The latest and final instalment of the Mass Effect saga is due out this March and already opinion is divided over whether the proposed gameplay mechanics and features are a step in the right direction for BioWare.
Initially released in 2007 by BioWare as an Xbox 360 exclusive, with a PC port following soon, Mass Effect was an expansive and engaging RPG that focused on the exploits of Commander Shepard and his/her crew. It was highly praised for its branching dialog options, numerous side quests and freshness, and it was a firm hit for BioWare.
Critics drew comparisons with their earlier ‘Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’ games, as well as finding problems with lacklustre combat and the clunky inventory system; however, the game received much acclaim and a dedicated fan-base, so naturally when the sequel was announced, gamers were excited.
Mass Effect 2 was released in 2010 and quickly unnerved a number of gamers. Whilst it was still an RPG at heart, similar to video games like Jade Empire and Dragon Age, it was clear that it had drawn a lot of its new gameplay mechanics from the third-person cover shooters that plague the market, such as the massively-popular series Gears of War.
A nice touch included in the game was the ability to play as your original Shepard character from Mass Effect 1, and events transpiring in the original would have an effect on your story in the sequel and shape how people would react to you.
Improved graphics, a better user interface and a gripping story, whereupon if you did not act fast enough in the final stages, some of your crew members would die permanently, proved popular with the masses. Purists missed the old RPG style but recognised the freshness and innovation and the game was a huge hit, also releasing a number of well-received DLC packages.
This March will see the release of Mass Effect 3 and current gameplay footage (see video below) has raised eyebrows about where they’re taking this series. Footage from E3 2011 has shown that the game is ‘Kinect-ready’, but the actual demonstration of using this appears poor – essentially as opposed to choosing a dialogue option, you simply say it. As well as this, BioWare have announced a feature that puts any gaming purist on edge – multiplayer.
There was a time when multiplayer meant a one-on-one versus match with your friend who sat beside you, but now with the massive success (and constant revenue stream) of multiplayer games such as World Of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Uncharted, developer companies appear to be shoe-horning the feature into any and every game.
Mass Effect has always felt like a solo experience, that you are isolated and reliant on the crew that you gather from distant planets, so including a multiplayer mode just seems unusual. This announcement also appears to signify that Mass Effect 3 will signify a shift even further to the cover shooter mechanics, which could detract from the story.
Currently it’s too early to tell whether Mass Effect 3 will truly wrap up the trilogy in a satisfying and dignified manner or succumb to gimmicks. I can’t wait to once more step into the shoes of my Commander Shepard, a character I have used since the first instalment, and experience the game; however I do have fears about the franchise.
What do you think? Will Mass Effect 3 sacrifice story for gimmicks, or will multiplayer make the game seem increasingly expansive? Leave your comments below…
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