I’ve got a beef with Mass Effect: Andromeda, so brace yourself. This has nothing to do with the bugs, glitches, animation issues, poor writing, or even occasional gameplay issues. This is about the romance. The Mass Effect series, and BioWare games in general, have always been rather sexy. The relationships between characters were perhaps my favorite parts of the games. The problem with Mass Effect: Andromeda is, not every character gets the same level of attention. There are clear favorites here, and the overall quality suffers as a result.
Some of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s romances are excellent. They’re steamy. The buildup from ally, to friend, to lover makes sense. There’s a connection and clever writing that makes things seem plausible. Cora gradually opens her heart to you and gets quite playful and clever with the romance, which is very nicely animated. Peebee is fine with something light or serious, is flirting with Ryder from the outset, and has a romance with branching paths. Jaal is constantly wearing his heart on his sleeve and is one of the first male aliens we’ve gotten to see unclothed. Exciting times for all three characters.
Except then, we go to other romances that just fizzle in comparison. I’m not talking about the NPC romances with characters like Suvi, Keri, Gil, and Reyes. You expect those love affairs to offer less than ones with actual companions. I’m talking about Liam and Vetra. While the former is generally boring and seems like the Kaiden of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Vetra was otherwise this amazing woman. Yet in both cases, we don’t get the same romantic pop as we do with characters like Jaal and Cora. There isn’t the same level of intimacy and detail, which means we don’t get that same payoff when the final moment arrives.
It feels like favoritism. BioWare is clearly favoring some of its characters. Which isn’t unusual. I mean, Liara was clearly the Mass Effect trilogy’s teacher’s pet. The difference is, it didn’t mean the other characters were excluded in Mass Effect 1, 2, or 3. Their romances were just as meaningful and filled with careful fanservice. Yet here, in Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s almost like anyone who isn’t Cora, Peebee, or Jaal is left on the side. They don’t have the same attention to detail. There isn’t the same care or connection. It isn’t as romantic. And, of course, there isn’t as much skin.
It’s unexpected for a BioWare game. After all, the company has spent the last few games showing how much effort they’re able to put into past games. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Iron Bull was one of the most intricate and revealing romances, even though he was absolutely not a canon choice. In Mass Effect 3, every past romance was tied up rather neatly. We even had a tease of Shepard on Javik action, because the company understood how important that was to us. But here, that goodwill is absent.
On top of all of the other issues with Mass Effect: Andromeda, it makes one wonder exactly what’s going on with BioWare. Okay, the animations are janky. The company’s never been well known for that. But, it has always been good at telling stories. If it can’t get the look, gameplay, or storylines right, then what else is left? What will set this developer apart and get us excited about future games?