N7 Day, the day named after the highest rank in the Alliance Military special forces, a rank held by Mass Effect protagonist Commander Shepard, approaches. It falls, cunningly, on November 7 every year, and is a day of celebration for Mass Effect fans. BioWare usually drop a fun video. There's art and stuff. It's a good time. This year, however, we're also approaching the release of Mass Effect Andromeda, the long awaited fourth instalment in the series. BioWare have promised us a proper trailer. Maybe there'll even be a release date.
Andromeda is set many years after the events of Mass Effect. We only know a few things about what's in store: playing as one of the Ryder siblings as they journey to a new galaxy and try to find a new home for humanity. As we're on the road to N7, and as a diehard fan of the series I've been considering what I'd most like for the Mass Effect of 2017. That it actually comes out in 2017 without being delayed should be taken as read.
Larger world areas to explore
Part of the appeal of Mass Effect was being able to seek out and explore strange planets, and probe them for delicious resources. In Mass Effect the planets you could touch down on were mostly mountainous reskins where it was either very hot or very cold (please make your own No Man's Sky jokes here if you want to). By Mass Effect 3 we were getting more unique and interesting areas to explore, but the majority were set-piece missions. The planets were beautiful, but linear.
Mass Effect Andromeda is using Frostbite, the Battlefield game engine that makes games look like this:
We've seen in the trailers and game footage that BioWare can make cool space vistas with it, and alongside the kind of 'new home for humanity' angle of the plot I'm hoping that Andromeda will have a couple of planets that you can revisit and watch change. I'm not asking for all of them to be like that, because that would be absurd and probably inappropriate for a shooter, but finding a few hospitable planetary bodies? Setting up little colonies that grow over time? Exploring the surrounding area and finding cool things you didn't expect? That sounds excellent to me. After all, exploration seems to be a major theme for the Ryders' journey.
Maintain established status as complex alien dating simulator
It's kind of a running joke that BioWare games are, for many people, complicated dating sims that are merely disguised as games. The disguise is in many respects a successful one, but there's no denying that BioWare games have offered increasingly varied and interesting romantic partners. Not having sex with a needy elf, absolutely having sex with a gruff sniper dog alien, and being tied up by a jolly BDSM-enthusiast pansexual-cow-mountain are all relationship options in BioWare IPs.
I don't want Mass Effect to lose touch with its roots in this regard (its sexy blue scientist, sombre dying lizard man, sulky human ex-boyfriend roots). Hopefully there will still be a scene where your alien buddy gives you health and safety tips on bumping uglies with other species. This does have benefits even if you're not bothered by inter-planetary romance: putting substantial detail into the squad NPCs will make the game much more interesting and immersive to play. It's more engaging when the characters you're around all the time have well-built personalities to the point that they can hate you, love you, or be your total best friend forever.
But still also be a shooter
So far it sounds like I'm basically asking for Dragon Age: Inquisition in space which I would not be against as a concept, but that isn't Mass Effect to me. Mass Effect is an RPG with branching dialogue but it's still a third-person shooter. The combat system went through some refinement and changes over the years, but maintained a kind of thumping immediacy to it. You could pause fights and manage your team, but there were no numbers floating from the top of enemy heads, and you could never hear the dice rattling behind the scenes. If the pace of firefights is slowed down in Andromeda the balance will be off. It's a tricky tightrope for BioWare, but basically what I'm saying is I like my top-down turn-based combat for when I'm playing as a wizard, not when I have a heavy blaster that makes a PEW noise.
The Mako still drives like a rocket-propelled moccasin
The Mako sections got some flak in the first game because they were a bit rubbish, but I maintain that the six-wheeled monster truck ATV with terrible handling used to drive around planets was the best part of those sections. The suspension on that thing was incredible. It was brought back for Mass Effect 3 with seemingly minimal alterations. The frustrating process of wrangling the Mako into the right direction is basically a well loved trope for the series now. It's like trying to drive a landed fish. Please, let it go unchanged.
A new alien race
We know that Ryder is going to be exploring a new galaxy alongside representatives from the other races from the Milky Way (krogan, asari, and salarians have all been seen in footage so far), but this is an opportunity to introduce some new species. The world building in Dragon Age is evidence that BioWare are experienced in creating civilisations with distinct histories and cultures to them. At the same time, the role of humanity has changed to being the foreign colonists, which has historically not been something we're great at. If handled with intelligence by the team at BioWare we could get an incredibly interesting narrative. Or a slightly troubling one. I'm putting a lot of eggs in the basket of the former, to be honest.
A new alien race that can be turned into an indescribably cute plushie toy
This will cost an extortionate amount of money but look at plush Grunt's little face! He could destroy so many enemies, yes he could!