While BioWare doesn’t want anyone to call the fourth Mass Effect game Mass Effect 4 and are keen to emphasize that this is a new story for the franchise, Mass Effect 4 won’t be a complete departure from the status quo for the series. At San Diego Comic Con, BioWare used their Mass Effect panel to reveal the first details of the next game in the franchise.
As has been known for a while, Mass Effect (Don’t Call It) 4 will not be Commander Shepard’s story. BioWare did go out of their way to mention that Shepard’s trilogy wouldn’t be central to this game though old characters may appear in the game (which is code that they plan on having cameos).
One of the big questions coming out of Mass Effect 3 is how the series would continue given the very different endings after the Extended Cut DLC. The panel seems to have hinted that ME4 might get around that entirely. The panelists hinted that the game might be set in a different galaxy. The timeline wasn’t specifically disclosed but speculation coming out of the panel is that the game could run in parallel with the Shepard trilogy but could be set in the future given the logistical challenge of intergalactic travel.
In a bit of stepping back to move forward, BioWare sounds like they reintroducing fan favourite concepts from ME1 for ME4. BioWare put an emphasis on exploration and customization in their reveal. On the exploration front, the Mako is coming back. They’ve gone back to the drawing board for the driving physics to make it more responsive to drive. They’ve also removed the cannon from it so it looks like your driving will be limited to exploration rather than getting ninja’d by thresher maws which was a bigger pain than driving the Mako.
In addition to the emphasis on exploration, customization appears to be getting a look at as well. BioWare showed off renders of several pieces of armor on a generic human character and also mentioned that they want to give games “as much choice as possible.”
On the multiplayer front, Mike Gamble told panel attendees that the emphasis internally is on cooperative multiplayer rather than competitive. I don’t mind that BioWare is going to continue in that direction because I’ve never been a fan of dealing with the arses that tend to populate competitive multiplayer games. That being said, et geekera totally would sponsor a competitive Mass Effect championship.
While not a lot of concrete information was given out by BioWare, it certainly seems as though they’ve been listening to the criticism of the first trilogy and are using that as a basis for shaping Mass Effect (Don’t Call It) 4. The emphasis on exploration and customization seems to be keeping in line with not only Mass Effect 1 but also upcoming RPGs like The Witcher III and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It all seems as though gamers don’t want their genre’s neutered but they want an RPG to be an RPG not a shooter with some RPG elements. It looks like that message has been heard by BioWare ahead of ME4.
According to the International Business Times, the game will be released in 2015 which is keeping in line with previous rumours. However, The Escapist reported that we are still several years from seeing the next entry in the Mass Effect series. I think the truth will depend on the release timeline for the unnamed new IP and how big the DLCs are for Dragon Age: Inquisition. At the end of the day, game development in a business and business is all about money.