Moving On From Mass Effect Andromeda
Mass Effect Andromeda has wounded the Mass Effect franchise much more than it has bolstered it. Far flung into a new galaxy and fast-forwarded into the future, it is a game that needed to define itself on its own merits because nothing reminded us of what came before. A new universe (literally) with a whole new story essentially means this game could have been called Galactic Cruiser Galaxy Man and could’ve tried to be its own thing, but it wasn’t. It’s now part of a franchise that most everyone with a console or computer knows about. Whatever shortcomings exist in Andromeda’s fragmented presence is now a blemish on the franchise as a whole.
But. But, the Mass Effect franchise has taken its beatings before, especially because of the way they wrapped things up the last time around. When Andromeda was first announced, comment boards were probably–hell, undoubtedly filled with toxic remarks about why Bioware should never be trusted again after Mass Effect 3’s finale SNAFU. Judgements aside, do you think those knee-jerk reactions actually affected the way that Andromeda sold? It doesn’t look like it.
Legacy carries a lot of clout, and sometimes it can even erase bad memories like a Men in Black flash pen. In the case of Andromeda, it meant more Mass Effect was on the way, past mistakes be damned. As a fanbase, we looked forward, or better yet, up and to the stars.
Now, many can argue that there’s a difference in fault between an ending to an otherwise stellar trilogy and a game that flailed around until it knocked itself out. That much is true, but most of you reading, I hope, can share the sentiment that it’s not Andromeda’s faults that we think of when we look back on Mass Effect as a whole. Instead, it’s those feelings of camaraderie, discovery, and engagement that fill our heads.
It’s because of these overpowering feelings that we will go back, eventually. In fact, it was recently confirmed, though I use that term loosely, by EA’s leadership that Mass Effect isn’t done. Casey Hudson, the project director from the original trilogy has returned to Bioware, and the future could look very bright for the beloved franchise.
And how can that successfully be done? Andromeda’s sagging foundation leaves little want to continue, it’s more about closure. Well, it sounds like comics and novel tie-ins are on their way (yay) to cover that front, so the next step seems pretty obvious from where I’m standing.
Leave the Helius Cluster, leave the Initiative, leave most of the characters we met in Andromeda. Or just leave it all behind for good and start somewhere fresh.
The Helius Cluster is a bad memory, a relationship that ended poorly. Like any bad experience in life, you can take from it, learn from it, or block it out entirely. So Bioware’s job now becomes what to take from Andromeda, if anything, and head for open celestial waters.
What Andromeda does contain is that feeling of exploration that Mass Effect always needs, but it is missing the key aspect of that process: the discovery of new civilizations. Sure, there are the Angarans and the Kett, but they are essentially the same race, with one group having a bad day. There are no new aliens other than them to interact with in the Helius Cluster. You can’t have that.
What Andromeda does contain are hints of that rich world building that Mass Effect is known for, but they turned out to only be surface deep. Things don’t make sense, organizations lack structure, and even the reason for how the story kicks off is fragmented. This is all because the Initiative’s presence is disorganized and in vain.
While the Remnant and the Jardaan are still a large entity that exists within this world, they’re just carbon copies of the Geth, the Borg, and a dozen other fictional collectives. Their story will be wrapped up through other mediums, meaning there is nothing to give that sense of a looming mystery anymore.
If Bioware wants to continue Ryder’s story, fine. But not everybody can come with. I mean, not even the majority can come with. Create an event or a phenomenon that removes the successful elements of that narrative and fling it even further into the core of Andromeda. Don’t like that idea? Then go the other way with it and use the infinite possibilities of a space opera to create a new location.
Because that’s what space is. An infinite void of possibilities. It’s how the franchise has thrived for so long–implementing awesome, somewhat explainable concepts that most genres can’t get away with.
Personally, I’m a fan of a completely fresh start. Create a story that’s new and exciting in the purest of ways–a complete unknown. It could be back in the Milky Way or it could be on Glarnax 5000 where the pancake people live, just bring things back to their narrative roots and give us a Mass Effect game that keeps us filled with that momentum to never stop playing.
I have a great, great amount of faith it can be done. Worse franchises have recovered from much more. In all reality, this next installment–if it ever truly happens–won’t be for a long time. I know this industry well, and saying a franchise isn’t dead is like saying the aquarium with a shattered pane can still hold a bit of water.
Triple-A title announcements will come, summer gaming conventions will showcase some awesome things, and we’ll all find our spot in another galaxy. Then, one day, when we’ve moved on from this whole mess, we’ll see a screen go dark and that stark silver font will appear over an alien world that’s beckoning us down to its surface. Those cosmic, tonal hymns will begin to play and fill our minds with the sense of wonder we first experienced in 2007. On that day, the message boards will be filled with toxic comments suggesting that Bioware isn’t to be trusted after what happened with Andromeda.
But in the long run, it won’t make a damn bit of difference.