Although Mass Effect 3 is a long time coming for a large segment of gamers there are some who will experience Commander Shepard's tale for the very first time. For those gamers, BioWare wants to ensure that no part of the previous two titles' narrative is lost, and plan to catch them up to speed in a very clever way.
If you'll remember, when Mass Effect 2 made the jump to the PS3, the game featured a comic book-style summation of the key events in the first game, complete with options for the player to make the critical choices throughout the game. While that might have worked for Mass Effect 2, BioWare wants to do better for this final entry in the trilogy.
Details on how exactly this "previously on" segment will occur are slim, but BioWare's Nick Clifford tells IGN it will give players a "story so far" section and will include interactions with Shepard that vary dependent on if the player has finished either of the previous Mass Effect games. In Clifford's mind, that comic book vignette included with ME 2 was passable, but it didn't carry on the BioWare trademark for compelling storytelling.
"In all honesty, we didn't do a really good job of new player orientation. If you didn't play the first game then 2 was pretty jarring for the first half hour."
Our guess, based on how Mass Effect 2, when played on the 360, bridged the gap between 1 and 2, is that players will be presented with another chance to alter their Shepard's look, and maybe to redo some of those critical decisions. However, BioWare has been promising all along that important choices made throughout the previous two games will alter how the final game's story unfolds, so giving too much leeway could be cheating the system.
Mass Effect 3's lead writer Mac Walters has also said that the game's story will be approachable enough that newcomers should have no problem following, but clearly there will be enough nods to significant moments from Mass Effect's past that a summary is needed. Just make it good, and easy for everyone — newcomers and die-hard fans alike — to follow and it will be a homerun.
How would you like to see BioWare catch gamers up to speed that might not have played the previous two Mass Effects? Would you like the opportunity to undo some of the poor decisions you've made throughout the series or does that ruin the entire experience?
Mass Effect 3 launches March 6, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.