Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ Post-Mortem: Time To Stop Caring?
The Changing Essence Of Mass Effect?
It needs to be said, however, that despite promising changes in gameplay and cinematics, Omega and previous recent Mass Effect content hints to some subtle, and not-so-subtle, changes to the core of what makes a Mass Effect game a Mass Effect game. We believe it’s possible to extrapolate from them some trends to keep an eye out for in future Mass Effect games. To wit:
- Limited Dialogue. Mass Effect 3 already saw a dramatic reduction in the amount of dialogue options, but Leviathan and especially Omega drastically cut the options further. Choices now range from “I don’t like something I’m going to do” to “I love something I’m going to do,” and those choices come with alarming rarity. More often now is a cutscene that is mostly scripted, with one or two opportunities to interact.
- Renegade/Paragon options far less important. This is especially pronounced in Omega, where choosing to take advantage of renegade and paragon moments does nothing at all to affect the way a scene plays out overall. Persistently choosing one option over the other ultimately influences Aria by the mission’s end, but it feels like a hollow change, somewhat nonsensical that Shepard would affect the Queen of Crime (especially over Nyreen), and tacked-on. Interrupts are given “Paragon” or “Renegade” delineations for seemingly no reason.
- Little side content. By contrast to missions from previous Mass Effect games, Omega and Leviathan (and somewhat, From Ashes) are strikingly linear. Gone are reasons to root around in rooms, gone are side missions related to these missions. Everything that happens happens on a set path, as demanded by the script. It’s so pronounced that if you notice something vaguely out of place, you can be certain it’s related to the main mission.
- Heavier, more diverse combat. As we saw in Omega (and also Leviathan), combat scenarios have been more intense, and featuring more various kinds of enemies, than we’ve seen before in any of the Mass Effect games. During some fights in Omega, players could face all manner of bad guys, including close-range robotic fighters, mid-range, superpowered monsters, and the whole contingent of Cerberus soldiers. All of it makes for better, more interesting fights.
- More involved conflicts and wars. Another heavily emphasized element we saw in Omega were players taking part in major conflicts, rather than driving them. While Shepard and his team would often strike out on their own, they also found themselves coming across engagements in which other tropos were taking part. Acting as a flanking force against soldiers already fighting, for example, is a big part of the fighting in Omega.
- Reduced Squad Mechanics. The strangest thing that Omega and The Leviathan, and also The Arrival, have in common is that they all find ways to separate Shepard from his/her squad of loyal crewmates. In each instance it’s somewhat different; The Arrival forces you to take Shep on what is largely a solo mission, The Leviathan separates Shep from the crew during the part of the expansion that delivers the most exposition, and Omega simply replaces Sheps’ crew with a squad of Aria & associates. But in each instance, one of the core elements of Mass Effect is dummied out.
We realize the matter of Mass Effect 4 is complicated by the fact that Casey Hudson, still director of the game, will be overseeing a brand new team based in Montreal, and by the departures of so much of BioWare’s high level staff this year. As such that makes accurate prediction a lost cause. But seeing the same features showing up again and again, and in more refined form, with each new iteration of Mass Effect-related game content, and one can’t help but draw the conclusion that we’re looking at the de-Mass Effectification of the series before our very eyes.
Is this a bad thing? Well, as Phil related in his review of Omega, it’s difficult to really care about Mass Effect 3 beyond curiosity at this point. The problems with the game are too pronounced, the inability to fully enjoy it retroactively affects enjoyment of the series overall. A ‘pure’ Mass Effect 4 that extended the problems of Mass Effect 3 would just be more of what doesn’t work dressed up in drag. So if we’re looking at a taste of changes to come, this could be a good thing. A chance to stop thinking about Mass Effect 4 as the successor to Mass Effect 3, and instead think of it as its own self-contained thing.
This piece is a collaboration between Phil Hornshaw and Ross Lincoln. Read more of Hornshaw’s work here and Lincoln’s work here, and follow them and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw, @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.