Just under a year agoÂ Mass Effect 3 released to critical praise and strong sales numbers. Less than a week after launch however, the positive tide quickly turned into a negative tsunami as more and more outlets (including ours) released reviews based on the complete game, knocking its conclusion for failing to make sense and/or wrapping up the key themes and character arcs presented throughout the trilogy. BioWare responded by developing free DLC dubbed “Extended Cut” to clarify the ending, but it didn’t hit the mark for the already unimpressed.
Since that point in time, BioWare has made strong efforts to listen and react to community ideas and concerns and this has shaped many of the free multiplayer content add-ons over the last year. Mass EffectÂ Executive Producer Casey Hudson even asked fans what features and settingÂ they’d like explored in Mass EffectÂ 4. Now we have more evidence to suggest that BioWare will actively try to avoid directly connecting to the controversial events at the conclusion ofÂ Mass Effect 3.
BioWare Edmonton Community Manager Chris Priestly took to the BioWare forums and responded in a near-20-page thread titled ‘Mass Effect 3 Story and Campaign Discussion (Spoilers Allowed)’ where he took a defensive stance against fans assuming the next Mass Effect game currently in development in Montreal will be a followup to ME3:
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.
I do not call the game ME4 when I talk about it ever,Â becauseÂ that makes people think of it more as “what happens after Mass Effect 3″ rather than “what game happens next set in the Mass Effect Universe”, which is far more accurate at this point. Obviously fans are going to speculate content, character and story until we actually reveal details in the years or months to come as you have almost no actual details, just don’t get bogged down in “well how are they going to continue ME3…”.
The nextÂ Mass Effect, which will take theÂ God of War: Ascension andÂ Gears of War: Judgment route in dropping the number scheme for a subtitle, may very well be a prequelÂ as Hudson hinted as possible, but they did say it would beÂ respectfulÂ of the Mass Effect trilogy canon. From Yanick Roy,Â Studio Director for BioWare in MontrÃ©al back inÂ November:
“While it will be very respectful of the heritage built over the course of the first three games, with the original trilogy now concluded and the switch over to a new engine, we are exploring new directions, both on the gameplay and story fronts. You can still expect the pillars the franchise is known for to be fully intact though, including diverse alien races, a huge galaxy to explore, and of course rich, cinematic storytelling.”
It’s rather evident that to avoid the negative buzz and black mark that was the ending of Shepard’s story (really, they should have adopted the Indoctrination Theory), BioWare willÂ not be making a direct followup. They left the story and galaxy in an awkward place and the next game will either have to tell some sort of prequel or more likely, will be a spinoff with a new story set in the universe.
What would you like to see from (not)Â Mass Effect 4? Read ourÂ Mass Effect 4Â wishlistÂ for some of our ideas.
Mass Effect 4 will release late 2014 to mid-2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.