I bet the people insisting ME must have character deaths to retain its identity also swore up and down about ME3s ending being awful.
I expect this fan base to know: on the list things that make for a good narrative (you know, the important thing here) "character deaths" rates exceptionally low. If they're not writing a story that deaths have a place in, fine. That doesn't mean it isn't Mass Effect, that there won't be tough choices with tangible consequences, or that the stakes aren't going to be real.
Edit: In general, I think it does ME a huge disservice to list characters dying as a defining trait. It has a lot going for it as a series and it's not the deaths that are interesting, but the scenarios that gave way to them. Again, they had a place in the specific narratives of the original trilogy.