Given the mixed opinions over the subtle and not-so-subtle changes made to Mass Effect 2, the environment surrounding the next game in the series is a little tense to say the least. So when Mass Effect 3‘s Gameplay Designer Christina Norman spoke a few days ago on the new approach that the development team was taking to RPG stats and progression, some fans took her words to mean that the importance of individual stats and progression would be removed. Norman has since clarified her position via Twitter, explaining that the team isn’t removing any RPG progression, instead doing their best to let players see real impacts of those stats in different facets of combat.
The original interview was likely one given to OXM in which she detailed the team’s dissatisfaction with some RPG ‘stat games’ that generate specific level progression, and skills that are rarely practical in the course of a game.
The idea makes sense for Mass Effect 3, given the franchise’s shift from common RPG tropes to a much more streamlined shooter.
Mass Effect 2 was painfully light on customization, and we know that Mass Effect 3 will offer more choices in both weapons and combat actions. With freedom to choose your armor and gear, additional minigames or skills could come a little too close to the at-times clunky and overpowering inventory systems of the first Mass Effect. After all, the series has become known for its story and its atmosphere, not its expansive progression systems.
As Norman stated to OXM, the decision to remove unnecessary activities has been made to keep the focus of ME3 on combat, not getting bogged down in leveling up tertiary skills:
“We don’t want to have any meaningless behind-the-scenes stat games, where the output is very minor in combat. Every single thing you do has a real impact in the battle.”
Apparently, more than a few fans took those words to mean that any statistics or RPG progression that wasn’t directly connected to combat was being left by the wayside. That interpretation is certainly a fair one given the past changes made to the series formula, but Norman took to Twitter to convince fans that her words were being misconstrued.
Instead of removing stats that don’t show up in combat, the developers at BioWare are making more stats have an impact on the most important part of the game – the combat:
“I was misrepresented in an article recently, which made it sound like I wanted to remove RPG elements and stats from combat… What I actually said was, I wanted RPG progression to have a more meaningful impact on combat, but that was misrepresented as… “cutting rpg stats” we actually have more stats in me3 that affect combat, and the overall impact of rpg progress on combat is greater.”
There’s certainly a few RPG franchises taking a second look at how combat is handled amidst expansive upgrades and unlocked skills, with Skyrim also bringing more player choices into battle situations. With the only real skills relevant to the combat of Mass Effect being experience with specific weapon types, there’s room for improvement.
We don’t know exactly how cunning, charm, or skills as a conversationalist could have an effect on Commander Shepard’s firearm prowess, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how technical or biotic abilities could subtly change a specific player’s battle talents.
With Mass Effect 3‘s new focus on fast-paced and intense combat, Norman’s explanation just proves that we really won’t know how different the third installment in the series will be until we get our hands on it. Do you have any ideas of specific skills that could be given new meaning in combat? Any suspicions over the games or extra systems that have obviously been defined as ‘meaningless?’
We’ll find out how well BioWare pulls off the changes when Mass Effect 3 arrives in early 2012 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.