Over the past few years BioWare has become synonymous with shifts in player paths and abundance of choice, most recently building their Star Wars MMO on the idea. The most successful exercise of the concept has unquestionably been Mass Effect, and the possible outcomes and personal relationships of Mass Effect 3 are looking to be even more varied than before. From the fate of the galaxy to the date of Shepard's love life, the developers are promising that the chance to craft your very own story has never been greater.
Mass Effect 3 definitely looks to be improving the combat aspects of the game, from more maneuverability in combat to more impressive class abilities, but the story has got to be what is keeping fans excited. BioWare is obviously thinking along the same lines, as they've made it clear that finishing this story is their top priority.
While fans are likely as disappointed that this game will be the end of Commander Shepard as they are eager to see it come to fruition, the closing of the trilogy brings more opportunities for the series' writers. Executive Director Casey Hudson explained to GameInformer that even though Mass Effect 2 was able to carry over hundreds of decisions from the first game, the third will have much more impact.
As a result, the list of possible conclusions is longer than ever. For fans who felt that Mass Effect 2 made past decisions extra troubling, you'll want to get ready for even more repeat playthroughs:
"Yeah, and I’d say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don’t have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.
"It’s more like there are some really obvious things that are different and then lots and lots of smaller things, lots of things about who lives and who dies, civilizations that rose and fell, all the way down to individual characters. That becomes the state of where you left your galaxy. The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them."
With over 40,000 lines of dialogue written so far, it isn't hard to see how these claims could be true. Mass Effect 3 may have a plot of galaxy-wide conflict it's nice to see that the individual characters and relationships built over the series matter just as much. Personal disputes and love triangles might not seem to be as important as the fate of mankind, but when a player has spent over 100 hours with a story so far, the significance of those experiences can't be taken lightly.
Hudson seems to realize that, and the team is counting on player investment to make the payoff even greater. Grand stories and satisfying endings are all well and good, but apparently BioWare believes that nods to past game events and missions are just as important:
"It’s narratively complex, but the other part of what’s really neat about it is it’s not just a system. It’d be a lot easier to develop something like this if it were built more as a system, and you saw characters that technically did things and responded to different situations, but what’s really cool is when you see that a character remembers something that you did, and their feelings are hurt...That’s something that I think is really cool. That’s a lot of what we’re doing right now, just getting in as many of these last little magical moments for characters.
"Because interactive storytelling is still kind of new, there are neat things to try. One of the things we’re trying in Mass Effect 3 is the idea that we can let you feel something that is part of that character’s experience versus strictly getting you to react to things that you see and experience. We’re trying to tell a little bit of the story Shepard would feel and seeing if the player feels that as well. You saw that on the Earth mission, and you see it throughout the game. It’s insight into how Shepard feels. I think that’s going to be one of the things people remember."
Those are certainly lofty goals, and many of the same claims were made about the decisions carried over to Mass Effect 2. Those never amounted to much more than references or extra lines of dialogue, but it's hard not to be optimistic about the trilogy's climax. Unfortunately that might mean that the romantically adventurous Commanders out there will have some arguments ahead of them, but so be it.
Are you convinced that BioWare will provide a seemingly unlimited amount of outcomes for ME3, or are you just hoping for a few key choices to obsess over? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Mass Effect 3 will be released on March 6, for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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