Single-player DLC could have been exactly the fix Mass Effect: Andromeda needed
As part of an unfolding story addressing Mass Effect: Andromeda DLC rumors, anonymous sources at Bioware recently confirmed that the game is likely to only see small, multiplayer-focused releases that won’t significantly affect the single-player game or the larger Mass Effect universe.
For many, this is just a confirmation that Bioware is abandoning the detonating flagship of their most recent Mass Effect reboot in favor of flashier, newer titles like Anthem. That's a move that comes as a real shame for the seemingly small minority of players—myself included–that enjoyed Mass Effect: Andromeda, and an even bigger shame for the dedicated fans of the series that were critical of the title, and who will now never get to see the single-player DLC that the game badly needs. An expansion could have served as a shot in the arm to bring the game back to life, a patch that would potentially pull Andromeda out of the reuse, recycle, and recolonize bin at EA and make the game a worthy successor to one of the most highly regarded gaming trilogies of all time.
Instead, Mass Effect: Andromeda is left looking like an alternative Mass Effect timeline, one where Cerberus left the Normandy and Shepard to rot in deep space, never revived, never rebuilt, and never remembered. Ultimately, it’s a decision that’s likely doomed the series (at least for the near future), and everything that Commander Shepard worked alongside players to save.
A Falling Star
Of course, the question for many is: what's the big deal? Why does it matter if a game they didn’t like in the first place just leaves off, never to be heard from again, left as a quiet embarrassment left to disappear in the empty void of a far-away galaxy?
For starters, it’s because Mass Effect: Andromeda has, like a lot of titles, gone through a number of changes since its rocky launch, fixing game-breaking bugs, livening up the facial animations, and in general working to stabilize the title in a way that fixes (or at least softens) some of the chief criticisms of the title at launch. Since many of the big criticisms of the title have been addressed by a series of significant patches released over the last several months, a quality single-player DLC could serve to bring dedicated fans back to the Tempest for one last rodeo that might convince them to stay for the rest of the show.
There’s no denying that many of these fixes should have been included in the game at launch but, with patches in hand, Mass Effect: Andromeda is now much more enjoyable for those that saw animations and lighting as glaring issues. And for those looking for a more significant narrative experience, like we had in the original trilogy, a quality single-player DLC package could offer that not-quite-open-world experience that we came to know and love, along with a small, tight story arc you would expect from a DLC. Since one of the biggest problems with Andromeda was its lack of focus, some self-contained story-driven DLC could be just the fix the game needs.
Tying up Loose Ends
We’re used to seeing these tight narrative experiences from Bioware in their single-player DLC releases, which tend to grant many of their characters that tiny extra step that often brings them full circle, while also offering players an opportunity to fully explore the consequences of their decisions and provide full narrative arcs that come to satisfying conclusions.
We saw this play out in ‘Lair of the Shadow Broker’ for Mass Effect 2, and ‘Citadel’ and ‘Leviathan’ for Mass Effect 3, not to mention the notorious free ‘Extended Cut’ DLC, where Bioware and EA actively listened to fan feedback concerning the ending of the trilogy and updated the game to make the final cinematic give closure to Shepard’s swan song exit to the series.
Each batch of content Bioware released offered players a reason to return to the universe because it gave us more opportunities to learn about the world and the fantastic characters that live in it. The DLC releases provided depth to areas of the games that were previously shallow. Andromeda isn’t going to get that.
We’ll never find out what happened to the Quarian Ark, never get a chance to explore more of Drack’s battle-scarred past, never get a chance to seek out potential Reaper lore hidden in Andromeda’s starry sky, never get a chance to learn what happened to the Jardaan and the other remnant tech after they released the Scourge. Every one of these little hooks that could have lead into an interesting questline has been left unfulfilled, potentially forever.
The Quarian Ark DLC, which was hinted-at heavily during the end-game content in Andromeda, could have offered a massive opportunity for Bioware to expand on what happened to many of the Mass Effect characters and races we know and love. The obvious hook left in that late game dialogue indicates that the Ark is encountering something absolutely terrifying, and considering Quarian history with rogue AI, there’s no telling where the phantom DLC could have lead. Personally, my money was on a rogue version of SAM hooked into their Pathfinder, or potential rogue Cerberus ties working to delay or sabotage the ship to give humanity a chance to lead the colonization effort.
This would have been a fantastic opportunity to bring in many of the meaningful choices, tight narrative experiences, and other interesting content that people love to see out of Mass Effect. A rogue SAM AI would force the players to confront the decisions they made concerning the Ancient AI on Voeld, and would force you into a meaningful examination of whether you’ve been teaching SAM well, or if there's a risk of your own AI going rogue. Cerberus popping up again would have renewed the idea of a power-hungry human component that occasionally needs to be put down, or that the player could potentially use to rip apart the Arks in favor of something that better suits humanity’s needs. Even a cursory examination of the narrative framework in Andromeda shows us all these threads that could have been woven into something really special.
The way Bioware and EA are treating Andromeda’s post-launch content makes it feel like they’ve abandoned the entire series, which is really disappointing for fans of the franchise and Andromeda alike.
The worst part is that, for me, Andromeda’s issues are ultimately small, but the hate people felt for the title at launch was overwhelming. As someone that really enjoyed the game despite slow doors, level transitions, and lackluster planet scanning, I’ve always been confused as to why people were so angry.
I’ve heard it described as a death by a thousand cuts, where mountains of small annoyances built up to make Mass Effect: Andromeda an overall frustrating experience. But many of these issues have been fixed. Planet transitions are now skippable, door speed seems to have been patched, and in the months since the release I’ve found the light annoyance I occasionally felt playing the game fade away entirely.
I enjoyed exploring each planet because the areas felt massive and I never ran out of things to chase, areas to discover, and vistas to gaze at. I loved characters like Drack, Jaal, and Nyx, I loved confronting AI racists, discovering entirely new cultures and species, exploring the Remnant technology, duking it out with massive mechanical constructs, and speculating about what was going on back home in the Milky Way Galaxy. More importantly, I loved going on road trips and listening to my companions banter back and forth (or scream when I sent the Nomad flying off a cliff), or just kicking back and watching movies with my team.
Andromeda deserves a DLC release or an expansion that can take all those experiences and weave them into the Mass Effect setting that we know and love. It deserves an Awakening expansion; it deserves a world-shattering event that will force the player to make tough choices with real consequences. All the necessary set-pieces are there: the Ancient AI, the Resistance among the Angara, a potential Cerberus faction, the Remnant creators returning to Andromeda. Even the choices you make regarding the different outposts and the people released from Cryo could be explored thoroughly in new DLC that would make the game feel that much more nuanced and dynamic.
Unfortunately, Andromeda isn’t going to get any of that, and it looks like Bioware and EA might not be nterested in bringing back the series for a good long while, which is a shame, because Andromeda deserves a chance to really shine. It deserves a fighting chance to bring fans back to this far-away galaxy for a decent DLC experience, and a chance to bring skeptics back to the title to show how much the game has improved. EA and Bioware should take a stand and try and make something of the series that lives up to the Mass Effect name.
Instead, it looks like we’re getting a light multiplayer release, a few more patches, and then Bioware and EA are going to bury the series for a while and hope that everyone forgets about it.
With Mass Effect 3, EA and Bioware listened, they heard what fans were saying, and they continued to support the series. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, they’re captains abandoning a sinking ship. It’s a crying shame.
The show is over, it’s not going to go on, and Bioware and EA are apparently okay with that.