5 Things that need to be in Mass Effect 4
Right now I am playing through the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and loving every minute of it. Mass Effect is my all time favorite video game franchise, and contains what is in my opinion the greatest video game ever made, Mass Effect 2. I will have a review on the remaster and the trilogy soon, but for now I wanted to talk about something in particular. While I work through it, and prepare our Game Infinite review, the remaster has me lovingly diving back into my gaming past, but it also has me thinking of the future. Last year, during the 2020 Game Awards when we got a teaser for the future of Mass Effect, I was absolutely ecstatic and jumped for joy when the N7 logo appeared in the teaser, promising us that Mass Effect "will continue". Playing through the original trilogy again in 4K with beautifully upgraded visuals, has me wondering just what a true ME4 could really be.
(Possible Spoilers for Mass Effect Legendary Edition or Andromeda)
I will sit here and say that I did not hate Andromeda nearly as much as many did, because I understood that it could never reach the heights of the trilogy. It was doomed to be in the shadow of that trilogy, and I enjoyed it for what it was, a fun space shooter. I think just by being a new installment, it did have somethings that would make ME4 better. However, as Andromeda proved, you can't just make a new Mass Effect game set in the universe and have it be phenomenal. There are things about the trilogy that need to be in the ME4 for it to be good. From the teaser, and from much speculation, clues, concept art, and more, we believe that Mass Effect will be a "true sequel" in that it takes place in the Milky Way galaxy, with at least one original character, and takes place after the events of Mass Effect 3. Andromeda was always meant to be a stand alone story in a distant galaxy in a distant time period. However, it never made sense exactly how that even worked. You see my biggest problem with Andromeda wasn't the lack of overarching threat, poor facial animations, or even the lack of new aliens; it was the fact that them having no contact with the Milky Way upon reaching Andromeda never made any sense. The series established that they had quantum entanglement communication that could be instant over any distance. Thankfully, we know from the teaser, thanks to dead reapers, destroyed relays, and Liara Tsoni's presence, that this sequel will return to the future of the Milky Way Galaxy. What we don't know exactly is how far in the future it will be. Liara, seen in the teaser, belongs to a race that easily live to be a 1000 years old and do not show much sign of aging when doing so. Considering that she was just over a hundred in the trilogy means that this game has a 900 year range of possible time periods. This game could take place only years after ME3, but that would be a mistake. A few years isn't enough time to rebuild the relays and undo the damage that was caused by the Reaper War. They need time to have rebuilt society a little bit. There also needs to be a enough time elapsed to make room for a new galactic threat. One of the biggest problems with Andromeda is it really lacked major threat. The threat of the narrative just paled in comparison to the Reaper Invasion. However, if ME4 with some new threat, is too close to ME3, then the importance and impact of Shepard saving the galaxy is lessened. There needs to be a period of time where the galaxy enjoys the peace and rebuilding of Shepard's sacrifice.
What I really hope to see in Mass Effect 4 is that there is a time jump of at least a few decades if not centuries. I want to see Liara on a journey to find Shepard. I hope the teaser is giving us a clue to the plot of ME4 that Liara is on a journey to locate something about Shepard to bring him/her back. There is a new threat to the galaxy, and Liara thinks the only way to save it is to bring back Shepard. The entire game is played from her perspective, and it ends with Shepard's return. They could use some reaper tech to resurrect Shepard who was caught in the blast of the Catalyst's weapon.
Here are 5 things that need to be in Mass Effect 4.
5. Even Better Relationships
A big part of the Mass Effect games is the ability to have Shepard form romantic relationships with various characters. However, they were limited by the technology and in many ways the society of the time. A future Mass Effect sequel could make them much more complicated. Character relationships could be more on a spectrum. It could be easier to see how character relationships are negative, acquaintance, friend, close friend, casual romance, serious romance, ect... Characters getting into a romantic relationship should be harder than saying a "few nice things". The seriousness of the romance could vary. It needs to be easier to mess up than just failing a mission or "being renegade". It also could be way more open and inclusive than what was allowed in 2007 with every character possible and multiple characters.
4. Evolve the combat even further from Andromeda.
One of the few things I really enjoyed that Andromeda "did manage" to improve upon was combat and gameplay. I want them to keep the fast custom varied combat of Andromeda, but bring back the pausable power wheel for real time strategy. Adding verticality to combat via jump packs, and more varied gameplay styles all really made Andromeda fun. One thing I want them to even evolve further is to add an option for a third "pet" squad mate. The "bring two people along" squamate system helped make Mass Effect iconic, and should remain, but I want the option for a third non-verbal "pet" companion out on missions. This would really add some interesting elements to combat. This pet squad mate could be a VI Drone "orb", a Varren, or a mechdog.
3. The Normandy is to Mass Effect as the Enterprise is to Star Trek.
The Normandy is so important to Mass Effect that I just can't except that ME4 could exist without it. This idea / pitch for ME4 has Liara as the protagonist in a mission to resurrect Shepard again to face a new threat, and to do all that she will need a ship. While I actually do like the Tempest from Andromeda, at the end of the day the Normandy of Mass Effect is the Enterprise of this universe. The ship matters. It is a gorgeous design that is just as iconic as the species and worlds of the universe. More than just a design philosophy there is a certain kind of magic in a name. While admittedly, much time has passed both in the "real world" and in universe for this game, so I think that ME4 should have a "SR3" Normandy. It could still be a newer, bigger, ship with the technology in line with the centuries of future technological advancement, but it would still maintain the Normandy's overall "design look". Mass Effect just wouldn't be Mass Effect without that iconic overall design philosophy.
2. A New Galactic Threat that is NOT the Reapers
I think an easy temptation for the developers of ME4 to make is to make some type of "super reapers" or "return of the reapers" and doing anything of the sort would invalidate ME3's stakes and the sacrifice of everyone in the OT as well as Shepard themself. The reapers need to stay DEAD. Period. However, what is incredibly important is that there needs to be some galaxy ending threat that hits with the same quality as the Reapers. There needs to be a new threat, a new sense of inevitable failure, without it being the Reapers. However, if the threat is too small, (Like Andromeda) the game could feel like a cheap failure and follow the footsteps of Andromeda. I don't envy the challenge of making it feel as "big" as the Reapers, without it feeling either recycled or invalidating. Whatever the threat ends up being, they need to pull it off making the scope big without it being just more Reapers. In fact this "need" for ME4 is actually why it is so important fo their to be a big time jump for the sequel. There needs to be a time jump to validate the "saving" of the galaxy in the original trilogy before another big threat rolled around.
One thing that needs to be answered in a future sequel is what happens to the Leviathans after the Reapers are destroyed. The Leviathans are ancient and powerful. They are the former "oppressors" of the galaxy prior to the Reapers. In fact, they created the Reapers and are just as anti-synthetic as anyone.They reined over the lesser species for millions of years prior to creating the Reapers to "protect organic life". When falling to their own hubris, their own machines turning against them, they have been in hiding all this time. Centuries after the Reapers are gone, will they return? Will they try to oppress the galaxy again? Or will they have learned their lesson and try to live in peace with the galaxy. I honestly would prefer them to be an allied race, an ancient, revered, wise "Yoda" species rather than the new antagonist. Like I said, it would be too easy to make them a "super reaper". We need to answer what happens to them without them being villains.
1. If Liara is still alive, than so can a few other characters...
If they do a what many of us hope to be true and do a multi-century time jump, then we could see a rebuilt galaxy, a rebuilt society, we get to see the success of Shepard rewarded, but that also means that Bioware needs to get creative when it comes to characters. One of the things they didn't realize about the mistake of Andromeda is that Mass Effect OT is so great thanks in no small part to it's amazing cast of characters. It was the characters that helped make Mass Effect so timeless. The number 1 thing I think Mass Effect 4 needs is to bring back as many characters as possible. If the Liara is the main protagonist, and she is trying to resurrect Shepard, there are still other OT characters who could still be alive. Grunt and possibly Wrex depending on the time jump, (We know Krogen can live at least 1400 years) could both still be alive.
Many of us speculate that they will canonize the Destroy Ending for ME3, which means it would be harder to explain but not impossible to resurrect EDI. As an AI she could still be alive. I also think that there is a way they could explain having Miranda return. Miranda was essentially a genetically engineered being. There could be a story arc of having a Miranda return as a clone in a project of a future set Alt-Cerberus-replacement group. Also, in ME2 there is a throwaway line that Miranda says she will live longer than the average human. They could tap into that and say she could live as long as an Asari. Another throw away line how she lived longer than expected. If not Miranda, at the very least, they could bring back one short lived species character via cloning without it being too unbelievable, I just think Miranda is the one that makes the most in-universe sense. There are other existing in-lore technologies such as Cryostasis it would be possible to bring back at least one character from the OT. If they use it once, it makes room for one character to return. Also, do we know how long Protheans live? Is it possible that Javik could still be alive after a few hundred years?
If Liara, EDI, Miranda, Grunt, and Wrex were all still alive, working together to resurrect Shepard, then we would be well on the way to having back some amazing characters to hold up the new game while still leaving plenty of room for new characters and even new aliens. As much as it is important to bring back as many old characters as possible; it is just as important to introduce us to new aliens. That was one of the things Andromeda suffered from, was that for a new galaxy there were more milky way alien characters than their actually Andromeda species. After hundreds of years of improving FTL, and rebuilding the Relays, the sequel needs to introduce a few different aliens as enemies, allies, and squamates.
I also think that if they place the game as far as 600 years in the future in the Milky Way Galaxy, then they could have this game take place right after the events of Andromeda. There could be a story line that merges the two games. There could be a story line that opens some type of portal or wormhole and we get to see "some" of the cast of Andromeda return. I think it would be amazing to make the Ryder twins the human side characters in the game. Ryder was always a great character and would make for a great squadmate.