Tomorrow, with the release of Mass Effect 3, the epic sci-fi trilogy will conclude as Shepard finally confronts the evil Reapers who are out to destroy all life in the galaxy for reasons that are still unknown. Although I don’t know whether there has been any TV presence, EA has mounted a decent push behind the game, with some mobile tie-ins that are mediated to the main game’s fiction by the Galactic Readiness mechanic. This is also integrated with the game’s packed-in co-op third-person shooter. Tying that kind of functionality to an RPG suggests that EA wants to expand the audience, and perhaps turn BioWare’s world-building into a company-wide asset tied to multiple games. With that in mind, here are some games I wouldn’t mind seeing set in this universe.
C-Sec (RPG) – Why not take Mass Effect’s best setting and best mechanic and run with them? This would be a dialogue-focused RPG with minimal shooty business (paging Jennifer Hepler!) set on the Citadel, where dozens of species, hundreds of cultures, and thousands of social and corporate interests collide. Create an agent and decide for yourself whether she’ll go by the book, walk on the edge, or cross the line to expose a criminal conspiracy. Collect evidence, occasionally gun down criminals, and engage in dozens of interrogations that actually offer multiple ways to succeed (as opposed to the idiotically inflexible questioning of L.A. Noire). Can you tell when an elcor is being evasive? Can you read a volus’ body language? Like much science fiction, Mass Effect has mostly used its alien races for window dressing. It would be interesting to challenge the player to actually understand those races in order to progress. This is also something BioWare could probably put together without too much additional investment in tech or art assets.
Shadow Agent (stealth) – Built on the infiltrator tech tree and hacking/bypass systems. Sneak into corporate offices, space stations, and government installations in search of secrets that Shadow Broker can use to balance galactic power. Again, not a lot of shooting involved here, although there could be some. The focus would be on getting in, collecting data, and getting back out again without detection. Choice of character species could change how the game plays. For instance the same door might be opened by biotics (Asari), tech (Salarians), or slipped around using a vent (Drell) or by crawling outside in a harsh environment (Vorcha). Or, as a batarian (or volus!) talk your way in using an adaptation of the dialogue system. This would require more work and maybe stealing a few employees from Eidos Montreal.
Galacticorp (strategy) – One of the less-discussed aspects of the Mass Effect universe is the prominent role of corporations. Interstellar companies don’t just make and sell products; they run colonies, build space stations, and develop worlds. Build a company up from a small asteroid-mining outfit into a galaxy-spanning corporate behemoth, using wit, force, and copious bribes. Choose whether to arm your own security forces, pay for protection by local militaries, or take the cheaper and riskier option of employing mercenaries. Buy influence with the Council or member races, or take a chance and grow your operations in the Terminus Systems. Given that strategy gaming on this level is pretty niche, there’s essentially no chance of a game like this ever happening outside of a stripped-down mobile game with microtransactions (Spaceville).
Alliance Marine (shooter) – This seems like the most boring option, in part because the shooting is the weakest part of Mass Effect’s gameplay. However, a purpose-built shooter could open up some possibilities for amazing set-pieces that BioWare just wasn’t equipped to handle. Get some people from Visceral in on this and create gunfights in derelict or damaged ships with true zero-g, or fluctuating gravitational fields. Complement a squad’s soldiers with tech- and biotic- enabled characters to hack drones and mechs or generate tactical gravitational distortions. Create dynamic environments and cover that get shredded by the immense force imparted by the game’s ultra high-velocity guns. Despite being set in space, Mass Effect’s gunplay was firmly tethered to the ground. If you took the universe seriously and built a squad-based tactical shooter around what shipboard combat might actually be like in this universe you could come up with something amazing. This game is pretty likely to happen, actually, but is less likely to be the game I just described and more likely to be Battlefield 4: Space.
Justicar (brawler) – Punch your way to fierce blue justice as a member of an Asari warrior order dedicated to law and order! Chain melee attacks, gunfire, and biotic powers together to take out mercenaries and criminals! Protect the innocent by punching evil in the face, telekinetically hurling it through a window, and crushing its neck with your improbably high-heeled boots! A full AAA release like this would never happen, but an indie or mid-level developer could probably turn this into a pretty awesome 2D beat-em-up.
Blasto, the Hanar Spectre – I would play almost any kind of game at all featuring Blasto. Will never happen, unless as a Japanese tentacle porn doujin game, which I would not play. Probably.