I didn’t want to post this directly to the forums because I think the boards have enough Mass Effect 3 discussion as it is, but I wanted to say something about this situation in particular that wasn’t just another post in a thread somewhere. For some time now the internet has been positively crawling with speculation over the idea that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game.
If you’ve not heard it by now the theory goes that because Mass Effect 2 was simplified in terms of gameplay, Dragon Age II (and possibly Mass Effect 2) was considered to be a drop in quality from its predecessor, and because of the involvement of EA who increasingly seem to care less and less about not screwing the customer over, that Mass Effect 3 has the possibility of being a very disappointing title. Some have even gone a few steps further to proclaim that Mass Effect 3 will be a bad game and have already started raining down their hate on EA and Bioware for the hypothetically terrible game that will apparently be released.
Guys, this has gotten out of hand. My aim isn’t to offend anyone here, but Mass Effect 3 isn’t even out yet and the idea that’s it’s guaranteed to be a complete flop doesn’t seem that sensible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person who wants to see the Mass Effect franchise take a turn for the worse, and I do think there may be something to the theories that it’s going to be a game that’s lacking in comparison to its predecessors, but the degree of certainty to which some people believe Mass Effect is going to be a poor game seems a little premature, so let’s step back and break down the speculation over this whole business.
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age II seems to be a popular piece of evidence brought forth for why there is or will be a decline in the quality of Bioware products. Firstly, I think some people seem to be a little hysterical when it comes to judging the quality of Dragon Age II itself. I’m sure there are a bunch of people out there who think Dragon Age II is a bad game and have perfectly valid reasons for thinking so, but I do wonder if for some Dragon Age II’s crime was not so much being a bad game, but rather being a game that wasn’t as good as its predecessor.
If you look at the reviews out there, at least among professional writers, Dragon Age II was never regarded as a badly-made game; it averaged a pretty consistent 8/10 across the board. But okay, for the sake of argument let’s say that Dragon Age II was a bad or at least very disappointing title. Dragon Age II is still just one game, and to take that one product and treat it as being reflective of all future Bioware titles doesn’t seem fair. But okay, let’s say for the sake of argument Dragon Age II could certainly help us divine the future of Bioware titles.
The Dev Process and Mass Effect 2
The problem is, the theories behind why Dragon Age II was the way it was largely seem to revolve round the idea that it was interference from EA and a sell-out attitude on Bioware’s part that ruined the game. From what I can see we just don’t know enough about the development of the game to say that, but one rather obvious development problem that Bioware most likely faced is that the quality of Dragon Age II was hurt because it was rushed.
Between the U.S. releases of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II there were sixteen months, whereas between the announcement and release of the original Dragon Age there were roughly five years. Of course we have no solid numbers for development time here, but what we do have suggests a significantly longer development period for Dragon Age: Origins compared to Dragon Age II. Mass Effect doesn’t seem to have this problem, with the Mass Effect games probably not only needing less assets and design work, but with them also having a twenty-six month gap between the release of Mass Effect 2 and 3, the same amount of time that there was between 1 and 2. Of course I’m not saying that that this means there weren’t other factors that affected the quality of Dragon Age II, but I think this helps disprove the idea that the exact same problems that threatened Dragon Age II are certainly going to ruin Mass Effect 3.
Some of you may be thinking at this point that Dragon Age II wasn’t the only recent disappointment though, but that Mass Effect 2 was also indicative of a decline in quality from Bioware games. However, surely if you didn’t like Mass Effect 2 it should be a given that you’re unlikely to enjoy Mass Effect 3. The idea that if you didn’t like a video game, that you won’t like the sequel to that game, shouldn’t be a major revelation. I have seen some speculate that because 2 was simpler than 1, that this indicates 3 will be simpler than 2, but again, I just don’t think this is how it works. Just because one game in the series was simplified, doesn’t mean the next will be.
EA and Bioware
As for the theory that EA’s involvement in Mass Effect 3 will run it into the ground, perhaps, but this seems like rather baseless speculation. We really know very little about the internal relationship between EA and Bioware on this one and there are plenty of games EA could have ruined in the past and just haven’t. The closest thing we even have to proof that EA may have had their hands in Bioware’s work is the fact that we know Mass Effect 3 will have online multiplayer, almost certainly as a means to flog more online pass codes for EA. This, however, says nothing about the quality of the single-player or even multiplayer game.
We’ve already been told that the multiplayer content is largely separate and optional, just because they’ve developed this multiplayer content doesn’t mean they’ve cut down the development team working on the single-player game (this doesn’t seem like the title EA would choose to skimp out on resources for), and just look at Dead Space 2. That was a recent EA-published product with multiplayer that felt crow-barred in but that didn’t stop anyone from loving the hell out of the single-player. EA aren’t exactly my favourite publisher either, but they’re still showing that good games can be made under them.
The Chobot Reveal
Lastly, there’s been the recent reveal of one character being modelled on and voiced by Jessica Chobot which seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers, even from people who barely know who Chobot is. Now, to me the level of hate that’s come down on Chobot seems way over the top, but if seeing a video game journalist you don’t like appear in a game significantly puts you off the game as a whole then fine, that’s how you feel and you’ve got every right to feel however you want. But if your point is that including a pretty gamer chick with a low-cut top is pandering to nerds I see where you’re coming from, but there’s plenty of things that the Mass Effect franchise has done before now that could have been called “pandering”.
The obvious example is the female lead of the show Chuck becoming a main character in Mass Effect 2 and walking around throughout the game dressed in a skintight catsuit, but this goes back way further than that. Even very early on in the original Mass Effect, you were exploring a gentlemen’s club where provocatively dressed blue alien ladies could be seen lap dancing. I personally don’t have any problem with this, I’m just saying Jessica Chobot in a low-cut tank top doesn’t seem that wildly distant from what the series has presented before.
Duder, It’s Over
All in all I’m not saying Mass Effect 3 will be a good game or a bad game, and I think it’s wise to retain some scepticism, but I think people have gotten somewhat hysterical on this one. I think Mass Effect 3 still has plenty of opportunity to be a great game and that we’re far from a time where we can pass a final verdict on its quality. Thanks for reading.