As someone who isn’t very religious and who’s had very few positive interactions with religion, I always get a little bit worried when it takes a significant role in the media I consume. That same worry filled me in Mass Effect: Andromeda when I began speaking with one of my crewmates, namely the science officer aboard the Tempest, Dr. Suvi Anwar. As I continued interacting with her, I was pleased to find that her character wasn’t limited to being “the religious one”, and that she found joy in the fact that she and my Ryder both had differing opinions on spirituality and the prevalence of religion—a mindset that is often sadly lacking in real life. I left my first Andromeda experience feeling like Bioware really stepped up the nuance in their conversations concerning religion and spirituality, but as the game’s plot twists ruminated in my mind, I came to the conclusion that Bioware and their stories still have a huge problem with avoiding exploring and accepting other religions outside of the Christianity “norm”.
After what feels like 600 actual years, I’ve finally reached the end of the newest installment in the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect: Andromeda. The previous trilogy left us with Commander Shepard defeating the harbingers of an oncoming galaxy-wide purging of intelligent life and everyone looking forward to a very bright future. But in Andromeda, that life, those problems, and their resolution are all thousands of light-years away and several hundred regular years in the past. Playing as Ryder alongside my fellow space frontierspeople, I found that exploringhumanity’s and all the Milky Way races’ newest home was a journey that often left me feeling conflicted, especially because Bioware never seemed to fully grasp the implications of Ryder’s and the Andromeda Initiative’s actions or feel brave enough to go beyond the hackneyed sci-fi plots of yore.To get it out of the way, yes: the graphics are janky at times and some of the voice acting feels like the actors/actresses had no direction for the context of their lines, but these factors alone do not a bad game make. And I wouldn’t say that Andromeda is even bad; honestly. Andromeda’s problems are due to its undeserved high opinion of itself, and by taking on too much, the game doesn’t give its audience enough of anything.
People in fandom debate fiercely about numerous parts of the Mass Effect narrative and how “good” they are. Yet no one seems to argue about how great the series is at giving its players that found family goodness (and if there’s someone who does argue about it, they’re wrong). Much of this highly prized content come from the protagonist’s krogan squadmates—Wrex, Grunt, and now Drack—but on my way to find the “Shepard bails Grunt out of jail for partying too hard” fic that I wanted, I found another sort of fic which nevertheless embodied so much of what it meant to be part of Commander Shepard’s team on the Normandy. The only problem I had with it was that I read it too early in the day and my emotions weren’t steeled enough to keep me from bawling over my favorite characters.
Like many fanbases, the Bioware fanbase/playerbase is a trash fire at any given time. Said fanbase didn’t even let Mass Effect: Andromeda get off the ground before lambasting it for various graphical inadequacies and stilted line delivery. However, while there do exist some graphical glitches, weird bugs, and a disappointing character creator, ME: A is not that bad. Since I’m not even halfway through the game yet (no spoilers!) this isn’t going to be a full review, but rather a look at a troubling reaction by Mass Effect’s audience. After already being labeled as “SJW propaganda” by people who loathe anything that looks like a diverse cast, it’s absolutely no surprise that there’s such negativity surrounding a woman in charge; even less surprising when that woman is Black. While there’s absolutely fault on the fanbase for the unfair treatment surrounding her, in what I’ve seen and experienced I can only come up with one conclusion: Bioware set up Sloane Kelly to fail.
With E3 coming up in less than a month, I figured I should maybe start thinking of things the various developers might be showing off, just so I can avoid as much disappointment as possible. Although Nintendo has already gracefully declined to show up this year (well, there goes the fun) and I have my doubts that Bethesda is going to show up with anything worthwhile after blowing their load last year, there still sure are some games that are coming out. So, to remind myself what I’m doing here (“at” E3), I’ve been keeping tabs on one of the games that I’ve been in love with for a long time: No Man’s Sky Mass Effect: Andromeda.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, and after years of thinking of how to write it I still have no conclusive plan but to jump in and finally do it. Now, my enjoyment of the Mass Effect series isn’t a new or surprising thing, and not really having ever jumped on the Star Trek/Star Wars bandwagon, the series could very well have been my first serious venture into the sci-fi genre. However, as this blog has discussed before, sci-fi is full of some pretty shitty tropes, and Mass Effect isn’t as much of as an exception as one would hope. I think where this is clearest is concerning matters of the asari—one of the main alien races in the game, and the one that presents as wholly female. As a culture, the asari are complex and compelling; however, a lot of their biology and presentation leave me wondering if Bioware didn’t know what to do with them outside of a very narrow label.
No fan denies how perfect this DLC was and still is.
During a conversation I had the other day, the topic of the next Mass Effect game came up. Since Mass Effect 3’s release in 2012, and more so (I think) due to the release of its “Citadel DLC” in 2013, fans have been wondering if a Mass Effect 4 would be in the works. By this point, this is a fact; an inevitability that in the future we will once against be dropping sixty bucks on a new nerds-in-space game. As to be expected, developers are keeping a tight lip on anything that has to do with the game—who even knows when it’s coming out for certain. However, fans have been made privy to some aspects.
Unfortunately, one of the things I would have pegged for “what we need for ME4” has already been completely demolished. Despite the entire canon of the Mass Effect universe, and how many different aspects of any number of galaxies we could have been allowed to explore, the developers decided that making the players live once again from the era of Commander Shepard would be the best way to go. While I’m so… so disappointed about this, I can understand it. Playing through the first three games as Commander Shepard gave the players a way to shape their worlds, but also gave an incredibly narrow scope in terms of seeing how their choices impacted the universe at large. By re-playing through that time, but seeing events through the eyes of an outside party, players can gain a nuanced insight that they would’t have otherwise. In fact, it gives players a chance to critique their own choices as this revered figure: that’s pretty damned meta.
In light of this, what is the most important step Mass Effect should take as a series, both in terms of narrative and drawing in old and new players? Well, if it’s not story, it has to be character. So I’m going to say it here first: Mass Effect 4 should have a non-human protagonist. Going further, I believe that the story can only reach its potential effectiveness if the player character is not a human.
I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately, perhaps in part because I’ve been trying to remember a time where the world wasn’t covered in snow. Oh, those were the good old days. What’s better for these cold parts of winter, though, than curling up and re-playing a good RPG? So, riding on the coat-tails of this North Eastern bullshit blizzard and the not-bullshit-at-all Femslash February, I managed to discover a fic that delivered on the warm feelings from Mass Effect, a series near and dear to my heart, while not ignoring the consequences of a galaxy-wide threat that almost destroyed civilization.
Maybe I’m stretching a little bit: I know Mass Effect (2007) isn’t exactly old enough to be considered “nostalgic”, and this fic stems from the last game in the series, which came out in 2012, which makes it even less so. Still, The Good Shepard by Wifeofbath invokes these feelings of nostalgia by the sense of home it has in its tone. However, home isn’t always free of conflicts.
Luce: Another April Fools’ Day has come and gone, and I’ve listened to Never Gonna Give You Up approximately way too many times since then. Fortunately, there were some awesome pranks out there aside from endless song repetitions, and I’d love to share my favorites with you.
Obviously I had to mention this one. Google has a history of amazing April Fools’ pranks, but god, couldn’t this one have been true? Maybe I’ve just watched way too much Twitch Plays Pokémon, but I swear my heart did a little pokéjig of its own when I saw this. They even put all the Pokémon in geographically viable locations! Someday augmented reality will actually become a viable part of games, and when that happens, Pokémon has got to be the first game they make—but until then, at least I can become a phone Pokémon Master.
I may have fallen out of love with Supernatural, but Castiel will always and forever be my favorite character, especially since they brutally killed off Kevin Tran. (Still not over it.) That’s why this image from troll master Orlando Jones was simultaneously amazing and heartbreaking. Castiel and Captain Irving teaming up to fight zombies and snark at each other? Sign me up. I mean, a few months back, Supernatural’s Robbie Thompson even wrote a faux crossover script with Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow, and Supernatural, so that’s basically SuperSleepy, right? What is stopping Cas from breaking Irving out of jail for real and then swooping off together to complain about the respective protagonists of their shows? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing except the cold hard slap of reality.
While watching Game of Thrones a couple nights ago (yes, I’m late to the party, don’t judge) I had a startling revelation: I never finished my ‘Top 5 Side Characters’ series for Mass Effect. D’oh! But stay in suspense no longer, for I have returned after playing the latest DLC—Citadel—and my Mass Effect writing muses are ready and raring to go.
As in previous installments (found here and here) I defined a side-character as a character who is “not involved in the main quest in any way what-so-ever”. For Mass Effect 3, this standard becomes essentially impossible because even the hordes of stupid scanning side quests still directly affect the main quest. As it stands, the third installment of this series is so narrow (which is fitting since the galactic war is coming to a head) that I’m going to have to say “influences the main plot the least”, but even then I can’t keep my own rules as you’ll see soon enough. Also, as this is the final installment in Shepard’s story, the cameos from past games are so numerous that many of my favorite side-characters are not from Mass Effect 3, but have made a return from the previous games. It also stands to reason that there aren’t that many interesting side characters unique to this particular game anyways.
Not like that stopped me from having way too many favorites to begin with—narrowing down the list was still difficult and I’m still not entirely happy with it, but I don’t think I’d ever be satisfied with a ranking until it became “Top 100 Characters” or something. No one wants to read that. If you think I missed someone or if you agree/disagree with me, leave me a message in the comments and let’s chat.