For most players, it is obvious that gameplay is king. Game sales are currently dominated by sports, multiplayer FPS, and rhythm games. Everyone knows at least one person whose game shelf is dominated by multiple “years” of sports titles or series’ of online frag-fests. For me, however, storytelling trumps everything.
This morning’s commute was quite lively for me. Not only did I get to enjoy the crazed rants of my fellow Bay Area residents, but a friend of mine shared an article with an update on the upcoming “Mass Effect 4,” which, according to Bioware, might not be the best term for the game. Community manager Chris Priestly posted on the BSN recently:
“To call the next game Mass Effect 4 or ME4 is doing it a disservice and seems to cause a lot of confusion here. We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her. That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying “well, they’ll have to pick a canon ending”. No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda. Wherever, whenever, whoever, etc will all be revealed years down the road when we actually start talking about it.”
“What Chris is saying is that thinking of the next Mass Effect game as Mass Effect 4 would imply certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games. But because we are switching to a new engine and need to rebuild a bunch of game systems, we have an opportunity to rethink how we want these systems to be going forward instead of just inheriting them from the previous games. Story-wise, the arc of the first trilogy has also been concluded, and what we will do is tell a new story set in the Mass Effect universe. That doesn’t mean that events of the first three games and the choices you made won’t get recognized, but they likely won’t be what this new story will focus on.”
It is wrong to say that, even as a long time fan of Shepard, I am totally fine with the next installment in the Mass Effect franchise not being about the beloved commander? In fact, it kind of makes more excited about the next game. It’s not that I don’t love Shepard, it’s not that I wouldn’t want to listen to another forty-ish hours of Jennifer Hale, because I would. It’s that I’ve said my goodbyes to the characters I’ve come to love, heck, two different times counting the ME3 extended cut. And, well, it was damn exhausting as a player! I’m not sure I could go back for another round. I also feel attempting to add to Shepard’s story, in sequel or prequel form, would have run the risk of ruining a good thing? Like the favorite television show which goes on a season too long instead of going out on a high note. One might not hate the season, but it sort of puts a damper on the overall quality of the show.
The Mass Efffect universe is vast in scope. There are plenty of other stories to be told on other worlds, with other characters, from the perspectives of other races. I think it’s time to let Shepard retire and see what else is out there in the galaxy. I’m really curious, and excited, to see what Bioware comes up with next!