I might be in the minority when I say that I really enjoyed Mass Effect: Andromeda. I was heartbroken when I read in Kotaku way back in 2017 that not just Andromeda, but the entire Mass Effect series, was being put on hiatus.
Mass Effect developers at BioWare Montreal were then transferred to BioWare Edmonton and EA Motive to help with Anthem (then codenamed “Dylan”) and Star Wars: Battlefront II, respectively. It was hard enough to hear that there would be no single-player or in-game story DLC for Mass Effect: Andromeda, but to hear there wouldn’t be a sequel was a huge disappointment.
Yes, Andromeda had technical issues, but I play video games for the story. Andromeda’s story was compelling enough to make me want more. On this N7 Day 2019, encouraged by news back in April that Mass Effect is “warming back up” at BioWare after having been put on ice, I consider the possibility of an Andromeda sequel and what form that game might take.
Let’s discuss why Andromeda works as its own spinoff series. Andromeda is similar to the first Mass Effect, in that it acts as the entry and launching point for a whole new trilogy of video games. In the first installment, we are introduced to the galaxy, as well as the main villains for the overarching trilogy-long story. Andromeda has done a pretty good job of setting up what a sequel might look like.
At the end of the game, the human Pathfinder Ryder has defeated the evil alien Archon and humanity has colonized the hollow Dyson sphere-like Meridian. The Andromeda Initiative has gained control over the Remnant terraforming network of “Vaults”, and the Milky Way races have successfully colonized the Heleus Cluster alongside their new angara allies. However, as the final credits roll, we see the Primus, the Archon’s second-in-command, as she looks upon Meridian and slowly walks towards the camera as it fades to black. With the Archon killed, the Primus is now the de facto leader of the kett in the Heleus Cluster.
The threat of the kett cannot be overstated. Based on in-game lore and Codex entries, the Kett Empire is the de facto galactic government in the Andromeda Galaxy, with vast amounts of the galaxy under their direct control. The Andromeda Initiative struggled to combat a single invasion force, but what if the Primus calls for reinforcements? Who knows how many fleets the kett might send to exalt the Heleus races? With the Archon gone, the kett no longer have to divert resources to his obsession to find and control Remnant technology.
An increased offensive on the Heleus Cluster might force Pathfinder Ryder to seek new allies beyond Heleus, and begin exploring the rest of the Andromeda Galaxy. Would Ryder find willing help for the Initiative or fanatical vassals of the Kett Empire?
Exploring beyond Heleus would also address one of the key criticisms of Andromeda, which was a disappointing lack of new alien races. The lack of a mass relay network makes such travel tricky, but there are story workarounds to enable wider exploration of Andromeda. And what if the Kett Empire decided Heleus is not enough, and begins plotting to journey across dark space to the Milky Way? Would the player choose to defend their former home in the Milky Way, or their new home in Andromeda?
Of course, this is all just story speculation of how to expand on the foundation that Andromeda established. It would be too oblivious to not acknowledge that Andromeda was indeed poorly received by gamers. However, I’m of the opinion that Electronic Arts (EA) overreacted by scrapping all planned story DLC and sequels. Instead, EA focused its Andromeda efforts on continuing to update the publisher’s most profitable feature of any video game: the multiplayer mode. As a result, many fear that the spinoff Andromeda is too tainted to return to yet.
However, I believe this theory is disproven by Mass Effect: Andromeda – Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente (known for novels like Deathless and Space Opera). Annihilation was originally envisioned as a prequel for the upcoming story DLC about the missing quarian Ark: the Keelah Si’yah (quarian for “By the Homeworld I hope to find one day”).
The Keelah Si’yah was delayed in its departure from the Milky Way due to customizations at quarian insistence and modifications to accommodate colonists from other races (drell, elcor, etc.). However, thirty years away from the Heleus Cluster, a routine check reveals that hundreds of drell have been killed by a deadly manufactured pathogen, and the disease has begun crossing multiple races. As the ship’s systems degrade and the virus spreads, the ship’s crew must restore their technology, find a cure, and find the perpetrator still on-board.
By far the most appealing trait of Annihilation is its characters. In a series praised for its diverse races and characters, Cat Valente took Mass Effect a step further. How would you like to read about a female drell Sherlock Holmes, an elcor Shakespearean actor, a female volus fashion designer, and a badass lesbian woke batarian crime boss? True, a novel is not the same as a video game, but the idea of seeing any of these characters in an Andromeda sequel is tantalizing and interesting! Annihilation demonstrates how Andromeda can move ahead and expand beyond what has already been introduced.
One thing for sure is that the next Mass Effect (Andromeda or not) cannot be the next Anthem, no matter how badly EA might want a new live-service game. If Anthem proved anything it is that BioWare’s storytelling works best self-contained to a single game (bolstered by considerable and almost-standalone DLC, if so desired). No “roadmap” storytelling releasing new characters and adventures over the course of years: fans want a game and story that are finished BEFORE release. Most gamers (supporters and critics alike) agree that most of Andromeda’s technical problems could have been avoided before the release. Many blame EA for rushing the Andromeda release date, likely to coincide with the end of EA’s 2017 fiscal year.
Technical problems are something that BioWare can get a handle on. An Andromeda sequel could build on the fast-paced combat and fantastic sounds/art style of the original, and add stronger writing and companion customization to create a video game that recaptures those high points of the original trilogy. As I said before, the foundation is there: BioWare just needs to roll up their sleeves and build the house.
Are you excited about the potential of an Andromeda sequel? Or are you more hopeful to see the franchise take a different direction? Whatever game you decide to play today, remember that this series is one of the best and most beloved video game franchises for a reason. Rather than bitterly simmer about everything that went wrong in the past, let us hopefully look to the future. Andromeda may or may not be a new beginning, but it is certainly not the end. Not as long as the fans continue to share our love of this brilliant game and story. So whether you are taking Earth back from the Reapers, or exploring the unknown in the Andromeda Galaxy, I wish you all a Happy N7 Day!