File me under the “I told ya so, but still disappointed” category when it comes to the game that is Mass Effect: Andromeda. I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. I’ve played all three games, and spent about 70 hours or so combined in all of them. In fact, I was one of a hand full of people that got Mass Effect 3 over a week early by grabbing the weather balloon copy EA launched that landed here in New Jersey. Being able to play the game early with the guy who got the Nevada copy, as well as the guy who got the one in San Fran over 100 feet up in a tree, was pretty cool, but that’s a story for another day.
Besides the ending of Mass Effect 3, which I think we can agree was one of the absolute worst game endings of all time, the overall series was incredible. It had a huge, loyal fan base, and the effort by EA and Bioware to please this fanbase ended up being Andromeda’s inevitable downfall. I’ve said many times, both before development on the game was even mentioned and after, that the only way another Mass Effect game could make sense is if it had absolutely nothing to do with the original trilogy. There is just no feasible way that another game could be tied into the storyline of the original three while having it make sense. While both Bioware and EA noted early on that we wouldn’t be seeing Commander Shepard in Andromeda, they didn’t fully commit to the idea of an original game. The errors can be attributed to three main areas in races, timeline and general setup of the game. Let’s recap a bit in order to refresh.
At the completion of Mass Effect 3, all of the relays were destroyed regardless of which one of the atrocious three endings you chose. Right off the bat, everyone in the universe is stranded where they are. This is our jump off point so to speak. The entire Milky Way Galaxy has been reset. If you’re a human on the Krogan planet, guess what? That’s your new home. We are good up to this point. All Bioware and EA had to do was leave the sleeping dog alone. Instead, they had to drag their heavy weight champion boxer out of retirement for one last fight, and it got knocked out in the first round. Now that the metaphors are out of the way, let’s take a look how Andromeda was doomed to fail from the beginning.
The fact that everyone was stranded at their current location within the Milky Way was an issue from jump street with Mass Effect: Andromeda. In the Mass Effect universe, humans still do not possess the ability to travel from the Milky Way to Andromeda. There are approximately 2.5 million light years between us and the Andromeda galaxy. Ships in Mass Effect can travel around 11 light years per day or so. This speed comes out to be about 4,015 light years per Earth year, or 622 Earth years to reach Andromeda. The development team thought of this, which is why multiple pre-release trailers (here and here) stated it would take a journey of nearly 600 years to reach the Helius Cluster of Andromeda. Since no race in Mass Effect can live 600 years, hyper sleep was brought into the picture. It’s a bit of a leaky bag considering you can’t possibly travel over 4000 times faster than the speed of light, but still doable with the right details. Unfortunately, it seems Bioware forgot about this intricate piece of information.
I mentioned earlier that the only way Andromeda could make sense is if it had zero to do with the original trilogy. This is true. Relays are destroyed, Shepard is dead and there is no technological way for people to travel within the galaxy now. With the relays destroyed, all Bioware had to do was set the game far into the future. By this time, human kind could have developed their own technology to travel to Andromeda and boom, crisis averted. Apparently, this was too easy a task. The timeline was all screwed up by Andromeda and tying it into the original trilogy. Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 took place in the years 2183, 2185 and 2186 respectively. Therefore, the relays were destroyed in the year 2186. Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place before the end of the original trilogy in 2185, the same year as Mass Effect 2.
The reason these ships could travel at light speed is that of a “newly” discovered element called Element Zero. This was first mentioned at the Nvidia briefing earlier this year. You can see it here between 5:45-6:15. This element reduces your matter to zero, which enables the ability to travel at light speed as nothing matter can travel at the speed of light. Here’s the thing, Element Zero isn’t new to Andromeda. It was in Mass Effect 2 and was one of the minerals you mined for with Palladium, Iridium, and Platinum. In addition, the official Mass Effect: Andromeda’s timeline contradicts the logic behind this. It says that:
Founded in 2176 and launched in 2185, the Andromeda Initiative is a civilian, multi-species project created to send scientists, explorers and colonists on a one-way trip to settle in the Andromeda Galaxy. With powerful benefactors lending their support, the program has grown substantially in scope since its inception. The Initiative’s ultimate goal is to establish a permanent presence on the seemingly resource-rich frontier of Andromeda, and eventually create a reliable route between it and the Milky Way Galaxy.
This means that the Andromeda initiative was founded 7 years before the original Mass Effect. Since Andromeda takes place in 2185 during Mass Effect 2, and they supposedly need Element Zero for the travel to take place, this means that it was known about during the first two Mass Effect games. Why wasn’t any of this readily available technology used to defeat the Reapers? They wanted to destroy all organic life. That’s pretty substantial and those fighting against it should probably use all available assistance at their disposal, right? Why would nobody tell Shepard about this? How did literally nobody in the original three games know about this? It was a one-way, inter-galactic journey with thousands of people saying goodbye to their friends, families, etc. Nobody knew. Right.
This is the problem with prequels. Andromeda is really a knock-off prequel to Mass Effect 3. Prequels generally suck and rarely make sense as you interject newer technology. How are newer weapons and advanced technology in a game that takes place BEFORE a game with less advanced technology? Did people just forget about it? It’s the same thing in Andromeda. Did Bioware honestly think that it would be ok to have an Andromeda initiative nine years old at the time of Mass Effect 2, and yet nobody within the game’s universe would know about it? I mean, we’re playing Andromeda at the exact same time Shepard is trying to make his suicide run. Think about it. You have 1.) No way this operation could be kept a secret from every race and 2.) Since not, nobody got in Shep’s ear and was like “Pssst, hey Shep, you hear about this new technology?” Uh huh, sure. Contradict much?
Speaking of races, let’s talk about how Bioware missed the boat on this as well. The game had four races make the journey to Andromeda, as noted in the initial orientation trailer. Each race had their own arch ship, and there were humans, Krogans, Asari and Vakarian. This means that the Salarians, Geth, Quarians, Turians, Protheans etc were literally left to die. Why weren’t they included in the game? Initially, we were not told why. Furthermore, we still didn’t find out why once Andromeda released.
The relays weren’t destroyed yet at the time of Mass Effect: Andromeda. So, there were no relays to the Helius Cluster? How did they just arbitrarily decide which races were expendable in the Mass Effect universe? It would have been so easy to make Andromeda succeed. All they had to do, as noted, was set the game far off into the future. By the time it took place, humanity could have recovered from the events of Mass Effect 3, but now need to escape some cataclysmic event with their newly developed technology. How hard is that? I mean, it’s the plot of nearly every space movie out there.
In their infinite wisdom, however, Bioware decided to tie the game into the emotional impact the original trilogy had on players. Emotional impact and immersion is a strong selling point for games, but it’s over when it’s over. The Mass Effect universe was over at the end of Mass Effect 3. Either start over or leave it alone. It turns out the Bioware’s blind faith to players’ emotional tie to the game was Andromeda’s downfall. While most people tend to focus on the game and its technical flaws such as bad animations, lip syncing and boring, repeatable missions, the truth is Mass Effect: Andromeda was doomed to fail before all of this.
Unfortunately, this only amplified these drastic inconsistencies with Mass Effect: Andromeda. Furthermore, it was so apparent that an entire studio has closed because of it.