Mass Effect 3 starts with Shepard returning to Earth to be put on trial for the killing of 300,000 Batarians. If you don't remember doing that, you were either very drunk or you didn't play The Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2. It's one of a few moments in the series so far when you don't have a choice about something important. I asked executive producer on Mass Effect 3, Casey Hudson, about these moments: why they happen and whether they work.
PC Gamer: Do you think that Mass Effect 2 was successful in convincing players that they needed to work for Cerberus? It seemed like quite a bold angle to have a terrorist organisation employing you, and you start out very resistant to the idea. Do you feel that that worked in the end?
Casey Hudson: It's actually kind of interesting, because... most video games don't offer any choice in the story - the story is the story. But as soon as you offer choice in a story, where you stop offering choice is where you're criticised. And you end up being criticised for not having enough choice, even though you offer this much more. It's at the edges where you're criticised.
So I would say that the idea of Shepard dying, and essentially being resurrected by a group that he may or may not agree with, is part of that story that we felt served that episode of the series. And I think that it worked on that angle.
It happens on different scales too, like sometimes something has to happen. Without being specific, I was playing a game that has a interactive story to some degree, and I'm given something that's extremely important, and I'm supposed to take it to a certain character. Then I'm talking to that character, and that character says “Oh you have it, thank you. I'll just take that.”
But it then gives you a dialogue response – you have one response and it's “Yes.” And at that point I literally couldn't touch my controller, because I thought “I don't want to.” I would not say yes. But at least what we try to do is, if that thing has to happen in the story, then we at least let you do something or deal with it in some way. Even if it's telling the person “No,” and then they say “Well, you're not going to get very far if you don't do this.” Some kind of flavour around how you can play it.
PC Gamer: Yeah, there are some in Mass Effect where your options are "Yes," "Definitely yes," or "Oh, alright, yes."
Casey Hudson: Yeah, sometimes it has to be like that to tell a story that doesn't become multiple different stories, versus different versions of a story.
PC Gamer: I was going to ask you about killing the Batarians in The Arrival DLC – am I right in saying that's not a choice?
Casey Hudson: That's right, yeah.
PC Gamer: That seems like quite a big one, given that a lot of people died.
Casey Hudson: Yeah, that was a big one. I can see how people would want us to be able to create like [an alternative]. People were even asking at the end of Mass Effect 2, "So if Shepard can die, after Shepard dies, then what happens in Mass Effect 3?" It's like, "Wow, OK. So we definitely can't build a game around a completely different character and Shepard.
Likewise, in Arrival, literally the all powerful beings that can destroy us are at the door, and there's really only one thing you can do to slam the door shut, and that was to destroy the Mass Relay. But it has this side effect of killing the Batarians. It ties into some of the stuff that we wanted to do at the beginning of Mass Effect 3 as well, and why Shepard returns to the Earth.
Previously, Casey told us how Mass Effect 3's romance options have expanded , how your choices throughout the series will influence Mass Effect 3's ending , how they used Mass Effect 2 DLC to experiment with ideas for the third game , why you shouldn't shoot the hideous sacs on a Reaper Rachni , and that Tali will return as a full time squad member.
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