BioWare Announces That Mass Effect 4 Is Fresh, Beautiful, and Now Playable

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Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ: EA  ) BioWare studio recently announced that its upcoming Mass Effect game, tentatively titled Mass Effect 4, was already in a playable state. BioWare Edmonton and Montreal general manager Aaryn Flynn commented on the project briefly on Twitter, stating that it was "Ambitious. Beautiful. Fresh but recognizable. And fun."

For those who aren't familiar with BioWare's massively popular franchise, Mass Effect is a critically acclaimed sci-fi role-playing series that has had a polarizing effect on gamers.

The original trilogy allowed gamers to custom build a character known as Commander Shepard (whose gender, first name, and origin story could be modified), who gathered allies across the galaxy to battle the Borg-like synthetic race of world-destroying Reapers.

Mass Effect 1. Source:

What made the Mass Effect trilogy such a personal experience for many gamers was that the choices players made in each game carried over to the next one -- characters who died in the first game would not return in subsequent games, and universe-altering decisions made in the first game could reverberate through the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, each player had a slightly different experience throughout the trilogy, which lasted well over 100 hours from start to finish.

However, EA and BioWare were harshly criticized for Mass Effect 3 -- a game that not only felt rushed, but ended the trilogy on a sour, nihilistic note -- destroying most of the universe that had been painstakingly developed over the course of the three games. The backlash was so great that BioWare issued an apology to fans and ultimately patched the game's finale with a longer, although equally gloomy, ending via DLC (downloadable content).

Not much is known about Mass Effect 4 at the moment -- except that it runs on the Frostbite 2 Engine, similar to BioWare's other major upcoming title, Dragon Age: Inquisition. However, the very existence of Mass Effect 4 has plenty of gamers wondering if EA and BioWare can redeem the franchise after the Mass Effect 3 debacle.

What made Bioware great
To understand how Mass Effect evolved, we need to take a look back at BioWare's history, before and after its acquisition by EA in 2007.

BioWare was founded in 1995. It rose to fame with fantasy games like Baldur's Gate (1998) and Neverwinter Nights (2002), but it didn't achieve mainstream recognition until Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), a seminal sci-fi role-playing game that would set the standard for the "BioWare RPG" over the next decade.

Knights of the Old Republic. Source:

Knights of the Old Republic, which was published by LucasArts and initially released for the original Xbox, took three years to develop. The game, which took place 4,000 years before the events of the Star Wars films, allowed the player to play the role of a Jedi.

What made Knights truly unique was its decisions -- good acts would turn your Jedi toward the Light Side, while evil ones would lead you toward the Dark Side. Based on your actions, your characters' appearance and powers would change accordingly. In addition, the outcome of the story changed considerably based on moral decisions made throughout the game.

BioWare's subsequent games, such as Jade Empire, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect, were all built upon those mechanics introduced in Knights of the Old Republic.

The first Mass Effect, released in 2007 and published by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , was the perfect evolution of Knights of the Old Republic. It used the same shoot and pause system as Knights, but added more modern combat mechanics such as taking cover.

Mass Effect, in many ways, represented the perfect Star Wars game without the Star Wars characters. It was also the last game that BioWare would develop before being taken over by EA.

How EA changed Bioware

To understand the impact that EA's acquisition had on BioWare, let's first take a look at the three Mass Effect games.



Year released

Total unit sales (all platforms worldwide)

Mass Effect

Windows, Xbox 360


3.4 million

Mass Effect 2

Windows, PS3, Xbox 360


4.6 million

Mass Effect 3

Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U


4.9 million

Source:, as of 12/7/2013

Considering that sales numbers keep rising, and EA is spreading Mass Effect to more platforms with every sequel, the arrival of Mass Effect 4 was inevitable.

EA's involvement, starting with Mass Effect 2, considerably altered the original game. The original Mass Effect had some more "hardcore" elements, which were eliminated in Mass Effect 2 and 3. For example, player customization and inventory options were simplified dramatically and the combat system was vastly improved.

Mass Effect 2. Source: BioWare.

The graphical enhancements in Mass Effect 2 were also extremely impressive. With EA's budget, BioWare started hiring more recognizable actors, such as Martin Sheen and Yvonne Strahovski, to give the game a truly impressive, Hollywood blockbuster feel.

With all of those enhancements, however, came a lot of DLCs -- downloadable content that gamers pay extra for. Let's take a look at the number of DLCs that each Mass Effect game asked players to purchase.


Number of DLCs

Total combined cost (retail)

Mass Effect



Mass Effect 2



Mass Effect 3



Note: Free DLCs were included in the final count. Source:

In other words, to enjoy the "full" Mass Effect 2 or 3 experience as EA envisioned it, players had to pay double the price of the original game.

Some of the DLCs, such as Mass Effect 2's Lair of the Shadow Broker, was high-quality content, while others, such as Mass Effect 3's From Ashes, simply appeared to be deleted content from the original game.

To many gamers, constantly adding on paid chapters started to ruin the franchise. No longer was Shepard's adventure decided by the choices made in the game, but it was defined by the number of additional DLC purchases made throughout the course of the trilogy.

Will Mass Effect 4 be a sequel, a prequel, or neither?

The original Mass Effect trilogy suffered from the same problem as Hollywood film trilogies -- it started off with a promising, self-contained story, followed it up with a flashier second chapter that ended on a cliffhanger, and concluded with a messy third act that completely tarnished memories of the original.

The big problem with introducing Mass Effect 4 now is that the story -- and the known universe -- came to an abrupt end at the conclusion of the third game. Any story that happens now will have to take place prior to the original trilogy or possibly thousands of years in the future.

However, the universe that BioWare created with the original trilogy, now expanded with comic books and novels, is as rich as (if not richer than) the Star Wars universe. If done right, Mass Effect 4 could very well be worth the wait.

What do you think, dear readers? Will BioWare take its time and impress us with Mass Effect 4, or is it destined to become a bloated mess that reminds us just how much EA has changed BioWare?

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Read/Post Comments (24) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 20, 2013, at 3:53 PM, Shmegly wrote:

    I've kind of gotten over the Mass Effect 3 ending. Kind of. But I'm really excited for ME4 and I'm pre-ordering it on the first day that you can. I just really hope that the main character is someone completely new (opposed to Garrus or the Illusive Man), so that you can customize it. Hopefully you can choose to be a different race like an Asari or Turian!

  • Report this Comment On December 21, 2013, at 11:32 AM, jagruti wrote:

    Yes. Mass Effect 3 ending felt like it it rushed but I am hoping that ME4 can fulfill our wants. A new character would nice and if we can choose different races like Turian or Krogan it would be more awesome.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2013, at 6:16 PM, arte wrote:

    Until now, if EA doesn't change radically it will be a disaster. This and the general idiocy regarding DLC's ( give me only little hope. Looking at the Origin shop, you will find that the price for the original ME2 and ME3 has dropped considerably, while you still have to pay the full amount of "bioware points" to get the DLC. Unlike Xbox virtual money, you don't get discounts for buying them. That makes the DLCs a lot less attractive for late buyers, because they are sometimes twice the price of the original game, each.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 11:33 AM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    Thanks for the comments, I personally thought "From Ashes" was pretty insulting -- a DLC released on the first day, which obviously was cut content from the original game. It's like a director intentionally cutting a key scene from the movie, then charging select audience members an extra $5 to watch it.

    I hope that ME4 takes a step back towards ME1 (exploration, open universe) while keeping the battle mechanics from ME2/3.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2013, at 6:46 AM, inluvwithLiara wrote:

    I find it funny that this article says that the universe came to an abrupt end in ME3 when that isn't what happened.

    I also, hoped that they do not do a prequel instead opting to show the aftermath of what happened to the universe. It could take place many years later.

    some ideas I thought of were: a New krogan rebellion, Rachni, or, the return of the leviathan

    Just thought those could be great story lines for sequels.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2013, at 3:43 PM, pod7 wrote:

    If Mass Effect 3 felt rushed to you, just remember that it's because some jerk leaked the game script, so they had to rewrite over a third of the game's plot.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2013, at 9:07 PM, Vanguard1 wrote:

    I'll wait longer if it means a quality game. I'll never complain about DLC, Mass Effect changed the way I look at games and I personally feel that all the work put into it is worth more than $60 so I'll happily pay even $100 for a quality game. A game that takes you through time from the first contact war and the Illusive man's role to Anderson's missions leading up to the events with Saren would be great. Also a game based on Garrus or like others say, where you can customize all the other races and play as them. As others have said keeping the mechanics and options of ME3 but mix them with ME's dark music and some planet exploring. Either way I'm excited about another ME game and yes I dispised the ending to ME3, had to put it out there.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2013, at 9:27 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    @inluvwithLiara: What I meant with "the abrupt end" was that all the Mass Relays were destroyed in all the endings. When a Mass Relay is destroyed, it is the equivalent of a supernova, wiping out the nearby star systems -- it was already established earlier in the storyline. Blowing up all the Mass Relays "reset" the universe, disconnecting all of the civilizations from each other forever.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2013, at 11:44 PM, TheDisturbedGuy wrote:

    From what I've heard about ME 4, It will be with a new character, as EA had said that: Shepard will not be featured in the new ME game.

    Also, they've been posting pre-release promotional pictures(type in "Mass Effect 4" in google), and it looks pretty bad-ass.

    Another thing that I can deduct from my research, is that the game will presumably take place in the future, as a twitter leak said: "This time, the threat will be even larger than the Reapers". How that's possible? I don't know!

    As I've said, this is only what I've heard!

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2013, at 3:01 PM, StormWolf92 wrote:


    As a writer, this is what I would do. It is established in ME and ME2 that the Reapers live in dark space, the void between galaxies, when they are not initiating the Harvest to create a new reaper. It is also said in ME3: Leviathan DLC that the Leviathans made a supreme AI which ultimately enslaved them to the Reapers' will. This AI is presumably the Catalyst, which makes it a higher form of intellect than even Harbinger.

    Now, to my point. Perhaps the Reapers were made as a form of defense: a cruel but necessary evil to ensure that life will go on in the galaxy. It is said by the Catalyst that each cycle got closer to defeating the Reapers, Shepard's cycle being the one where that happens, if you so choose. Perhaps the Reapers were created to ward off an extragalactic threat from beyond our galaxy and needed to return every 50,000 years to replenish lost numbers. In these Harvests, the Reapers pushed those in the current cycle, taking a spartan approach to life in our galaxy to see if they are ready to face the threat beyond the veil. With Shepard's choice, he could have chosen that the galaxy is ready to take care of themselves at last, and the next enemy would be those the Reaper's had been fighting for untold millennia in dark space.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 10:18 PM, lordmatum wrote:

    I am concerned here. ME3 gave us the option to select the appropriate ending - whether it be:

    1. Destruction of the Reapers

    2. Becoming one with the Reapers

    3. Synthesis

    Now - how is Bioware going to handle this, I wonder. Clearly, they are going to select either Ending One or Two. Synthesis will not be possible as that entirely changed evolution on a galactic scale.

    I'm just saying - what was the point of selecting an ending in ME3 if Bioware has decided to carry on the story in the future from a predetermined ending, if you will.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 1:06 AM, Rivyn wrote:

    The universe wasn't destroyed at the end of the third game

    if you had watched the extended endings you would know the various races had come together and were repairing the mass relays and allowing the races to travel across the galaxy once more, so a sequel doesnt need to take place thousands of years in the future

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 10:49 AM, BHGamer wrote:

    stating that the known universe came to an end is kind of misleading, like the universe doesn't exist , which simply is not the case. There's plenty of scenarios that could be played out that takes place in a relatively short time frame from when the 3rd ended, though I would preferably like to see a completely original game that sheds more light on the creation of the reapers.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 12:11 PM, KaponoSan wrote:

    Me and my have enjoyed the entire ME trilogy (to include DLCs). I find the developers intent on giving the fan majority what they want to be refreshing. They need to keep doing what theyve been doing which is pushing forward while taking us along to play in their vision. My only desire is to see co-op play local/online.

  • Report this Comment On January 21, 2014, at 11:01 AM, JoeB5280 wrote:

    On the destruction of the mass relays - fix them with eezo - Tali could do this in about a week.

    Seriously though, a sequel should take the story telling from ME1, the interaction/combat from ME2, and for the love of all that's good, have actual different endings that are based on your decisions (as ME3 should have had)!

  • Report this Comment On January 22, 2014, at 2:29 AM, TheStud wrote:

    First off, the major debacle of Mass Effect 3 was that the choices you made in the first two games were completely obliterated and pointless by the fact that you could pick the ending, which means you could play the first two anyway and have no negative or positive effects. Second off, it was supposed to be a war for Earth, which was scarcely even a part of the game. If I get ME4, I will wait and see the reviews becasue I was completely insulted with the release of ME3, I would hope the main character is a member of the alliance you built, and that the game takes place in the after-math and I want to see that my decisions actually do matter.

  • Report this Comment On January 22, 2014, at 2:31 AM, TheStud wrote:

    Also, there were four endings to ME3, did anybody ever shoot the glowing kid? That's an interesting ending, that's the one where the cycle actually continues.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 8:07 PM, IrishMobHit85 wrote:

    @TMFSunLion I agree 100% cus the Arrival DLC already stated that destroying a Relay would wipe all life from a star system. I am, however, hopeful for Mass Effect 4 and I have heard a lot of great ideas from some of you as to what it should be. I like the idea someone mentioned of a prequel that shows the timeline of Anderson and his experience with Saren but I also like the idea of a fresh new game set several years later to somehow explain away the destruction of the relays and allow players to make a custom character of any of the Council races. They are both great ideas and I pray EA wises up and gets their heads out of their asses and lets Bioware work some magic instead of being so greedy that they force Bioware to make another royal screw up like they did with the ending of ME3. We all know Bioware is capable of working some serious magic with their games but they need to have the time to make that magic show its glory otherwise there is no magic. Either way I am looking forward to the new Mass Effect game and I cannot wait to see a full game trailer to showcase it.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:12 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    Thanks for all the replies --

    The best part of the ME trilogy, in my opinion, was the suicide mission at the end of ME2. The sheer number of ways that scenario could play out took my breath away and was Bioware at its best.

    THAT is exactly how the ME3 ending needed to make gamers feel.

    As for a new game, I would also like something brand new. It would be cool to see Saren before he went crazy, but there's just such as vast universe out there to explore.

    And yes, EA needs to leave Bioware alone and let them remind gamers how incredible they can be.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:15 PM, shyguy250 wrote:

    I loved the ME3 ending I think Bioware needs to remember that the only people they heard from are the ones that had sand in their eye the rest of us who enjoyed the ending didn't think to go to a forum because we liked the ending or at least didn't mind it. I mean yes it was a let down but at the same time WHAT were you expecting?! For Shepard to destroy every Reaper in the galaxy at once and, what? Get a cookie? the entire trilogy has shown that there has to be sacrifices made for the greater good, and he was willing to make them. EA should let Bioware do their own thing because they should remember that's what made EA want to purchase Bioware... ME4 should be interesting I hope its set in the history of the game the future isn't gloomy but its unsure and with three options it would be difficult to allow people to carry over their choices into the next "generation" so to speak.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:55 PM, jaetea5 wrote:

    I'm not sure you ragers understand what you wanted from ME3.....the 3 endings were varied and quite significantly different. What else could have happened, except you wanting a fairytale ending....oh wah wah, Shepherd died. He/she had to die, that was the sacrifice. Our choices mattered for how our companions and lovers lives ended/continued and the ongoing fate of the universe. 3 very difference futures scenarios. I liked the tragic ending for Shepherd, because it was an ending. Had Shepherd not died, not really an ending.

    For the record all you lovers of ME2s Suicide Mission - not really a suicide mission as you always survive it and there is only one outcome possible really (just a few different options for who makes it, but still the same outcome) - ME3 had better endings because there were actually 3 different outcomes not just one!

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:56 PM, jaetea5 wrote:

    Poor article Leo, very biased.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 8:16 PM, KJB502 wrote:

    It really disappoints me that you can't continue sheperds story because there is a way to survie the last mission. But at Bioware should allow us to chose our own race wheiter it by Turien, Asari, Salarien, Krogen,urein, or maybe even the Geth. That be freaking awsome if you could be a geth.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2014, at 2:00 PM, LightStreak567 wrote:

    I used to hate ME3's endings like everyone else, but now, I understand why it has never been changed. I understand everything now, after looking into some hints in the games and forming theories that fit into the gaps.

    Most of us obviously have forgotten or tried so hard to dismiss and disprove the fact that sometimes the right choice is not always the one that makes us feel like heroes, which means that sometimes destroying the enemy at the cost of losing some of our allies and friends is the right choice as opposed to the choice that saves your allies and friends at the cost of letting your enemy live or complete their objective.

    I think destroying the Reapers is canon because it's the "good guys defeat bad guys" ending we want (except for the sacrifice of our synthetic friends like the Geth and EDI). With them Reapers dead, the Catalyst has no way to find the solution for his creators, and all life in the galaxy are free to do their own thing, create their own futures after being manipulated by Reapers for countless millennia.

    The Reapers were trying to find a solution for an arrogant race who look just like them, known as Leviathans from the Leviathan DLC. The Leviathans, an organic race who look like Reapers that can control the minds of any other being, used to enslave all life in the galaxy long before the Reapers existed, calling themselves the apex of life, and forcing "lesser" races to pay them tribute, helping them increase their power, wealth and influence. But one day when the races they enslaved created machines to improve their society and technology, things went crazy as the machines advanced to develop a will of their own. The sentient machines attacked their creators because their creators were only interested in regaining control over them or destroying them to make way for new, obedient machines, they wanted freedom from a life similar to slavery.

    The Leviathans, realizing that a dead race cannot pay them tribute created the much despised character of ME3, the Catalyst (they call it the Intelligence) and programmed it to do whatever it needs to do to find a solution that stops all advanced "lesser" organic races and their machine creations from killing each other, and to establish a connection between all life so the Leviathans can use their mind control ability to control the minds of organics and synthetics alike, taking away their personal freedoms. Over the following decades or centuries, the Catalyst oversaw the relations between synthetic and organic life, learning that the reason why organics don't respect the free will of synthetics is that they created them to do jobs that are too difficult or too dangerous for organics to perform, and that synthetics only desire their freedom as living creatures, and that organics with their selfish desires are an obstacle to that freedom. In short, organic life brought this conflict upon themselves, just like the quarians did with the geth.

    The Catalyst's understanding of the origins of this galaxy-wide war between organics and synthetics grew until it found a solution that satisfies the needs of the organics and synthetics at war, and also his creators. That solution is the solution similar to Synthesis. However, the Catalyst had trouble manifesting the solution, his efforts always ended in making the conflict worse, so he had to devise a new way to get organics to help him and his creators activate Synthesis.

    That's when he decided to create the Reapers. First, he planned on harvesting most of the Leviathan race to create the first Reaper, Harbinger. The Leviathans didn't like this idea, calling the Catalyst's plan a betrayal, but they failed to understand that the Catalyst's act was not really a betrayal-- his creators did not program any moral restrictions into him, they wanted order restored to the galaxy no matter what it takes. They just never anticipated what sacrifices they had to make. The Catalyst harvested most of the Leviathan race, leaving survivors to hide from Harbinger so that their race can survive in secret from the birth of the Reapers, then the Catalyst used Harbinger to harvest every advanced organic and synthetic in the galaxy, leaving the pre-spaceflight races who are stuck in their homeworlds alone. Then the Catalyst directed the Reapers to create the Citadel and mass relays so that when the younger races develop space traveling technology, they will discover the Reapers' technology and quickly advance into a fully mature space traveling race.

    I believe that the Catalyst's plan with the Reapers is to create and use an enemy that cannot be easily defeated conventionally to threaten the lives of every advanced civilization, driving them to do whatever they must do to survive. The Reapers are not out to destroy organic life, they were created to put organic life in a "life or death" test, a "CRUCIBLE", a difficult trial that is meant to be a refining process for organics to do whatever they must to live.

    This also leads me to believe that the Reapers are likely the ones who designed the Crucible. The Reapers designed it in hopes that the races they threaten to harvest in each cycle will build the Crucible in the blind hope that the machine can and will destroy the Reapers even though they have no idea what the Crucible does. Think about it. Technology made by the Reapers like the mass relays and Citadel are easily useable without having full understanding of their functions. The Crucible is the same way. Strange, huh? Anyway, the Crucible can destroy the Reapers, but it can do more than that, and the Reapers want to make sure that no one plans to destroy them. That's where indoctrination comes in.

    Indoctrinated characters like Saren and Illusive Man (mostly Illusive Man) were revealed to have been trying to change Shepard's ways in dealing with the Reapers. Illusive Man can't take control of the Reapers because the Reapers have controlled him for 33 years. Ever since ME3, Illusive Man opposed Shepard because his puppet masters, the Reapers preferred that Shepard controlled them rather than destroyed them. They also didn't want Shepard to suspect that Illusive Man is being controlled by them, which is why they appeared to attack Cerberus in Sanctuary, because if Shepard continued to suspect that Illusive Man's ideas of controlling the Reapers are not his, then Shepard will never believe in controlling Reapers. Illusive Man claimed to know that the Crucible can control the Reapers, but how can he know? How could the Reapers who controlled him know?

    As for Saren, his ideas while under Sovereign's control are aligned with Synthesis. Saren didn't believe in fighting the Reapers for "petty freedoms", he believed in convincing organic and synthetic life alike to submit to the Reapers as tools for them to use. There is one part on Virmire where Shepard asks Sovereign if the Reapers wanted slaves or resources. Sovereign replied saying that the Reapers transcend the understanding of organics, wich means the needs of the Reapers are nothing compared to the needs of organics.

    Synthesis is the long term goal for the Reapers. Control keeps the Reapers alive so they can either brainwash Shepard into helping them reach Synthesis, or breaking free from Shepard's control. Synthesis does not merge organic life with synthetic life, as some of you believe. The new DNA that organics and synthetics share is actually the new means for the descendants of the Leviathans who survived their harvest to regain their former glory. Leviathans control minds by entangling particles just like the device Shepard uses to speak to Illusive Man in ME2, and the Synthesis DNA connects all life to the Leviathans so that they can again and forever enslave all life.

    This makes destroying the Reapers the right choice despite the consequences it brings. Paragon natured people have to accept the grim reality that the right and wrong choices are sometimes not so easy to distinguish, and that even if there will be another conflict between synthetics in the near future, have faith in the choices made by uncontrolled races. The fact that we can make peace between the geth and quarians shows that organics have the power to find their own solutions, we don't need the Reapers alive at all.

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