Why Mass Effect 3 Scares Me

Three reasons the Mass Effect 3 demo makes past statements from BioWare a bit more worrisome…

Bioware’s most popular franchise tends to conjure up some divisive opinions on the web. There’s a group of people who think the Mass Effect series is a masterpiece of storytelling, features incredibly strong gameplay, and offers a compelling world to truly immerse yourself in. Others, who also like to throw around the phrase “sell-out,” believe it is a dumbed-down action game with a side RPG elements and unlikable characters. I’m in the former category, and currently on my third playthrough of Mass Effect 2 at time of writing. However, I’ve recently become a little worried that Mass Effect 3 might send me into the latter camp…

THE MARKETING

Electronic Arts owns BioWare, thus they own Mass Effect and are the primary marketers behind the game. There are hundreds of accusatory comments stating that BioWare has sold out, that EA controls Bioware with an iron grip (despite Bioware’s own dismissal of such claims) and even insinuations that EA is Satan incarnate when Activision is napping.


“I’m detecting trolls, Commander.” 

Sure you can chalk that up to internet just being its reactionary self, however, EA has made no qualms about marketing Mass Effect 3 to a wider audience, and according to Joystiq, even delayed ME3 to adjust some of the mechanics for the larger market. Judging by the demo (which I’ll get to, don’t you worry) this is likely in reference to the added multiplayer, which IMO, plays like a slapdash Gears of War 3 Horde knockoff at best. But they’re not wrong: Multiplayer will raise eyebrows from mainstream audiences who wouldn’t normally give hard sci-fi or RPGs a try.


Rated M for MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

However, there’s also the sentiment that ME3 will “contain more action-adventure,” on CVG.com. Bioware’s David Silverman said: “It’s a natural entry point for new players: 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!”


Let’s not even get into the way ME3 is gouging players over DLC… 

Despite his generalization, the sentiment is still clear: personal relationships don’t matter compared to the threat of war. One of the most vital points of Mass Effect is to interact with the characters in this epic space opera. Silverman seems to state that this doesn’t matter. Or at least implies that character interactions and relationships may take a backseat to run-and-gunning.

THE DEMO

A lot of those aforementioned statements would’ve seemed largely innocuous, had I not gotten a chance to see them in action. The single-player demo doesn’t offer anything in the way of consequences. Shephard gets very few chances to actually fucking speak during cutscenes, but they certainly don’t change anything. Hell, you can’t even make a dialogue choice until after your Shephard has said several sentences without your input. He’s supposed to be your character, why is he acting like a typical lunk-headed action-game protagonist?


“Can we talk?” “No, apparently” 

And how does the demo compensate for the lack of invested emotions? Rather pathetically, by trying to pull at your heartstrings by killing a kid. Why is the death of one kid important in the possibility of galactic annihilation? Isn’t that kind of sentimentality really more Modern Warfare’s bag?

Gameplay-wise, it plays like a Gears-clone now. Not a bad thing, necessarily: cover feels much more fluid, and hit markers display so you know 100% that you’re making damage. However, it’s also incredibly linear and more focused on EXPLOSIONS! than real gameplay. Biotic and Tech powers seemed completely diminished since I had every type of gun to kick ass with.


FemShep’s run is a different matter, but no less troubling!

Of course this is JUST the demo. It’s not fair to judge the full retail product based on that alone, and BioWare certainly has the right to “streamline” the demo as a showcase for people who find dialog and choice boring (After all, those of us with existing Mass Effect saves are pretty much a guaranteed sell.)  But if the demo is 100% reflective of the final product, we have ever right to be worried.

THE EARTH

And we’ve arrived at my biggest problem: The decision to make the story about Earth. “Take Earth back!” the tagline reads. Why? Why should I care about Earth? For the past two games, Bioware has shown players that humans are selfish, egotistical, self-righteous, and just as flawed as all of the other species in the galaxy. Yet, humans get special billing in the finale? Yes, the game will funnel players down corridors on different planets, and see them interacting with different species, but it all appears to be in the name of saving Earth, a planet we have not visited, nor have had any reason to care about besides from the fact that, aw shit, Modern Warfare players can relate to that because they live there and I guess we should.


Is this honestly what you take away from Mass Effect? 

Sequels are supposed to expand scope, not narrow it. Mass Effect 1: the citadel comes under attack, the galactic council is in dire straits. Mass Effect 2: Human colonies are disappearing, you must find out why. And it was all to have been connected to the larger narrative: Mass Effect 3.

You know who I care about? Tali, and finding a safe place for her race to live peacefully; the complex workings of the Geth collective, as hinted at by Legion. There’s Thane, the warrior-monk whose imminent death had him at a crossroads with his violent life and his desire to see his son excel as a better man(fish). And of course, my all-around Dirty-Harry-Meets-Batman-the-Alien with whom I have carried a remarkable bromance with throughout two epic games, Garrus Motherfucking Vakarian!


C’mon, you mean to tell me you can’t market THIS?! 

I care for one human: Miranda Lawson. She becomes a fleshed out character during her loyalty mission in ME2, and her steadfast allegiance to Cerberus makes me wonder how she’ll react to Shephard mowing down waves of them after they’ve been sent to kill him.

Mass Effect 3 has me in a corner. It’s the finale to a franchise that has touched many other gamers and me in a unique way. But has that allowed EA/Bioware to abuse our loyalty, since they know we’ll buy it. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to tell: by buying it, and beating it.

The following was written by Michael Jones and has been re purposed from his blog, Culture RashFollow Michael on Twitter, or just to tell him he’s being a worrywart. 

Mass Effect 3 arrives March 6th. Pre-order though Laser Time!

Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition
-Xbox 360  
-PlayStation 3
-PC 

 


Art by jverretjr 

28 thoughts on “Why Mass Effect 3 Scares Me

  1. Nice read. Personally ive kind of lost all hype for mass effect 3 despite being a huge fan of the first two.

    Love the amount of articles recently, pleeeease keep them coming!

  2. I LOVE this article. I haven’t played the demo yet, so I can’t speak for that, but I agree with pretty much everything else said.
    The marketing for this game fucking TERRIFIES me! Pretty much all we’ve seen of game-play has been a clear Gears rip off which enrages me to no end. I love this series, but I’m one of the people who feel that a lot of the good RPG elements were lost in the second game. If this third game continues to pander to the new 3rd person shooter audience rather than its core, then it’s probably going to be my last ME game…

  3. The Kinect functionality is a pointless addition that LITERALLY NOBODY ON EARTH CARES ABOUT, but I can see why Microsoft would push for it. The multiplayer is somewhat more troubling, because it seems like you’d need to alter some pretty core gameplay mechanics to make that work. I’m really hoping that this is going to be another BioShock 2 scenario, where the multiplayer is just a lifeless box blurb (meant to attract the attention of the vacuous public) that doesn’t mean anything to the single-player.

  4. I love this article also and good ol’ Antista makes an excellent case I would have to say. I was hooked on ME 1. ME 2 I haven’t played yet but I want to so if I got ME 3 I would have my character to play as. The thing is I’m growing less interested in Mass Effect more and more each day and BioWare’s recent quality lately (DA:II) can certainly be apart of that.

    You can see EA’s claws all over this franchise and it kinda sickens me.

      1. It would have been nice to have that bit about “The following was written by Michael Jones” at the beginning, if only for grammar’s sake. Everyone thinks this is Chris’s article, because it was posted by him. Not very good form, there.

        I’ve only played the demo for ME2 on PS3, and it didn’t really thrill me, it seemed more like Uncharted than the RPG I’ve heard ME is supposed to be. This article doesn’t make me want to get 3 any more than 2, either.

  5. It’s our crazy culture. War and violence are OK, but naked ladies are the devil. EA is probably a little gun shy after the beating they took over all the “alien bewbs” in ME2.

    Also, could we get the byline at the start of the articles? I like to know who wrote it before I read it.

  6. This is a good article Chris. Admittedly, I didn’t finish the demo because it just couldn’t hold my interests. When it comes to these kinds of debates, I really do try to see different sides of the argument, but nothing EA or BioWare have shown me indicates I want to play Mass Effect 3 right away. People have already pointed out the flawed logic of the storytelling just from the damn DEMO, that there is no reason at this point for Shepard to be in a Cassandra Truth scenario.

    Also, while you have a point about how the demo is not entirely representative of the final product, this is also the kind of excuse people love to throw out when there is backlash and call me old-fashioned but the purpose of a demo is to entice a sale through demonstration. So if someone doesn’t like a demo, then the demo failed that person. It also confirms a sale from someone else.

    But whatever, I hate a lot of EA’s practices, and unfortunately for them I will not be buying Mass Effect 3 on day one. Not sure about ever though.

    And hey, while defending Earth you can totally sex up Jessica Chobot! ROLE PLAYING, GUYS.

  7. Well thought out article. I haven’t played the demo, but I’m looking forward to the game. I didn’t realize EA was supposedly pushing to dumb it down. Didn’t ME2 sell loads?

  8. I was a big fan of the first ME, and the second game disappointed me in a lot of the ways you are describing ME3. For example; I liked driving the Mako in ME1 and found planet exploration in ME2 dull, very well made, but still dull.

    I apologize for sounding like the douchebag who hated Mass Effect before it was cool to hate Mass Effect. ME2 was still a very good game, and my current view on it is through the lens of a likely-to-be disappointing sequel.

  9. The reason I’m not particularly worried:

    Marketing is marketing. EA knows that they’ve sold the game to those of us who loved ME 1 and 2. Now they are selling it to eveyone else. Of course they’re going to say that it’s a great entry point for new players.

    If the demo is showing everything the game has on offer, then I’ll agree with you, but BioWare has said that they’ve stripped it down from what it’ll be like in the finished game. See my previous point about marketing to a new audience.

    As for earth? I love earth! I’ve lived there most of my life. From what I’ve seen most of the game will take place around the galaxy, shoring up and army to come back and kick ass with anyway.

    I am so super psyched for this game, and unless they’ve turned it into a straight shooter, where none of your choices matter, I think I’m going to love. People worry too much.

    That said, the run animation is atrocious.

  10. LOVE THIS ARTICLE.

    I am currently writing a review of a ME3 product launch I went to last Friday, but I can say that from watching the demos (as well as exclusive store demos which lets you play a different one to the ones available), I pretty much agree with Michael here.

    I am slightly dissappoint but I have been wanting to rekindle my confusing feelings for Garrus for some time, hence I have been suckered into the pre-order. Also, it comes with an inflatable omniblade…

  11. Goddam I feel great everytime I enter a new online pass code for an EA game with tacked on multiplayer! Really Dead Space 2-ing this thing up “Bioware”.

  12. Again, I didn’t write this. Michael Jones did.

    And no love for that Laser Time/Mass Effect art? WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    1. Hey, I just got here! Also, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to show love for it in the fan art thread (where it also is)? Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and it’s super cool that it’s here, and I’m getting a bit off topic here.

      Anyway, I too am a bit worried about how Mass Effect 3 will turn out, but I love the Mass Effect series greatly, I have high hopes for the third, and I can’t wait until I get my greedy hands on my N7 Edition on the 6th.

  13. I was really angry about the added multiplayer but after playing the beta I’ve had a lot of fun with the mp and it has things that make it different from horde. Also the powers (from what I saw mainly in mp) are way better then the guns since 1 the guns cant really even kill a simple enemy in one clip and 2 the less weapons you carry the faster the cooldown of powers and specifically on vanguard this gives charge about a 3 second cooldown and with the new nova ability I turn up first place almost every time in terms of points.

  14. Am I the only one who thinks the marketing may be just that? Marketing. They want to introduce more people into the series who may be starting the series with this game. Why is that so bad? As for the demo, does it not make sense that the game’s demo (which is meant excite or convince people to buy the game) would be focused on representing the combat sections of the game, which were fun as hell by the way. A lot of this seems like last minute paranoia for a game that has a lot of to live up to. Will Mass Effect 3 be as good as Mass Effect 2? Probably not. But that’s hardly a criticism.

    One more thing, as someone who lives on Earth and who’s Shepard did as well, I get a little pumped when I see things like “take earth back”. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about what happens to other races, but as a human I care a little bit more about what happens to my home. Just saying.

  15. Granted I can understand the nervousness as well but I absolutely love the multiplayer in the demo. Sure they’re not going to give you a big choice reveal in the demo, that would be a plot twist and ultimately a spoiler. Anyone that plays the Mass Effect games don’t want spoilers because the game itself has such an engaging story. Earth represents the homeworld of Humanity duh.

  16. Great post, I don’t agree with everything but you make some compelling points.

    I have always wondered how much of a hand EA has had since they have taken the reigns. I was extremely disappointed in ME2’s stripping of RPG elements. Why I could armor up my team or why the talent tree was gimped got me. But what really pissed me off was the XP at the end of a mission. Why wasn’t I earning it throughout the mission. Some of these problems have also made it to the Dragon Age series.

  17. Sage words, friend.
    I’ll be honest, after I deleted my ME1 save I totally skipped over 2 and every Bioware game since (I don’t have a lot of free time.). When I found out I’d have to start fresh with Shepard in 2, I went “nope” and looked the other way. But lately I’ve been thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll come back in with ME3 and at least see the ending.” But then I played the demo last week. Where’d the… everything go? All I did was run to cover and cap Cerberus goons. It was great, but I was looking for a little more interactivity than run-and-shoot-man-with-gun. Maybe the full game’ll be okay, innocent until proven guilty, y’all.

  18. I really enjoyed the demo and look forward to the game. My only issues is the cover and fire system, maybe it is just the demo, but it felt like an eternity to return fire from cover. Other than that it was really fun. I have no problems with bugs or holes in the story because with my schedule it will probably take me 9 months to finish. It took me 7 months to finish ME2. All in all great article. That Laser Time/Mass effect art is good to. Caught me off guard, thanks LT.

  19. If the demo is representative of the final product, I would be worried, but I doubt it is. I went into that demo knowing nothing about it yet expecting it to not let me make many decisions and any decisions made would mean nothing. An important decision in the demo can spoil a sizable chunk of the game. I only wanted to get a feel for the game, not be given story or choices. I was actually a little bit worried in the second mission where you have to take care of a female Krogan since I thought that might get too into the story. The less that demo showed, the more potential surprises there can be in the final product.

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