Andromeda's Lack of History


#1

I’ve been thinking about Mass Effect Andromeda a lot as a long time fan of BioWare and I wanted to know if anyone else had tried to get at some of the reasons why it was so disappointing? Aside from all of the main reasons people seem to have for disliking Andromeda there’s one possible factor that occurred to me that I haven’t seen anyone mention and it’s a matter of history.

If you look at the first Mass Effect game what it wonderfully manages to accomplish is the way they drop you in the deep end of that universe, submerging you entirely in it’s deliciously complex world. Immediately you hear exotic terms like citadel, spectre, and you new alien species talking about things you don’t understand. Mass Effect is not a world empty but a world full of life, you spend that whole first game finding out about a myriad of new species and discovering the various intricacies of thousands of years of political and social history that have culminated in the world as it exists at the time of the game.

Andromeda had none of this, one of the main themes of Andromeda was the notion of casting off past lives, past allegiances, and past grudges. While this could have made for an interesting premise it also means that this new world you find yourself in lacks that history. This is, I think, one of the main problems with the game. The political machinations of four bureaucrats as they try to settle new worlds is frankly underwhelming after dealing with the hostile yet exciting political climate of the Citadel. Not to mention the numerous criminal factions and corporations that help fill out the universe. There are some past prejudices that rear their head, mostly in regard to the Krogans, and while they add some flavour they lack any real impact.

Even the one new Species you meet, the Angara, have a frankly one note history of mistrust and war that you can learn about in three sentences. They have some interesting anthropological facts worth finding out but there just isn’t the same sense intrigue. Theirs is a culture and civilization united by a common foe, while this is admirable it doesn’t have much in the way of fictionalization. There is a single group of anti-alien extremists but everyone else has the same culture and goals making the state of conflict in Andromeda a very black and white war.

I just wish that maybe this game had been set 100 years after they arrived in Andromeda? If they gave time for factions to form, alliances to rise and fall, for new civilisations to be born, then we could have had some of that intrigue. Maybe the Resistance could have been more than just the Angara? If several disparate species with different philosophies, priorities, and prejudices were forced to work together against a common foe there would tension to everything the resistance does and a rich history there to explore and unpack. I know the reason that wasn’t the case, it can only be budget, I just can’t help but wonder.

Did anyone else think this at all or am I going a little stir crazy trying to figure out what went wrong?


#2

One of the big turn-offs that kept me away from Andromeda was finding out that there were only new races in this new galaxy. I guess it was a conceit to the “new frontier” theme; you couldn’t necessarily explore a wild unknown that was already full of existing civilisations. It sidesteps the issues of colonialism that they could’ve easily fallen into, but it doesn’t leave the galaxy feeling very lively.

My ideal setting for Andromeda would’ve been the milky way races as refugees arriving in a galaxy already populated with civilisations. Then you could keep the goal of finding a home to settle but with far more political drama.


#3

I think they assumed a lot of history.

They spend a similar amount of time talking about the origin of The Initiative, and where in shared human history the departure took place, there just wasn’t much of a story there. The history was that year or so post-dark space.

None of which is to disagree, just that, I think it was intentional.

They rely on the player being a fan. When someone says “Wow, that’s as big as the Citadel back home.” with no other reference to size, population, cultural relevance, etc. it just falls flat. (Or, the fan fills in the blanks, and says “oh, this is supposed to be so much more than it is.”)

But on some level, you are told about as much about Angaran history, or the initiative, as, (I think?) you were in Mass Effect 1, right? You slowly discover things about the makers, the Khett, similar to how you did the Protheans or Reapers?

It certainly felt a lot more sparse, and I think a lot of that was intended as part of the “clean slate” feeling, but thinking back, I’m not sure how much less time/text was spent building the lore. I might have to go back and play some Mass Effects.


#4

I think for me the difference is in Andromeda you learn about the Angara and their relationship with the Kett but in Mass Effect 1 you learn about the Asari, the Krogan, the Geth, the Batarians, the Protheans, the Quarians, the Turians, etc, and all of their interesting societies and interactions with each other. It felt denser, richer.


#5

The whole timeline on Andromeda just seemed really odd. There was both too much and too little development based on it being a “frontier” space. There was history and politics that carried the weight of generations, but could only have occurred in the last couple of years. There was a level of interstellar exploration by the initiative that would in no way be possible based on the realities of a pathfinder.

I was supposedly the first contact with the races of Andromeda, but then found out that wars and trade deals had occured long before my arrival. It all just lacked a sense of cohesion and place.


#6

I think there’s an interesting storytelling space in making the “good” native aliens a species that has what seems like zero macrocultural history due to the horrors of war, and there are moments where you feel like they want to do something with it (Avela Kjar and her artifact fetch quests), but there’s not enough there and what is there isn’t sold particularly hard.

Then again, “an interesting concept that isn’t executed as well as anybody would’ve liked,” is kind of ME:A’s whole deal.


#7

In regards to ME1 feeling denser and richer, I think it’s obviously a difficult task to achieve something similar with Andromeda since you’re basically writing for two quite disparate groups of people. On the one hand you have those who played through the trilogy multiple times, who have memorized all codex entries, on the other you’ll have people who never touched a Mass Effect game before. While for the first group the lore of the Heleus cluster can feel quite sparse (“just two new species?”), for the second an equally rich scenario like experiencing ME1 for the first time plus learning everything about the Milky Way on speed could result in information overload. It’s a balancing act.

As someone who has 10+ runs through the trilogy, I’d love to hear the thoughts on the subject from someone who never played the trilogy…?