Release Date: To be released in 2016. Exact date yet to be confirmed by BioWare.
The Next Mass Effect: Going Beyond the Commander
Regardless of whether you loved or hated the ending choices for Mass Effect 3, anyone who has played all three parts of one of the greatest sci-fi RPG games ever made knows that starting up a new Mass Effect game will be a major change. Especially since Bioware has said time and again that Shepard will no longer be the player-protagonist. So the big question is, what does Bioware have in store for us? And more importantly, who will be playing the lead role in the next game?
Plenty of Room
The number of possibilities for the next Mass Effect game is staggering. So far, any teaser images released by Bioware have not given any definitive state as to what kind of ME universe players will be stepping into. Will it be an era before the events of the original trilogy? Will it go as far back as the Prothean wars? Or will it be something more recent like the first contact wars?
The possibility that this could also be a post-ME3 world is likely as well, with many theories speculating that the next protagonist may be a biological or at the very least, a spiritual heir to Shepard.
With all these options, there is certainly something that many players can look forward to: the possibility that the next ME protagonist is no longer limited to the human race.
One of the best things about Drew Karpyshyn's work with this Bioware game series is that there are plenty of amazing alien races to know and explore. From the council races to those living on the fringe of the outer sectors, players have had the chance to personally meet and interact with a wide and diverse range of alien species while in Shepard's shoes.
Mass Effect 4 Animation & First Details Video
Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer Option allowed players to choose beyond humans
Meanwhile, the multiplayer feature of Mass Effect 3 allowed players to see what combat is like for other races -especially for those who are not seen in the single player party. Classes such as the Vorcha, Batarians, male Quarians, female Turians, and even a group of combat-ready Volus showed ME fans that it is just as fun to play other races as human ones (maybe even more so). So to expect the next Mass Effect game to go beyond the human species is going to be a welcome feature.
One other thing to look at is Bioware's other series, Dragon Age. While the second game in the series limited players to a human character, the first and third installments of the game (Origins and Inquisition), allows players to use non-human races such as Dwarves and Elves.
With that said, what kind of races would be fun to play and create? So far, the Turians have been depicted as attuned to being soldiers and infiltrators -focusing heavily on using weapons as their main offensive strength. The Krogan are shown to be great at being sentinels and vanguards -though their biotic abilities also make them good adepts. The Drell are fast, quick, and agile, making them very effective infiltrators. But of course, these are features that many players would already know as characters like Wrex, Garrus, and Thane have already shown the uniqueness of these classes in the single player campaigns.
Completely new classes like the Hanar and the Elcor have been brought up as jokes by the fan community (mostly inspired by the Blasto content in ME3 and the ME3: Citadel DLC). On the other hand, nothing is stopping Bioware from introducing completely new races never before seen on previous Mass Effect games.
Image showing character's face customisation options in Mass Effect 3"/>
One of the things that players remember about the previous Mass Effect titles was that even the alien races tended to have unique physical features that made them different from other characters. Mordin seemed to have softer features compared to Kirrahe. Wrex's face was full of deep and defined lines while the much younger Grunt had a smoother skin texture (to say nothing of Wrex's signature scars). Even the more complex faces, such as the Turians, still allowed players to distinguish Garrus from the other Turians in C-Sec with their varying cheek and eye shapes. The Asari, being the most human-like in face, were also easy to tell apart.
Given all that, it makes sense that a character creation module for the next ME game would be able to easily handle the needs of each class. Some features would have to be unique and different per class of course, as some physical features are unique to certain races -the Batarian, for example, have several sets of eyes. The Quarian, Geth, and the Volus on the other hand focus more on unique parts -as the Quarian and Volus are confined strictly to suits while the Geth are basically robots.
All New Classes
Mass Effect 3 had 6 basic classes, all with a varied physical appearance: Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Vanguard, Sentinel, Infiltrator
While generally subdivided into 6 basic classes, Mass Effect 3's multiplayer has shown that players can achieve a wide range of playing styles -from massive hulking Geth Juggernauts armed with pulse attacks to Talon Mercenary units that make use of the most unique omnitool-weapon, the omni-bow.
Mass Effect 4 should showcase all new ways for players to play the game. Tapping into the story's rich mythos, there are plenty of ways to make use of biotic powers, Reaperization-technology, cybernetic augmentation, the implantation of AI and VI, element zero weaponization, and so much more in a game's combat mechanics. This amount of diversity in terms of being able to create and customize a character will be critical in making the game an even more personalized experience.
Big Shoes to Fill
All that content and focus on the concept of creating a new player character will go a long way. With the massive success of the first three games, Bioware has to live up to the expectations of many existing fans. And Shepard's tale will not be an easy act to follow -let alone surpass. Many fans are still displeased with the state of the trilogy's ending choices and that means that there are all the more fans ready and waiting to judge the next game to carry the ME title on its' front.
Decision making will once again take the forefront of the game -and even more so now that Bioware has shown that it can disregard the importance of player choices. Will the next Mass Effect game deliver another disappointing ending or will the developers actually try and understand the needs of their fans and audience?
And while making the character new, unique, and something that the players can fully personalize. There is a consistent call by fans for Bioware's need to step up the game in terms of delivering a good story. With Drew Karpyshyn long separated from the franchise and the ME3 lead handler out of the picture, this next one is a completely new thing wearing an old familiar suit. Only time will tell if the players will appreciate the changes to the series or not.