Dear BioWare, About Mass Effect: Andromeda…

Dear BioWare,

Are you there? It’s me, Athena. I know it’s been awhile since we chatted, but you are often on my mind and I always look forward to the time we can spend together. Last time we talked, I had a few things on my mind about my favorite series of games, your Dragon Age series.

Well, it’s N7 day, so today I thought I’d write to you about my other favorite series, Mass Effect.

Image result for mass effect

As you know, I am one of the few internet people who has publicly admitted to enjoying Mass Effect: Andromeda (okay, there are a lot of us, don’t worry), and as a BioWare fan I am still tentatively hopeful for Anthem but not head-over-heels in love with the idea of a primarily multi-player game. It hurts my heart to think that you are moving in this direction, either by your own auspices or due to the interference of EA.

But I was talking about Mass Effect.

It’s not a secret that I write about Mass Effect a lot, although you might be interested to know that the times I write about Mass Effect or Dragon Age wind up being some of the posts that are most likely to be read months after I post them. So, I like to think that I’m on the right track with the things I say about your games. With that in mind, let’s talk about Mass Effect: Andromeda, since so many people seem to not want to do that.

liara-facepalm

Oh, we can all wax poetic on the similarities and differences between the original trilogy and this most recent installment. We can pull out and discuss all sorts of details about the games, about how they handle racism, to why the endings to Mass Effect 3 aren’t bad and the catalyst is actually right, to re-hashing the Indoctrination Theory that still floats around the internet.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Mass Effect: Andromeda. I think it has a really interesting story, and I loved that we got to see the beginnings of a hero, as if we were to play through the “military history” that we choose for Shepard at the beginning of the original Mass Effect. Seeing the mission that the young Pathfinder cut his/her teeth on was not only an interesting perspective by itself, but also gave a little more perspective into Shepard, who was already a hero when the first game began.

The characters were wonderful, and I was so happy to see BioWare’s talents still shining in this department. I can honestly say there wasn’t a character that I was displeased with. They all had their quirks, their depth, and their reasons for being the way they were. Their arcs were satisfying, and some of my favorite parts of the game were getting to know the crew.

Image result for pathfinder crew mass effect

I enjoyed the game so much that I don’t want to talk about what might have gone wrong at launch anymore. Nope. Mass Effect: Andromeda was a solid game in the series. With that in mind, I am excited to see how you build on it and improve on the formula, just like you did between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. To that end, I would like to suggest a few reasons for continuing the Andromeda story, at least for one more game, and offer a few ideas for how said game might look.

The Kett Cliffhanger and The Angara Legacy

I won’t lie; it felt really good to defeat the Archon, after he ruined humanity’s arrival in Andromeda, resulting in the death of Ryder’s father, putting his/her sibling into a coma, and the countless other losses of life of human and non-human folks. This doesn’t even take into account the “exaltation” of other species, which always had a slight whiff of ethnic cleansing about it. Yeah, it felt good when he was gone. But he was just one kett in charge of just one section of the galaxy, and to judge from transmissions, he had gone off the rails a bit toward the end.

Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170322003337

But either way, the kett as a whole hadn’t appeared to be defeated, and there seemed to be a higher-ranking kett official who stormed off the scene at the end of the game. What was that all about? Would the kett return? Would they still be as warlike? Would they exalt a quarian, learn about the geth, and wind up creating giant sentient robots bent on destroying all organic life every 50,000 years? What happens next with the kett??

Likewise, you introduced some interesting ideas with the angara. They appeared to be a race that was very obviously created, and as Jaal so intelligently questions, were they made with a purpose in mind? Who were the Jardaan? To judge from the vaults, they had similar physical abilities as humans, and their language was reminiscent of the angara, but then they set off the scourge and vanished. Why? Who? Will they be back? Were they god-like like the leviathans in the Milky Way, or were they simply an advanced species? And how to the angara fit into all this? Were they made for a purpose?

Who Started It, and Will History Repeat Itself?

This seems like the most obvious question: what happens with the humans and the other Milky Way species? After such a rocky start, do they settle in peacefully, or do they wind up acting like every other “explorer” that settled in a new land by exploiting the resources and ultimately decimating the native people?

Image result for columbus day meme

And there are hints about who started the Andromeda Initiative, and why, but whose idea was it, really? And why did they murder Jien Garson?

Will the Quarians Ever Arrive? What about Liam’s Car?

Okay, yeah, Liam’s car was a bit of a throwaway question, but seriously… I know you answered this in a book, but can we talk about the quarians? Can you throw your fans a bone for this one? Please don’t leave us hanging with this!

Moving Forward

If I could make a few further requests about what might be nice to see in future games, as well… I’d suggest a few of the things I touched on here: reset the map size, put in combat adjustments for squadmates like Dragon Age: Origins had for party members, and keep up the great party banter that BioWare games are known for. But a few things in particular I might wish for in a future Andromeda game would be:

  1. More Politicking on the Nexus
    I loved the intrigue in Orlais in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and would love to see a little more politicking occur. As the Pathfinder, it would be well within his/her responsibilities to continue paving the way for the other Milky Way species, along with the other Pathfinders. I’m not sure “intrigue” is the way to go, but having to balance so many needs might be an interesting twist to the game.

    Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170528235431

  2. A Slight Change to the Dialogue Wheel
    I liked what you did in Andromeda insofar as you could turn off the tones of voice. It was a step back to the lists of dialogue choices that had no indication as to tone or intention. I’d like to see this go back to what we had in, say, Dragon Age: Origins, when we knew exactly what our character was going to say, even if we couldn’t quite predict how they were going to say it. And maybe don’t have the exact same number of lines each time so it doesn’t become “always pick option two for (fill in the blank) tone.” I want to really think about how my character would respond.
  3. The Ninjamance
    A silly thing, but I really dislike that romances are built by selecting the dialogue with the little heart next to it. I thought it was nice that Ryder had to become friends with Jaal before trying to enter a romance, but… as much as it broke my heart to break Alistair’s heart, I did appreciate the ninjamance. After all, it happens sometimes in real life, too, doesn’t it?

    Image result for alistair dragon age
    Poor Alistair… My Warden only had eyes for Leliana…
  4. Adjust How Romance Scenes Play
    I have often said that there should be sexy time for all or sexy time for none, but I disagree with myself now. I think having scenes that make sense for each character is best. For instance, Suvi does not seem like the type to jump into bed with anyone. I was a little sad that PeeBee’s animations were the same for a male or female Ryder (sigh), but I think staying in character is most important.

    Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170620005117
    However….

    I’d love if you added a “skip” option to the sex scenes. There are gamers out there who would prefer not having to watch that. You are so inclusive in your games, let’s be respectful of the folks who don’t want the sex part of a romance.

  5. Disagreeing Party Members
    I can’t help it. I love when there is a little friction between party members… not the point of loathing each other, but just enough that interacting becomes a puzzle. Where is Mass Effect’s Morrigan or Vivienne? I suppose Jack and Miranda’s relationship could fill that role in the original trilogy but I would love to see this continue!

Final Personal Thoughts

If I may fangirl for a moment: BioWare, you have devoted fans, and you know this. More frighteningly, so does EA. The Mass Effect series is full of so many wonderful characters, stories, adventures, and memories that we all want to see it succeed. Do you know what I think will make continue to succeed more than anything else?

Love the games.

Don’t be blinded by what everyone else is doing. Be uniquely BioWare, the developers that gamers fell in love with. Be like the N7 operatives, who aren’t blinded by fame or fortune, but just work hard to do the right thing. Be a Pathfinder and forge the direction for the industry like you once did. Help us find a new home in Andromeda.

What do you think? What are you favorite Mass Effect memories? Would you like to see another Andromeda game, or no? Do you think gamers have a place in asking developers for things they’d like in a game? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~Athena

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9 comments

  1. Awesome post!! I… can never unsee what happened between one of my Ryder’s and Peebee during an unskippable sexy time cutscene, so the option to always be able to skip those scenes would be very much appreciated! I do feel kinda bad that I pimped out my Ryders for a Platinum trophy, haha.

    My favourite Mass Effect memories are all those special friend moments I had with companion characters. They all felt like family. Thinking about the Citadel DLC from the main trilogy and the movie night scene in Andromeda still makes me all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

    I would 100% support BioWare locking EA’s marketing department executives out of their office, and then create an Andromeda trilogy with a passionate team. Even with its technical flaws, I loved the overall Andromeda experience. Combat was so fun and the story was very intriguing. I want all those questions you mentioned answered. Also, I really want to find out the fate of a certain member of Ryder’s family…

    I think gamers should have fun asking developers for stuff and voicing their opinions on things. Game developers, like all creators, should really ignore all the fan demands and focus on creating something with a heart and soul that reflects the developer’s vision. At the end of the day, I think most audiences don’t know what they truly want to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sigh… f!Ryder and PeeBe… 😦 But I also find it funny you pimped your Ryders for a trophy!!

      Yeah it’s hard to compare to the trilogy, just because we spent so much more time with those characters. I hope EA backs off a bit and we can have the same relationships with these new characters, as well…. There are a lot of loose ends, to be sure.

      Absolutely. This is not a list of demands by any means; just a few hopes and dreams haha. I am firmly of the belief that gamers as a whole have no idea what they really want before it is handed to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been quite a while since I commented on one of your pieces, but I still read and enjoy what you have to say.

    It was fortuitous that this topic should show up since I recently (as in, within the last two weeks) bought an Xbox One and decided to give ME:A a go (against my previous conviction that I would never play another Bioware game; also got DA:I, so I’m double hypocrite apparently). My first impressions were not good; graphical problems and annoying dialogue bugs. In general, it felt rushed and lazy in a lot of areas. This was really clear to me when we first meet the Angara and get told “don’t explore or interact with anyone”, which I immediately took to mean “we couldn’t be bothered to design a decent map for this area or any interesting dialogue chains”.

    Before the game started, however, I actually got my hopes up because I’m a sucker for the “Alec Ryder genetic inheritance” gimmick that, I assume, will make the game just that little bit more re-playable (if only for a visual standpoint). As a ME1 purist, I really took to the Nomad and the emphasis on exploration but absolutely hated all the forced and tedious references.

    A perfect example would be the Ardat-Yakshi who go from a deep dark secret of the species with only three individuals in existence (ME2) to a convenient excuse for mini-boss fights (ME3) to the casual subject of gossip, with Vetra apparently knowing what one is and Cora suspecting some random acquaintance of hers of being one. Horrid and pointless.

    And SAM! SAM is EDI 2.0, I hate it! I’m given no reason whatsoever to be okay with an AI (an AI!) having control over my internal systems and access to my memories. It just stinks of the writers simply no longer caring about one of the most important themes of the series (the danger of artificial intelligence), but I suppose that ship sailed with EDI’s sexy robot body.

    Also, the only characters I like are Tann, Kallo and Vetra and I resent being forced to cart abrasive and annoying weirdos around. It’s not as bad as ME2, though, where “release the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant” is considered acceptable by even the most Paragon of characters. One of my favourite little things (as in, fun quirks that were dropped as the games became corporatised) was that Wrex and Garrus were optional squadmates. I prefer player agency wherever possible and nothing cripples that as much as the writers wanting to get their own characters over at the player’s expense. Yes, I understand the “jerk with a heart of gold” and similar “break through the hard exterior” character tropes and I’d be willing to let them play out but only when it suits my character.

    And last but not least, my biggest pet peeve: the aliens! There are only two new sapient aliens, which, combined with the Milky Way races that fail to appear, is a net loss. The kett are generic mooks and the angara (interesting as they are) can’t make up the difference.

    Sorry for turning this into a rant, and keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey good to see you back! And long comments are always welcome 🙂

      The game is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Shelby from Falcon Game Reviews and I did a collaboration that addressed the rushed feeling, and I agree; there were things that happened during development that *did* make the game feel rushed, because I think it *was* rushed to a certain extent. One of those things was the shoe-horned references, as if perhaps it didn’t feel like it would stand on its own without referencing all the detailed long-time fans would want to know about. There was some fan-service, and that resulted in some inconsistencies. I won’t deny that. However, I will never say that the art style or how “pretty” the characters look should make or break a game. Yeah, the people looked dopey, but that hardly means the game is bad. Look at the original Mass Effect. People looked eons better by the time ME3 came around. It doesn’t matter that it’s a different year. Look at the difference between Dragon Age: Origins (2009) to DA2 (2011). Graphics don’t make a game.

      I also think they handled SAM pretty well. Most of the people *are* wary of the Pathfinder having an AI in his/her head, and I think that should be explored more, especially since SAM is trying to learn more about him(?)self. After all, he can kill Ryder (and does). I think the use of tech could be addressed in future games, for sure. I also wonder sometimes if the common feeling of Synthesis being the “best” ending also influenced some decisions, but that is just my own hypothesis.

      I agree that player agency is always best, but I wonder if the “beggars can’t be choosers” feeling was intended: you’re the unintended Pathfinder with flimsy support at best, so make due. If you don’t like the characters, though, that is of course a personal preference that I won’t argue on!

      Ah, but I will argue about the aliens 😉 With how the story played out (the kett and exaltations and the angara being literally created by another species), I don’t think there was need for more aliens. I think it was a nice introduction to a new galaxy; we didn’t have to spend so much time integrating the old species with the new (which would be a headache by itself). Sure, more aliens would have been fun, but hardly something to pan the game for.

      At the end of the day I think it’s perfectly reasonable to be disappointed, especially with the massive amount of hype the game got beforehand. But I stand by what I said; it’s not a terrible game, and it does deserve a sequel.

      Glad to see you back, and to know you’ve been reading along 😀 Hope to see you again soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is perhaps wrong of me to hold the game up to standards only ME1 reached, but I do because the things I actually really like about ME:A are the things that remind me of the original game. To me, the primary appeal of Mass Effect, and space opera in general, has always been the aliens. It’s entirely preference based, but there it is. To me, “new life and new civilisations” is what draws me into the whole idea of exploring space.

        I don’t know if I’ve already said this in another comment somewhere, but it was actually mistaken information that caused me to pick up ME1 in the first place. I saw a picture of Wrex (who I assumed was the PC) on the back and got excited about the prospect of picking my species and customising my appearance and so on. I really enjoyed learning about the elcor and the volus, the quarians and the geth. That was what hooked me and, yes, I was one of those people hoping ME3 would introduce either an elcor or a volus as a squadmate.

        Liked by 1 person

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