The big narrative question facing Mass Effect 4

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the ending of the Mass Effect trilogy, including Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

Mass Effect 4 has a choice to make – at least it does if, as we’re all assuming, the game is planned as a sequel to the Mass Effect trilogy. The choice the developers will have to make will have knock-on effects for the entire plot of the game, and unfortunately will impact some players more than others. In short, BioWare will need to choose one of Mass Effect 3′s ending options as the foundation on which to build their new story.

We talked a little while ago about the ending options from a narrative point of view, and I came to the cop-out conclusion that all three have points in their favour as well as drawbacks. Though the “destroy” ending is seemingly favoured by a majority of players, there are still sizeable minorities who chose either “synthesis” or “control” at the climax of the story.

Which ending did you choose?

Each of the three endings are very different from one another, and each would leave the Mass Effect galaxy in a very different place. I don’t see how it would be possible for BioWare to make one game that allowed players to choose which ending to canonise; the narrative consequences are simply too different in each case to allow a single story, even a very adaptable one, to be created. Unless BioWare is prepared to essentially make three games, trying to incorporate all three endings seems like a non-starter.

There’s also the question of Commander Shepard’s fate. The teaser trailer for the next Mass Effect game that was shown off earlier in the year appeared to show Liara on a quest to either find Shepard or find their remains, and if we can infer from that that Commander Shepard will have some role to play in the game’s story – whether that’s as a playable character or not – then there needs to be some realistic way that Shepard could’ve survived the events of Mass Effect 3. As far as we know based on what we saw in the game, the only way Shepard even possibly survives is to choose the “destroy” ending.

Shepard’s possible survival was teased in Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 3′s ending – and really the final third of the game – was undeniably rushed, and as a result we only got a very brief epilogue showing off some of the possible consequences for each scenario. But even just in those few minutes of voiceover atop static images, we can tell that the Mass Effect galaxy ends up in a very different place depending on Shepard’s choice.

I’ve always felt that Mass Effect 3 wanted to push players toward the “synthesis” ending. That’s the one that was most difficult to unlock, and if EDI’s epilogue is to be believed it seems to lead to a technological utopia of sorts, with the rebuilding of the galaxy happening much more quickly and easily, and with the possibility of life extension for organic beings.

Turians in the aftermath of the “synthesis” ending.

But paradise doesn’t really make for an interesting story! Not only that, but synthesis was never Shepard’s goal; it was only introduced as an option right at the very end of the game with limited explanation courtesy of the Catalyst. The Catalyst would claim that synthesis – i.e. fusion of organic and synthetic life – had been its end goal since the beginning, which in effect makes it the Reapers’ objective too, as the Catalyst was the force controlling the Reapers. Shepard didn’t get the opportunity to hear anyone else’s perspective on synthesis before making their choice.

Setting aside that making such a monumental decision for every living being is not Shepard’s choice to make, “synthesis” also has some pretty disturbing implications. The way in which newly-synthesised denizens of the galaxy appear to go along with everything that’s happened, combined with the Reapers’ survival and the Catalyst’s comments about this being its own endgame, could be taken to mean that this isn’t really a victory at all for Shepard and their allies.

Did the Reapers win if Shepard chose “synthesis?”

“Control” is likewise not a strong basis for building a new story. With Shepard seizing control of the Reapers and simply directing them to leave the galaxy, the Reaper threat has not ended. Shepard may be in control for now – but how long will that control last? Can Shepard keep the Reapers under their sway indefinitely, or will millennia of isolation drive them mad?

In order for Mass Effect 4 to put the Reaper War in the rear-view mirror and move on to a new story, a decision has to be taken as to which ending is the “official” one. The popularity of “destroy”, combined with the negative consequences present in the “synthesis” and “control” options, seem to make it the only practical choice.

What will the state of the galaxy be by the time of Mass Effect 4?

My concern is that Mass Effect 4 might try to tell the same story in all three settings with a few cosmetic differences to pay lip-service to the ending choices but without really exploring in any detail what the consequences of those endings might be. Take, for example, my theory regarding the Leviathans. If BioWare wanted to make the Leviathans the main villain for Mass Effect 4, that only really works with the “destroy” ending. Consider that the Leviathans have remained hidden for millions of years following the Reapers’ first harvest. If a new force (Shepard) seized the Reapers in the “control” ending, from their point of view the Reaper threat still exists. Would they emerge from hiding? And in the case of “synthesis,” the Leviathans would be affected too. It was strongly implied in the “synthesis” epilogue that every species was now working together, so in such a case they couldn’t be villains.

That’s just one hypothetical example of how one story couldn’t be forced into three very different moulds for a new game in the series. We’ve seen smaller-scale examples of this within the Mass Effect trilogy itself, and Mass Effect 3 in particular seemed to have difficulty respecting players’ choices in previous games. To give two examples: regardless of what players did in Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2, Liara will always be the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 3, and Udina will always be Earth’s Councillor.

Udina is always the Councillor by Mass Effect 3, no matter what players choose.

These stories were relatively minor, though, at least in comparison to the things we’re considering today! Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 did respect players’ choices and the consequences of those choices in some ways, though, making each playthrough unique. In fact it’s this aspect of the trilogy that makes it so appealing to me and to many other players – Commander Shepard feels like a different person on each playthrough and the story is tweaked to recognise that.

But the differences in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 were minor. Certain characters would be missing if they’d died in previous games, for example, but there was usually someone else to take their place. Urdnot Wreav (voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Michael Dorn) would take Wrex’s place as the clan leader if Wrex died. Ashley and Kaidan were basically interchangeable in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. And even characters like Thane, who played an important role in Mass Effect 3 when it came to the Cerberus attack on the Citadel, were replaced by a like-for-like stand-in if they’d died during the suicide mission.

If Wrex died, Wreav takes his place and the story proceeds in a very similar way.

It would be impossible, though, for BioWare to successfully repeat this on a larger scale. The three ending options for Mass Effect 3 simply can’t lead to the same story because of how radically different everything about the galaxy necessarily must be in each scenario. Add into the mix that Mass Effect 4 may be picking up a story some years or even decades after the end of Mass Effect 3 and there’s been time for those changes to multiply. In short: one single story cannot be made to work in all three scenarios, and trying to do so will all but guarantee a disappointing experience for players.

Mass Effect 4 has a difficult task. Whatever BioWare chooses to do with the game’s story, some players who were very attached to the way they played the original trilogy are bound to be left upset. Because those games offered players different routes leading to different endings, there really isn’t any escaping that. The only glimmer of hope is that one ending choice is substantially more popular than others – and BioWare has been keeping tabs on that! The fact that the “synthesis” ending was not a big part of the game at all, only appearing right at the very end, and that “control” had been the preference of Mass Effect 3′s villains also seems to set up a situation in which the choice should be acceptable to a majority of fans of the Mass Effect trilogy. I’d wager that most players chose “destroy” on at least one of their playthroughs anyway.

So that’s it for today. Mass Effect 4 has a choice to make – and it’s a big one. As I see it, any sequel has to choose one ending over the others simply because the state of the galaxy is so radically different in each case that one single story couldn’t possibly fit all three scenarios. Despite my feelings about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I’m curious to see what BioWare has in store for the next part of the franchise – even though it’s still a few years away!

The next Mass Effect game is in early development and most likely won’t be released for several years. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. The Mass Effect series – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of BioWare and Electronic Arts. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Mass Effect 4 theory: Leviathan

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and its ending.

Though the release of the underwhelming Mass Effect: Legendary Edition earlier this year was partly a money-making ploy on the part of BioWare and Electronic Arts, there is another significant factor in the development of what we’ll generously call a “remaster.” Legendary Edition had the task of rehabilitating the series’ reputation following the disappointment of Mass Effect: Andromeda, and was also tasked with bringing in new fans – as well as getting existing fans hyped up – in time for the upcoming release of Mass Effect 4. In that sense, Legendary Edition does seem to have largely succeeded, as excitement for the next entry in the series is higher than it’s ever been.

No details have yet been announced for Mass Effect 4, and we’ve only had the tiniest of teases in the form of a CGI teaser trailer, so any details of the game’s story are complete unknowns. But based on what we know about the Mass Effect galaxy, perhaps it isn’t too early to speculate about what might come next for Commander Shepard and their crew… assuming Shepard is coming back, of course!

One of the key things Mass Effect 4 will have to balance is the scale of its story. Whether we get to play as Shepard or not, Mass Effect 4 will almost certainly be picking up the story in the aftermath of the Reaper War. This conflict saw the whole galaxy – led by Shepard – fighting for its very survival against a seemingly unstoppable foe, so from a narrative point of view that kind of epic tale can be hard to top.

This was the fundamental problem that befell Mass Effect: Andromeda. Even if that game had been launched in a better condition, without the bugs and visual glitches that would go on to define it for many players, the underlying story still felt anticlimactic. I’ve described Andromeda in the past as a game that feels like an overblown side-quest, and partly this is because of the story that came immediately before it. Andromeda was an attempt to branch out, to take Mass Effect away from Commander Shepard and spin it out into a larger franchise. But it failed not because of its bugs and other technical issues – though those were catastrophic in their own right – but because it told a story that many players simply weren’t interested in.

My face is tired.

Coming on the heels of the Reaper War, Mass Effect 4 has to avoid feeling anticlimactic in the way Andromeda did. But it has to balance that against telling a story that’s too derivative or repetitive; another galactic-scale threat caused by invaders from beyond the galaxy would feel like a cheap knock-off of what came before. Look to Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe for countless examples of this, as fan-fiction versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia battled clone after clone of Palpatine and fought dozens of bland, derivative Sith Lords and Imperial wannabes.

What comes next for the Mass Effect galaxy has to feel consistent, too, with what we already know about the setting. After Shepard succeeded at uniting the forces of practically every major faction in the galaxy, having one of them turn on the others and become an antagonist wouldn’t only be difficult to pull off narratively, it would risk upsetting fans and coming across as annoying.

The next Mass Effect game has to tell a story that follows on from the Reaper War.

So I think we can rule out stories like a krogan or turian uprising, or the sudden return of the long-dead Protheans looking to conquer the galaxy! Those kinds of stories might seem interesting – and perhaps the game will ultimately try to go down a similar path – but for the reasons mentioned I think they’d be too difficult to execute in a satisfying way.

Instead I want to focus on a faction from Mass Effect 3′s DLC – the Leviathans. The Leviathan DLC is integrated into Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (albeit not especially well; there are some issues which arise from the timing of its insertion into the story) so I think we can safely assume that it’s fully canon and that most Mass Effect fans will have played it. Leviathan introduced Commander Shepard to the titular Leviathans – ancient lifeforms with the power to control minds.

Commander Shepard meets with one of the surviving Leviathans in Mass Effect 3.

The Leviathans revealed to Commander Shepard that their species created the Reapers; much like the way the quarians created the geth, the Reapers were artificial intelligences designed to aid the Leviathans. Of course, they soon betrayed their masters, having interpreted their directive to “preserve” all life in an apocalyptic manner.

Commander Shepard encountered a handful of Leviathans hiding deep below the surface of an uncharted ocean world. These were the survivors – or more likely the descendants of survivors – of a race whose empire once spanned the entire galaxy. The Leviathans were unapologetic for their dominance of other “lesser” races, who they forced to worship them as gods. The survivor who spoke with Commander Shepard had little regard for humans or other races, and seemed only willing to act in the Reaper War out of self-interest.

The Leviathans wanted other races to worship them and pay tribute to them.

Despite being in hiding for millions of years – perhaps longer – the Leviathans’ sense of self-importance was undimmed. They regard themselves as the galaxy’s “apex race,” and used their mind control powers to attack or kill anyone they perceived as even a minor threat.

The Leviathans seem to regard the entire Milky Way galaxy as their own personal fiefdom; their domain. Sharing power or joining a broader galactic community is simply not on their agenda, and with the destruction or removal of the Reapers, it seems at least plausible that they might seize the opportunity to emerge from hiding to reclaim the empire they had lost in the distant past.

The planet 2181 Despoina was the Leviathans’ hiding place.

On a much smaller scale, this was the Protheans’ idea. At least two Prothean facilities – on Eden Prime and Ilos – were designed to host hundreds of thousands of Protheans in hibernation, to emerge after the Reaper threat had passed. The Protheans failed in their goal – though a single individual did survive – but the Leviathans didn’t. They managed to sustain a viable population at the bottom of the ocean on an uncharted world, and although we only saw a few individuals it’s possible that there are hundreds, thousands, or even more Leviathans. They may even have populations on other worlds.

Of the three endings offered to the player at the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, a Leviathan return works best with the “destroy” ending. If Shepard opted to take control of the Reapers, it stands to reason that the Leviathans would still consider them to be a threat, whereas if Shepard chose the “synthesis” ending then presumably the fusing of organic and synthetic DNA across the galaxy would also have affected the Leviathans.

The “synthesis” ending would surely have affected the Leviathans as well as everyone else.

But if the Reapers were destroyed – the most popular ending choice – suddenly the Leviathans could find themselves in a galaxy where their biggest foe has been vanquished. Not only that, but with the Mass Relay network critically damaged and the combined fleets and forces of the galaxy all massed around Earth (and feeling a lot worse for wear after months of conflict, no doubt), the Milky Way might appear to them to be practically undefended – and ripe for the taking.

Striking out from their hidden undersea base, the Leviathans could use similar tactics to the Reapers to gain control of key worlds – using their mind control abilities to sway military and political leaders and bring them into the fold. From there, Leviathans could abandon their base, taking up residence at key locations around the galaxy before the survivors of the battle for Earth even realise what’s happened.

Amidst the wreckage of the Citadel and the ruins of Earth, it might be a long time before anyone realised the Leviathans were attacking.

Repairing the Mass Relays will take time – if the assembled scientific minds can even figure out how to do so – and with communications and travel disrupted across the galaxy on account of the long war, the Leviathans could establish a commanding position even if they didn’t make their move immediately.

A power vacuum on this scale is chaotic – and many war-weary citizens and refugees might even welcome Leviathan rule if it were accompanied by stability, and if the Leviathans could provide them with basic supplies like food and shelter. By the time the Council races realise what’s happened, large swathes of the galaxy could already be under Leviathan control – perhaps even including three of the four Council homeworlds.

The Leviathans could be the next threat for Commander Shepard and the rest of the galaxy.

Fighting the Leviathans would be similar, in some ways, to fighting the Reapers – their armies would largely consist of enthralled mind controlled victims of the galaxy’s races. The difference might be that taking on an actual Leviathan would be comparatively rare – unlike the Reapers, the Leviathans don’t seem like they’d want to get involved on the front lines, preferring instead to sit back (or hide) and let their enthralled victims do their dirty work.

So that’s the extent of this theory, really. To summarise it in a single sentence: with the Reapers defeated, the Leviathans finally emerge from hiding, intent on reclaiming a galaxy they’ve always considered to be “theirs.” Commander Shepard may be pressed back into action to save the galaxy all over again, or maybe we’ll take on the role of a new character when Mass Effect 4 is ready. Please keep in mind that, as always, I don’t have any “insider information.” This is nothing more than a fan theory – and it may very well be completely wrong!

Despite how I felt about Legendary Edition, I do like the Mass Effect series. In fact, the reason I was upset at BioWare for the sloppy work and unimpressive upgrades that Legendary Edition offered was because the games are so enjoyable – the series has the potential to be so much more than Legendary Edition made of it. I’m hopeful that Mass Effect 4 will be a game worth getting excited about – but there’s no rush. If BioWare and Electronic Arts have learned anything from recent releases, it should be to take their time!

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. A new Mass Effect game – referred to above as Mass Effect 4 – is currently in development, but no release date has been announced. The Mass Effect series – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of BioWare and Electronic Arts. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

So long, Anthem…

After months of speculation, Electronic Arts and BioWare finally confirmed what every gamer and games industry watcher has known for ages: Anthem is dead. Rather than spend even more money on this failure, EA have opted to cancel any remaining plans that they had in the pipeline in order to focus on other projects. And while it may be disappointing to Anthem’s five or six remaining loyal players, it’s unquestionably the right decision.

What was clearly the wrong decision, though, was releasing this mediocre title in the first place. And stepping back even further than Anthem’s troubled 2019 launch, we can argue that it was the wrong decision to push a studio like BioWare – renowned for their single-player role-playing games – to create a “live service” multiplayer action-shooter in the first place.

Anthem was developed by Canadian EA subsidiary BioWare.

Game developers and studios have to be allowed to innovate; without trying new things there would never be any progress in video game development, and that wouldn’t be a good thing. But when a studio has a proven track record at making a certain style of game, their publisher or the company who owns that studio pushing them to do something entirely outside that wheelhouse can lead to difficulties and problems.

The developers at BioWare simply did not have the multiplayer experience, the action-shooter experience, or the necessary knowledge of EA’s Frostbite game engine to put together an ambitious title like Anthem. And while senior BioWare managers may have felt, in 2012 when Anthem was first conceived, that they had a new and unique idea, the “live service” concept had been done and done again by the time the game finally stumbled out the door.

Anthem promo art.

Anthem was boring. It was an uninspired shooter whose every in-game system and mechanic had been done before by someone else – and done better. BioWare’s final saving grace when dealing with lacklustre gameplay was the studio’s ability to craft great stories and bring wonderful characters to life – but they failed at that too, and Anthem ended up offering little more than a decently pretty environment. That just isn’t good enough, and players quickly put down this disappointing experience, never to pick it up again.

When Anthem’s “roadmap” of additional content was scrapped in late 2019, that was it. No one who follows the games industry was seriously expecting EA and BioWare to successfully revive the game – and if anyone did, I’ve got a bridge to sell them! All this talk of “Anthem Next” was a cynical attempt by these companies to convince the few remaining Anthem players to stick around and keep spending money in the game with promises of more features and updates. I seriously doubt that EA ever intended to make good on the promise of an overhaul and update of the game; that was nothing more than meaningless empty words designed to exploit those few remaining fans.

A javelin seen in promo artwork.

After more than a year of living through the coronavirus pandemic I am sick to the back teeth of companies using it as an excuse for whatever the problem of the day is. In their curt blog post announcing the end of Anthem, BioWare attempted to shift the blame onto the pandemic, suggesting that it played a role in this decision. I call bullshit on that. This was a business decision, plain and simple, and it was one that was almost certainly taken a very long time ago.

The reality is that Anthem, like Mass Effect: Andromeda before it, was dead on arrival. The game has been kept on life support for two years, with players fed a steady diet of lies and promises that EA and BioWare had no plans to make good on. Such is the reality of a “release now, fix later” game. So much for being the “Bob Dylan of video games” – a statement so stupid, by the way, that I can scarcely believe anyone at BioWare actually said it.

Anthem was supposed to be the video game equivalent of Bob Dylan.
Photo Credit: The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Anthem needs to be a lesson, not just for BioWare and Electronic Arts but for the games industry in general. You can’t release a mediocre game and convince people to stick around in case it gets good later. “Release now, fix later” categorically does not work. The legacy of Anthem needs to be that better games are released in the wake of its failure.

If a game is not in a good enough state, it should be delayed and not forced into a release window to meet some arbitrary deadline. Big companies like Electronic Arts can absorb the costs of prolonging development if it means that the game will eventually launch to critical acclaim and commercial success. By forcing Anthem to be released when it was simply not ready, Electronic Arts snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and pissed away a huge amount of money.

Another piece of promotional artwork.

Anthem was never financially viable. No multiplayer game that loses 90% of its playerbase in a matter of weeks can possibly be sustainable, which is another reason why I’m convinced that all this talk of a “renewal” or update to Anthem was never serious on the part of EA and BioWare. The sad thing is that there was potential in Anthem. Had it been a project that was handled differently its flying “Iron Man” suits and brand-new sci-fi world could have gone on to be held up alongside franchises like Mass Effect or Halo. But a series of poor decisions across its development meant that wasn’t possible, and it seems unlikely at this stage that Anthem’s world will ever be revisited.

What this means for Anthem’s remaining players is that it’s over. It’s time to jump ship and not spend another penny on any in-game microtransactions. While BioWare have promised to keep the servers running for now, in reality it’s only a matter of time before they’re shut down and the game is gone forever. There are other, better games out there to play, so if you’re one of those few remaining players, have a look for something else to play instead.

A javelin underwater.

For BioWare this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it potentially frees up a handful of developers to work on the next Dragon Age game, Mass Effect 4, and whatever else may be in the pipeline. On the other hand it confirms what we’ve all known for a while – the studio has released two failures in a row. Electronic Arts, rather like Google, has a reputation for shutting down unsuccessful studios and killing projects that aren’t bringing in enough money. There was already a lot of pressure on BioWare to get their next project right – and that pressure has just increased.

I don’t think we should celebrate the demise of Anthem – but I don’t lament it either. The game was a waste of potential, it damaged the reputation of a studio previously held in high esteem, and serves as yet another example of why this “release now, fix later” trend is such a mistake. Hopefully the lessons of Anthem will be learned so that better games will be made in future. That’s its only shot at a legacy.

Anthem is the copyright of Electronic Arts and BioWare. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition details announced

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Mass Effect series.

Rumours swirled for much of 2020 that the Mass Effect trilogy was to be remastered. The project was confirmed a couple of months ago – Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be coming to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation in May. I didn’t cover the initial announcement, though, because there really wasn’t much to say. Electronic Arts and BioWare saw fit to publish only a brief teaser, and from that there was very little to gleam.

After a couple of months of waiting, however, we now finally have some details about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, so I wanted to take a look at some of them and give my thoughts. Some games journalists were invited to a digital event for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in which they were able to speak with developers and managers at BioWare, so in addition to the official trailer and announcement we also have some more details to look at. My invitation to that event must’ve got lost in the post!

The logo for Legendary Edition.

Prior to the official announcement of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I wrote up a wishlist of things I’d like a remaster of the trilogy to include. Obviously not everything I hoped to see has been included, but some key things will be. I would reiterate a point I made in that article, though: it’s only been a few years since the trilogy wrapped up. The Mass Effect trilogy was released during the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era, and, like many games from that generation, they still look pretty good today. I questioned the need for a remaster so soon, given that there hasn’t been that much of an increase in computing power and graphics technology in the intervening nine years.

And on that point, which is arguably the single biggest reason to remaster any game, I have to say that I’m not especially impressed with what I’ve seen of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition so far. There are some improvements, of course, and it can be hard to properly convey the scale of the changes made when dealing with compressed digital video on platforms like YouTube. But I have a decent 4K monitor, and when I looked at a number of scenes from the official trailer as well as high-resolution screenshots provided by BioWare, it was hard to see a significant improvement, especially when looking at scenes from Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.

When Capcom remastered Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 over the last couple of years, both games saw a colossal improvement from a visual standpoint. In fact I think it’s arguable that the remade versions of those games told their stories in a much better and more immersive way – except, of course, for the cut content from Resident Evil 3. Both titles were beloved by gamers of a certain age, but bringing them up-to-date allowed a whole new generation of players to experience the horror and excitement of Raccoon City. That won’t be the case with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Aside from the fact that the games have all been available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and even the Wii U, there just isn’t such a noticeable change in the way the games look, and while there have been tweaks and adjustments to gameplay, none of the games have seen a huge overhaul in the way the Resident Evil titles did.

Resident Evil 2 was in need of an update. The Mass Effect series? Not so much.

So I come back to my original question from my first piece on the subject: is now the right time to remaster the Mass Effect trilogy? Although it seems mad to think ahead to the PlayStation 6 when we’ve literally just had the PlayStation 5’s launch, I would argue that waiting another five to ten years and another console generation would have allowed the Mass Effect trilogy to see much more of an improvement. The original games are good enough – especially the second and third titles – to stand on their own two feet. A re-release or a repackaging of all three titles would have been sufficient, and I don’t really see a significant advantage to what EA and BioWare are billing as a “remaster.”

This is not, by the way, a problem unique to the Mass Effect series. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was remastered in 2016, less than a decade after its release, and was similarly underwhelming. Partly this is psychological – we have a tendency to remember games looking better than they actually did. But in the case of many modern titles it’s also due to the fact that visuals and graphics have not improved in a huge way over the last decade when compared to earlier decades. So while Mass Effect: Legendary Edition looks decent, it’s not always easy to see – at least from the footage shown so far – that it’s substantially better than the original versions of its three constituent games.

Debatable.

The second point of criticism I have is that no action has been taken to change the story. As I wrote last time, I didn’t expect the ending of Mass Effect 3 to fundamentally change. That would require far too much effort for a project of this nature. The “pick-a-colour” ending of Mass Effect 3 is arguably the weakest part of the entire trilogy, and while it would be great to have seen that changed I knew it wouldn’t happen. So that isn’t what’s disappointing!

What is disappointing, though, is that the final third of Mass Effect 3 appears to be left unchanged. For me, the “pick-a-colour” ending was only one part of what let the game down; countless smaller decisions taken across the whole trilogy that should have mattered were either entirely ignored or only given the barest lip service in the story’s climactic final act. The most egregious example is that of the Quarians and Geth. To make a long story short, if players follow a specific path across all three games, it’s possible to save both the Geth and Quarians at a decisive moment where it looks as though it should only be possible to save one. This choice should matter; having both powerful fleets on side should be hugely impactful in the final battle against the Reapers. Yet it isn’t. Aside from a couple of seconds of cut-scene where both fleets warp in, and one line of dialogue, this massive choice fails to make any impact.

That may be the worst example; it’s certainly the one which stuck with me. But there are dozens of others, and the final third or so of Mass Effect 3 was undeniably rushed. Revisiting the project should have been an opportunity to right some of these wrongs, and to at the very least make a conscious effort to pay off, in a meaningful way, more of the player’s choices and efforts as the story reaches its conclusion.

The Quarian-Geth conflict can be peacefully resolved… but that never really felt like it mattered as the game entered its final act.

The lack of payoff to some of these choices will be even more noticeable in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition than it was when we played Mass Effect 3 back in 2012. This is for the simple reason that Legendary Edition is actively inviting players to play all three titles back-to-back as one continuous story – a story whose lacklustre ending and underwhelming acknowledgement of significant moments will be all the more recognisable for it.

I do understand the argument that there wasn’t enough material left on the cutting room floor to reincorporate into the game. But unlike in cinema, video games use voice acting and with practically all of the principal voice actors from across the trilogy still alive, there’s no reason I can see why bringing some of them back into the studio to record new dialogue should have been impossible. The final act of Mass Effect 3 would be massively improved by as little as fifteen minutes’ worth of extra dialogue and cut-scenes, and while the Extended Edition DLC will be included in Legendary Edition, even that could stand to be improved.

Omega as seen in the trailer.

So I think that covers my main criticisms of the project based on what I’ve seen and read. Now let’s get into the good points!

We’ll look at specific overhauls and changes in a moment, but first I wanted to acknowledge that, despite their reputation as a money-grubbing company, Electronic Arts is releasing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition as a single package. All three games, plus all of their DLC, are included. It doesn’t look like there are any pre-order exclusives, special editions, or anything of the sort, and while some critics will say that such behaviour should be the bare minimum, the reality is in this industry that it isn’t – so it is worthy of praise when companies do behave themselves! EA could have easily tried to split the project up and sell different parts of it, so the fact that the entire trilogy and all its DLC are part of one package for one price is great. I would argue that perhaps full price (£55 here in the UK, at least on PC) is a bit steep for games from 2007, 2010, and 2012, but I guess for the remastered version of all three I can’t really complain about that too much.

If you recall, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 were early pioneers of cut-content DLC. Mass Effect 2 had a couple of its characters peeled off to be sold separately, and Mass Effect 3 had Javik, the series’ only Prothean character, sold as day-one DLC. So the series is no stranger to courting controversy with the way its games are sold, which is another reason to heap praise upon the decision not to do so with this version!

Javik was originally only available to players who paid extra.

Now into some specifics. The character creator has been overhauled, and while we don’t know exactly what’s changed, BioWare have promised new hairstyles, faces, and customisation options for Commander Shepard. Even by Mass Effect 2, the limitations of the original character creator were becoming apparent, so this is one area that needed work. I’m glad to hear that changes have been made in this area, as a role-playing game needs a decent amount of customisation. Making Commander Shepard feel like a unique and personal character is part of the appeal of games like the Mass Effect series.

Mass Effect 1 is seeing a number of gameplay changes and tweaks in order to bring the experience more in line with the second and third entries. Of the three games, Mass Effect 1 is the only one which felt even close to being “outdated” in 2021, and considering the substantial gameplay improvements which debuted in Mass Effect 2, I’m glad to see EA and BioWare updating it.

The Normandy approaches the Citadel.

Specifically BioWare mentioned changes to the heads-up display, the way the Mako vehicle handled, the hacking/slicing mini-games, the removal of class-based weapon loadouts (i.e. players will be allowed to use any of the game’s guns regardless of their character’s stats), changes to aiming to make lock-on better, the ability to skip the lift (elevator) scenes, as these were only in the game to begin with to hide loading times when transitioning between areas, and a higher level cap.

All of these sound good, and will update Mass Effect 1. However, BioWare has not mentioned weapon overheating, which was a difficult mechanic to get the hang of in the first game. Overheating was dropped in Mass Effect 2 in favour of “thermal clips,” which was just technobabble for ammo, and I’m surprised in a way that ammo isn’t coming to Mass Effect 1. Also unchanged is the game’s inventory system, which could be complicated and would quickly fill up with dozens of different tiers and categories of weapon upgrades and ammo options.

There will be other tweaks and rebalances across the three games, including to enemy and boss AI. The games will all run in 4K at 60fps, which is really the bare minimum that we should have expected from any AAA remaster in 2021! Finally, there are some PC-specific changes, including keyboard and mouse options and support for ultrawide monitors.

The Reapers are coming!

So that’s it. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will bring some aesthetic changes to the table and some gameplay tweaks that will hopefully make the experience smoother and more enjoyable… but I’m still left with a sense best summed up thus: “what’s the point?” The second and third games are perfectly playable in their current form without being upgraded, and the offered upgrades seem minor, even from a visual standpoint.

Packaging all three titles together, along with their DLC, is admirable, but it would have been just as easy to re-release the trilogy with its DLC and spare the effort of “remastering” some of these already-decent looking scenes. It isn’t like any of the three Mass Effect games looked bad by today’s standards, and I can think of a lot of recent games that have been less impressive.

There was an opportunity to expand Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. By bringing back some of the original voice actors and adding a few extra scenes, particularly toward the end of Mass Effect 3, the remaster could have taken the story to new heights and genuinely improved the worst part of all three games. Even without a major rewrite of the ending, by adding more context and better paying off more choices and combinations of choices, Legendary Edition would have at least felt worthwhile. At the moment, it kind of doesn’t.

This fire effect from the remaster doesn’t look like it’s been improved much.

Bringing games from 2007-12 “up to date” is unnecessary. Maybe in another ten years we could argue that enough time had passed and enough technological improvements had been made that the games would feel new again, but everything I saw in the trailers has left me with the belief that they won’t feel new. A shiny coat of paint and throwing the entire story together in one package is really all you’ll get.

If you’ve never played the Mass Effect trilogy, go for it. Wait for Legendary Edition, which is due out in three months or so, and give it a try. The games are great, and while the ending is a bit of a let-down, if you go into the games with your expectations set you will at least know what you’re letting yourself in for. But if you’ve already played all three games, I feel like this is a hard sell. I was genuinely interested in Legendary Edition when it was announced, but having heard what’s included and seen the minor changes for myself, I’m probably going to give it a pass, especially for £55. Maybe if it goes on sale in a couple of years I’ll pick it up then.

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be released in May for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. The Mass Effect series is the copyright of Electronic Arts and BioWare. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic game rumoured to be in development

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

I don’t usually cover rumours here on the website. There are always unsubstantiated rumours flying around every corner of the entertainment industry, and many are either completely wrong or entirely made-up. Sometimes covering a rumour and getting all worked up about it can make you look rather foolish! But the rumour of a new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic game feels like it has some weight to it, with multiple news outlets all picking it up.

I adored Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. The two games were released in 2003 and 2004 for PC and Xbox, and if you’re unfamiliar with them they’re single-player role-playing games. At a time when the Star Wars franchise had released two pretty crap films, Knights of the Old Republic did a lot for rehabilitating the franchise’s reputation in my mind.

The two games told connected but separate stories focusing on two Jedi Knights – Revan and the Exile. They were set millennia before the main Star Wars films, and while they did borrow some aesthetic elements and themes from the films, they stood alone and apart from Star Wars’ cinematic output. At the time, with Star Wars being dragged through the mud by The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, that was precisely what I needed!

A screenshot from Knights of the Old Republic.

Bioware developed the first Knights of the Old Republic, and in many ways you can see the legacy of that game in their subsequent Mass Effect trilogy. In fact, the first time I sat down to play Mass Effect I considered it to be little more than a generic Star Wars knock-off! The sequel was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, and though it didn’t sell quite as well, and had some issues due to being rushed, it was still a fantastic title.

Both games told genuinely engaging stories with fleshed-out characters who felt real. They allowed a great degree of player choice – which at the time was still a novelty – and in addition to expanding the Star Wars map, visited just enough familiar locations and themes as to clearly be part of the franchise. If someone asked me to describe the “perfect Star Wars game,” it would be one of these two titles. The story, the freedom of choice, the excellent characters… they’re absolutely outstanding.

Other Star Wars games had previously allowed players to fight for the Empire or wield Sith weapons, so being a bad guy was nothing new. But Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel had a Light Side-Dark Side system which allowed players not only to choose which path to follow, but sometimes forced difficult decisions. Sometimes you’d encounter a puzzle or situation where the preferred option would result in pushing your character toward the Dark Side – and if you wanted to do a 100% Light Side playthrough that was difficult! Many smaller moments like this across both games made each playthrough unique.

A screenshot from Knights of the Old Republic II.

In the second game, the characters you would recruit for your party would differ not only by your Light or Dark inclination but also by gender. Male characters recruited one ally, females another. And the characters would have a big impact on your playthrough, with whole side-missions and cut-scenes featuring them. I must’ve played both games half a dozen times by now, even revisiting them as recently as 2017 when I bought them on Steam. Speaking of which: you can pick up both games for less than £15, and they’re usually discounted at sale time. Well worth a buy!

But we’re not here to advertise the first two games! Let’s consider what a third entry in the series could be.

There has already been a sequel of sorts: Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively-multiplayer online game which is still running almost a decade after its initial release. I only played it for a short while – I don’t enjoy MMO titles as you may recall if you’re a regular around here – so I’m not 100% up to speed on everything that came out of The Old Republic. However, I do remember that it was set a few hundred years later, but managed to bring back some locations, themes, and story points from the original two titles.

Promo art for Knights of the Old Republic II.

A new entry in the series must surely be a single-player title. Though this is unconfirmed right now (as with everything else to do with this game) reusing the Knights of the Old Republic name for a multiplayer title or “live service” would not endear whichever company is developing it to Star Wars fans! And that’s another good point: no developer or publisher has been confirmed for this title yet.

Knights of the Old Republic II ended with some unanswered questions. Where had Revan gone? What would he find beyond the Galactic Rim? Would the Jedi Exile (i.e. the second game’s protagonist) be able to find him? These questions were never addressed, though they may have been touched on in The Old Republic, and thus could be answered by a new title.

One thing we’ve been assured of by this rumour is that the new Knights of the Old Republic will not be a remake or reimagining of either of the first games. That strongly suggests we’re looking at a sequel or prequel, and raises the prospect of bringing back some of the original characters. There could be copyright and/or licensing issues there, as studios have changed hands since the original games were made. But it seems at least possible that we could see the return of characters like Carth, Bastilla, and HK-47.

HK-47 in Knights of the Old Republic.

A direct sequel would certainly be popular with fans of the first two games. I’d be truly happy with that, and being able to pick up where the second game ended and carry on the story would be something absolutely wonderful. But would that have widespread appeal? How many gamers and Star Wars fans have played Knights of the Old Republic? PC or Xbox gamers in the early 2000s had access to these titles, and they were subsequently re-released on Steam and even iOS/Android. But there are undoubtedly a lot of gamers and fans who have never touched either title. The games are both approaching their 20th anniversaries, after all.

In that sense, perhaps a direct sequel is less likely, and what will follow will be a new game with new characters occupying a similar position in the galaxy and timeline. There may be references and even a degree of overlap, but not a straight continuation of Revan and the Exile’s stories. While that may disappoint some hardcore fans, it would arguably offer the broadest possible appeal.

It’s possible that this new game could connect in some way to the ongoing High Republic setting that Star Wars has been pushing recently. The High Republic era is set around 300 years before the main films, during the Republic but millennia after Knights of the Old Republic. Though cinematic Star Wars and Disney+ shows seem focused on prequels and spin-offs at the moment, the High Republic era is the setting for a number of apocryphal works like novels – and perhaps games. So while we’re calling this game Knights of the Old Republic, perhaps what it’ll actually be is Knights of the High Republic!

The High Republic is currently a focus for non-filmed Star Wars stories.

We’ll have to wait and see what a new Knights of the Old Republic will bring. It certainly seems as though the game is a long way off; with no official announcement to go on it could be a long while before we see any gameplay or even a trailer. However, the reinvigorated LucasFilm Games has certainly got off to a flying start in 2021. First came the announcement of an Indiana Jones game, then the new Ubisoft-published Star Wars game, and now this Knights of the Old Republic rumour. It seems that there will be plenty of new games on the horizon to get stuck into in the years ahead – and that’s wonderful.

The opportunity to revisit Knights of the Old Republic would be fantastic, and one of the things I enjoyed about Jedi: Fallen Order when I played it last year was that the game took me back to the planet of Kashyyyk – the homeworld of the Wookies that I first explored in Knights of the Old Republic. Whether it ultimately ends up being a true sequel or just a related story, I think there’s a lot of potential to have a truly amazing time back in the Star Wars galaxy.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was released in 2003 by Bioware and Electronic Arts. Knights of the Old Republic II was released in 2004 by Obsidian Entertainment – now owned by Microsoft. The Star Wars franchise – including all titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Disney and LucasFilm. Some screenshots and/or promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A Mass Effect remastered wishlist

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Mass Effect series.

It’s been eight-and-a-half years since Mass Effect 3 was released, rounding out the original trilogy of Mass Effect games. Since then, the franchise has put out a single new title – Mass Effect: Andromeda – which was underwhelming to say the least. For the last six months or more, rumours have been floating around of an impending Mass Effect remaster, and while I was disappointed not to hear any official mention of it at June’s EA Play event, the rumours haven’t subsided. Is something going on with the Mass Effect series?

I have absolutely no idea. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to speculate and fantasise!

Promo artwork for Mass Effect 2.

After Andromeda’s weak launch led to mediocre reviews, memes, and poor sales, EA put the franchise “on hiatus” and Bioware moved on, focusing on the ultimately unsuccessful Anthem. To many of us that sounded ominous – especially given EA’s history of shutting down game studios and killing brands – but if it’s true that a remaster really is in the works, I have a wishlist of things I’d like to see included.

For the record, because I know people like to get excited: I have no idea if a Mass Effect remaster is even being worked on, let alone if any of these ideas or concepts will be included. This is a wishlist from a fan, not “insider information”. If anyone tells you they know something for sure about an unannounced or unreleased project, take it with a grain of salt. With that caveat out of the way, let’s look at my wishlist, which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Delay the project if necessary.

“My face is tired…”

This may seem like an odd one – why talk about a delay to a game that hasn’t even been announced? Well there are two reasons: Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Bioware’s two most recent titles launched before they were properly finished and polished, resulting in lacklustre sales, mediocre review scores, and online mockery. I’ve said it before, but the memes hurt Mass Effect: Andromeda’s sales far more than review scores. It’s a shame, because the most egregious visual bugs and glitches were fixed in a patch within days, but by then it was too late – the damage had been done.

Andomeda’s development was difficult, and the final build of the game was – at least according to reports – put together in mere months, despite the game having been in development for five years. The reason why I’m saying to EA and Bioware that one of the things I want from any potential Mass Effect remaster is a delay, if necessary, is because I want them to learn from that mistake. The “release now, fix later” concept doesn’t work, and if the game launches to mockery, memes, and mediocrity as Andromeda did, there’ll be no salvaging it – or the franchise, quite frankly.

Number 2: 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second.

The whole point of remastering a game is to improve its graphics and the way it looks using newer and better technology than was available to the original development team. But the second and third Mass Effect titles in particular still look decent today, and as I keep saying, graphical improvements get smaller and smaller with each new generation.

One thing that has improved in the last few years, however, is the frame rate games can run at. 30fps was commonplace in the Xbox 360 era, when Mass Effect debuted, but now we have 60fps as standard, and on higher-end machines we can push frame rates way further. The bare minimum for a big-budget game in 2020 is 4K resolution at 60fps. If the Mass Effect remaster can’t manage that, a lot of people will wonder what the point of it is.

Number 3: Rework Mass Effect 1 to use Mass Effect 2 and 3′s gameplay.

Mass Effect 2 offered massive gameplay improvements over its predecessor. Gunplay was faster and more fluid, the complicated inventory system was streamlined, and many more quality-of-life improvements made the second game way better than the first. If a Mass Effect remaster is going back to the drawing board to rebuild the games from the ground up, it would be a great opportunity to update the first game to be in line with the second and third.

Aside from making the first game more enjoyable to play, this would also standardise the remastered trilogy, making it an easier experience to go from one game to the next, especially for new players. Mass Effect 2 and 3 don’t really need much improving from a gameplay point of view, but the first title could do with an update.

Number 4: Include all three games – plus all of their DLC – in one package.

No special editions. No deluxe editions. No console exclusive characters or missions. No paid DLC for a thirteen-year-old game. All of the content for all three games should be available in one package. While I’d prefer to see the full trilogy released all at once, one possible option is to follow the trail blazed by Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC and release the first game, then the second, then the third. But regardless, one price should get players all three games plus all of the DLC.

The Mass Effect series has been poor in this regard. Both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 had day-one DLC – which is industry slang for cut content that they could sell separately for more money. Some of the expansions were great, but others added what felt like content that should have been part of the main game, or felt like small additions for the asking price – like adding a single character. Javik, the series’ first Prothean character, was only available as DLC – despite the fact that he played a pivotal role in Mass Effect 3. It’s a good opportunity for the series to put all of that behind it and release the entire story in one package.

Number 5: If the game needs microtransactions, save them for multiplayer.

Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda had multiplayer modes. I only knew about Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer because failure to participate had an impact on your “war score” or “galactic readiness” during the single-player campaign, which was incredibly annoying. But both games enjoyed moderate success with their multiplayer modes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if EA crams multiplayer in to a Mass Effect remaster too.

If there is a multiplayer mode, this is the place to dump DLC and microtransactions, not in the already-complete single-player story. As someone who doesn’t play a lot of multiplayer, having DLC and microtransactions here will have no impact on my enjoyment of the campaign. If EA has to include in-game monetisation, the least they could do is keep it away from the story.

Number 6: Tweak Mass Effect 3 to at least pay lip service to more player choices.

This was a huge moment in Mass Effect 3 that seemed to go unrecognised afterwards.

I’m not asking for Mass Effect 3′s ending to be fundamentally rewritten; that will never happen. What I think could be done to massively improve the final third of that game is to add in some more cut-scenes, animations, and lines of dialogue recognising the choices players made across all three titles. One of the most disappointing things about Mass Effect 3 for me was that during the climactic final act, many accomplishments from earlier in the game and in the series went completely unacknowledged.

To give an example I’ve used before: if players followed a specific path across all three titles, it’s possible to save both the Geth and Quarian species when it looks like it would only be possible to save one or the other. Having both powerful fleets instead of just one feels like it should have a huge impact on the war against the Reapers… but it didn’t. A few extra “war score points” and two words of dialogue confirming that both fleets had arrived for the final battle was literally all you got for all that effort, and it just felt so hollow and disappointing. That was almost worse than the actual pick-a-colour ending.

Bringing back a few of the voice actors to record a few extra lines, creating some new animations to represent different combinations of fleets, soldiers, and survivors, and overall just tweaking and adjusting the final portion of Mass Effect 3 would go a long way to negating this issue, and if the game is being massively overhauled anyway, why not put in the extra effort? Fans may still be disappointed in the ultimate finale, but if the journey there were improved, it would be a better experience as a whole.

Number 7: Set the stage for a potential Mass Effect 4?

One of the possible endings to the trilogy.

I don’t know if this is really something I want – hence the question mark. But I can only assume that a Mass Effect remaster would be seen by EA and Bioware as a stepping stone to a potential new entry in the franchise, and after the disappointment of Andromeda, surely the only way that could happen would be a fourth mainline entry in the series.

Andromeda’s fundamental problem, beyond the animations and glitches and bland characters, was that it felt like an overblown side-quest. The entire game felt like the B-plot of a better story, and I think that feeling would have persisted regardless of how well-built it might have been. So how could a fourth Mass Effect game work? That’s a huge question, because the ending of Mass Effect 3 was simultaneously so final yet so transformative.

An idea I’ve been kicking around for a while is this: in the aftermath of the Reapers being defeated, a past race that had survived a Reaper harvest re-emerges or returns to the galaxy, looking to reclaim what they see as “theirs”. Shepard comes out of retirement, perhaps fifteen or twenty years after the end of Mass Effect 3 (which would allow time for the galaxy to have rebuilt). The new enemy would be tough and would be just as much an existential threat as the Reapers had been – keeping the stakes high and avoiding the sense of the new fight being anticlimactic.

The Leviathans featured in DLC for Mass Effect 3 and are exactly the kind of faction I’m thinking about with this concept.

But that’s just one fan concept, and there are myriad ideas for how a fourth mainline game could work. However it may happen, the Mass Effect remaster will have to set the stage for a potential fourth game – perhaps by adding an epilogue.

As we’ve recently seen with The Last of Us Part II, some stories don’t need sequels, and when a decision is made to make one anyway, what results can be disappointing to fans. There’s definitely an argument to be made that the Mass Effect trilogy was so special and unique that a sequel is unnecessary – or even unwanted.

Number 8: More customisation options and a better character creator.

The character creation screen in Mass Effect 1.

For a game that released in 2007, Mass Effect’s character creator was okay. But even by the time Mass Effect 2 and 3 were released, the limitations of the original game’s character creator were apparent. Games today can offer so much more in terms of building a unique face for a player character – from hairstyles to tattoos to beards and so much more. The Mass Effect trilogy is jam-packed with cut-scenes which show off Shepard, so making him or her look good is important! The default faces are fine, but a roleplaying game needs some degree of customisation, and the outdated character creator definitely needs an overhaul.

And while we’re at it, let’s have more cosmetic options for armour and weapons. The first game was noticeably lacking in this department, but the second and third titles did have pretty solid armour and weapon customisation. I’d like to see this expanded with a variety of cosmetic options for customising Shepard’s appearance and outfits, including his uniform when not in armour as well as individual weapons. While it may be tempting to turn this feature into a microtransaction marketplace, as mentioned above let’s try to keep that just for multiplayer!

So that’s it. A few things I’d like to see from a potential – but still unconfirmed – Mass Effect remaster.

Fans of Star Trek: Picard who haven’t played through this fun sci-fi game series will note some similarities in the broad strokes of the plot: an ancient race left behind a beacon, warning of the dangers of a race of synthetics who will come to wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy. Sounds familiar, right? While Star Trek: Picard took a very different approach to this story outline, the similarity in premise is something I thought at the time was noteworthy – I even referred to the unnamed faction of super-synths in that show as the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

Remember this faction from Star Trek: Picard?

Is it the right time for a Mass Effect remaster? That’s a good question. The stink of Andromeda is still pretty fresh for a lot of gamers, and the trilogy only ended in 2012. I could absolutely entertain the argument that it’s something best saved for five or ten years’ time rather than something the gaming world needs in 2020 – but I’m not the one making those decisions! If there is a remaster this year or next, I have no doubt I’ll take a look to see what it has to offer. I’ll be curious to stack up a remastered version of Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 against the original to see how much better it could really look. As I’ve said before, in a lot of ways I’d be happy with a game that has Mass Effect 2′s visual effects even if it were released today, so any remaster will have to go above and beyond to wow me with the way it looks.

Still, I’ll take any excuse to revisit a beloved series. In December I put Mass Effect 3′s ending on my list of entertainment disappointments of the decade, and I stand by that. It was a let-down then. But time is a great healer! Although I’ve replayed the trilogy several times I haven’t touched it in five or six years, so it will definitely be nice to jump back in – assuming the rumours are true and there really is a remaster in the works!

I hope you’ll check back soon for more sci-fi and gaming articles!

The Mass Effect series – including all titles discussed above, as well as potential new titles – is the copyright of Electronic Arts and Bioware. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.