Heads up, this post is gonna contain all kinds of spoilers for Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, as well as speculation about a minor spoiler for Mass Effect 3. So...read on if you're not that fussed about spoilers, but if you are, well, you might want to think twice before continuing.
Last week Kotaku posted this EXTREMELY spoilery article (seriously, lots of spoilers, only click if you really don't want to be surprised) about some of the things we can look forward to in Mass Effect 3. The game was supposed to hit shelves New Year's Eve of this year but has been postponed until the end of next March, so I have been eagerly drinking in all of the information on it I can find.
The first thing that really struck me was the mention that there will be fewer available party members. Now in the first two games, you could only have two companion characters with you at any given time, but there were a lot of crew members you could choose from. I like the idea of paring it down. A big part of Bioware games is the relationships your character develops with the companion characters throughout the game, be they romantic, platonic, or contentious. With fewer NPCs to choose from to accompany you on missions, you have a better chance of building not only stronger relationships with these characters but also of leveling them up in better ways. You're going to have to put a lot more thought into how you balance each team member's attributes and talents if don't have so many you can just build each one up for a specific purpose. With so many team members available in the previous games, it was very easy to fall into just one or two party configurations, and I know I was guilty of totally ignoring certain party members once I had advanced their plot line as far as possible. With too many to choose from , it was easier to just stick with the ones I liked most. I suspect it will be more difficult to play favorites in the new game.
Ostensibly, you will actually already know most of your party members, since this will be your third tour around the galaxy with them. I will be curious to see how the game developers factor in all of the events of the previous two games to influence how everyone gets along at this point. It has been hinted before now that the choices you made in game one and in game two were gonna have some huge impacts on how game three plays out.
This brings me to my next point. The article on Kotaku mentions that all of the main characters from both games will be back, even if most of them won't be available for your party. But it also implies that either Ashley or Kaidan--your first two friends in the first game, both pretty much absent from the second--will be back as a party member in game three. Now, it is only gonna be one of them, of course, because if you played game one you know that (HUGE spoiler here, highlight the text to read) one of them died toward the end of the first game, so clearly the dead one is staying dead. Presumably the one who comes back will happen to be the one you romanced in the first game. It's possible this isn't the case, but I know I replayed an hour of the first game to make that be the outcome instead of the other way around. Somehow I doubt I am the only one.
During the second game, of course, you were given the opportunity to have a new romance since your former flame was AWOL. There is minimal sense of being unfaithful to your game one paramour however since you do actually run into Kaidan or Ashley in game two, but they refuse to join up with your mission and are kind of freaked out to see you alive at all. This is understandable since game two starts off by killing your character. You get resurrected by the shadowy corporation Cerberus, of course, but Kaidan/Ashley wants nothing to do with Cerberus and kind of throws a fit to find out you're working for them, thus closing the door on the relationship where you might have been hopeful for a more pleasant reunion. I, for one, was pretty pissed at Kaidan's reaction to the whole situation, so my Shepard turned into the awkward, yet willing, embrace of Garrus.
And here's where things get interesting. Because I can't imagine Garrus of all people not being part of my playable party. But if he's there and if Kaidan's back...well, I expect some fireworks people. Especially considering that Garrus and Kaidan were pretty much my go-to team all through game one. I am really looking forward to seeing that play out. But I am going to be extremely annoyed with Bioware if it is just one little scene and I have to choose and then everyone acts like it never happened. That will suck. I want this to be a big deal and I want there to be tensions that I have to work toward solving. I want the option to say "forget you both, I'm choosing guy C" (not that I would, but it should be there). I want the tension to affect the rest of the crew as well.
Heck, I almost want to play through as a guy and romance Ashley, who I never really liked that much, just so I could romance Jack in the next game and then get a huge smackdown between the two of them. Can you imagine? I mean, Jack would probably win, of course, she's scary. But still. This is entertainment, folks.
Anyway, so that's what I am saying I would like to see in the next game. I don't just want the stakes of the missions to be higher, I want the emotional stakes to be higher as well. I want Shepard's personal choices, questionable or justified, to have an effect on how everything goes. Is that too much to ask?
So while I am definitely going to be cutting back on the video games soon (gonna finish my Dragon Age playthrough, then do Portal 2 real quick), I will be making time early next year for replays of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 so that I can gear up for Mass Effect 3. Because, quite frankly? I am already pretty excited about it.