“Why didn’t BioWare make Mass Effect 4 ?” This question was asked at PAX East recently, to which the developer had a very solid answer. Creative Director of Mass Effect: Andromeda Mac Walters said, “We wanted the trilogy to end.” It makes sense too, since Mass Effect 3 had a bevy of different endings. Any Mass Effect 4 would have had to build off of those differing choices that players made, starting them off differently depending on how they left the third. It also would have continued the end of the Reaper invasion storyline, which quite frankly was fine where we left it.
Mass Effect: Andromeda starts over in a new timeline, in a brand new galaxy, with an entirely new cast of characters. It’s a similar game, in the same universe, but with brand new worlds. There are plenty of additional differences to make it its own thing. This is effectively the best way Mass Effect could have continued. Any attempts to further the plot from the original trilogy probably would have felt watered down at best and been trying too hard at worst.
I know many people who feel the same way about the Halo series. There are those that greatly enjoyed the Covenant storyline and would have been completely content letting it end there. While the subsequent games in the series since have been fun to play, the story has taken a beating compared to the intensity of the original.
Now whether or not you agree that the original Mass Effect trilogy should or shouldn’t have ended, whether you greatly enjoy or loathe additions to the Halo plot, we can agree on one thing. Sequels can be the death of video game franchises. While there are those that get it very right, there are always going to be those that get it very wrong. Just like film franchises, do we need all these Spider-Man reboots? Maybe not, but you know what? I’m excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming anyway. We get to see a sassier, essentially baby Spider-Man webbin’ around, and that sounds like fun. Did I need Bridget Jones’s Baby released this last year? Almost decidedly not.
Just like there’s always going to be a film sequel, prequel, or off-shoot that we don’t enjoy or feel cheapens the original source material, the same will always exist in video games. Do we need a Halo Wars 2 ? Well the first was clearly popular enough to make a sequel, so yeah, maybe we did. Did we need Duke Nukem 3D ? Hell to the no. I’m an original Duke Nukem purist so maybe I’m biased, but you know what, no. I think most would agree that Duke Nukem 3D was pretty atrocious.
Back to more modern examples. Game developers and publishers really need to know their limits. I can understand completely wanting to milk a cash cow. If you’ve got a franchise that’s insanely popular even with tons of off-shoots why wouldn’t you want to keep cranking out titles? (I’m looking at you Kingdom Hearts ; how I love to hate your spin-offs.) You’ll be rollin’ in the dough, right? Just like the gambler, you’ve got to know when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run. And sometimes you’ve got to run as far away as possible.
Do take the general public’s feelings into account. It’s (sometimes) painfully easy in the Internet age to see how everyone feels about your franchise, your sequel, your re-boot. If it’s an overarching negative response when you mention creating Deer Hunter 8 , then fold those cards! Just like BioWare knew to walk away from a potential Mass Effect 4 , other game developers should take note. There really are times when it’s just okay to let sleeping dogs lie. Just let those overdone series die peacefully