Dreams For Mass Effect’s Future, Part One

Ever since Mass Effect 3 ended people have speculated on the future of that franchise, and I’ve had my own list of wishes and questions about where it could go. I’m not gonna go over questions like “sequel or prequel?” here. I’m just gonna focus on one of my main disappointments with the initial trilogy that I don’t expect to be rectified in the future.

And that disappointment is how we never got a true sequel to the first Mass Effect. Not in the mechanical gameplay sense anyway.

The original Mass Effect is the perfect example of deeply flawed execution of a game design template that had a lot of potential. That potential of a modern space RPG wasn’t really explored in the second and third games, where BioWare tried to make shooters to court a more mainstream audience.

The Mako was difficult to control (at least on Xbox 360), the inventory system was horrendous, planetary surface exploration was dull, as were many extra locations, and the combat looked like Gears of War but was still stuck with RPG roots. The thing is, I still enjoy the first game’s gameplay the most because the complete package still created enough of that space RPG, even if it was a flawed one. I really like the idea of what it tried to do, and I expected the sequels to deliver on that.

And some people complained when Mass Effect 2 simply got rid of a lot of the trouble areas of the first game instead of improving on them. Why couldn’t BioWware just make a better inventory system (even a rip-off of Dragon Age’s inventory would’ve been a huge improvement) instead of scrapping it? Planet scanning is even duller than driving across a square mile of flat land, and the surfaces you did explore were pretty much just linear paths. In Mass Effect 3 they were literally the multiplayer maps.

And that planetary exploration is actually what I miss the most from the first game. I like to think of the random planets, bases, and ships you explore in the first Mass Effect as basically the random caves and dungeons of an RPG, just in a space setting. All BioWare had to do for the sequels was make a better Mako and maybe try to give the locations a bit more polish.

If BioWare is even thinking about planetary exploration for future games, maybe today’s tools are better than what they had in 2007. If they can pull off a good open world for Dragon Age Inquisition, why not Mass Effect? What if procedural generation tools are better today than they were seven years ago?

But of course we know better. We know BioWare is going for action game fans now. The action game focus is ever-present even in the Inquisition videos they use to try to placate RPG fans. Maybe they’ll take the same approach to Mass Effect — actually try to offer a deep RPG and a twitch action game at the same time, but trying and succeeding are two different things.

The upcoming space game I’m most interested in is No Man’s Sky. Can a four-man team really give us a true galaxy to explore? If they can, what could a team of hundreds with a massive budget accomplish?

BULLETS:

  • The current Humble Bundle is for several Image Comics digital trade books, all DRM-free. I’ve been checking them out and they’re really good so far. East of West is predictably a western, but is extremely fantastical in the comic book way with heavy sci-fi and occult-ish themes. Fatale looks like it could be a pretty good noir/horror thing. What I like about it is that even though it has obvious horror and occult themes, they aren’t all that overt. Chew might be my favorite that I’ve read so far — funny with an interesting detective story. It’s set in a world of chicken prohibition and a militarized FDA. Really appreciate Image for dropping all its DRM. Meant I could just drop the comics into my preferred iPad app for a road trip without having to worry about synching.
  • That “Project Beast” thing has me on the edge of deciding to buy a PS4.
  •  How well does TowerFall play on an arcade stick?
  • Gunhound on Steam is out of left field. I’d been eyeing the PSP version on PSN for a while.
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