Has Andromeda killed the Mass Effect series dead?

Bioware’s recent patch for Mass Effect: Andromeda was designed to deal with many of the technical issues that have plagued the game since launch and have caused so much negativity amongst fans. But is it too little, too late?

After all, Andromeda’s less than stellar (pun intended) reaction isn’t just the result of its numerous bugs and graphical inconsistencies. Though not universally damning, review scores have, on average, been easily the lowest for the series so far. So then, is the damage irreversible? Or is Mass Effect as a series far too robust to be laid to rest after its first major mishap?

Do not resuscitate. Time to call it. Because…

…The series’ reputation has taken too much of a hit. 

With all the negative attention their new game has received, there’s certainly a possibility Bioware many want to step away from a franchise which has very quickly become decidedly toxic. After the ending of Mass Effect 3 caused a stir when many felt it didn’t live up to the legacy of the three games before it, there was definitely a degree of pressure to get this new game right. The fact that Andromeda isn’t just imperfect, but is actually a little broken, will be tough to bear for those critical of where the original trilogy ended up. How many of those fans -- the ones who were disappointed with ME3, but gave Andromeda a chance only to be disappointed again -- will stay with the series into its next iteration? That’s the sort of hypothetical math EA, and Bioware will surely be doing right now.

…Bioware don’t need to keep making Mass Effect.

Make no mistake; Mass Effect is definitely Bioware’s jewel-in-the-crown. But it’d be wrong to think they’ve not got other stuff going on. Big stuff. Like the brand new, totally original IP they’ve been talking up. It’s currently still in development, but will surely get a lot of attention when it’s finally unveiled. Apart from that, let’s not forget their other tentpole franchise, Dragon Age, which is due an announcement soon (the last game, Inquisition, also split fans, so there’s plenty of pressure to get that game right, too). Also, and this is mainly speculation of course, but don’t EA now have sole rights to publish games set in the Star Wars universe? And doesn’t Bioware, now solely owned by EA, have a history of making Star Wars games, including a couple of particularly well-received ones in the shape of the Knights Of The Old Republic series? As I say, just speculation, but surely not a complete shot in the dark.

…Why not do something else?

As much as sequels do equal sales, if continuing to release less popular Mass Effect games becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns, wouldn’t it be lovely for the talent at Bioware’s multiple teams to focus on something new instead of flogging the proverbial dead horse? We already know they’ve got one new IP in the works. Maybe it’s time to double down on that sentiment -- if EA are willing, of course. Mass Effect doesn’t have to be totally consigned to history; perhaps putting the series on hold (as Square Enix have recently done with Deus Ex, and Ubisoft have tried with Assassin’s Creed) could be just the tonic to build anticipation again in the future.

And there’s always the original trilogy to remaster, which would sidestep the pressure to forge new paths, undoubtedly make a ton of money, and simultaneously remind fans why they fell in love with Mass Effect in the first place. That sounds like win, win, win, to me.

Alternatively… 

There’s still life in the old dog yet, because…

…Enough people still care

If the outpouring of anguish over the issues in Mass Effect: Andromeda have shown us anything, it’s that the series has a huge, massively vocal following that still care very deeply about it. This isn’t like the Call Of Duty versus Battlefield rivalry, where droves of haters have some twisted stake in whether a franchise fails. Most of the negativity surrounding Andromeda seems to have arisen from a place of genuine disappointment that the final product isn’t better (even if it hasn’t always been expressed in the most constructive of ways). So the fans defintiely still care. And if they care…

…People are still willing to spend money

This one can’t be overstated. If once all the dust has settled, the DLCs have dropped and the autopsy has been completed, EA decide that enough money can be wrung out of the series to warrant financing another AAA game, there will absolutely be another Mass Effect game. This goes for any series, really. If there’s still money to be made, then nothing is ever dead. It’s as simple as that.

…Andromeda is actually a pretty good base to build from

A lot of Andromeda’s execution went awry, that’s a truth that’s difficult to dispute. But there was actually a lot that the game got right, too. Beginning again in another galaxy was a bold but necessary choice, as was leaving the old characters and plotlines behind. It’s just that not enough was made of the new location. The Andromeda galaxy didn’t feel nearly alien enough, with bland planets and a lack of new races. Likewise, the concept of being the Pathfinder, of making huge decisions that affect thousands of lives and the very future of the race, is a great one, and succeeds in adding context and weightiness to your actions in game. It’s just that navigating the endlessly clumsy UI makes carrying out your Pathfinder duties feels more like a chore than it should. Technically speaking, too, after a couple of years down the line, when Bioware’s mastery of the Frostbite engine has improved, you’d expect a much more accomplished product.

If Bioware takes on-board the masses of fan feedback they’ve had, the next Mass Effect title has the potential to be the game Andromeda should have been. If fans stick with the franchise that long, they may end up being rewarded for their loyalty.

Verdict: It’s Alive!

Yes, Mass Effect has taken a severe blow with this latest release. The reputation of the series has definitely taken long-term damage, and that can’t easily be reversed, nor can the extent of it be determined right now. Not only that, but it would be infinitely more satisfying to see such a talented studio devote more of their time and effort to new, innovative gaming experiences.

But…

Money is by far the most important factor here. Once all is said and done, and the time comes to decide on the series’ future (if that time hasn’t already passed) the most important question, perhaps the only one that actually matters in decided the series’ fate, is can enough money be made from a new Mass Effect game? And I think the answer to that question will be yes.