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Mass Effect Legendary Edition could make or break BioWare’s relationship with fans

Could the Indoctrination Theory really be the answer?

When BioWare announced it going to remaster the entire Mass Effect trilogy and all its downloadable content for Spring 2021, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Not because it brings the game onto a new generation of consoles, because it opens the door for possible changes to the story that could renew the company’s relationship with its fans.

Ever since my first playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve been a devoted, bordering on obsessed, fan of BioWare’s games, playing hour after hour of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. The detailed and complex storylines, coupled with the manner in which characters weave in and out of the narrative lens, from beginnings as peripheral figures to becoming major actors, has made BioWare my ride or die of developers.

However in recent years, I’d argue something has slipped when it comes to BioWare’s production. Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda felt unfinished, and they were riddled with glitches that detracted from both the story and the overall gameplay experience. Personally though, I feel this lapse in quality control can be traced all the way back to the final 20 minutes of Mass Effect 3, which turned what could have been a phenomenal final installment of Commander Shepard’s story arc to one of the most controversial endings, dividing devoted fans like me in the process.

We were given a glimmer of hope on N7 Day though, when BioWare confirmed it was working on a remaster of the entire original Mass Effect trilogy. But it’s much more than a remaster. The studio has confirmed it is adding new content to the game, giving fans like me hope – one of Mass Effect’s central themes – that a resolution to those colour-coded, endgame options will be offered.

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That’s because the trailer, featuring Liara T’soni, dead reapers, and a Mass Relay wreckage, suggests a new chapter of Mass Effect is just around the corner. While it’s not confirmed what this next chapter refers to, many fans hope it will start with the aftermath of the war with the reapers, or the continuation of Commander Shepard’s story arc.

The possibility of reuniting with the Normandy crew is an exciting one, but this remaster sits at a metaphorical fork in the road in terms where BioWare takes the story. There’s certainly one way in which the developer can plug the plot holes and codex contradictions that the end of the Mass Effect 3 was infested with, while building on those infamous ending choices: By confirming the Indoctrination Theory.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, the Indoctrination Theory is the belief that everything after Shepard runs towards the beam in the final fight in London is a dream in which Shepard is fighting off Reaper indoctrination. Based on a mix of codex information, in-game evidence, and changes to Shepard’s usual conversation options, fans have desperately clung onto this theory in the hopes that BioWare will one day resurrect the series with it in mind.

As it stands, BioWare is closely guarding the key that’ll unlock all the secrets behind the trilogy’s remaster. But while a confirmation either way is a long way off, I can’t help but find myself being sucked in by the theory. You see, it makes complete sense for BioWare to pivot the ending to this new storyline. It’ll serve as a more satisfying playthrough if changes are made.

I’ve always held firm the belief that framing the end of a story as a dream is a weak closer, but I’m willing to overlook that for Mass Effect 3. Confirming the Indoctrination Theory would not only fix the plot holes in the game, it’d save the series from its endless free fall, and, ultimately, BioWare’s reputation as leaders of branching narrative-driven storytelling.

We won’t have long to find out what’s in store, but for now, I’ll continue to hope that BioWare will one day wake us up from this Reaper-induced nightmare.