For those of you who may not be among the most dedicated of Mass Effect fans, it may be difficult to think of anyone who didn't love the critically-hailed Mass Effect 2. While the first in the series was an undeniable nod to BioWare's RPG roots, the follow-up was a far more refined shooter that many fans weren't expecting. Still, the story of the series has kept gamers patiently waiting for the chance to finish the fight next year. With Mass Effect 3, the developers need to deliver a game that is satisfying both to long-time fans and first-timers, and if recent statements are anything to go on, the hardcore fan base may not be happy with the 'balance' the game has struck.
We won't let anyone accuse us of being Mass Effect 3 skeptics, since we agreed with many that Mass Effect 2 was a spectacular game. Oh, and before its release date delay 2012, Mass Effect 3 was chosen as Game Rant's most anticipated game of 2011. There's no denying that the game was deserving of its triple-A status, and the developers have since come forward to acknowledge the various ways that typical RPG elements were removed completely. They've been promising that new customization will be on tap for ME3, so there's no need for fans to lose faith.
With Mass Effect 3 carrying the momentum of two financial and critical successes, and set for a simultaneous release across the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, the potential for this game to eclipse the previous two is high. But with so many new players added to the mix, how can a development team make a compelling narrative that also carries more significance for players who've spent over 100 hours in the game world already?
In an interview with CVG, BioWare Marketing Head David Silverman explained that finding a balance wasn't easy, but has been done before. While the Star Wars saga technically began halfway through the six-part story, audiences didn't need the backstory to enjoy the climactic battles. With Mass Effect 3's plot being all about war, Silverman doesn't think it will be a problem:
"What we're trying to do with Mass Effect 3 is that it's a new beginning for the series. It's probably a natural entry point. Given the fact this is the beginning of an all-out war with this ancient alien race. We've been foreshadowing this war with this race that's been dormant for 50,000 years. Well now they've finally woken up, launching their full scale invasion and trying to wipe out all life as we know it. It's a natural point for people to jump in.
"To use that Star Wars analogy, when you started on episode IV, you didn't realise you were missing anything, right? There was the Death Star, and there was the empire; they were attacking and Luke Skywalker was going in to take 'em down... You didn't need to know that there three movies before that setting up who Darth Vader and Anakin were. It's kind of a similar thing. In ME3, you're going to start the war and end the war in the same game. It's pretty self-contained."
From what we've seen of the game, players who are unfamiliar with the series are likely to be pulled in within the first minutes. Fans of ME1 and ME2 will enjoy seeing characters that they've had past experiences, and even romantic relationships with. While BioWare has promised that those past decision will have consequences, that doesn't mean the drama and story can't be entertaining all on its own.
But for those of you hardcore fans who were hoping that your Mass Effect 3 playthrough would be profoundly more meaningful than a newcomer, you may not want to hear Silverman's position on the balance the team has found:
"We've really struck a great balance. Obviously, if you've played the game before you'll see things that apply to you... And even if you've played the games multiple times before - Mass Effect came out almost eight years ago - you're not going to remember all the details from when you played that game, right? Even I can't recall everything that happened to me when that came out in 2007. It's human nature. We're not Rain Man...
"I think this is definitely the best chance we have in the series to really break out and go truly blockbuster. It really is a natural entry point for people: giant alien race launches all-out war, you have to rally the forces of the universe to counter and see if you can take them down. That's pretty clear. You don't need to be like: 'Well, what about when I had this love affair?' It's like, who cares? It's all out war!
"New people will get it, but existing fans will see the stakes being raised. It will still have levels of nuance - I don't want to spoil anything - but you're definitely going to be seeing things that you'll be like: 'Oh, I remember that!'
Since the established fan base doesn't need any more reason to get hyped for the game's launch, it's players who have been somewhat intimidated by the size and scale of the series being targeted by statements like these. And for those who have been thinking of hopping in for Mass Effect 3, it's good to know that the game will be just as satisfying.
That being said, these comments will likely be some of the worst things a hardcore, RPG-loving, emotionally-invested Mass Effect player could hear. Serious choices carrying lasting impact have become the trademark of the games, and most fans are already imagining how their past decision will change the face of the coming battle.
Even if Silverman is exaggerating, the idea of the highly-touted choices amounting to little more than after-the-fact nods and reminders isn't going to go over well with those fans who are still longing for a deeper RPG. Everyone will have to reserve judgment until the game is released, and we hope that BioWare can bring the series to more fans than ever before. But hopefully not at the expense of those who helped get them here.
Do you put much weight into Silverman's comments, or do you think that BioWare plans to make the game much more satisfying for those of you who have stuck with the series since the start? Feel free to leave us your own thoughts in the comments.
Mass Effect 3 will be making dedicated and new fans happy - hopefully - when it's released for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 6, 2012.
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