Cyberpunk 2077’s Inconsequential Lifepaths Are The Solution For The Next Mass Effect’s Biggest Problem
If you’ve played the original Mass Effect trilogy, you’ll probably remember having to choose one of three options at the end of the third game: Destroy, Control, or Synthesis. This ending has become extremely controversial in the Mass Effect community, to the extent that even ex-BioWare devs who worked on the game weren’t happy with how it was handled.
As you might imagine, this makes the idea of a canonical Mass Effect playthrough pretty complicated. While Mass Effect: Legendary Edition has confirmed that the Extended Cut – a free DLC launched after Mass Effect 3, designed to rectify the issues fans had with its conclusion – will be canon, you’re still forced to make a decision when you meet the Catalyst.
This is what makes a return to the Milky Way so difficult for BioWare to implement. If we go back to the same clusters affected by the galaxy-spanning decisions made by millions of Shepards all over the world, most of the people who made one of the two choices not made canon in a new entry are going to be pretty upset.
So, how do you fix this? How do you create a situation that appeals to players who all chose completely different options in a game that launched almost a decade ago? As it turns out, the answer lies in Cyberpunk 2077’s inconsequential lifepaths.
It’s worth noting that I’m not arguing for another Shepard game – I’ve already said I will become The Joker if that happens. What I’m talking about is that there’s a good chance the next Mass Effect will feature both Andromeda and the Milky Way. If that’s the case, we’re going to have to see some of the ramifications that arose from whatever choice Shepard made six centuries prior – or potentially even longer, depending on whether or not there’s a major time gap between Andromeda and the next Mass Effect game.
In Cyberpunk 2077, you begin your journey as V with a choice: are you a Street Kid, a Nomad, or a Corpo? While this shapes the way in which the prologue plays out, it has far less influence over the rest of the game. Some fans were disappointed about this, claiming that Corpos should have had an entirely exclusive Arasaka storyline, while Street Kids dealt with the Maelstrom. I don’t agree with that – I think the fact that your lifepath determines your origin story and how that influences the overall narrative that follows is fine. Also, it’s pretty unreasonable to assume that CD Projekt Red was going to put out three games instead of one – just one more thing to add to the ever-growing list of absurd demands Cyberpunk 2077 players have made over the last couple of months.
This seems like a perfect means of going back to the Milky Way without ever having to make a Mass Effect 3 ending canon. Offering players the choice of Destroy, Control, or Synthesis a la Street Kid, Nomad, or Corpo gives everybody the opportunity of proceeding into the future of Mass Effect with their own headcanon intact. Your choice of ending could shape the prologue – maybe you’re explicitly tasked with finding out what your version of Shepard did all those years ago – but it doesn’t necessarily need to have a huge amount of influence over the story that follows. If anything, the fact that Andromeda takes place so far in the future gives BioWare a uniquely convenient means of retconning all three endings into the same present scenario, because enough time will have passed to just make some new adversary up. Control didn’t last, Synthesis was ineffective, Destroy was short-lived and deceptive – it doesn’t really matter. The ultimate reason for a return to the Milky Way is either the resurrection of the Reapers or the emergence of an even bigger threat. Remember that Andromeda’s main objective was to link the Milky Way to a new and unexplored galaxy – even if we don’t physically go back to Earth, or Rannoch, or Palaven, or Tuchanka, we were always going to at least establish contact with those hubs by the end of the second trilogy.
The relatively inconsequential nature of Cyberpunk 2077’s lifepaths are actually what makes this system work. Maybe you’re able to ask an Asari researcher with access to files covering the entire galaxy about what happened with the Reapers after the Andromeda Initiative left. Maybe she’ll tell you that an Alliance Commander bound himself to the machines, or chose to destroy them. Hell, maybe she’ll say nobody knows what truly happened after Shepard met the Catalyst, but the effects could be seen across the entire Milky Way (cue dialogue referring to your lifepath). By “maybe” here, I mean “definitely” – didn’t you see Liara in the trailer?
I mean, it sucks to find out the ending you chose didn’t matter all that much, and that things still went to hell anyway. I get that. But there obviously needs to be some kind of conflict in the Milky Way to justify a return there – I love the party in Shepard’s apartment, but I don’t think Citadel DLC: The Game is the best follow-up to Andromeda. Implementing a system like Cyberpunk 2077’s lifepaths is an achievable way of respecting whatever choice you made back in Mass Effect 3 before plunging you into the same story as everybody else. It means your Shepard survived in this world and did what they did, regardless of what is happening six centuries afterwards.
This is important. I have a very concrete vision of how the Mass Effect trilogy ends – how my Mass Effect trilogy ends. That being said, simply referencing that by giving me the opportunity to input my chosen ending is enough for me to feel a sense of legitimate continuity. If BioWare wants to return to the Milky Way in one form or another, go ahead – just be sure to take note of how Cyberpunk 2077’s lifepaths give you the opportunity to define your character without altering the overall story.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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