5 Reasons I’m Nervous About Mass Effect 3

5 Reasons I’m Nervous About Mass Effect 3

I, like so many other video game enthusiasts, am something of a Mass Effect fan. I love the stories, I love the characters. I love the music, I love the constantly improving gameplay, I love my many Shepards. I even love the lore, convoluted and prone to satire though it may be.

But if there’s one things that fans of a series like Mass Effect like to do, it’s fret over the quality of the next iteration. Which is what I’m gonna do right now.

Sure, Mass Effect 2 was an improvement over the original in many ways, but it also lost some of the first game’s funky sci-fi charm. On top of that, I’ve seen several things about the upcoming game that have me worried about its potential for stink-itude.

My feelings are complicated, as I suspect are many of yours. In fact, they’re so complicated that I’ll be following this post with a parry and reposte in which I’ll list the reasons to believe that the next game will be fantastic.

But for now, let’s get our worry-beads out and ready our hands for some wringing.


That Lackluster E3 Showing

I, like many other folks, went into BioWare’s E3 2011 booth expecting to be wowed. At the E3 presser, we’d seen a massive, guns-blazing action setpiece. It was impressive, but was quickly dubbed “Gears of Mass Effect” by many in attendance.The more intimate setting in BioWare’s private booth would let us see something with more subtlety, to give us a sense of what the game is really all about, right?

Well… we actually just got a quick series of action sequences featuring Shepard on Earth fighting alongside Captain/Representative Anderson. The action seemed fine, but nothing mind-blowing. And then we got it: The Scene.

While moving through a soon-to-be-destroyed building, Shepard comes across a small child hiding in an air duct. Instead of expressing horror at the sight of this weird mini-human (remember, there hasn’t been a single child in a Mass Effect game up to this point) Shepard talks to this kid, and tries to coax him out of hiding. Eventually the kid runs away.

After some more fighting, Shepard sees the child again, this time getting onto an evacuation shuttle. Hooray! But then, the Reapers shoot down the shuttle, killing the (apparent) only child in the universe! Shepard gets a look of steely determination in his eyes. Soon, it will be Payback Time.

I don’t want to beat a dead trinketmonger here, but man did I ever not like Dragon Age II.

I sincerely hope that the rest of this game isn’t so obvious and manipulative. I have been known to bawl like a baby during emotionally engaging dog-food commercials, but the idea of crying after seeing this sequence is simply beyond me. I’ve always enjoyed Mass Effect for its morally ambiguous characters and conflicts, its well thought-out background, and its slightly campy, Star Trek vibe. This was some straight-up Michael Bay crap, and I think that the series can do better than that.

Dragon Age II

I don’t want to beat a dead trinketmonger here, but man did I ever not like Dragon Age II. It showed that BioWare, as a studio, is capable of screwing up a great franchise by messing with too many of the things that made it good in the first place. Sure, Mass Effect isn’t Dragon Age. The teams are different. But hey, BioWare still put their name on it, so the fiasco that was Dragon Age II makes me nervous nonetheless.

The Promotional Campaign

Every promotional trailer or clip I’ve seen for Mass Effect 3 makes me a bit nervous. It’s just one huge battle on top of another. They always make me feel like I’m watching an ad for something that is just totally un-related to Mass Effect as I know it, and never show off any of the things that I actually like about the games.

That Sub-Par Final Piece of DLC

I did not care for The Arrival. The March-released downloadable action-fest that played out with Shepard tracking a missing deep-cover agent through Batarian space. In particular, it really blew it at the end. Rather than giving players a choice about the big final decision, Shepard is forced to commit a heinous act, in theory to set up the beginning of Mass Effect 3. It was a weird bit of linear storytelling, and didn’t feel very “Mass Effect” at all.

Not Sold On Multiplayer

I understand that boss man Totilo believes that multiplayer won’t ruin ME3. And I don’t doubt his assessment. But I’m not convinced that it will significantly help it, either. I’m simply not sure that I’ll be at all interested in playing what amounts to Gears of War 3‘s horde mode dressed up in Mass Effect 3‘s somewhat stiffer combat. And while I’m not sure I’d go this far with it, there is an argument to be made (that certainly has been made) that each person who works on ME3‘s multiplayer could have spent their time and talent making the single-player that much richer, deeper, and better.


More Reapers ≠ A Good Thing

Sovereign, the big bad at the end of Mass Effect was a fantastic bad guy. He/It existed at the periphery of the story, a fleeting image on a computer monitor, a glimpsed shadow in a fragmented Prothean vision. When Shepard finally came “face-to-face” with Sovereign in the base on Virmire, it was a chilling encounter. I loved it. The final battle against Sovereign was an all-hands-on-deck space battle involving the entire Citadel fleet, with Shepard on the ground making calls about how to engage and whom to sacrifice. It was dramatic, and it was a thrilling climax to the story.

I was far less interested in the bad guys in Mass Effect 2 — the collectors had no clear personality, just an odd voice that kept saying “Assuming Control.” The eventual reveal that they were merely enslaved Prothean drones made them feel even less menacing. And worst of all, the final boss fight agains the giant T-800 Reaper was silly, overblown, and entirely anticlimactic.

Most of the promotional demos of Mass Effect 3 have shown Shepard fleeing and going head-to-head with reapers. But epic boss fights against giant robots aren’t actually what I like about Mass Effect. And the one straight-up boss fight the series has so far has been a series low point.

So, those are some reasons I’m nervous about Mass Effect 3. But even if I were 10 times more freaked out, I’d still have a lot of hope — this is, after all, a terrific franchise that has earned a lot of love over the past four years. In a little bit, I’ll share some reasons to be hopeful, after all.


  • While I can understand Kirk’s misgivings here, I completely disagree with the last point. I think that BioWare did a great job of conveying the horrible fate of the Protheans to us, becoming the Collectors, enslaved by the Reapers. Remember: if we lose, this is us next! It maybe didn’t make the Collectors more mneacing, but it presented a more clear and resent danger to us than Saren and his Geth soldiers in ME1.

    Sovereign, yes, was a great villain in ME1 but remember we didn’t fight him directly. We had the fleet to that for us because HE BIG. HE HUEG LIKE XBOX. The Arrival DLC was kind blah, but it did set up the beginning of ME3 and that’s all it is meant to do. IT IS GAME TIME. THE REAPERS ARE HERE. DO SOMETHING.

    Ok, the scene with the kid and the shuttle was a bit narm, but ME1 and 2 had moments like this and I expect the stuff we say in the trailer to be largely like the destruction of the Normandy at the beginning of ME2. It’ll set the scene but be a linear path of shit blowing up just to kick things into gear. I have confidence the rest of the game will be fine.

    The multiplayer is an optional extra, but I do plan to try it out – maybe on a second playthrough though, since I want to take a crack at the best possible ending with my best-possible-ending savegame and feel like I did it making the right choices in-game, not grinding my ‘galactic readiness meter’.

    Maybe I’m being optimistic without cause, maybe I’m just not tainted by the apparent shittacular DA2 (I haven’t played either of the Dragon Age games). But I think ME3 is goona be just fine.

    • What I didn’t like about the Collectors being old Protheans was that ME1 set the Reapers up as beings that had no use or desire for ‘Life’.
      Reapers were all “We are coming to obliterate all life that has reached a technology level capable of Mass Relay use because we believe you to be nothing more than a plague”

      Then ME2 went and changed them from that to “We want to capture all humans to absorb you into our form”.
      This stops them from being a big, merciless, immortal and damn near invincible threat which knows itself to be highest form of existence, and changes them into a flawed species that must absorb humans to make themselves better, because humans are better than them. Bullets can also kill them.

      And to me, the Protheans, (one of) the most advanced civilizations ever, capable of single-handedly spreading through the universe (something the joined species of the ME universe haven’t even accomplished), being wiped from existence, is more threatening to me than having them turned into zombie slaves.

      • You don’t think an entire civilisation being enslaved is a worse fate than simply being wiped out?

        Frankly I think that showing that the Reapers need the Prothean/Collector husks just tells us that Sovereign was a liar. It gives us hope that this fight will be winnable. Might even make us cocky.

        How the battles actually play out is what will make or break this game.

        • Oh, it’s probably a worse fate for the Protheans. The Collectors are just beings made from cloned>cloned>cloned DNA of Protheans, right?

          To me a race needing to take slaves to do their work or strengthen themselves seems less powerful and intimidating (ME2 Reapers) than one that can convince another race to join them to cause their own demise (ME1 Reapers) which is less powerful than one that can wipe out everything because they see it as useless.

          Saren kept saying ‘the only way to survive is to become slaves’, while Sheperd kept saying ‘no, they’re gonna kill us all anyway, but maybe we can stop them if we all work together’.
          ME2 made Saren right.

          I think the weakness should be the *united* races of the universe can prepare against them with the warnings, rather than the Reapers aren’t as strong as Sovereign said, and that they need to collect life forms to harvest (for making new Reapers, or armies).

          • See, I think the whole point of ME3 is that it will take the united strength of the entire galaxy against the reapers, and I think they ARE all as strong as Sovereign.

            True, ME2 made Saren right… well, he’d know, wouldn’t he? He’d been indoctrinated. He had sold himself into Reaper slavery in the hopes of living out the apocalypse – the only other race to do so (as far as anyone knew) was the Keepers who maintained the Citadel for the Reapers, and they were pretty much just products of Reaper tinkering/cloning as well.

            Sovereign claims they need noone, he/she/it was clearly lying to intimidate Shep. I don’t think this will make it ‘easier’ to beat the Reapers any more than it was ‘easy’ to defeat Sovereign. Soverign needed Saren, right? He was still a huge threat. There’s no reason to assume other Reapers will be any less so.

      • The problem with the collectors was …. Their name! …….Collectors! how stupid and boring. As soon as I heard it in game I didnt care about the story at all. Fingers crossed they don’t call enemys in me3 the “destroyers”

  • Good read, I agree.

    It’s similar to other games that have spawned multiple sequels, the original charm gets totally lost in the Michael Bay-esque ‘splosions… So to speak.

  • I’m concerned because lets face it, there aren’t very many good gaming trilogies… not now a days anyway.

    Secondly, Bioware are obviously being heavily influenced by EA. For example, DA2 was a crappy console game, ME2 was pushed to the PS3 and ME3 is being released on all consoles simultaneously, Bioware are doing Mutiplayer and EA’s stance is “Multiplayer all the things” and ME3 will be receiving a mobile game at some point… all signs that point to Bioware being renamed BiowEAr.

  • It also worries me that now everyone is Dragon Age II romance ready or so it seems. It seems cheap and lazy I just don’t want another awkward Anders moment. As for the game-play we’ve seen, it looks dodgy. Why doesn’t Shepards bum move when he runs? What is with the reloading animations, will Fem-Shep still move like she’s a rugby player ready to scrum? I guess we will soon find out how bad it’s going to be, I don’t hold out much hope but it can’t be any worse than Uncharted 3.

  • I understand the hesitation at this point but clearly, part 2 improved the combat against enemies that part 1 had. When part 1 came out, it was criticised that the shooting mechanics were too simple. Part 2 improved them immensely. If part 3 can improve them again, bring it on. Part 2 already removed some rpg elements in refining the skill tree true, but if you go back and play part 1 again, take off the rose coloured glasses and you’ll notice that the multitude of skills really did bugger all for the game. Only a few core skills actually affected the game in a proper way. Thats not to say part 2 improved it by simplifying it, but don’t hold part 1 up as a holy grail of perfection in its rpg’ness when its not, it’s surely no PLANESCAPE: TORMENT.

    Part 3, is following on from 2 as an action game and probably will dumb it down a little more in favor of action, so be it. But if it carries on the story choices, the character development, the multitude of options and yes, even quality DLC, I’m up for it. ME2 shone above most others because you could tell that despite its flaws, it was still a quality product above most others.

  • I Agree with parts of the article, but not all of it. I too am nervous for it, only because I love the ME series so Dearly. The point I agree with you on the most is multiplayer. It sounds like they may have done a pretty good job of integrating it into the ME universe, but I still feel the need to ask: Why? As you said every minute of manpower spent on making the multiplayer content could haqve gone in to working on the single player campagin… whether that means tweking the existing content, or creating more content, thus a more immersive universe.

    One thing, though… your point about the kid in the trailer. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Miranda’s sister in her ME2 loyalty quest a kid? Or was she an almost-adult-kid. I can’t remember. ..
    …And lets face it, Joker is a kid… a kid in a fragile man’s body.

    • I think Miranda’s sister is around 18-21. She’s definitely represented as adult in appearance – not a child or teenager or anything like that.

  • Agree with every point you made except Arrival. While no where near as good as the Shadowbroker DLC, I still enjoyed playing through it.

    I myself am gearing up to be highly disappointed by ME3. The RPG will be missing from the Action-RPG methinks.

  • This list scares me because I can see so many of your worries coming true. Cheif amoungst my fears is a drop in story telling quality. Good story telling should sweep you up through a series of events reinforced by subtle background movements of the characters, not by holding up signs saying “THIS IS SAD CRY HERE”, “THIS BIT IS BAD, BE ANGRY AT [CHARACTER]”.

  • Both of the current ME games got so many things wrong, and so many things right, without almost no middle ground, and almost nothing in common between games.

    No reason to assume ME3 will be anything like either game we know, nor to assume that it won’t have disappointments.

  • As a HUGE Mass Effect fan (8 ME1 playthroughs, 7 ME2 playthroughs, all comics and novels read); I have to say I’m also nervous.

    Like you said, the fact that Dragon Age 2 was so abysmal after the surprisingly brilliant Dragon Age Origins indicated to me that people with ambiguous management related titles are having an increased influence on game design decisions.

    I can just imagine some fool in a suit saying “it needs to be more flashy” and “it needs to be sexier!” during the development processes of DA2 and ME3…

  • Biggest worry is that the Reapers will lose there ‘invincible/danger’ factor. The story in ME1 and 2 has built them up as untouchable, especially compared to all organic races. (It took a whole fleet to kill one and it was obviously a near thing). If Repears can suddnely die to a few cruisers getting a few lucky shots off, the narrative will bomb. Shepard needs to come up wiith inventive ways to end the Reaper threat.

    Also yeah multiplayer…. grumble grumble.

    • All we have to do is fly a plane into their main weapon as it prepares to fire after uploading a computer virus!

      Or perhaps water can kill them. We just need to equip super soakers when they attack Earth, a planet covered 70% by water, with beings made of greater than 60% water.

      Or maybe we can just sneeze at them and they’ll die from the common cold.

  • Agree to an extent on all the points yet at the same time disagree.

    Yes what they showed publicly at E3 – the krogan princess mission and the reaper base was pretty average i do imagine that these missions trimmed a lot of the dialogue out from the press conferences and the live stage demos simply due to time .However after seeing the hour long E3 EA web demo which was an expanded demo which showed all the power customisation, dialogue choices, weapon modification etc… i was impressed. Also after seeing that scene with the kid i personally was impressed with how it was handled when compared to say how a FPS like MW3 would handle kids dying in there games.

    Dragon Age 2 IMO shouldn’t come into this – different teams making the game as was said in the article so it really shouldn’t play much of a factor at all. Regards to the promo material – there is a hell of a lot less of it then when compared to ME2 and IMO that is a good thing. While the ME3 trailers seem to be of less quality and of less substance then the ME2 trailers, they don’t spoil 3/4 of the game like the ME2 trailers do by instead focusing on the action and gameplay rather then plot points in trailers which i approve of.

    Arrival was ok in my books – it was bad luck IMO that it came out AFTER shadow broker because everyone compared it to that even though shadow broker cost more and therefore had more meat to it. It advanced the story as it needed to.

    In regards to multiplayer – yes there is every chance it will suck – it most likely will. Good thing there is demo coming out this month for everyone to try it. Also good news is that if you don’t want to touch it then you don’t have to because you can the best possible ending in the SP without touching the MP. Also MP was made by a different team i was told then Bioware Edmonton which makes the SP so all this bullcrap about SP being less polished to make MP is a bit far fetched.

    The last point – i do agree. The collectors in ME2 needed to be more threatening, be more involved in the overall story and needed more background to them and their master. Harbinger needs to kick ass in ME3 or another reaper or vessel like saren to stand out as the main antagonist that is fully fleshed out over the course of the game.

    Overall i think while i am less excited by ME3 then i was for ME2, i think i will enjoy it more once i start playing it.

  • All valid points and part of the reason I’m yet to decide whether to preorder the collectors edition or the normal version.

  • I’d agree with pretty much all the points here, but I don’t think they are necessarily the biggest issues.

    First and foremost you just need to remember it’s EA publishing this game. That is a horrible situation right off the bat.

    I’m worried how much further they’re going to dumb it down. ME1 was a nice mix between shooter and RPG, ME2, was Gears of War with some stats. ME3, will be what?

  • ‘I’ve always enjoyed Mass Effect for its morally ambiguous characters and conflicts’

    No. Direct opposite, do people believe otherwise? Really? The only game bioware has made with any sense of moral ambiguity is Dragon Age: Origins, which they then proceeded to butcher by adding the god forsaken good/bad conversation wheel with rewards for always picking the same option, a feature taken from :O Mass Effect. At most you could argue Mass Effect offers binary choices (what biowre says is good, and what bioware says is good but done like a pirate yarr!), realistically the whole thing is a giant illusion of choice.

  • My only major concern is the “Upload the virus to the mothership” scenerio.
    Generally, unkillable villians need an achilles heel simple enough to take them down with courage and opportunity. So will ME3 fall into the trap of hunting the secret ‘win-button’ mucguffin left behind by X race because they just ran out of time to use it the first time. Thus kinda nullifying any story based on pulling together several races for an offensive? I mean they always seem to find that A.I. enemies have some kind of central mind don’t they, shoot or interupt that and its all over? (Please NO!!!)

    Also I am hoping to somehow have that damn Humiform Reaper from ME2 is somehow erased from my mind by something more inventive. I understand the need for ‘bosses’ in video games, but COME ON, it was so pathetic. It made no sense.

    • I think it’s sort of unavoidable given the circumstances, but I’m hoping it’s less of a win button and more of a boost that makes the fight a little one sided.

      You never know, the solution to the Krogan situation exists (even if it was destroyed), so they could bring some serious power. The Geth might not be beyond redemption considering we’ve found some stuff that had some serious portential for research. The Sovereign encounter could provide us with some really useful insight (although I can’t see that coming off as anything more than ‘now we have guns that can easily kill Reapers’).
      I know it’s just trading a win button for a series of win switches, but with the way it’s been set up simply bringing the galaxy together to fight the Reapers isn’t enough.

  • I’m not even interested in ME3, which is a disappointment in itself. I LOVED ME1. Played it through 4 times, which is amazingly rare for me – I rarely finish a game once. ME2, in my opinion, was inferior in pretty much every way. I hated the combat (Why oh why can you use ONE power and then ALL your powers need to recharge?!?!?! – I loved being able to combine things. LIFT your enemy off the ground, then THROW them into space, etc. Ammo Vs Overheating. Regenerating health Vs Medi-gel healing), the story was boring (Just go to these bunch of places and recruit people … ok, done … now attack the final boss. The game ended and I was shocked because I thought I had just recruited everyone and was just getting started), the exploration sucked (Bring back the Mako!!!!!). I tried so hard to enjoy it, but I didn’t, not necessarily because it was bad but because it was a major step backwards from the first one and it didn’t need to be.

  • I’m a little concerned too. Mainly the choice aspect.

    Although there hasn’t been a lot released, there hasn’t been a lot of dialogue wheel seen, and when it has – its been – Happy Yes, Indifferent Yes, Angry Yes rather than actual decisions – looks like it might be leaning towards heres mission A, heres Mission B etc. The more you do the better the ending.

    Also the Earth aspect, rather than wiping the Reapers out across the galaxy, its about retaking the Earth. I’d be devastated to see the Reapers still alive and kicking as a threat at the end of ME3.

    But yeah – thats just what it looks like – heres hoping marketing is continuing to live up to its recent years of getting it totally, totally wrong.

  • As long as I can still skip through every dull long winded expository conversation I’m in for another Mass Effect.

    • I was about to post a congratulatory message about your incredible ‘appealing to the masses’ pun, but I really don’t think you intended it. You can hate the company, but still think the games are good. Noone will think less of you for it.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!