Ah Mass Effect… after the disappointment that was Mass Effect 3, I thought I was done with BioWare’s sci-fi series. But when they announced Mass Effect: Andromeda last summer, my curiosity was somewhat piqued. And as BioWare has slowly released trailers, images, and other info about the game, that curiosity has only grown — to the point where I’m starting to get excited again.
Horrible ending aside, there is much that’s great about the Mass Effect universe, and it’s big enough to offer plenty more engaging storytelling and galaxy-spanning adventure.
BioWare still hasn’t revealed much about the storyline of Mass Effect: Andromeda, other than 1) it takes place a long time after the original Mass Effect trilogy and 2) you play a new character named Ryder (in honor of astronaut Sally Ride) who has been tasked with finding a new home for humanity (and presumably, the other Citadel races) in the Andromeda galaxy.
There are, of course, several fan theories that have popped up since the game’s initial announcement. My personal favorite is the “Ark” theory. Gamepressure has a detailed breakdown of the theory but essentially, it involves a plan to save humanity by sending several “space arks” to the Andromeda galaxy in case Commander Shepard was unable to stop the Reapers from decimating galactic civilization here in the Milky Way.
If you’ve played the original Mass Effect trilogy, then you know that Shepard does accomplish that (depending on which alternate ending you chose), but my assumption is that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s characters don’t necessarily know that. What’s potentially cool about the “Ark” theory is that it allows both BioWare and the players to have their cake and eat it, too. There’s obvious continuity with the original series’ aesthetic and whatnot, but the “Ark” theory grants the new game a completely fresh start, narrative-wise, that’s not too beholden to the original trilogy’s narrative.
At the very least, it’s a near certainty that Mass Effect: Andromeda is going to look incredible. Built using the “Frostbite 3” game engine, the game will feature an open world that’s many times larger than the original series. BioWare recently released an actual gameplay demo that shows off the game’s visuals, and they are pretty impressive.
But visuals have only been part of Mass Effect’s appeal for me. I’ve always been drawn more to the game’s complex morality system, where you can play as noble paragon or pragmatic renegade while trying to save the galaxy. As Screen Rant puts it:
As enjoyable as choosing to be a bit of a meanie in Mass Effect games might be, for many players, this binary approach to morality feels very restrictive — research by BioWare has shown that most players choose the moral high ground the majority of the time without thinking too hard about their choices. The more poignant and difficult decisions throughout the games are the times when there is no right answer — for example, when the player has to sacrifice a crewmember in the first Mass Effect, or decide which alien race to save and which to leave to die in Mass Effect 3. As there’s no objectively moral right answer to these questions, players have to put more thought into their decision making.
Mass Effect 2 was particularly successful in this regard, throwing moral conundrums that stuck with me long after I’d turned off my Xbox. At the very top of my wish list is the hope that BioWare spends as much time building out Mass Effect: Andromeda’s morality system as they do its gameplay and animation.
Mass Effect: Andromeda will be released in early 2017.