RIP ‘Mass Effect’, The Most Ambitious Sci-Fi Series In the History of Video Games

Matthew Loffhagen
BioWare
(Photo: BioWare)

Mass Effect is dead.

It’s taken a few days for this news to circulate around the internet, as games publisher EA hasn’t exactly gone out of their way to announce it. In a small message on developer BioWare’s website, the announcement has been made that Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that’s just a few months old but that was met with almost universal disappointment due to its poor quality animation and less than perfect gameplay, will no longer receive official updates to its single-player experience.

No DLC. No subsequent patches to fix bugs and glitches left unsolved. There are some comics and novels in the works, but otherwise, Mass Effect Andromeda is finished and we won’t be getting any sequels.

EA’s been pretty thorough about all of this. Not only has the game’s support been brought to an end, but in a move to salt the earth and make sure nothing else grows from the leftover roots, EA has shut down BioWare Montreal, the team responsible for the game, merging them with another, less embarrassing subsidiary.

Ouch.

This is a testament to just how quickly a franchise can be killed if an instalment in a series flops. You could call Mass Effect Andromeda the Batman and Robin of the gaming industry, as in both cases, a spectacularly unpopular release that was very costly to produce killed a brand’s entire appeal in a matter of months.

Poor Mass Effect. You really didn’t deserve this. While Andromeda is far from a perfect game, the original Mass Effect trilogy is one of the most ambitious storytelling projects in the history of the video game medium.

The developers behind the series, BioWare, had cut their teeth with roleplaying games before getting the chance to make the Star Wars game, Knights of the Old Republic. In moving forward, the studio’s golden game director, Casey Hudson, convinced his bosses to gamble BioWare’s entire future on a huge, sprawling trilogy of games that would be set in their own science fiction universe, and that would each build off one another in a single, longrunning narrative.

In many ways, this was envisioned as the Star Wars of gaming – three fantastic sci-fi games that players could invest in, filled with unique alien characters, worlds, and technology. Nothing this big had ever been attempted before, especially considering that the Mass Effect games are choose-your-own-adventure style stories wherein players can make decisions that affect the course of future games.

For all that it was ambitious, Mass Effect really works. The team pulled off something special, and over the course of three games, fans fell in love with the story, the characters, and the setting.

Mass Effect Liara
Source: BioWare

To go from this to Andromeda has left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths, and it makes sense for EA to pull the plug rather than keep throwing good money at a doomed project. One can’t help but wonder, though, if the project would have been doomed had BioWare and EA not suffered quite so many political upheavals during Andromeda’s development.

BioWare lost a lot of creative leaders while working on Andromeda. The game’s development team was restricted several times, as nothing seemed to quite work right without the leadership of Casey Hudson, who’d departed to work at Microsoft. The result was a game that was rushed to completion despite its lengthy five year development period – this has all turned into a textbook case for how not to make a big budget video game.

It remains to be seen whether the Mass Effect brand will be resurrected again in the future, but it’s worth assuming that we won’t be seeing it again for a while. What remains of BioWare is hard at work on a new game, Anthem, which seems like a totally different direction compared with anything the studio has done before, for better or worst.

In the meantime, there’s nothing to do but raise a glass to one of the most important franchises in modern video games, cut down before its time as a result of office politics and rudderless creative direction.

Rest in peace, Mass Effect. You will be missed.

Share on Twitter

Conversations