One of the internet’s most treasured (& frustrating) features is how anyone can post anything at anytime & watch it snowball within a matter of seconds. Over the past few days, a Reddit post from an anonymous source revealed supposed details about BioWare’s in-development Mass Effect 4 game. Every gaming news site and channel I peruse has featured a story on the validity of this information.
According to the post, the anonymous source received this information after participating in an online marketing survey. The post goes on to give vague, preliminary details about how ME4 is shaping up.
You can read the post yourself at Last Month I Took a Random Survey About Mass Effect 4. Here Is What I Found Out.
Now, nearly everything on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when the person responsible for said rumor deletes their account shortly thereafter. However, several news channels have suggested that this may be valid information as a similar leak occurred in regards to details on Dragon Age: Inquisition, which turned out to be true. Personally, I find myself somewhat skeptical. I’ve taken a few game marketing surveys before, & never have I received an email back. Especially not with information on an upcoming game. Usually the most you get back is a, “Thank you for taking our survey. We’ll consider your suggestions.”
But! Being the hopeful realist that I am, I wanted to examine the validity of some of these claims.
Firstly, let’s examine what has come directly from the developers. According to BioWare, both in the E3 2014 teaser & subsequent updates, we know that ME4 will not involve Commander Shepard. According to interviews, BioWare considers Shepard’s story “finished.” ME4 will follow a new protagonist, & will have focus on exploring new corners of the universe some time after the events of ME3. Some of the previous races will also return, as in the teaser we see a Krogan. BioWare has also stated they want to return the series to a more exploration-based game, suggesting that the overarching goal of the next game would revolve around finding resources to help rebuild the galaxy after the war with the Reapers.
According to the article, ME4 will take place in a region of the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest major galaxy to our Milky Way, & a completely untouched region for the series. The main protagonist will be a “pathfinder,” a recon/explorer, potentially under the employ of whatever government will exist in this time, seeking to establish new colonies & secure resources for humanity. Along the way, you’ll recruit squadmates, battle hostile aliens, including a supposedly new race called the Khet, & seeking powerful artifacts left by something called the Remnant.
I see this information as being potentially possible. The themes match what BioWare has said they wanted to accomplish with the new game, returning to space & planetary exploration. Supposedly this will take place a long time after the events of the original trilogy, leading to questions of which ending they’ll use as canon, or if they’ll use a system similar to Inquisition’s Keep to let players mold their own world. However, I’m not certain about this, as each of the three endings would potentially have drastic changes on the nature of the world. Either Shepard lives, merges with the Reapers or sacrifices themself so every sentient being in the galaxy becomes this hybrid being. Thinking about it now, though, it’s possible that having the game take place in another galaxy could downplay the importance of the last game’s ending. Regardless of the ending, & depending on how long ago the previous games are set, being in another galaxy could mean everything is out of reach of the endings’ effects. The Reapers apparently only attacked the Milky Way, thus wouldn’t exist in Andromeda, so the Destroy or Control endings wouldn’t matter. And as for the Synthesis ending, at most it would require the protagonist to display some hybrid traits.
Also according to the article, gameplay-wise, ME4 will be a combination of the previous games & Inquisition. You’ll have squadmates that you can interact with, romance, & go on special missions to improve their loyalty. Completing loyalty missions will unlock special abilities for squadmates. You can travel to different planets, collecting resources to upgrade yours & your squad’s stats. And the Mako will make a comeback… hopefully with better physics. They’ll also supposedly be bringing back Paragon & Renegade interrupts (although the article doesn’t mention if ME4 will use the same morality system as before). But, taking a page from Inquisition, when you establish settlements, you gain the ability to delegate tasks, like the war table missions. The article also hints that you’ll have to defend your settlements from time to time.
While the source may simply be making up stuff based on BioWare’s most recent games, it does make sense that they would bring in aspects from Inquisition, given that game’s critical success. It’s also likely that some morality system will exist, because it was such an integral part of the previous games, allowing players to feel in control of their version of Shepard. At least based on this information, BioWare would be expanding on aspects of the previous Mass Effect games that worked well while tweaking areas that need improvement (exploration, customization, etc.) in addition to improving their open-world aspects.
So overall, while nothing in this leak throws up any red flags for me, it doesn’t really tell me anything earth-shattering. Most of the elements touched on are things I would’ve naturally assumed to be in the next Mass Effect game. I’d hardly expect BioWare to take a step back when it comes to development. Regardless of whether you agree with their design choices, BioWare has never been afraid to mix things up, tweaking elements of their games. But it’s still nice to see maybe a hint of what the game will be about. Of course, as it’s still in development, even if this information is right, everything is subject to change until it hits the shelves. Hopefully not too much gets leaked too fast, though. I’d hate for BioWare to balls things up in a panic after “crucial” details get leaked & give us an inferior experience (in case you’re not familiar with what I’m referring to, that was another rumor about why ME3 ended the way it did).