Sam Maggs is the author of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, available now from Quirk Books. Named “Awesome Geek Feminist of the Year” by Women Write About Comics, Sam appears on TV and movie screens across Canada, writes a webcomic called Lady Junk, and has written for The Mary Sue, The Guardian, Marie Claire, the National Post, among others. You can geek out with her about Garrus or the Iron Bull on Twitter @SamMaggs.
Whenever I look up at the sky at night to stargaze, I’m confronted by an immediate and crushing melancholia. Not because I begin contemplating the insignificance of my tiny existence in the vast universe, but rather because I’m faced with the reality that I will never, ever be part of a rag-tag crew on a beat-down but reliable spaceship, exploring the unknown vastness of space, and maybe occasionally banging an alien.
At least I can mitigate this soul-crushing certainty with Firefly and Star Trek: Voyager, and in about eighteen long, painful months, with the next Mass Effect game. In the meantime, all I can do is dream about all the things I want when we venture into Andromeda. Here's what I'm hoping for:
A functioning ride
I don’t think this is too much to ask. The Andromeda trailer showed us that the Mako is back and maybe even better than ever. And I certainly hope that’s the case because, as much as I’ll miss driving vertically up mountains and cursing until I’m blue in the face trying to aim at a Geth Colossus, having a sweet set of wheels that doesn’t make me belligerent would be awesome. There’s some hope: apparently the new Mako has done away with its garbage cannon, is much easier to use, and might even make use of some of the mechanics from EA’s driving games. And I wouldn’t say no to the ability to customize; I, for one, can’t wait to roll around the galaxy in my hot pink space tank with gold rims.
More exploration, but not at the expense of the story
The first Mass Effect had its share of issues—many exacerbated by age—but most fans’ favorite thing about the franchise’s initial outing was its sense of discovery. With the addition of the Mako; the ability to actually jump; cool weather effects; shorter or non-existent load times thanks to the Frostbite engine; and a map potentially four times the size of that in the third game, I have a lot of hope that Andromeda will give us that true space exploration feel. But there’s a line between big and too big, one I think Dragon Age: Inquisition might have crossed. When you’re going ten plus hours between cut scenes, it’s a little difficult to maintain interest in the main plot—and that story is what makes BioWare games so strong. The addition of war table missions and space combat could help add to the space adventure feel without needlessly expanding world maps.
Intricate customization and RPG elements
Another aspect of Mass Effect 1 (and of Inquisition) that RPG fans in particular enjoyed was the high level of modification available for armor, weapons, and powers, to cater the experience to your preferred play style. As we approached the end of the trilogy, those RPG elements had been drastically scaled back—something I hope is rectified in Andromeda. We know that fan-fave Biotic Charge is back, and we might even get a Biotic Shield, but it will be interesting to see how Tech or Biotic powers combine with weaponry and their new “incredible” level system to make for a truly fresh experience. An upgrade in aesthetic customization would be nice, too; maybe some non-plot-dependent upgrades for your ship, or some fun, not terrible hairstyles. So far, the concept art looks rad—except for the unnecessarily twerking woman—but please, please no boob armor on the playable lady! It would kill her.
Music to our ears
The first three Mass Effect games have haunting scores by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, and more; soundtracks that stick with you long after the ending credits roll to the strains of a Faunts song. I can’t be the only one who got emotional just hearing that one note of “Vigil” at the end of the Andromeda trailer, can I? I’m hoping for another great score to accompany the new game; even one that deviates from the feel of the original trilogy and leans more towards the cowboy-style Johnny Cash song we heard in the trailer. And layered over the badass soundtrack, we obviously need an exciting cast of voice actors. Maybe even some crossovers from our Dragon Age faves?
More glorious space warriors
You know, diverse characters with whom we can fall in love over and over again. And I don’t just mean romantic love—though that’s great, too—but characters that you can truly care about. In terms of specifics, there’s so much to choose from in the Mass Effect canon it’s almost hard to know what to ask for. At least one bi- or pansexual teammate is a must (I’ll never get over not being able to romance Miranda as FemShep), and an Asari who specifically isn’t a love interest or a sexual being in some way might be nice. Fans are clamoring for a romanceable Krogan; a Hanar, Elcor, Batarian, or Raloi teammate; a male Quarian (who could be maskless this far in the future, so their facial design could be… improved); teammates of alien species specific to the Andromeda galaxy; a human teammate raised by aliens; the list goes on. Personally, I’d like to see another female Turian (Nyreen was amazing in Omega, and it was a shame she was relegated to the DLC), and more female aliens in general who aren’t just dude aliens with human boobs stapled on. The trailer seems to suggest we might be getting a female Krogan teammate; just to break my own heart further I’m going to imagine her name is Urdnot Mordin.
A chill co-operative multiplayer
The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer mode is still fun, and the Inquisition multiplayer built on that model with a great co-operative multiplayer with frequent weekend-long group and individual quests. Andromeda needs the same kind of friendly but challenging multiplayer mode—especially one that doesn’t blackmail you into playing it by linking it too deeply into the single-player storyline, like Mass Effect 3’s war readiness rating.
Callbacks, when appropriate
It’s a tough thing; as a devoted Mass Effect player, I’m a sucker for fanservice, and had to try really, really hard to not make this article just say “Garrus” in different fonts twelve hundred times. But I’m also aware that original, good storytelling should always come before shoehorning in references to previous games just for the sake of making references. BioWare has been good at this in the past—like the small shout-out to Origins in Inquisition’s recent Descent DLC, or Shepard’s Miniature Giant Space Hamster—and the team has said that Andromeda will include “a bunch of nods to fans.”
But will these be game-impacting nods or just subtle winks, like the similarities between the beginning of the Andromeda trailer and the cinematic trailer for Mass Effect 3? And how will players’ decisions at the end of the third game affect Andromeda, as it’s set “long after the events of the original trilogy”? Having something like the Dragon Age Keep to allow players to input their previous choices would be perfect if the game does mean to build on players’ past experiences. And sorry to tell you, fellow Garrus fans, but a senior developer has said that “story wise, it wouldn’t make much sense” to see returning characters in Andromeda. He refrained from mentioning, however, that Asari live for a thousand years and Liara was only 106 in the first Mass Effect, so I hold out hope for our blue babe still living it up in her Matriarch years back in the Milky Way.
The world finally letting go of Mass Effect 3's ending
I know a lot of Mass Effect fans were viscerally upset by the third game’s original ending. And that’s totally cool; they’re allowed to not like a thing. But I feel like whenever I express excitement for Andromeda, there’s always someone right around the proverbial internet corner ready to remind me that they think Mass Effect 3 totally blew. With the addition of the Extended Cut and the Citadel DLC, I personally don’t have a problem with it, but hate it or not, it’s been three years. It’s time to move on.
And I think we can all take heart in the fact that the Andromeda team has already been working on the new game for two years, and has almost another two years to go. They’re clearly not rushing development this time—and I’d imagine they’d like to avoid a rehash of the same backlash. Will Andromeda be great? I don’t know, but I know that it’s much more fun to give it a chance than to be rigidly cynical.