10 March 2013

Mass Effect 3: One Year On

A year ago Mass Effect 3 was released on March 6th in North America and on March 9th in Europe. For such a high profile launch perhaps disappointment was inevitable yet the scale of the backlash could never have been pre-determined.

By and large BioWare's release and the concluding part of Commander Shepard's story is commendable even if rarely reached the heights established by Mass Effect 2 and further moved away from the series RPG roots. Of course, the biggest controversy which the game generated concerned its ending, and it was around this element of the game that the reaction by players was most overwhelming.

Much has been said of the much maligned conclusion to the tale and while it will be never be possible to tell with any great accuracy whether those who disliked the ending were a significant majority or impressively vocal minority their determination, if nothing else, should not be quickly dismissed.

Nor should they be considered 'entitled'. They are not the first consumers to petition the creators of a project to change it, nor will be the last. One of the earliest examples of this came about over a century ago when fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes demanded he bring the famous detective back - Doyle duly complied.

While BioWare's attempts to appease fans are admirable, there was no need for the studio to produce the (free) Extended Cut which addressed some of the plot holes and other issues that had been raised. And there certainly wasn't any need for Citadel, the greatest DLC BioWare have ever produced (in my opinion). Granted, $15 for a love letter to fans may seem disingenuous, yet it truly worth the money for a heartfelt sendoff to Commander Shepard and his/her squad.

Not everyone can be pleased and not everyone has been. Perhaps BioWare have lost some fans permanently over what are seen as the relative disappointments of Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. This would be a lasting shame, the studio's titles are still better than a great many games and it remains to be seen if these fans carry through with their threat of boycotting the company.

There are those who continue to work towards making a 'better' ending to title, of course, as with the ending itself their success or failure will be a matter of opinion and whether, after a year, there are enough people to care.

Koobismo, the creator of the Marauder Shields series of comics will see the series to a close and in so doing create what may be the ending Commander Shepard deserved all along, a subjective matter of course.

Others will seek to make their own mark on the Mass Effect universe and the fate of the first human spectre.

One fan, Gerry Pugliese, has been working for almost a year on Mass Effect 3: Vindication, a project which has bloomed into a 500 page response to what some see as the game's pitfalls complete with the title's official soundtrack - something not many composers or studios would agree to - as well as professional voice talent in the form of Lora Cain (Trudy and Red Lucy from Fallout: New Vegas).


This type of dedication and passion should never be disavowed and illustrates just what BioWare's games can do - the interest and the love they can invoke in those who play them. 

Mass Effect 3 served to progress the series with a multiplayer mode that never felt tacked-on and has been consistently supported by free DLC and bi-weekly challenges. It concluded many tropes of the Mass Effect series admirably (curing - or not - the krogan genophage is one particular highlight) even if the game did sometimes wander into that lamentable videogame belief that emotion = sadness (the fates of Mordin and Thane spring to mind).

Some fans will never be appeased but if they can look back on the series BioWare created and fond memories of it than perhaps it wasn't all in vain. Personally, I have much to thank the franchise for.

One of the pieces I submitted when applying to write for Levithyn concerned Mass Effect 3's ending (it was never actually published) while my dislike of the conclusion - significantly lessened by time, the Extended Cut and the absurdly excellent Citadel - and was the second piece I had ever written on the subject of videogames - the uproar also brought me into contact with many I now consider friends.

The point is that games can bring people together, even when it's a togetherness borne out of anger. The Mass Effect trilogy, and not just the conclusion of Commander Shepard's story, did this in a way few games can. That will always be something to be thankful for. 

Commander Shepard won't be in the next Mass Effect but I for one will happily delve back into that wonderful world BioWare crafted.

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