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Monday, October 22, 2012

Where Can Mass Effect Go From Here?

In case you missed it, Bioware announced early last week that Commander Shepard, the beloved hero and central protagonist of the Mass Effect trilogy, would not be appearing in subsequent Mass Effect games. While it is no doubt a painful loss for fans like myself to see the brave Commander’s saga coming to a definite end, the sting is lessened (at least for me) when one considers all of the amazing new possibilities the Mass Effect series can explore now that it’s not anchored down by Commander Shepard and his exploits.

 Spoiler Alert!!! The following contains some pretty major spoilers for Mass Effect 3 so if you haven’t played it yet and don’t want the story ruined for you, stop reading now!!!!

So where does the series go from here? For some fans, it might be hard to imagine there was ever a time in Mass Effect lore that *didn’t* involve mankind’s struggles against the Reapers and Shepard’s efforts to stop them but a quick perusal of the series’ many lore-centric sources would serve to remind us that the war against the Reapers is just one of many such events that occurred in the Mass Effect timeline. 

If they wanted to, Bioware could take players back in time to when humans first discovered the massive warp gates known as Mass Relays and their “tentative” relations with the Turians when first the two different species met (hint: they didn’t get along so well….). The decades-long war between the Quarians and the Geth is another area they could visit as is the Krogan’s struggles against the Genophage that nearly wiped them out entirely.

If Bioware was feeling truly bold, they could even start exploring the possibilities of what happened *after* Shepard’s climactic decision at the end of Mass Effect 3 since each of them painted vastly different pictures of what life would be like for the rest of the universe afterwards. If Shepard chose to assume control of the Reapers and send them away, could they not somehow find a way to escape his control and start their tirade of galactic purging all over again? If he chose to destroy the Reapers, and all synthetic life along with them, would the rest of the universe be able to survive?

No matter where Bioware chooses to take the series, one question still begs to be asked: who would the player get to play as? Personally, I hope Bioware takes a cue from the highly successful multiplayer aspect of Mass Effect 3 and lets us create our own protagonists for the next game in the series. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer has already allowed us to play as Turians, Drell, Volus, Geth, and a whole host of other major races in the Mass Effect lore, now it’s time to take that concept one step further and allow players to not only create their own characters but also give them their own stories to tell, their own adventures to embark on.

Getting to play as some of the other races in Mass Effect would constitute more than just aesthetic appeal, it could also allow players to experience first-hand the various struggles and hardships each race has had to endure. As Commander Shepard, you could certainly feel the pain of other characters as they related their troubles to him, but hearing of a problem second-hand and experiencing it for yourself are two entirely different experiences. What would it be like to step into the role of a Geth soldier, having to watch as your Quarian creators turned on you and being forced to take up arms against them even as you struggled to understand why? How about playing as a young Krogan, your entire sense of community and honor being shaken to its core when you discovered your entire race was now sterile?

 Answering these and other questions would not only allow Bioware to tell these familiar stories in an entirely new light, they’d also allow them to further expand upon their credo of player choice that became such a driving force behind the original Mass Effect trilogy. Perhaps once the player was done working through their character’s single-player adventures, they could take those same characters online and continue the fight in a more robust and fleshed out multiplayer experience (as great as Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is, there’s always room for improvement).

No matter where Bioware chooses to take the Mass Effect series next, I’m sure they won’t let fans down. Despite all the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3’s original ending, I know deep down that Bioware has a strong sense of both what they want the Mass Effect series to be and how they want to share that vision with fans and players. Commander Shepard’s tale may be over, but the story of Mass Effect is just beginning.

Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgutopia.com and rantgaming.com

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