So I think back to when Mass Effect 3 came out. I know, I know, let’s not get onto a kick about the ending. There were more shades of “What the hell” during that fiasco than Christian Grey could ever hope to come up with.
For the hardcore Mass Effect fans, seas of fan-fiction, art, shipping, and a plethora of other arenas have flooded the intertubes with ideas, concepts, you name it. Some of them have even sparked massive followings, such as AzureMosquito’s “Aftereffect” on her DeviantArt page.
Shepard was an amazing character. Powerful, intelligent, responsible, diplomatic when necessary. In general, he/she took the best (and sometimes the worst) attributes from some of our all-time best science fiction intellectual properties and gave the community a memorable, lovable, and varied character that will forever leave a mark on the science fiction world.
But you know what? I got sick of humans in that game fast. BioWare created an entire galaxy, full of alien races, and those were really where the game began to shine. Even in the Mass Effect setting, humans were seen as immature, petulant, and generally a nuisance on the intergalactic stage. Amusing, really, because given some of the things we fight about as human beings, I’d say that’s probably how we’re viewed by alien races here in the real world. Well done, BioWare, you’ve set the stage for our first encounter with Vulcans.
Rabbit-chasing aside, let me lay an opinion out there that, to this point, I haven’t really seen anyone toss around.
BioWare is the king of RPGs these days, it seems. Between Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, they’ve stamped the gaming world with powerful characters, deep and meaningful story arcs, and memorable combat and control systems that are engaging and complex, yet somehow still alluringly simple.
I have always loved their characters, the varied dialogues, the relationship opportunities. So many characters to develop deep and meaningful relationships, and only one playthrough at a time.
But the core of my beef, this time, is that we’re always a human.
Why can’t I play a Krogan, or a Salarian, an Asari, a Vorcha? You fleshed out their abilities in multiplayer.
Why not Hanar?
Okay, maybe not Hanar. That’d get weird fast…
It’s not outside the scope of possibility to have multiple races at the forefront here, BioWare. I know you’re more than capable of doing it. I had a Salarian Infiltrator in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer that I aptly named “Earthworm Jim.” He was my favorite. Stealth in, line up a shot with my fancy dancy Black Widow sniper rifle. Pop goes another enemy-shaped grape.
I was always a firm believer that Mass Effect, after Shepard, should focus on the N7 Initiative. Almost every race in the series, somehow, connected with that organization through the core of the story. The characters you leveled up in multiplayer were eventually shipped off to fight in the conflicts of the Reaper invasion. Admittedly, it might have been cool to see some cameos of my characters, but even still, it felt like every fight in multiplayer was building up in the single-player storyline. It felt good, like I was doing more than just following Shepard the Talking Head around while all this other army-building noise went on off screen.
I can appreciate the perspective of the story and how humans overcame galactic perception to become a dominant and powerful race in the story. That was cool. But Shepard did that. We’re good now. Granted, the other races still see us as the kid that needs babysitting, but Shepard proved that humans could come together and be something noteworthy, to be a real force in the story. That was his point, why he was chosen to be the first human Spectre.
But that’s over. His mark was made, his story finished. Give us the opportunity to play the other races, to see their impact, their lifestyles, and their struggles. Let us see the Mass Effect universe through alien races as a member of the N7 initiative. The potential for missions, story arcs, downloadable content, it’s literally infinite. Even with Andromeda, we’ll be introduced to new species, new places, quite literally expanding on an already incredibly diverse cast.
Maybe humans meet a race they’ll never get along with at all. Maybe only Salarians or Turians can negotiate a peace treaty or some deal that helps other races survive. Don’t just feed us a non-player character to overcome that dilemma. Give us the opportunity to BE the influence that overcomes adversity in specific scenarios. And if we’re not that particular race, that mission or option is off the table, or requires some other method to overcome. I know you can do this, BioWare. With the way you handled countless other missions and storylines in your games, this isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound.
After doing some reading recently and discovering that BioWare has opted for human protagonists, I feel, personally, like they gimped their opportunity this time around to open the Mass Effect world up to new avenues of thinking, new perspectives on other races and the universe in general.
Having a non-human protagonist would also allow for customization options within the crew of a ship. A Turian might have a ship more suited to military discipline, enabling more squad-based combat tactics. A Salarian ship might have more science-based facilities, therefore enabling more powerful combat or navigation options. Krogan ships will allow for brute force and warlord-like side-missions. Drell ships might allow for more espionage and assassination missions.
God I miss Thane Krios.
Point is, BioWare needs to afford us the opportunity to play in the Mass Effect universe in more ways than just human. Games on a whole have done it for decades. This is one of those times where, despite BioWare’s ability to continually impress me, I feel they’re losing out on an opportunity to take the Mass Effect experience to a powerful and jaw-dropping new level.