A reader looks forward to the new Mass Effect but thinks it would be better going with a new story, rather than obsessing over series canon.
It was the 10th anniversary of Mass Effect 3 back in March and I don’t think I’m being too negative when I say that things haven’t gone well for the franchise since then. The ending of the trilogy was an absolute disaster in terms of the fan response (even though, overall, I still like the game) and Andromeda was even worse.
I still don’t understand what was going on with Andromeda, since it was so obviously lower budget than the other games and basically just had BioWare’s B-team working on it. The best explanation I heard is that EA realised that Dragon Age makes more money and since they were going through their anti-single-player phase they decided that Mass Effect was low priority.
Thankfully, the failure of Anthem seems to have been the best thing that could’ve ever happened to BioWare, as EA panicked and sent them back to work on the games that had made them famous in the first place. In fact, it seemed to have a positive effect on the whole industry, with publishers realising that live service games aren’t some secret god mode allowing infinite profits.
A new Mass Effect was eventually confirmed, but even years later we still haven’t really seen any of it and have no real idea what it is or when it’s set. The best guess seems to be that it’s a sequel but that hasn’t been confirmed as yet. So I’m going to hold on to the hope that it’s actually a reboot.
I’d say there are lots of good reasons for this, many of which would apply to any long-running series. I love the original characters, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t, but they’ve had their story, their arcs, and while it might not have ended in the most satisfying manner it did end. To continue things on is just going to end up with a Star Wars type situation where ever more convoluted reasons have to be invented for characters to appear and take part in adventures again.
The obscurity of returning characters will, inevitably, becomes ever greater, until the appeal of the game stops being the story and personalities and instead just a momentarily jolt of nostalgia as fans are expected to get excited at seeing background characters and Easter eggs instead of enjoying the plot.
This happens in all media – movies and TV are just as bad – and it almost never turns out well. Nothing is able to end and no character is allowed to die, at least not for long.
The other big argument for a reboot is that the story was not really well planned throughout the three games (it’s tempting to make another Star Wars comparison there). There’s a lot of stories about how basically everything involving the Reapers was changed at the last minute, most of it seemingly for the worse.
But the choices you made carrying through the whole trilogy also didn’t really play out the way a lot of people expected, probably because nothing like that had ever been done before and they had no idea how popular the series would be at first, and so things weren’t fully planned out.
Reboot the series though, make new characters but in similar situations, and you can make Mass Effect the ultimate version of itself. Make a sequel and you’re tied down to what’s already happened, trying to explain away things that clearly don’t make sense when it’d be better just trying to move things forward.
It probably won’t happen, I’d imagine the new game is a sequel after all, but it seems to me that nowadays people are more obsessed with canon and continuity than they are in actual storytelling. And the thing with stories is that they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Mass Effect’s ended, so it’s time to start a new story.
By reader Tribot
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