I love Mass Effect. When the original was first unveiled way back in 2005, it was one the game that had me most excited about the (then) next-generation of gaming. Having been a fan of BioWare previously, and in particular their genre-defining Knights of the Old Republic, I couldn’t wait to see what they could do with their own Star Wars. Three games later, I wasn’t disappointed. While there are some that disliked (and still dislike) the trilogy’s ending, for me, the Mass Effect series is the pinnacle of gaming in its short span thus far. I prefer to think of them as slices of one whole, perfect package, and now I want more. But I don’t want more of the same – I want something radical, fresh and new from this universe. And what I definitely don’t want, is a prequel.
Now, we already know that BioWare are hard at work on a new Mass Effect – although it’s largely a new development team, many heads of departments from the previous trilogy are still present and correct, which fans will be rest assured knowing. It’s tipped to be teased at this year’s E3, though worryingly, the rumours of a prequel to the original game won’t go away. Whilst some might be excited by the prospect of taking control of a team of operatives during the First Contact wars between humanity and Turians, as is rumoured, I’m very much not. Why? Simple. We know EVERYTHING that happened. There’s no mystery and very little suspense. Compared to the events of the Mass Effect trilogy, it would be horribly confined too. Furthermore, it would come across to me as a something of a kop out – I want to see what BioWare do with the Mass Effect universe after the events of THAT ending.
It’s bound to be tricky to pull off – BioWare would have to work in a variety of different scenarios to factor in the choices gamers made in the previous games; and I’d think a prequel would make gamers feel a little cheated by the series – after all, one of the main issues with the ending of Mass Effect 3 was that some gamers felt their choices throughout the series hadn’t been taken into account. Now imagine what people would think if the series ignored them completely!
Going far into the future would surely be the best of both worlds. In this instance, enough time would have been allowed to pass in order to render the majority of your decisions as mere footnotes in history, Easter eggs for the adventurous and inquisitive gamer to find. It would also allow the bigger, game changing decisions to be dealt with in broader strokes. It’d be a rather exciting prospect to see a successor that could inherit the Mass Effect narrative that we already know, to represent a possible, and continuous, future within brand new game – were the Reapers right about technology? Does humanity dominate with an iron fist? Did the Dark Matter problem escalate? Personally, I think it’s important that BioWare deals with these questions head-on.
There is, however, a potential scenario where a prequel might, might, work. A scenario where BioWare pull an Old Republic and go so far back in time into a period fans of the series know little about – a past where their actions can legitimately feel like shaping what is to come. How about the time of the original race – the Reapers creators? Dealing with the dilemma of technological convergence and domination, and turning to the Reapers to save biological life, deciding upon which fledgling species is left to survive, and to start again. It’s a truly intriguing premise.
I’m sure that BioWare know that they need to forge ahead with the future of Mass Effect – whilst the game itself is confirmed to be running on DICE’s amazing Frostbite 3 engine (I hope that it’s next-gen only so it truly can be something new) and, according to industry rumbles, the game’s scope has been expanded significantly, I hope the same can be said of the story. Be brave, be bold, be unique – don’t give us a retread of a story we already know.
– Dave Green @davidpgreen83