The original Mass Effect games were incredible. Does that mean we should look past the mediocre Andromeda entry and hope for a potential Mass Effect 5?
Playing the Mass Effect trilogy was amazing, and I can proudly say I loved 99% of it. The gameplay was fun, the story was incredible, and the characters were developed like no other game I had played. The decisions you made in the first game followed you throughout the trilogy, for better or worse. A moment’s decision in favor of Paragon or Renegade options could have far-reaching consequences.
Each game built upon the one before it, addressing old problems and refining parts to make the game better. However, one lesson that EA and Bioware didn’t learn from their success was when to stop, rest on their laurels, and be proud with their work.
While I was just as excited as many other people when Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced, it ultimately reinforced my belief that dragging out any series can only hurt its legacy in the long run. I’m not giving this a hot-take treatment, either. The game had bigger issues than some wonky looking eyes.
After I finished Andromeda, I said it would have been a good game if it wasn’t a Mass Effect title. It had great combat, some cool new class management, character development that required party reshuffles, and other features we have come to love from Bioware RPGs.
But the game just didn’t live up to the expectations fans had built for a Mass Effect game. In some ways, it couldn’t. And that’s a problem. What do you do when you can’t top your franchise’s success? I’ll tell you what you don’t do–put out a new entry!
Now, with a potential Mass Effect 5 brewing in the minds at Bioware, the question has to be asked: should they even attempt it?
I say it’s time to put Mass Effect back on the shelf for good; here’s why.
Spoiler Alert Starts Here
The Andromeda Storyline isn’t Interesting Enough to Continue
Would I sound pretentious if I called the ME: Andromeda story derivative? I remember someone summing up how I felt about this game by comparing it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It had all the good familiar feelings, but it just wasn’t original.
You could line up the parallels between enemies like the Geth vs. Kett, look at how grudges between races followed us to Andromeda, forcing us to retread ground that Shepard dealt with 600 years ago, or even talk about the painfully similar roles played by the Remnant and Protheans.
I wouldn’t say it was egregious, but the bar for success was set so high that these issues were greatly magnified when the game developers didn’t make more of an effort. If there wasn’t enough original material to make a game, why make it?
Of course, a lack of originality was not only the problem with the story. It was also kinda bland. Sure, we made planets habitable by doing the same terraforming process a few times over. We got to help the little guys, make that tough administrator type open up to us, and expose *gasp* corruption. All the while, we’re trying to figure out why the planets weren’t what we expected. Then, just a little too late, we got the Kett. Man, what a boring enemy. It was like a Collector and Geth combination that was a little too familiar and not remotely intimidating.
So, we fought the big bad Archon and restored power to the Meridian which let the star system flourish the way it was meant to. And then that was kinda it. There was no setup for another game aside from the second-in-command brooding over the fact we took out his boss.
After we killed Saren in the first game, we still had the threat of Reapers to deal with and that made us want to come back for another installment. We barely fought off Sovereign and the rest of the reapers were still coming! In terms of danger and raising the stakes, they went way in the wrong direction.
What would be the next story, anyway? The Ryder kids find out some more of their daddy’s dark secrets? We get a definitive answer about what happened in the Milky Way? I guess the real question is who cares?
The Stakes Can’t Be Raised Any Higher in that Universe
I’ve already said that the biggest problem facing Mass Effect: Andromeda and a potential ME5 is that the original trilogy did too well in some respects. For example, they made one of the most dangerous enemies possible for you to face, and there was practically no way for the next entry to live up to that level of danger.
If you cared enough to read this article, you’ve probably played the game, right? Well, just in case you haven’t, the main enemy of the series was the Reapers. They appear in the Milky Way galaxy every 50,000 years, “reproduce”, and then prune all but the most promising civilizations and life forms before hiding away in space and waiting for another 50,000 years. By the time humanity comes into the picture during the events of Mass Effect, this was already an ongoing cycle of destruction for many, many years.
How in the world are you supposed to top that? It would have been very difficult to make a threat more serious than the Reapers, but Bioware didn’t even try in Mass Effect: Andromeda. We got some off-brand, organic Geth instead. I know, that’s a simplistic way of looking at it but still.
As Ryder, we’re tossed into a pretty interesting survival situation where we have to deal with all the Remnant and Kett stuff while trying to get people to pull together for the sake of life in that new galaxy. But we kinda just did that in Mass Effect 1,2, and 3.
High stakes make for good stories, but there isn’t any way to make things even more dire once you’ve introduced a galaxy-level crisis and then solved it. As I’ve already mentioned, the end of Andromeda leaves you with Primus as the next probable enemy. It just seems like we’re never going to hit that level of intensity that we did with the original trilogy.
EA/Bioware Aren’t Trustworthy with AAA Games Right Now
Another reason that Mass Effect should stay on the shelf is that EA and Bioware can’t really be trusted with AAA games anymore.Time and time again they’ve had a good idea, got their player base excited, and then unceremoniously stepped back as soon as sales died down and criticism mounted against them.
EA is behind the piecemeal release of Sims 4 “expansions” that cost a lot more than they’re worth and provide less content than the previous installment of the series. The EA and Bioware partnership is responsible for botching the Anthem development and launch, offering some uneven updates for a year, and then suddenly becoming dedicated to fixing it in 2020. While games have been revived after a failed launch (Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn) I don’t think this modern EA and Bioware partnership has it in them to completely overhaul the new series and bring back lost players.
EA has a bad habit of pushing to publish games before they’re finished, and if industry rumors are true, that’s what happened to Mass Effect:Andromeda. That’s three games that could have been slam dunks that are now disappointing their fans. So, why in the world would we trust EA and Bioware with another entry into a beloved series?
I know I don’t, but I do see a way forward for them.
Bioware Can Always Start Over and Take Us to Another Galaxy
The universe is a big place, so EA and Bioware have a lot of area to choose from if they wanted to cut away from the Mass Effect world and go somewhere else with their ideas. The game creators obviously have great ideas for their combat and multiplayer from Anthem as well as the exploration and survival bits that we saw in ME:A.
Bioware is at its best when it builds on its past ideas and takes them to a whole new galaxy. While I doubt they’ll ever get the green light for doing something in our favorite far, far away galaxy with a KOTOR sequel, they could work on a new series and restore some faith in their products. As long as they stay away from anything Andromeda related.
The problem is that EA likes money, and they might just milk the Mass Effect series until we get games that are ME in name only.
Is Mass Effect 5 Being Made ?
While I’ve been ranting and raving about why a sequel shouldn’t come out, you probably want to get the latest news on a potential Mass Effect 5 title, right? Well, there is a rumor that EA is going to offer remasters on several games, including the original trilogy. There has been nothing official to suggest that’s the case, yet. Still, it comes from a source that was on point with other information in the past.
Last year, there was a suggestion that EA could be in the early stages of development for a Mass Effect sequel, but remember that it took Andromeda many years to come out. I’d be happy with a remaster of the trilogy, though.
I’m going to keep a close eye on the Mass Effect news going forward.
Mass Effect: Andromeda tried to take us back to a one-of-a-kind game universe, but it had a lot of missteps. Now that the series is a galaxy removed from the one where I spent hundreds of hours, I’m really not that interested in seeing it continue.
Heck, at this point I would take a more direct, non-Shepard ME sequel that deals with the aftermath of the ending. Not only could we get a better, canon ending, but we could actually get a little more closure. Or that might create new problems, I don’t know.
I do know that a sequel to Andromeda is probably going to be a mistake. Between that derivative story and the distance between what Mass Effect was and is now, I don’t see how it could work.
As always, I hope I have to eat these words and that they’re put into Spongebob memes if Bioware somehow turns it around. I doubt it, though.