Screen Critics Shaun takes a look at the future prospects for Bioware’s Mass Effect series – asking where the series can possibly go next.
We’re a few months out from Bioware’s Mass Effect Andromeda touching down. Now that the dust has settled and fans have had time to digest the latest outing in the franchise – I find myself curious over where EA and Bioware should things next. It’s a cliché, but the next step could really be make-or-break for the series.
The decision to leave the Milky Way was huge, but it ultimately didn’t stick the landing. Critical and fan reaction to the latest game was mixed – with a feeling that the game had taken a step backwards in its development. The new cast and crew didn’t appeal across the board – while a series of bugs and glitches only served to hamper the games potential.
Crucially, the developer hasn’t committed to a trilogy of Andromeda titles. Instead offering only vague hints and suggests that the tale of that game isn’t done quite yet. That doesn’t mean Bioware won’t return to their Andromeda outing – but I’d be amazed if the paymasters at EA and Bioware don’t adjust course somewhat to get fans back on board.
Stay The Course – Go Deeper Into Andromeda
Of course continuing the Andromeda line of games is arguably the most immediate idea. That game left a number of unanswered questions and teased potential for sequels.
In fairness the setting wasn’t much of an issue. The idea behind Andromeda was a great one – humanity and other races seeking a new home in a distant galaxy. It gave a great sense of unknown and foreboding – which was given some airtime in the game itself.
It’s though debatable how much appetite there really is for a spin-off series that ultimately didn’t deliver. The Ryder family made for a poor substitution to the original Mass Effect Trilogy’s Shepard, lacking the charisma and presence that made him/her such a show stealer. Unfortunately the Andromeda games are likely stuck with the Ryder family, given how they’re so important to the Pathfinder story line.
I’d honestly be amazed if Bioware released the next Mass Effect title in Andromeda. Likely because fans won’t connect with any game that ties itself to the down-tone adventures in the new galaxy. Even if they do, Bioware would have to change things up so much that I foresee those who do like Andromeda (Yes, they do exist) being put off. Much like how some complained about Mass Effect 2 and 3’s streamlining in the name of accessibility – Andromeda’s hardcore fans may not be so happy to see the new formula being tinkered with.
Andromeda was a nice distraction, but I suspect many Mass Effect fans would be more keen on a return to the main event of the series. Speaking of….
Return To The Milky Way
Of course Bioware could bite the bullet and return to the Milky Way galaxy. The bombastic ending to the original trilogy of titles left a lot of unanswered questions – questions that were conveniently flung to the side with Andromeda’s announcement. If Bioware really wanted to get fans excited, this is probably the way to go.
Of course setting any game after the Reaper invasion would be fraught with hard choices. Chief among these would be that Bioware would have to canonize one ideal playthrough to the original trilogy – something they seem very reluctant to do. I personally don’t see this as an issue – but hardcore fans may take offence at their 100+ hour play through not being considered THE ideal way to play.
This extends to all the choices. If you found out that the “ideal” Shepard left Kaiden on Virmire instead of Ashley (You monster), it might annoy you. If this canonized Shepard bedded the sexy Liara instead of hot Miranda – gamers might not be too thrilled to hear about that in any sequel. This ignores the bigger decisions that affect the entire games universe – like do the Krogan get cured or not.
This all being said, the post-Reaper Milky Way is a hotbed for potential storylines and conflict. In a galaxy that united to take down a larger threat – the power vacuum left in its wake would make for some excellent conflict. If not on a galactic level then at the very least on more personal instances.
Focus on Smaller Stories
A way out of the above issues might be to tone the scale down. Part of Shepard’s appeal inside the original trilogy was that he was known by everyone. He could basically come and go as he pleased, because the story allowed him that. But what if Bioware threw that dynamic out the window and instead delivered a more focused story?
What if our character wasn’t the centre of the galaxy’s attention but merely a bit part player on the side. Like a bounty hunter or another Spectre (Who isn’t human) – one that actually does missions for the Council. Some of the planet descriptions in Mass Effect 2 served as great lore fodder for potential spin-off’s – and I feel Bioware has missed a trick by not going in to look closer at this potential.
Plus I think a lot of people really enjoyed the personal aspect to Mass Effect most of all from those games. Yes the grand story was epic in scope, but it was meeting the crew of your ship and making the decisions about which ones lived and died that resonated so heavily with the audience. It was choosing lovers, saving favoured crew members and having fun adventures on far-flung planets that made the games so great. The Reaper storyline felt like background noise at points (In particular in Mass Effect 2 and 3, when the game really went hard on personal relationships). These things could easily translate to a less bombastic experience.
Whatever Bioware opt to do next, I’m sure fans will dive on board regardless. The series has enough name power to overcome one minor blip (No series is safe from such a dip). It’s how Bioware respond that will ultimately determine if gamers are willing to re-invest in the series. I personally want to revisit the series as much as possible – only if Bioware can deliver the story’s that make me want to jump back in.
What do you think? Where do you think the Mass Effect series should go next?