By Michael WORKMAN
Shepard warned us the reapers were coming, but we didn’t listen. Now the fate of the entire galaxy is looking dim as the army of an unstoppable ancient machine race seeks to wipe out all life. BioWare’s hugely popular “Mass Effect” series is about to debut its third title on March 6 and it will be the final chapter in the story of the character Commander Shepard.
“Mass Effect 2” was a smash hit when it launched back in 2010 but Electronic Arts’ product manager Will Graham has announced that pre-order sales for “Mass Effect 3” have greatly surpassed their expectations. This is not surprising since BioWare in the past has only released “Mass Effect” titles on Xbox and PC but now is releasing “Mass Effect 3” on the Playstation 3 as well as the Xbox 360 and PC. This is a classic way for publishers to cast a wide net on getting a broader amount of new fans of the series as well as long time veterans who played the first “Mass Effect.”
However, EA made a move that raised eyebrows from the PC community by only allowing “Mass Effect 3” to run on EA’s digital distribution program Origin (formerly EA store). This could complicate the experience for gamers who bought the previous two “Mass Effect” titles from retail or through Valve’s digital distribution program Steam. “Mass Effect” has allowed players to import their saved games from previous play-throughs in order to have a unique story experience based on the player’s decisions in the older games. EA has reassured critics saying that the saved files will still be recognized regardless of how the first two titles were purchased.
Like many other BioWare titles, “Mass Effect” gained a huge fan base not only for its gameplay but for its deep and engaging story. Yet one of the big draws to the “Mass Effect” story is how it is not as predetermined as other games. The players’ choices cannot only affect the game at the present but also drastically change how events unfold for future titles like “Mass Effect 3.”
BioWare claims that “Mass Effect 3” will have hundreds of variables from the previous games that ultimately decide what sort of ending the player could get. An example would be if the player spent a lot of time exploring and generally helping people in need, they might be rewarded by all those people who needed help. On the flip side, if the player spent less time exploring and not helping people, they may find themselves in an awkward position when they need help to fight the Reapers.
Another way the plot could be drastically changed is the events that took place in “Mass Effect 2” in which the player’s squadmates could be permanently killed off. In “Mass Effect 3” this could be the difference between an uphill battle with a less satisfying ending and an easier time with an amazing ending. The developers are encouraging players to try to explore more and be more successful so that they have a much more epic and decisive ending.
Many are sad to see the conclusion of the adventures of Commander Shepard, but developers might be dropping hints that this is not the end of the series. When asked if this will be the last “Mass Effect,” BioWare says it’s the last “Mass Effect” that “features Commander Shepard,” so many are hopeful that another “Mass Effect” could be somewhere down the road.
We can only hope.