Will Mass Effect 4 Be a Disaster?
The gaming community has been bursting with life ever since developer BioWare announced that a fourth game in the beloved Mass Effect series, Mass Effect: Andromeda, was in development. There's been rumors, speculation, and leaked information all floating around out there about the game, which was, for the longest time, shrouded in mystery. This new chapter in the story is set to release in late 2016 or early 2017, and until then, us fans have time to whisper amongst ourselves.
Of course, we all want this new Mass Effect to be a huge success. But let's not kid ourselves, right? As much as the game has a chance of being a masterpiece, it has a chance of being a complete failure. Until it comes out, we'll have totally no idea how good it ended up being.
The only thing we can do to try and predict the quality of the game is to analyze what we know about it so far and dig back into the past. What rumors have been passed around about the game, and what facts? Are there any interesting people in the industry working on it in particular? How are the developers changing up the gameplay of the series?
The answer to these questions and many more, we'll search for together.
Searching for a new home
Interesting Facts We Know So Far
Well, before we get into the meat of the problems Mass Effect 4 might end up falling victim to, we have to go through and do some deep research on what the world knows about the game so far.
The gist of the story is this: we play as the commander of a mission of settlers sent by the governments of the Milky Way during the events of Mass Effect 3, while the galaxy was in the midst of the full-frontal Reaper invasion. The war was absolutely brutal, with armies demolished, species utterly ravaged, and life itself ripped mercilessly from planet after planet.
In the bleak case that the galaxy would be decimated by the Reaper onslaught, a secret group of settlers was gathered from its many species and sent to the nearby Andromeda galaxy to colonize it. Making this uncharted region of space their new home, these settlers would carry on the torch of their predecessors, and the light of civilization would burn brightly once more.
That's basically the gist of it, but there's a lot more cool stuff people have gotten to know about the game over time. Here a couple lists of facts we've collected, divided between whether they have to do with the gameplay or the story of Mass Effect 4.
- Andromeda focuses on exploration as its core concept, featuring a return of the planetary exploration aspect from the very first Mass Effect game.
- The Mako armored vehicle used for exploration in the original Mass Effect also returns, and can be customized by the player.
- Customization is also another new focus of this game, with the player being given both cosmetic and gameplay-affecting choices to make in their equipment.
- There is also a focus on colony-building; players will be able to establish different types of settlements on different planets, such as mining outposts and agricultural centers.
- There will locations in the game called Ancient and Elite Vaults, which will be special compounds full of super tough enemies that will yield great rewards once cleared.
- The game takes place in an area of the Andromeda galaxy called the Helios Cluster, and the ingame map will be four times the size of Mass Effect 3's, with around 100 planets estimated to be fully explorable.
- In addition to planetary locations, there will also be specific places in space the player will be able to explore, such as rogue asteroids and abandoned spaceships.
- There will be a new central space station in the game that will serve as a hub for quests and merchants, like the Citadel from the original trilogy.
- A modified version of the loyalty system from Mass Effect 2 will make an appearance.
- Multiplayer co-op gameplay returns akin to that from Mass Effect 3, but unlike it, will not influence the outcome of the singleplayer story.
- You will play as a human commander speculated to be named "Rider," after female American astronaut Sally Ride. Once again, the player character can be chosen to be either male or female.
- Several species from the original trilogy will be making their return, such as the Asari, Salarians, and the Krogans, and some will even be squadmates to the main character.
- In addition to that, there'll be tons of new species at varying levels of societal development. Some will be space-faring and will compete with you for resources and territories, and others will be more primitive or even animalistic.
- The main protagonist will pilot a new ship known as "The Tempest," similar to the Normandy from the original trilogy.
- There will be a mysterious race of long-disappeared aliens known as "The Remnant" whose ruins will be explorable in-game, similar to the Prothean species from the original trilogy.
From all of this leaked and tease information it's plain to see that the developers are trying to change the gameplay of Mass Effect by leaps and bounds. Or are they? Some would say that a lot of these changes seem super trivial, or that a lot seem like they're just recycling ideas we've seen before in the series.
Are these possibilities unfounded, or is this the sort of stuff we should really be worried about? The thing is, there's no such thing as being too careful when it comes to video game launches. We won't know if Andromeda is good or bad until we get to play it ourselves, that's for sure.
All we can do is wait, and think, and imagine. And that's what this article's here to help you do.
Showing off some brand new tech
The Danger of Hype
It's something we all know. It's a problem we all have. Gamers tend to blow things out of proportion - we get super excited for upcoming games, and in the weeks before a major game release, you'll see nothing on the Internet but love and appreciation for the developers and the previous games in the series.
When us gamers get excited for an upcoming game, we tend to see everything about it through rose-tinted glasses. That is, clouded by our vibrant enthusiasm, we are too optimistic, too trusting, and too unwilling to see any faults in any glimpes into the game we grasp.
In other words, we get hyped up about games. And rightfully so. Video games are an awesome artform and we are completely in our right to be excited about them, but too many video game launches have been spoiled by players being "overhyped."
We risk the danger of overestimating the quality of a game based on our preconceived notions about it, which are allowed to fester and grow thicker and wilder as time goes on.
\We tend to blow things out of proportion and, if allowed to continue as we are, we often trick ourselves into having such high expectations for a game that it could never hope to ever meet them. It's a shame, really, and something we do to ourselves. But we don't have to.
With this new Mass Effect, we can be careful. Instead of being quick to praise it and eagerly sing BioWare's praises, we should instead take a more careful and wary look into the game. It's taking a lot of risks, that's for sure.
It's changing a lot of fundamental parts of the franchise and introducing some new blood into its veins. It's saying goodbye to old characters and stories to make room for new ones. And that's something to be proud of, really. It's bold of the developers to step ahead into new territory, innovating the series from the ground up.
But we also have to admit that such innovation runs a risk. Just like your mission to explore and colonize the uncharted Andromeda galaxy in the game, this endeavor is very brave and has the potential to result in either a lot of good or a lot of bad.
We have no idea what the future holds, as it's shrouded in mystery, but all we can do is hope, and trust, that the world will deliver fortune onto us. Until then, we can't be too ready to accept what Mass Effect 4 throws at us with open arms. It's a game of wait-and-see, and there is no sense in getting over-hyped.
Be prepared for the worst
In recent years, publisher Electronic Arts has earned itself a super large amount of scorn from the gaming community for its shady and profit-seeking business practices. One of the main causes of this criticism is EA's recent inclusion of in-game microtransactions; parts of the game that require the spending of real-life money to unlock.
Not even the Mass Effect series has been spared from that before, seeing as even Mass Effect 3 had microtransactions for its multiplayer component.
In Mass Effect 3's cooperative multiplayer mode, characters, weapons, consumables, and other sorts of equipment to be used in-game were earned through a lottery system of players purchasing different levels of packages containing random assortments of such loot.
Players were given the choice between using in-game currency, which was slowly earned from playing multiplayer games, or using real-life money as payment through microtransactions.
This formed part of a recent trend by Mass Effect publisher Electronic Arts, which has gained a very bad rap in the gaming industry lately for its introduction of microtransactions into the games it publishes. Other EA series which now include microtransactions which did not before include Battlefield, Need for Speed, and Dead Space.
The reason for this recent trend is clear. According to Forbes, EA made an estimated $1.3 billion from add-on content in its games in 2015 alone, ranging from microtransactions, to skin packs, to full on DLC packages. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2016/03/03/ea-is-making-a-giant-a...) Add-on content like microtransactions have proven themselves mighty profitable, and so it looks like they're here to stay.
Many players criticized the microtransactions in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer because it gave players willing to cough up the money the edge in what was otherwise a completely random system.
While not directly earning them better equipment than players who didn't spend money on microtransactions, the use of real-life money meant that spend-happy players were able to have as high chances of getting great equipment as those who were dedicated to the game, without playing it nearly as much.
There's no reason not to suspect that a similar microtransaction system will be making an appearance in Mass Effect: Andromeda, and so we'll have to wait and see if it's been changed in reponse to the criticism players gave its previous iteration.
While they can be managed well and balanced with the rest of a game, microtransactions are also incredibly easy to integrate poorly, and can cause in a lot of imbalance and unfairness in a multiplayer game.
Players who are able to dish out the money for the bonuses microtransactions provide will relish in them, and players who don't want to spend even more money on top of the game's own price will not. Let's hope things don't get that bad in Mass Effect 4.
Rise up from past mistakes.
A Dark History
It should be of no surprise to anyone that some people are wary about the next Mass Effect. Mass Effect 3 earned itself a jaw-droppingly huge amount of criticism for its ending, which many gamers saw as a cop-out and a lackluster finale for the franchise's epic story.
Before Mass Effect 3 came out, it was teased to be the amazing, climactic, jaw-dropping conclusion to the epic RPG franchise. Marketing for the game sold this tenfold, dropping bombs of hyper-emotional trailers and adopting the tagline "Take Earth Back."
Take Earth Back
Trailers for the third entry in the franchise showcased a ravaged Earth, horrifying hordes of zombified husks, and a bleak, war-torn atmosphere soaked in despair. Players were excited to finally be able to play on the planet Earth, and to take on the Reaper invasion that had been teased throughout the entire story up until that point.
But then the game hit the shelves, and... suffice it to say, it was no stranger to criticism. In addition to the previously-mentioned backlash EA suffered for its inclusion of microtransactions in the game, players also criticized the game's final act, infamously starting a public uproar about it.
Fans of the series hated Mass Effect 3's ending so hard that they organized a political campaign to protest it, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the gaming-focused charity Child's Play in the process.
The campaign grew so large that fans were even able to contact the Federal Trade Commission, and the US's Better Business Bureau and the UK's Advertising Standards Authority even commented on the case.
The main argument centered around the complaint that the game's endings ignored the influence of the players' choices throughout the entire Mass Effect storyline up until that point, despite the fact that BioWare had promised that the series' ending would depend hugely upon the choices that players made during the course of its prolonged, epic story.
The game bore obvious signs of having been rushed, as it was rife with inconsistencies, plot holes, and the climax of the game -- the final confrontation between the Reapers and the united galaxy on Earth, which had been promoted so much in the game's marketing -- was short and unsatisfying.
Negative energy attributed to the game's conclusion flared with emotion, with major gaming news sites such as Kotaku going so far as to say the game "disrespected its most invested players" (http://kotaku.com/5898743/mass-effect-3s-ending-disrespects-its-most-inv...). Needless to say, players were wary upon the announcement of a sequel.
Initially everyone was confused about how a sequel could work, considering the ramifications of the different endings the player could choose in the third game. Eventually it was cleared up that Andromeda would have nothing to do with the previous game's ending at all, and would take place so far into the future that no influence could be taken from it.
This calmed the nerves of some gamers, but many are still wary about how Andromeda's plot is going to shape up. Will BioWare repeat the rushed and lazy development that mired Mass Effect 3 in controversy, or was that just a one-time mistake?
Will Andromeda be the confirmation of a greater problem, or will it start a new golden age for Mass Effect? Only time can tell.
A new galaxy, a new commander.
History Repeats Itself
But the final game of the original trilogy's controversial ending is not the only poorly-received part of the series that may come back to haunt Mass Effect 4. From what we've learned about the game so far, there are various things players have suggested we need to worry about.
First and foremost is the reintroduction of the gameplay aspect of using the Mako tank to explore the surfaces of planets. This was an infamous part of the original Mass Effect and was not very well-liked by players of the game, who found the Mako awkward to manuever and the environments that the crew explored bland and undetailed.
That being said, the developers of the game have fully owned up to this criticism. Addressing it, they have explained that they are working their hardest to playtest the Mako and make it light, responsive, and easy to control.
They're trying to make environments much more beautiful and complex, which is now more capable than ever thanks to the technology of current gaming platforms. But that's not all we have to worry about.
Another common complaint that has been attributed to the series is its unashamed use of fetch-quests, or very simple quests that usually only require traveling from one place to another, finding an item, and then returning to cash it in for a reward.
These sorts of quests, usually dedicated to either collecting resources or to very minor side stories, are seen as tedious filler by many players. And the thing is, these were annoying enough with the small and limited worlds of the original trilogy.
Mass Effect: Andromeda's map is going to be four times larger than Mass Effect 3's, and is sketched out to have around 100 Mako-explorable planets. It seems like it'll take a long time for players to get around to discovering them all, and traveling between them or searching for quest items sound like they'll be chores.
Speaking of repetitive features, it also deserves to be mentioned how a lot of plot ideas seem to be getting recycled in the new generation of Mass Effect.
Just like before, we are going to have a large space station serving as a hub, just like the Citadel. There is going to be an extinct race with a mysterious past called the Remnants, eerily similar to the Protheans. And just like the beloved Normandy under Commander Shepard's command, we as the new Commander will have command over our very own Tempest.
Are these abundant connections to the previous games merely the lazy recycling of past ideas, showing a lack of creativity on the developers' part, or are these proven parts of the Mass Effect formula that the developers don't think need to be changed in order to make a fresh new game?
Are all of these possible issues really concrete, and will they really show up in the final product? It'll be a challenge, but gamers will just have to wait and see.
Some things don't change.
So far in this article, I've tried to be as true to the facts and as impartial as I could. This is where that ends. You might wonder, what is my personal take on all this? How do I, in my heart, think Mass Effect: Andromeda is going to fare?
Well, let's just make it clear how completely biased toward the series I am personally. I absolutely adore Mass Effect. I invested a lot of my past into it, and I've built up a huge collection of great memories from playing the games. They're a big part of my past, and to prove it, I'll even say this.
I did not hate the ending to Mass Effect 3. I know. It's a very dangerous thing to say on the Internet. But this section of the article demands my complete honesty, and I am bid by my pride to provide that honesty.
While it was not what gamers were promised and definitely much more barebones than it ought to have been, I thought it served as a meaningful end to the original trilogy still.
So let it be known that I have complete faith in the Mass Effect franchise and in the creative people working hard behind it at BioWare. I really do think they'll produce an awesome game and a deserving sequel to carry on the Mass Effect name.
But like I've been saying throughout this entire article, there is no such thing as being too careful. It's important, I feel, that we accept the possibility that disappointment is in store for us.
There's no trusting marketing campaigns and predictions, but only anxious waiting to be done until each of us can get our hands on a copy of the game and finally see for ourselves. Until then, I will tread with caution, but also with a smile on my face, excited for new Mass Effect adventures to come.
A whole new world of possibilities.
Alright, readers of Gamers Decide. This is a complicated and controversial topic, so it's important that you weigh in and give us your personal opinions. What did you think of the article? Was it true to the facts, honest, brutal? Do you agree with its points? Do you think Mass Effect: Andromeda will be a disaster, or do you think we're seeing a masterpiece in the making?
Ready your weapons.