Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ Post-Mortem: Time To Stop Caring?
The last year has been a rough one for people who’ve stuck with the Mass Effect series from its inception in 2007. But setting aside those for whom the notorious ending of Mass Effect 3 tarnished the experience of playing the series overall, BioWare itself has had its most troubled year since the company was founded. With some high-profile departures, troubles with other games and public relations struggles with Mass Effect 3, the future of the series has been shuffled somewhat.
Mass Effect 4, as we’re tentatively calling it, is being handled by a new BioWare team in Montreal. That team was behind the recently released Omega DLC pack (our review of which you can read here), and the add-on to Mass Effect 3 shows a few subtle changes that might hint at where Mass Effect 4 is headed. It’s hard to say too much with any sort of certainty — after all, Omega is still a chunk of Mass Effect 3, and therefore plays by its rules and now those of whatever the new game might be — but it seems there might be some trends in among BioWare’s post-release content that give us an idea of where the series’ next iteration is heading.
A Many Faceted Approach to Gameplay
Of the last few Mass Effect 3 DLC packages we’ve seen, there seems to be a continual push in expansion content to portray different elements of the Mass Effect game experience, and to highlight those particular bits. In both of Mass Effect 3′s DLC packages, and in portions of post-game content for Mass Effect 2, players spend time completing tasks that aren’t always a part of the game’s core experience.
The Leviathan DLC, for example, opened with something of a crime scene investigation procedural, in which Shepard had to search for clues in a lab and apply the information to narrow his search field for the next part of the mission. Though Mass Effect games highlight interactive elements — thus reducing the “search for clues” mechanic to a “search for the highlighted thing” mechanic somewhat — the game still required players to analyze the information to a degree, and even apply a little logic to figure out where to go next.
To go back to The Lair of the Shadowbroker, we saw Shepard working to solve a greater mystery by following leads and pursuing clues. This differed a bit from the more procedural Leviathan experience because it concerned more characters, more important discussions, and more
The Omega DLC seemed to focus on another element: Shepard as commando, with a heavy emphasis not only on action, but on action storytelling as you might see in a blockbuster film. We’ll talk about the visual language of Omega in more depth later, but the way that DLC mission is presented is very different from other Mass Effect missions. The emphasis is clearly on putting players in not only a battle, but a fast-paced series of tough fights. It puts special weight on the war-fighting aspect of Shepard’s character through these subtle decisions, in a way other missions don’t quite focus on or achieve.
The overall point is, it’s starting to feel like BioWare is stretching its legs a bit in what Mass Effect is capable of as an RPG. The contrast between Omega and Leviathan is especially interesting; rather than see one as a choice that supercedes the other, we have a feeling the upcoming Mass Effect 4 will include a lot more small moments, similar to these ones. A greater emphasis on mystery, like we saw in LOTSB and Leviathan, could be a very welcome change for the series. And hard-edged action that not only is heavy on shooting components, but is portrayed in a visual language that brings higher stakes and faster movement to those portions, could potentially take the next Mass Effect game through some riveting undulations — first, with players using their brains in slower-paced, logical portions, and then exercising their twitch muscles in more Bad Boys-like combat scenarios.