With news that BioWare are now actively seeking fan feedback for a new Mass Effect game, the series is in a very strong position to expand and explore the hundreds of scenarios that have been referenced in Mass Effect lore. The only thing we know is that Commander Shepard will not be the central figure in the next Mass Effect game, which means BioWare is not limited in which story can be told next.
The Mass Effect Universe is big. There are a number of races including Humans, Turians, Krogan, Asari, Quarians and Salarians, and those are just the core races that take up much of the screen time in the previous Mass Effect titles. There are at least eight other races that also feature within the Universe, and all of these races have unique histories and stories that could be explored.[drop]This means that, with the absence of Shepard, BioWare can create a main character that isn’t a human and instead focus on the struggles and triumphs of a different race.
If they’re even more ambitious then Bioware could allow players to choose from a number of protagonists from different backgrounds; after all BioWare do have experience with this approach from Dragon Age: Origins.
What’s nice about the Origins approach is that it would allow players to gain a bigger insight into the different races. Examples could be of a Krogan under the effects of the Genophage, a Turian soldier dealing with the aftermath of the Reaper War, or a Drell under the employ of a Hanar master.
Those are just three potential stories that take advantage of the lore in the Mass Effect Universe, each one with the potential to tie into a bigger story, and there are hundreds more.
Story wise the next Mass Effect doesn’t have to focus on a large scale military conflict either, and we’ve already seen glimpses of other aspects of the universe. For example, we know there are vast mercenary groups operating in the Mass Effect universe. A game which explores the relationship and competition between the Blood Pack, Blue Suns, and Eclipse as they take contracts from each other and fight for control on Omega offers a lot of possibilities in both story and game design, regardless of what genre the game is.
Yes, it is a possibility that the next Mass Effect title may not even be an RPG. Back in March of this year a video surfaced of a cancelled project BioWare was working on, showing a first person shooter set in the Mass Effect universe. Even though this particular project was scrapped, BioWare does have the foundation to build upon, should the idea become appealing again.
However, whether EA would allow for another major FPS brand to emerge, when Battlefield and Medal Of Honor already fill that gap, is a different matter. Of course EA could allow for a Mass Effect FPS to be developed and release during the summer, but if the Holiday market is the target then one of the other two series would possibly have to be retired.[drop2]Perhaps more interesting is the possibility that BioWare could create a Mass Effect RTS. BioWare Victory are currently working on the free-to-play Command & Conquer game, and this advance into the RTS genre by BioWare shows us a company that is looking to expand its horizons.
We have to wait until Command & Conquer lands to see how BioWare fares with the jump, but if that’s a success who’s to say that we don’t get a Mass Effect RTS. Again, the Universe has enough lore there to allow such thing to happen, be it focusing on the Geth/Quarian conflict, the First Contact War or a new scenario entirely.
You may notice I’ve referenced events that, for the most part, have already been resolved by the time we get to the Mass Effect trilogy. Just because the original games are set after this point, doesn’t mean that the new ones would need to be. Yes, it could be set after the events of the Reaper War, or during it, although during is less likely as that story would have to be careful about what we learned in the trilogy.
Personally, I believe the next title may be set before the Reapers, before the Illusive Man, and even before Shephard. It may not be a direct prequel to the current Mass Effect games but instead a look at events in the Universe before or during the arrival of humans to the galactic stage, especially as the latter offers another situation of great upheaval that would be very interesting to interact with.
Regardless of what BioWare does next, it is in a very rare position afforded to those who create stories in general. BioWare has free reign on where to take the series next, from continuing down the RPG route or doing something different. Something different may not be what some fans want but the sheer potential itself is quite exciting.