Having played through Mass Effect 2, I went back to the original game to play through as a new Shepherd. Shortly after starting, it became very apparent that many of the changes Bioware made in the sequel were for the better. However, it seemed as though many of the changes Bioware made to the sequel took many gameplay ideas and mechanics to the opposite end of the spectrum- for example, where ME1's inventory system was clunky and overly demanding, the scarce options left in ME2 had me wishing there was more to it. That's why I believe, if Bioware can strike the right balance between the first two games for ME3, they can create a game that stands out even beyond the already excellent entries into the series, and here's how I think it can be done:
Mass Effect: While the prospect of exploring vast, uncharted planets out in the galaxy sounded great on paper, the reality was less stellar, due to poor vehicle controls, barren environments and cookie cutter interiors. While searching out these environments for loot and anomalies could be addicting, the exploratory elements in ME quickly became tedious and formulaic, and the Mako traversal is considered by many to be the low point of the entire game.
Mass Effect 2: Responding to the criticism of the Mako missions, Bioware stripped the vehicle out from the sequel entirely, ensuring that when taking on side missions in new worlds, a shuttle would take the players directly to the location. These new locations were all distinct, a definite improvement over the original games small handful of unique sidequest environments. Though the elimination of the Mako made for tighter pacing, it took away some of the sense of the wonder the original had with its wide open environments. The hammerhead was later introduced in DLC, and showed some promise, but remains underutilized. The game also introduced a scanning minigame to acquire resources, which was not well received.
My Hopes for Mass Effect 3:
- Bring back vehicular exploration, but with a vehicle that can easily navigate the environment without trouble (more hammerhead than Mako)
- Instead of 40 cookie cutter, empty worlds, give me 5-10 really detailed ones, each with its own distinct look with unique flora and fauna, and maybe even small alien settlements to interact with
- Make these worlds teem with life, and give the player a reason to explore. For example, instead of the boring collectathon side missions from the first game, you could be tasked with going out into these underdeveloped worlds and gathering information on new species, or find a new pet to keep in Shepherd's cabin (okay that's pretty goofy, but so is a Space Hamster :P)
- Scanning for resources is booooring, and doesn't at all play to the games strengths. Since the Mass Effect dialog system is so fundamental, how about a diplomacy minigame where you interact and barter with native populations for resources instead?
Mass Effect: The original Mass Effect was a loot heavy game for sure. Every enemy, wall safe and trash bin in the game seemed to have half a dozen guns and weapon mods inside. While it was fun to find new and better guns, and especially cool to try on new armor, the clunky inventory, which didn't even stack alike items made it tedious to manage. Also, the lack of an option to automatically equip the best gear for each character made the game require a level of micromanaging that many players didn't appreciate.
Mass Effect 2: Again, choosing to take this aspect of the game completely in the other direction, Bioware all but eliminated the inventory in ME2, save for selecting guns for your characters from a small list. Shepherd him/herself could be outfitted with some gear in the cabin, but these options were pretty limited. For the most part, outfitting your party became more about purchasing upgrades. While certainly a more elegant solution, the RPG fan in me scoffed at this a little, as the decisions I made with the upgrades didn't seem to carry much weight (I wasn't specing out my party the way I desired so much as purchasing anything I could to simply make everyone perform better overall).
My Hopes for Mass Effect 3:
- While I don't want to have to pull myself out of the action for 5 minutes at a time to spec out my characters, there is something to be said about loot lust in RPGs. I liked the idea of finding blueprints for each weapons, but there was no choice involved. Give me a decision to make each step of the way. For example, when upgrading the pistol to level 2, make me choose whether I want increased accuracy or a chance to toxify enemies on hit.
- Bring back weapon mods, but have them be much rarer and make each one a game changer. ME1 had a few of these, but too many mods were incremental upgrades. I want tor really notice when I put one of these on (If you've played Ratchet: Deadlocked, think those types of weapon mods). Give me a shotgun mod with the kinetic force of a biotic throw on impact, but requires a 4 second cool down between shots, or a pistol mod that lets me mark targets that shots will then home in on, but dealing only 1/2 the damage. Whatever it is, make it balanced, strategic and impactful.
- Bring back armor, but give an color selector for each one, so that I can wear my best new armor without having a pink male Shep (not that there's anything wrong with that- just a little distracting in the middle of a firefight).
That's it for now, but I'll probably make another post about other aspects of the game like Party Members, Combat Mechanics, and Character Skills.
But until then, what do you guys think, and what would you personally like to see out of ME3?