Choice has always been an integral part of any good BioWare RPG, but typically in service of a dual morality system those choices come down to "the good option" and "the bad option." In the Mass Effect series, those good and bad choices delegated a set of points, Renegade or Paragon, to the player that determined whether they were a good or bad person in the game. The system was fairly black and white, and usually resulted in the player skewing one way or the other from the outset, and not deviating too far from that pattern as Commander Shepard's adventure continued.
For Mass Effect 3, though, BioWare is trying something completely different with their new Reputation System. Using the Reputation System, BioWare can reward the player with Renegade and Paragon points, and even some neutral Reputation points, but not necessarily "lock" them out of specific conversation and game options.
There's still Renegade and Paragon options in Mass Effect 3, but rather than a Renegade or a Paragon meter filling up, a Reputation meter fills with both colors of points, tallying up to certain checkpoints. Those checkpoints will help determine whether the player can make a specific decision in the game -- whether it is to go on a certain mission or to progress further in the game.
It sounds a bit confusing without seeing it implemented in game, but here's a screenshot that shows the meter on the left:
Also gone are the decisions that reward the player with both Renegade and Paragon points, instead replaced with missions that dole out general Reputation points. For example, there will be choices where completing a task will help Commander Shepard's fight against the Reapers, but they won't label him as overtly good or bad. For those choices the player will be rewarded with general points, which also go into the meter.
Along with being a determining factor for conversation and gameplay options, Reputation will also dictate how NPCs will interact with your version of Commander Shepard — how they respond to a threat, for example. On the other hand, players will no longer be able to act as the villain of Mass Effect 3, however they will be able to decide whether their Shepard is kind and understanding or cold and decisive.
While it doesn't seem too far off from what was seen in Mass Effect 1 and 2, the Reputation system in Mass Effect 3 should inject enough variation into the formula to allow players choices that don't feel all-or-nothing. Still, if achievements, or now trophies, are involved with choices, I wouldn't expect players to deviate too far from a given path.
What do you think of Mass Effect 3's new Reputation system? Do you think it will be all that different from the Renegade and Paragon systems in the first two Mass Effects?
Mass Effect 3 releases March 6, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
Source: BioWare Blog