Commander Shepard rides off into the sunset with his Quarian wife-to-be. At least, that’s how I hope my Mass Effect experience comes to a close. Tali and Shepard go off into the expanses of space to find a new homeworld for the Quarian race, leaving the political nonsense of the Alliance and the strife caused by the Reapers in the dust.
While Mass Effect 3 is going to be fresh in everyone’s mind for a while to come, I can’t help but think of what the future holds for the Mass Effect brand. I’ve talked with friends about where I’d like the series to go, and about the places I don’t want to see the series go, however; I truly can see the Mass Effect brand being applied to a variety of gaming genres.
There are some incredibly obvious choices for what EA/BioWare might do with the franchise, post-Mass Effect 3 (and hopefully, post-Shepard). Some of those more obvious choices include taking the franchise in possibly the most money-grabbing direction (while also potentially the most exciting, action-wise), a first-person shooter. The Mass Effect series, as is, has been ramping up the action with each iteration, so the natural progression to a true FPS experience seems the natural next step for the series.
Now, the most interesting setting for a first-person shooter would be The First Contact War, which was a three-month affair between humans and Turians. The start of the war was due to humans reactivating a long-dormant mass relay (the primary transportation device in the Mass Effect universe), and instead of handling the situation in a diplomatic fashion, the Turians simply opened fire on the humans, thus escalating the incident to all-out war between mankind and a then-unknown species of belligerent aliens.
Perhaps most interesting in regard to exploring The First Contact War as a first-person shooter, is that it gives the player an opportunity to learn not only the history of humanity in relation to the Citadel Council (humans discover the Council, who work as negotiators for peace between humans and Turians), but also that there’s plenty of room to re-introduce characters from the current Mass Effect timeline including Saren, the main villain of the original Mass Effect, who is a prominent veteran of the First Contact War, as well as Ashley Williams’ grandfather, the first human general who surrendered to Turian invaders during the battle of Shanxi. The Normandy’s Doctor Chakwas and the Council’s David Anderson are also prominent veterans of The First Contact War, with Anderson being cited for exemplary bravery.
There’s no other company to handle this game better than DICE. Since they’re already associated with EA, handing over development of a Mass Effect FPS to DICE is clearly the smartest decision EA can make when it comes to wanting to make the best possible shooter they can. The utilization of the Frostbite 2 engine (seen in Battlefield 3) would give the game a high-gloss and visceral sheen that certainly lends itself well to the Mass Effect universe already established by BioWare. Coupled with highly destructible environments, massive levels for deep multiplayer combat, the real question then becomes whether DICE can deliver a good enough story to go with the game for single player? Battlefield 3 suffered from set piece after set piece in order to rival Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s single player campaign, however; if given the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 treatment in terms of story, a First Contact War FPS would be incredible.
Another exciting option would be a stealth-action title involving Kasumi Goto from Mass Effect 2. Controlling Kasumi as she infiltrates enemy facilities and delivers action-packed combat that’s a healthy balance of something like Metal Gear Solid and Rainbow Six is an exciting prospect. Personally, I would love to see Kasumi somehow be given Spectre status by the Council, perhaps due to bravery in stopping The Collectors at the conclusion of Mass Effect 2 or for whatever bravery exhibited in Mass Effect 3 (should she return).
This would make her a James Bond-like hero, with her game being primarily about espionage, but also give the player an opportunity to fully engage themselves in a solo adventure with a character that was well received by the community. Kasumi is smart, beautiful and a smartass, so putting her into a solo adventure seems like a perfect fit. There are some really neat concepts to play around with in turning Kasumi’s adventures into a single player experience.
The morality system established by BioWare in the original Mass Effect games could be applied to Kasumi’s adventures. As she’s a Spectre, she would be given power over life and death, as she sees fit, yet as a thief and infiltration specialist, she’s accustomed to getting in and out of places without much gunfire or bloodshed. Playing around with whether or not Kasumi decides to kill or simply incapacitate an enemy in order to achieve her goals would be a bit like the system seen in the most recent Deus Ex title, but going further with the concept, one must never lose sight of the fact that Kasumi, at her core, is a criminal.
Missions where she may have to find important intel for the Alliance or Council (or Cerberus) are all incredibly exciting prospects, however; the real choice lies in what she does with the information. Does she just act like a good little soldier and hand everything over to the Council, or does she share the intel with Cerberus for a ding against her Paragon morality, but for a lump sum of credits, allowing her to upgrade her armor, improve cooldown times and purchase new weaponry?
I think a third-person stealth-action hybrid title is an exciting prospect for the Mass Effect universe, and could be developed by BioWare themselves, as opposed to handing the franchise off to someone else. That said, there are other companies, lesser-known development teams I would love to see take a crack at delivering a Mass Effect experience (regardless of genre) of their own. As Obsidian already has experience handling a BioWare property (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2), I think having Obsidian work on a new trilogy of Mass Effect titles set after the time of the Reapers and Commander Shepard is an interesting idea. Of course, this involves a multi-year commitment from fans and the development team, a feat not easily accomplished.
Most people have already discussed how exciting an MMO version of the Mass Effect universe would be. I, personally, don’t agree, as the idea of collecting nineteen Thresher Maw teeth (one tooth from each Thresher Maw killed, surely) for a merchant on the Citadel sounds exhausting, but MMOs are huge. BioWare has one under their belt already, however; I highly doubt they’d be willing to run two at the same time. That sort of business just doesn’t make sense to me, so, if a Mass Effect MMO is a viable option, it would seem likely that a smaller company would handle it, someone like GamersFirst, who run a series of free-to-play MMOs (including the relaunched APB title, APB: Reloaded). A Mass Effect MMO would work on a variety of levels, including giving the player plenty of options of places to live (Citadel’s Presidium, for example, or perhaps some newly-constructed living space on Eden Prime?), while also providing in-game rewards for players who take on quests, missions and participate in “raids”. Eventual rewards could include N7 status from the Alliance, making the player a special forces operative essentially. Being free-to-play, micro-transactions would be a huge aspect of the game, in that players could buy additional alien races, open a store in any city’s marketplace, and other items like replica ships for decoration in their home or “historical” pieces like Shepard’s N7 helmet.
There are plenty of places to take the Mass Effect universe, post-Mass Effect 3. These are just a few of the places I’d like to see Mass Effect go, and some of the developers I’d like to see handle the transitions to those places. Hit up the message boards to talk about where you’d like to see the Mass Effect universe go, once Mass effect 3’s credits roll!