Last Thursday BioWare’s Casey Hudson tweeted that preliminary work has begun on a “completely new” Mass Effect game and he asked fans what they’d like to see in it. My immediate response was “a decent ending would be nice”, because I still have flashbacks to that god-awful original Mass Effect 3 and use sarcasm as a shield to hide my pain (BioWare’s respectable attempt to fix it has made the agony much more bearable). My not-so-immediate response was “can we please have the Mako back please pretty please please please?” because I’m seemingly the only man in the galaxy who liked that surly little vehicle.
My second wish may be granted. In a post on the official BioWare blog the company’s Montreal studio head, Yanick Roy, confirmed Mass Effect 4 (for lack of a better name) will use DICE’s spiffy Frostbite engine. Frostbite as we all know is the engine that powered the vehiculartastic Battlefield 3, a game with tanks in it. It had guns and other stuff too but I mostly remember the tanks from all that lush PC footage they showed off at E3 2011. And since the Mako was basically a gravity-defying tank I expect to see one in this new Mass Effect game or by the Outer Gods I’ll bloody well have some stern words to share.
The only other thing Mr Roy is saying right now is that with Shepard’s story done and dusted, and a spiffy new engine to use, the team are “exploring new directions, both on the gameplay and story fronts.” Coupled with a statement the new game will be “very respectful of the heritage built over the course of the first three games” and I’ve got an FPS alert klaxon blaring in my head right now. And don’t tell me you don’t suspect as much yourself. Come on, Battlefield 3 engine? “New directions” in both gameplay and story? Tell me that doesn’t make you a mite suspicious. I’ll come out and say it if you won’t: my money’s on a first-person Mass Effect.
That’s not necessarily a bad or terrible thing however. Skyrim and Deus Ex, to name but two examples, have proven you can have fulfilling RPG experiences without staring at your avatar’s backside the whole game. How many of you wanted to get a proper eyeful of the glorious Citadel’s Presidium Commons area without Shepard’s head getting in the way? I know I did. Even if ME4 ends up being a more…shall we say “traditional” FPS that’s not necessarily a terrible thing either, as this footage of an abandoned Mass Effect FPS prototype shows. Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer was surprisingly fun too. Besides, this new addition to the Mass Effect universe also reportedly incorporates some systems developed for Dragon Age III and that was still an RPG the last I heard.
The best case scenario would be a new Mass Effect retaining the sort of character customisation, interaction and 99% of the story that made the original trilogy so enjoyable, and just happens to be viewed from a first-person perspective. Ideally one that also brings back some of the planetary exploration elements from Mass Effect 1 and improves on them. One of my favourite things about Mass Effect 1 was being able to step out of my beloved Mako, onto the surface on an alien world, and just stand there gawping at the horizon like a lost tourist. Not during a mission or while hunting for minerals either. I’d pick a random planet, land and then drive to a nice spot to just enjoy the view.
BioWare also promise we can still expect diverse alien races, a galaxy to explore and “rich, cinematic storytelling”, all of which I’m totally up for regardless of my perspective in-game. A Mass Effect game where you can be your own completely unique character instead of a somewhat-defined protagonist is potentially quite interesting, even if that might mean the galaxy ends up being saved by a freakishly deformed mutant called “xXSpaceCaptainBumchops420Xx”.
Just don’t let Casey Hudson write the ending on a napkin after binging on tequila, The Matrix Trilogy and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, okay BioWare?