The dust has settled from the storm of controversy that followed the epic release of Mass Effect 3, and the multitude of changes brought with the Extended Cut DLC. But now that we’ve had time to come to terms with exactly what did and did not take place in BioWare‘s end to the trilogy, we can’t help realizing that several loose ends we’d hoped to see tied up simply were not.
Despite what the extra end content brought, and what the newly-released Leviathan story DLC will expand upon, we’re still scratching our heads on a few key issues.
It would be unreasonable to think that the development team would answer every single question raised in Mass Effect 3, since the entire Mass Effect series has explored more than a handful of elements of science fiction and galactic history. But it’s not just the vague answers or avoided resolution we take issue with, but the extremely promising aspects of the fiction that were forgotten altogether.
There are sure to be more than just these nagging plot threads that the franchise’s fans still cling to, but we’ve narrowed down the areas we personally feel could have used a bit more attention.
1. Element Zero/Dark Energy
Anyone who was more than a little interested in the science fiction technology behind the game’s universe likely realized one thing before long: science fiction isn’t what BioWare was really interested in. Despite naming their gaming franchise after a scientific phenomenon known as the ‘Mass Effect,’ the means through which ‘Dark Energy’ is harnessed to allow Faster-Than-Light travel were quickly cast aside in favor of blockbuster action.
For science-fiction fans, the type of technology that was made possible by the titular phenomenon was some of the best seen in a video game in years. By imparting infinite mass to infinitesimal pieces of metal, the need for large and cumbersome weapon ammunition was gone. The plausible conceit allowed soldiers to fire their weapons ad infinitum, worrying only about their weapons overheating. The need to scrounge the battlefield for ammunition or clips was happily alleviated, and all because of the science fiction the developers had come up with.
Until Mass Effect 2 came along, and turned those weapons into… guns. Guns that need clips to function. For Mass Effect 3 those guns got a lot cooler, but this was just one way that the science fiction was used to distinguish itself from other futuristic shooters, rather than serving as grounds for exploration. As a result, the impact that the harnessing of ‘Element Zero,’ a chemical element outside of our own periodic table was only seen in military applications. We’re not saying that the games should have been less exciting or removed from the battlefield (not right now anyway), but it’s hard to think that the writers showed the most innovative aspects of their universe.
Physicists and technological innovators could line up to provide insights into just how massively human life could be affected by the discovery of an element with zero Atomic weight. How many incredible catastrophes could take place when traveling faster than the speed of light? How would Earth’s societies function with that kind of power at their disposal? These were issues that might normally be explored in the extended novels as well, but the original game’s interest in elements of life not being attacked by bullets or grenades faded quickly. As a result, the promise of the ‘Mass Effect’ was never really explored to the extent that we would have liked.
Nor to the extent that the writer of the first games, Drew Karpyshyn would have liked. He’s even gone on record saying that the original series was supposed to be all about dark energy, with the Reapers once living beings that were wiping out sentient life to keep dark energy from destroying the entire galaxy. Biotics and advanced travel would send dark energy out of balance once galactic civilization got too large, demanding that it be purged to prevent annihilation. Ultimately these building blocks proved fruitless, and we can’t help but feel that it shows.