Name it after the protagonist of the next series or after a piece of research critical to the plot or something.

Or, better yet, don’t make it until Hudson and Walters are both dead/fired and can’t ruin it.

TheDog

On November 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

Sachel@ The only way for them to even get close to reclaiming some of there former customers is to do exactly the opposite of what you are saying. If it goes that way I will never buy a Bioware game again, plain and simple. I detest companies who think they know better then I, what I want. And this is why Bethesdasoft will be my game company of choice. They may be a bit buggy (never had much of a problem myself, but thats what they say), but they give us what we want.
I really hope your yanken our chain. Would love to see a return of the old Bioware, cause the new one stinks. I feel sorry for you. If you do indeed work for them, and this (Mass Effect 4) really does what you say it will. You and all you work buddies will be more hated than George Bush.

TheDog

On November 15, 2012 at 8:53 am

End the Pain@ Dont know if you saw the artical out a week or two earlier. One of the Bioware boys that jumped ship was saying EA isn’t interested in making any new IP’s. Too risky. They only play on using the old proven (stale) ideas. Not much chance of what you want. Would be a good idea though.