Feature Part 1 – Let’s Talk: Mass Effect 4

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Part 1    –    Part 2    –    Part 3    –    Part 4

APB’s Sam recently reported on the much anticipated follow up to the Mass Effect trilogy, Mass Effect 4, and the comments of execs at Bioware telling us that it’s going to have nothing to do with Shepard. This is a big step for the series, considering that they’ve always had a flagship character (however many variations there may be in people’s minds) to run with, and the epic story of his/her fight with the Reapers. Reassuringly though, the following quote can bring hardcore fans of the series some comfort:

“But throughout it all, one of the key things is that it has to be Mass Effect. It can’t just feel like a spin-off. It has to feel like a Mass Effect game at its heart, at its core. Just without the Shepard character or the Shepard specific companions.”

The question on everybody’s lips now is what the hell IS the game going to involve. Well, for a start it seems unlikely that they’ll run alongside the Reaper invasion, which all but removes the prospect of setting it in the game “present” tense. So that leaves us with two options: the past, or the future.

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Looking Back

Mass Effect’s storyline isn’t just the story of the fight against the Reapers. It isn’t even just the story of humanity taking to the stars, nor the story of the last 50,000 years of civilisation. The storyline actually really encompasses an unthinkable number of cycles of Reaper invasions, including even the Protheans and their predecessors. With all this lore and backstory to work from, to me it seems illogical to just let it lie and move on post-Shepard. Now this might give a lot of people pause for thought: “but Stu, if you’re thinking prequel, the end is pretty much already determined, so where is my choice, variation and decision making that Mass Effect games are so well known for, and why don’t you care about it you jerk”, or something along those lines.

But, respectfully, I disagree. Prequels have been done in the past to great effect, with the same amount of decision and new content. For example, choosing a specific event or turning point in history and building around it with previously unseen content actually interests me more than moving into the future, into the uncharted unknown. What really happened during the Krogan Rebellions or the First Contact War? Who’s to say the writers haven’t already factored in for a prequel already? Who knows with Bioware, they’re a prepared bunch, alongside author Drew Karpyshyn. All I’m saying is, don’t count the prequel out, because I certainly haven’t. If you’ve still got doubts, see Deus Ex: Human Revolution for more details and then tell me it won’t work.

If you’re looking back, you’ve got two more choices to work with from where I’m standing: you can follow a well-known character through their experiences before Shepard enters the fray, or you can focus on a specific event in the game’s history and build around it. Over the course of a multiple part article I’ll cover past characters, events that could be used for a prequel, and possible focuses if the game was to look towards the future as well.

 Who

If Bioware decide to focus on a character, my guess would be that they’d pick a main character from the trilogy who has history before the Reaper invasion and WASN’T in Shepard’s squad. I had three (realistic) guesses while working my way through ME4s possibilities, but I’m bound to have missed a fair few (oh ok, lots) out!

Alliance Admiral David Anderson:

“God, feels like years since I just… sat down.”

Career mantank David Anderson has been through the mill all the way with Shepard, but also has history before the invasion, including fighting in the First Contact War, Spectre candidacy and, probably most prominently pre-game, run-ins with Saren Arterius, ME1’s main antagonist.

There are any number of plotlines that Bioware could stem from this veteran ME character, and he has more history in the universe than the games let on. Mass Effect: Revelation is a good example of history that some may not be aware of. I picked Anderson not only because he has history, but because he’s a well-designed character that has a lot of potential still left for a backstory.

Also he’s voiced by Keith David and that’s awesome.

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Council Spectre, Saren Arterius:

“Then you will die. And your companions. Everyone you know and love. Everyone you’ve ever met. Don’t you understand? You will all die!”

Let’s face it, even though he’s a bit of prick in ME1 sometimes, Saren Arterius is still one hell of a badass. As the main antagonist from ME1, Saren represents the start of the trilogy, the start of the Reaper Invasions and the first entry in a long list of people that Shepard will eventually have to shoot in the face.

Similarly to Anderson, there is already backstory out there for those willing to search for it on Saren, including content in books, graphic novels, DLC and of course the main game. But also like Anderson, the character has potential to grow tenfold. What was really the breaking point in Saren’s life? What was he up to before he discovered the Reapers? What attracted the attention of the Council for his Spectre status?

And who wouldn’t want to play as (I think) the second most badass Turian in existence. Because nobody beats Garrus. They just don’t.

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 Queen of Omega, Aria T’Loak:

“Omega has just one rule. Don’t f*** with Aria.”

You can out-bitch Aria as a Renegade Shepard. But other than that, there’s no-one with a better no-nonsense attitude in the world of ME. Aria has seen a lot go down on her time on Omega. She’s fought off Collectors, Cereberus, pirates and Reapers, brought the lawless gangs of Omega to heel and held onto control of the station through the worst of it. Except that one time, but we don’t like to talk about that.

I think playing as the no-nonsense Asari in her own backstory would be an incredible tale to tell, with her immense Biotic powers. Comparatively at least to the other two, we don’t find out quite as much about Aria, though she does appear in the main games, books and several graphic novels.

Plus she’s an Asari. And that’s as far as I’m going with that statement…

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While thinking up these three I also thought of a character that should get more attention than he currently does…

The First Hanar Council Spectre, Blasto:

“Enkindle THIS!”

No, not really. But you have to wonder about some sort of minigame. With slogans like “a lover in every port and a gun in every tentacle” it’s no wonder the film ads from the trilogy get picked out by fans. Obviously not the correct content for a sequel, but there may be a smartphone game release in the near future… who knows?

That just about wraps it up for part one, thanks for reading! Check back tomorrow to read about the events from the ME universe history that might make a good focus for ME4!

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