While some of you may still be reeling from the massive casualties lost to the final mission of Mass Effect 2, BioWare’s Casey Hudson has explained that the stakes and risks have been raised even higher. In a recent interview, the executive producer of the series revealed that for Mass Effect 3, players won’t just hold the lives of their crew in their hands, but those of an entire army. Decisions made in the first two games will have a massive impact on the outcome of the final chapter, and the most satisfying and complete ending will only come to those who are willing to explore and acknowledge each and every one.

The development team at BioWare hasn’t made it a secret that players’ actions will have far greater impacts in ME3, and giving those who have stuck with the series since the beginning an even greater feeling of having crafted their own story is a sure-fire way to deliver a satisfying end.

In Mass Effect 2, players were made to see the result of their activities through lost crew members in the game’s final ‘suicide mission.’ If no loyalty missions were completed, and players chose only to race to the finish line instead of gaining the trust of their crew, they paid the price. Team members were lost, innocent civilians could perish, and Commander Shepard himself could have sacrificed his life to destroy the Collector base.

The point was made loud and clear: this game’s developers want you to explore the characters and areas of the game, not try to complete it as fast as possible. With Mass Effect 3, BioWare is looking to make that point hit home even harder.

In another installment of Hudson’s interview with PC Gamer, ME3‘s executive producer explained how that concept of player consequences has been escalated with the third game, and how decisions made in the first two entries will be returning to make choices even more complicated:

“[Deaths in Mass Effect 2] became the grade of scale of your success of the end game, and we have something similar here. You’re basically building towards greater and greater degrees of success, in terms of how you’re able to fight the Reapers. So similarly you’re going to want to do more, and be more successful, and make better choices throughout. And then that, combined with more personal or more moral choices about how to deal with things… those things will ultimately affect part of the end game, which is pretty amazing.

“I think a way to think about it is if you made decisions early on, you’ll see them affecting this. And the decisions you might want to make that go against those prior things are gonna be harder. Killing the Rachni might present opportunities in Mass Effect 3 that you wouldn’t otherwise have, but if you don’t take those opportunities and you try and do something in opposition to that, then it would be harder for you than if you work with it. Similarly with the decisions at the end of Mass Effect 2, for whether you saved the base or destroyed it.

“And so all the different things that you do, if you do a little side quest, or you go off and do a major plot, these things contribute to the war effort. If you just rip straight down the critical path and try and finish the game as soon as you can, and do very little optional or side stuff, then you can finish the game. You can have some kind of ending and victory, but it’ll be a lot more brutal and minimal relative to if you do a lot of stuff. If you really build a lot of stuff and bring people to your side and rally the entire galaxy around you, and you come into the end game with that, then you’ll get an amazing, very definitive ending.”

For players who have taken their playthrough of the Mass Effect series very seriously, this couldn’t be better news. Many games claim to continue a story with a sequel or two, but very few franchises deliver on the promise of giving players an ending that is uniquely their own. We may not have an idea of just how many important decision will return in plot-shaping ways, and which may simply offer more or less content, but the potential is massive.

One thing is clear though, that if you want to survive the war against the Reapers, and do so with a majority of your closest friends beside you, very few missions and side quests should be turned down. Given the size of the past two games, that could mean some seriously lengthy campaigns, but such is the price of a picture-perfect ending.

Up to this point the majority of the focus on past decisions has had to do with the consequences of romances, so it’s nice to hear that the Rachni, Geth, and Collector base decisions will also be returning to haunt players. The idea that the campaign will run more smoothly if past decisions are embraced, not regretted is also an interesting one, but we’ll have to wait and see how that works in practice.

How do you feel about your Mass Effect decisions coming back to haunt you? Are you excited to be reminded of the worst decision you’ve ever made, or do you hope that BioWare includes a chance to make them all over again? Leave us your worst regrets in the comments.

Mass Effect 3 is currently set to be released in the first months of 2012, for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Source: PC Gamer