Full disclosure, I like the Mass Effect series.
I guess that is not much of a surprise, since I more or less defended the Mass Effect trilogy for its cultural contributions to the gaming industry. It will always hold the spot of being the best game series from generation seven for me, and like it or not, a lot of people in the gaming community more or less agree with that sentiment. Regardless of opinions on BioWare or even the quality of the games, Mass Effect has made an impact, for better or for worse.
This article is not about showering Mass Effect with accolades, but rather questioning what the future holds for the series. Of course, we’re talking about Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that is at least promised for release by the end of 2016. Sadly, I am 0-1 when it comes to most anticipated games for the year, but I am a bit more confident that Andromeda will meet this promise, despite some curious speedbumps in route to going gold.
The biggest of which is simply the fact that we know so little about the game. BioWare has been playing Andromeda close to the chest, possibly in relation to fan backlash from Mass Effect 3 and the pre-hype machine that surrounded the game. It could also be part of a new strategy to play it low key, simply to keep expectations, which reached impossibly lofty levels for the series, down this time around to a more manageable goal.
Another problem as of late is the recent departures of some key figures in BioWare, which has led to negative speculation regarding the well-being of the game and the studio. Sadly, there is no real way to confirm anything regarding the exits of former lead writer Chris Schlerf or ex-development director Chris Wynn, and speculation at this point can boil down to internal disagreements, burnout from work, pay cuts or, in the case of Schlerf specifically, his contract has been fulfilled.
Regardless of the reasons for the exodus of employees, BioWare itself has been tight-lipped regarding Andromeda. Most information known about the game has been gleaned by fans through alternative sources. Survey leaks, online posts, scant art photos—Mass Effect fans have been sifting through information for nearly a year now, sharing their thoughts and speculation on forums, YouTube videos and fanmade podcasts. Topics range from gameplay features, possible squad mates, online multiplayer, and the most prevalent of all discussions at this time, how or when players will arrive at the Andromeda Galaxy in relation to the Mass Effect timeline.
For Mass Effect fans, these are the burning questions in replace of corporate hype—the desire to know more about Andromeda before playing the title. It’s the kind of fandom we seldom see, one based on speculation over seething anger over perceived slights. Make no mistake, though, some are still upset over the change of scenery to Andromeda, with the most persistent rumor being it’s the only way to effectively avoid the definitive endings to the Mass Effect trilogy.
As far as theories go, it is probably the most pragmatic, even though it will take some impressive rewrites to pull it off. Compounding this is the popular “Ark” theory, which states that thousands of people will leave during the Reaper war in Mass Effect 3 before the endings can take place, and would travel to Andromeda in a massive Ark ship. Many fans speculate that the ship shown at the end of the N7 Day Teaser last year is the Ark, although nothing has of course been confirmed.
These are just some of the theories floating around Andromeda, and for Mass Effect fans, it’s basically all to really talk about. Much like No Man's Sky, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a mystery still under wraps, a mystery that will slowly unravel as the year progresses. It is very likely that EA is going to pull back the curtain during their EA Play Event this June. Another possibility is to give Andromeda to the fans at the event to play, a live demo to showcase where the game is and what to expect from BioWare come this winter.
In the end, it is impossible to know what the future of the Mass Effect series will hold. Despite having amazing highs and crushing lows regarding our perceptions of the series, the cynics and sycophants continue their cosmic ballet across the Internet. Andromeda is a very important game for a lot of reasons in this regard. For some, it’s a litmus test on BioWare's well-being as a company, for others, it’s a chance to return to a world they fell in love with. Myself, I am cautiously optimistic, but as I said at the top, I am a fan of Mass Effect, so I might be a little biased in the end.
Make no mistake, though, this slow burn of news has made Mass Effect: Andromeda a hotly anticipated title for many gaming fans. The question now is will it deliver with the burden of our own perceptions?