There are games developed for every creed, from the passive mobile player to the diehard, wait-outside-at-midnight FPS fanatic. And this audience segregation has made making a title aimed universally a noteworthy task. Not every release can provide that frenzied exhilaration and stay relatively understandable (or in some cases, painfully simple) and both developers and publishers recognize this fact.
But occasionally a game comes around that tries to break that intangible barrier, and usually fails. Even a dedicated base cannot entice anyone to gravitate from limited expectations into an overcomplicated, multilateral digital ecosystem. For example, that's like trying to explain modern society to a neanderthal. And with how systematic and overlapping the Mass Effect universe has become, only veteran players will be attracted to a third game.
That's why the decision to include "modes" (not difficulties) in Mass Effect 3 was puzzling. These options categorically change the traditional experience, from a story-driven action RPG into either one or the other. "Story mode" drops the difficulty considerably and focuses on the plot, while "Action mode" emphasizes combat and all dialogue choices are cut scenes. "RPG mode" is the proper way of playing.
Obviously, either BioWare or Electronic Arts made this set of options for unobstructed likeability. Though, their way of engaging players into either combat or story is questionable. It's hard to decipher whether they're strictly going after the casuals, or trying to grasp the popularity of first-person shooters with improved fighting mechanics. Allowing players to mold their gameplay is certainly noble and goes along with the franchise's themes, but dumbing-down the sophisticated story to blatantly advertise to the Call of Duty crowd is shameless and dishonourable.
However, Mass Effect's thrilling story and optional side-quests are the series' strongest points. Each battle-ready crew member shares a unique background and has a different reason or purpose in making the decision to help Shepard. Some are paid, some feel dutiful, some owe the Commander, and one simply has the strong urge to kill. Through conversations, Shepard explores their intentions and they form complex relationships which sometimes turn romantic. By not exposing newcomers to that variable type of gameplay, EA is limiting the game's value in a pathetic attempt to sell units.
Aside from the news of multiplayer (which works surprisingly well), the demo's leak in November of last year caused a firestorm of controversy from all directions. Fans loudly voiced their concerns over the potential linearity stemming from the change, and their concern is appropriate. The concern rests with speculation that BioWare shorted development in areas to adhere to this "Action mode", and ultimately to appease EA executives.
After playing through this new mode, Shepard portrays himself/herself like a bipolar lunatic. Personally, I don't know if responses are pre-chosen or randomly generated, but Shepard would choose option after option that contradicts previous talking points, fundamentally cracking his/her personality. The paragon/renegade system is shot to hell, and players won't witness the full round of ramifications from their actions.
The game is less than a week away, and this is a divisive issue for many people. Let's hope based on the hostility that BioWare changes tunes and refinements are made to not subtract from the overall experience. Likely that's not the case, however, and a major backlash occurs where desperate fans storm BioWare's offices demanding a refund. That would be hilarious. Jeff out.