Hello again, dear readers. Let’s continue our “pick on Bioware” series with a little discussion about the last installment in the Mass Effect franchise. On the off chance that anyone from Bioware were to read this blog, let me reiterate that they are my favorite developer, and my absurdly lofty dream-job would be to get hired on to their writing team. It is because I care that I nag. I know they can do better.
So then. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you might not be familiar with Mass Effect. I will assume you have not been hiding under a rock. After all, if you made it to my obscure little corner of the internet, you’re probably pretty savvy. The most recent – and from what we understand, final – installment in the series is Mass Effect: Andromeda. You play as one of the Ryder twins, who have just come out of 600 years of cryo in the Andromeda galaxy. Then everything goes horribly wrong, because if it didn’t there wouldn’t be a game.
This game had a lot going for it. It’s fourth in a very well received franchise, it’s graphically gorgeous, it employs gameplay mechanics that Bioware has had three games to perfect, and as the game takes place in a new, unexplored galaxy it has infinite potential for expansions and sequels. None of that matters, however, because Bioware and EA decided to hand the game off to their B Team so that the more seasoned developers could work on Anthem, a multiplayer action RPG that looks like a cross between Destiny and TItanfall that no one actually cares about because it doesn’t appear to bring anything new or unique to the table. In fact, given EA’s recent trends, fans anticipate it to be a nightmare of microtransactions and pay-to-win bullshit. To make it even better, it has since been announced that ME: Andromeda has effectively been abandoned by Bioware. No DLC, no sequels. The teasers and promises of future content at the end of the game are meaningless.
It is painfully obvious that Andromeda was neglected. There are glitches that QA testing should have found and dealt with. Bioware is known for its character interactions, and the pacing in the NPC relationships is half-assed and often feels rushed. And speaking of NPC’s, they all pace awkwardly and look like they broke their necks at some point in cryo. Additionally, everyone looks the same. No, really. They use the same face for every asari you encounter, with the exception of a couple key NPC’s. You run into (spoiler) Zaeed Massani’s son (you may remember Zaeed from ME2 and briefly in ME3), but since he bears absolutely no resemblance to his father what could have been a fun discovery feels like tired pandering that amounts to little more than a name drop. This is a recurring theme throughout the game.
All that said, Andromeda has a heartbreaking amount of potential. Incomplete as it may be, it’s still a Bioware game, and still a AAA title. The gameplay is fantastic, save for some unnecessary changes to melee (like taking out the cover kill). The increased movement is fun. The writing – what we see of it – is pretty solid. I am convinced, given how much some characters were developed, that many of the rushed story lines and abrupt endings were the result of editing, not writing – stories cut short to fit into the underdeveloped scenes. There was so much material to work with. It could have been amazing. Which is probably why what we’re left with is such a disappointment.
So then, I present the following alternative titles to Mass Effect: Andromeda:
Mass Effect: Bad Simulation
Mass Effect: Daddy Issues
Mass Effect: Commander Kid
Mass Effect: Cryo Turns Bones To Jello
Mass Effect: Everyone’s A Clone
Mass Effect: Cold Case
Mass Effect: No Resolution
Mass Effect: The Writers Deserved Better
Mass Effect: The Fans Deserved Better
Mass Effect: At Least They Didn’t Kill Your Sibling This Time
And there we are. I would still really like to know what in development hell happened with this game. Like, who at EA made the decision to bench a series that had built such a fan base. I would also like to punch them. After finding a way to get them fired, so that I’m not assaulting a potential employer. It’s a complicated feeling. Well, here’s hoping Anthem is unexpectedly awesome so that the pain was worth it. I’m not that hopeful, but I’m trying.