Sitrep: Mass Effect Four, and the Importance of Being Shepard

Shepard, Why

By on November 14, 2012 at 7:30 pm

When Casey Hudson quizzed the Twittersphere on what it wanted to see in Mass Effect 4, that was both a) A colossally bad idea, never ask Twitter anything especially if 99% of your followers are entitled nerdlingers, and b) Not exactly illuminating.

Predictably, a whole bunch of people just starting taking pot-shots at Mass Effect 3’s ending, like there was a tremendous point to doing so and they simply had to be heard. Again. For the millionth time. What was slightly more surprising was that nobody really seemed to have any good ideas, or their ideas simply stemmed from their dribbling ME3 rage, ie. “The sooner BioWare moves away from the Catalyst/Reaper mythology that got them into trouble, the better.”

Yeah, no.

What trouble? It’s a cool story. It just wasn’t ultimately told to established spec. I think the biggest problem here will be the fact that there is no Shepard. As has been so profoundly demonstrated by Halo over the years, gaming’s “shared authorship” is an absolutely gigantic part of its contemporary allure.

I mention Halo specifically because of something 343 Industries guy Josh Holmes recently told me on just this, which basically boiled down to: It’s cool to be able to play a game where my experience is so different to that of my friends that I can relay it to them, blow by blow, like some kind of awesome pub novel.

Y’know, goddamn, we thrashed our way across Tuchanka. Urdnot is the worst guy to be stuck in a transport with. Needs Mentos, makes me feel like that thing with Wrex way back when should’ve gone differently. Had an epic stoush with a Reaper killbot on the way up top, but that was nothing ‘cos you know Mordin? Oh that’s right you don’t, you left him to die on the Collector base.

Right well, he’s there and he’s all about heading on up and dousing this place with the cure for the Genophage. Why? Trembling with guilt. I’ve just been sitting next to Urd-bro for the past twenty minutes. This is the guy who’s gonna be leading the Krogan, and neither is he particularly subtle about his desire to destroy the universe once they can breed out of control again. One Salarian’s night sweats is not a good enough reason to doom the cosmos. So, we lost Mordin, too. Threw my gun away in disgust at myself. “Damn war,” said Garrus. Agreed. To the bar.  

Anchoring that individual fiction is, ironically and needfully, a main character shared by all

Anchoring that individual fiction is, ironically and needfully, a main character shared by all: Shepard here, Master Chief back there. Think about it: How many people hated having to play as Hawke in Dragon Age II? Taken in isolation, Dragon Age II’s storyline is really nuanced and Hawke’s interactions – your interactions – with everyone around him or her run the dynamic gamut from hilarious to interesting to devastating.

But it’s not your Warden. It was like going back to start writing a book again from scratch after hitting 50,000 words. You are attached to your Shep whether you know it or not. Your Shep is you. Not sure about you, other Shep, but by the end of ME3’s things, I wasn’t dead. Buried under a tonne of compressed civilisation, maybe, but still breathing. So don’t ya’ll tell me I’m gone for good, ‘cos I still haven’t finished my model starship collection yet.

To wit: I would not be at all surprised if Shepard returns in ME4, for all these reasons and more. BioWare have told you sexy lies before, y’know.

24 comments (Leave your own)

I’m hoping for a prequel story, first contact war or something. I hope Bioware ignore the internet hate machine and just make the game they want to make. Design by committee when the committee is any fool with a keyboard, is a bad idea.


I thought Hawke was a far more interesting character than my Warden tbh. I also thought the Jedi Exile from KOTOR2 was a more interesting character than Revan.

I’d be completely fine with no Shepard in any ME4. My Shepard’s story, and it was a pretty awesome story, is done. Time for something different.


@ Second pic.


And asking Twitter was asking for trouble. Limited ability to give a response hurt a lot i’d imagine. I’d be happy to make a huge post on what to improve, nothing story related, but not on twitter.




for me I want to progress forward not backwards. I don’t want to go through the history and play that. I’d rather they continue to build on the pivotal point they created for the universe with the reapers. They spent 3 games building it up, continue. There’s alot more to do now the repears are gone/helping/everyone is part repear (or whatever the hell that sythesis option was about)

I wanna see more.


I will deeply miss Shepard if he’s not in 4, its true. But at the same time, if he is alive, it will annoy me a touch, for a few reasons. One, I didn’t choose the destroy ending. I’d never choose it, and neither would my Shepard. So if he is in 4, he fundamentally won’t actually BE my Shepard. He’ll be an imposter, or perhaps a clone. Maybe the control ending metacreation rebuilt him as a clone or something. I don’t know, but I don’t like the implications.

Secondly, its the same problem I have with Halo 4 (which, admittedly, I did love, but…) which is simply, out of the sheer unbelievable VASTNESS of space, a place so vast that you really cannot comprehend it in terms of distance, the ONE GUY who can set the chain of events in motion, and is the best guy suited to the job, ends up in the ONE PLACE in all of the unspeakable vastness of space to set events in motion. He could have drifted in cryospace for a billion, billion years and STILL not have bumped into that planet. Or any planet, for that matter. Thats how low the chances were, and yet, here we are… basically, my point is that its a big galaxy. It doesn’t have to be ALL Shepard. There are surely other people who can make a difference in all that vastness. There must be, the odds are so far against it as to be ludicrous. Give them a chance to shine – but more than that, use it as a vehicle to expand the universe ever outward.



Totally agree that it doesn’t have to be all Shepard. Personally I think ME2 was going really great setting the scene and scope with the intro section but missed a huge opportunity when after killing, one short loading screen later he is being resurrected. It should have been some other human stepping up and doing the deeds.


Granted I never played the first Mass Effect but I have played and really enjoyed the last two. I have never got around to playing through them a second time, partly because it would mean using a different character. One of the most enjoyable parts of Mass Effect is talking with mates about how there story differed from my own.

I have to say I don’t really see what was so bad about the ending of ME3, I ended up going with the synthesis option as it was the one that most suited my Shepard (who has always tried to help out everyone, unless they really got on my nerves).

Looking forward to ME4 but for Sheppard to return would feel wrong as he gave himself for the rest of the galaxy. Playing from one of the other races perspectives in the great wars/battles that are talked about would be fun. But to continue on from the ending of ME3 when the endings had such different and significant consequences for the galaxy would be very difficult. As everyone would have a galaxy in vastly different conditions to begin with.

Just my two cents worth


makena: Design by committee when the committee is any fool with a keyboard, is a bad idea.

Well played, Sir.

Shepard is done. BW have stuck to their guns in the past with artistic direction, I can’t see them changing on this one. And they shouldn’t.

The extended cut endings were fine – unforunately with a heavily scripted and voice acted game you can’t have hundreds of endings… it was always going to be railroaded. Unfortunate but true.

The journey there was amazing.

I thought Hawke was a far more interesting character than my Warden tbh.

Also, this.

You don’t need a reaper/demon slaying hero to make an emotionally engaging story. A small scale conflict can tell a fantastic story. Just… don’t recycle game assets 50 times.

Unworthy King

Maybe it’s going to be a story parallel to Shepard’s. Some unknown hero, or anti-hero (whatever). I wouldn’t mind playing as a Cerberus operative or something like that.



I’d like to see things way after the reapers, like next next generation of alliance; if we went back in time we’d end up not seeing half the other races and it’d just be sad.


I’d like to see the future of my synthesis people, all the cool screens and awesome technological interfacing I could do. It would be so amazing :D


Completely agree.


Knowing Bioware, they’d do it. So wouldn’t surprise me if you just predicted the future.

Toby McCasker


Kai Leng. BAM.


Toby McCasker,

Impossible. I’d never be able to finish it as I’d be finding new ways for that smarmy scumbag to ‘accidentally’ run into the nearest hail of bullets.

James Pinnell

I would love to see a First Contact War prequel, I think that would be fantastic.


They have so much scope just in the things that are talked about in the ME trilogy.

Why not make prequels about the Krogan before the genophage?


They have built Shep up to be super human really who can solve any problem. It would be pretty hard to place another HERO within the same timeline as Shep. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

There only reaching out for ideas to involve the community because the community just whine and bitch about anything and everything that doesn’t suit them. Which is a no win situation really.

As Makena said they just need to create the game they want to make.


I think prequels are also easier to do, as moving forward after Mass Effect 3, they need to pick which ending is canon, which would probably just lead to many more forum slamming if they picked one that some rabid fanboys didn’t think was the right one.




That community of theirs are one of the whiniest I’ve ever seen, beginning every ME conversation with a winge about “that terrible ME3 ending”. You’re right, Bioware should stick to making what they want to make.


The game should start with your character obscured by something, this is before you run through character creation, so maybe a shot of armour-plate, the N7 logo, an established image to give people something to latch onto.

A crew member approaches, and hesitantly asks

“Command Shepard?”

A laugh. “My dad/mom is/was Commander Shepard, you can call me…”


Ugh, no edit, creating a doublepooooost.

I thought Hawke was a far more interesting character than my Warden tbh.I also thought the Jedi Exile from KOTOR2 was a more interesting character than Revan.

I strongly disagree with this statement; Revan was a far more interesting and complex character than the Exile, BUT this is because of the reconning and wizard-work of Avellone in KOTOR2. Standing on the story told of him in KOTOR1, Revan is fairly generic, albiet with baby’s first plot twist.

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