Not long ago we took at stab at from worst to best. We disagreed loudly and often—Jack and Ashley were especially contentious—but at least it wasn’t hard to settle on number one. Everyone loves the bird-faced lizard man.
Now we have a new cast to add to the list, but finding places for them will be tough—mainly because there are no uncontested standouts in Mass Effect: Andromeda’s crowd, no Garruses or Mordins who we all latched onto as clear favorites. And with so much bulk to the game, one player’s Liam is not another’s—especially if the other completely ignored Liam after he graced the prologue missions with such lines as “those rocks are floating” and “shit, this just got real.” No one can be blamed for doing so, but it wouldn’t be fair to poor Liam to rank him on those merits, so we’ve gathered a group who, collectively, spent lots of time with every character. (Liam still doesn’t fair well. Sorry Liam.)
Below is our ranking of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s squadmates, from worst to best—we’ve left out non-squad crewmembers, like Kallo and Suvi, and off-ship contacts to contain the debate to a reasonable six. We’ll add the newcomers to our complete list soon, though their standing may change over time—we had three games to get to know all of the original trilogy's characters.
6. Cora Harper
Tyler Wilde: Cora’s perma-smirk is creepy, and I’m not motivated to hang out with someone who, at least for the first third of the game, is openly jealous of the nepotism that made me Pathfinder. Male Ryders, at least, can introduce levity with completely inappropriate flirting, but as a female Ryder I was just subjecting myself to Cora’s angry inner monologue for five minutes before being sent away so she could mull over her personal progress. It’s pretty cool, at least, that she fought with asari commandos, but the whole ‘biotics are too scary for regular society’ X-Men thing is well-tread in and out of Mass Effect.
James Davenport: Her companion quest is also the most clearly etched character ‘growth’ seesaw in the game: This person I admire is good, they made good rules I like. (A few datapads later) This person I once admired is not good, I do not like their rules anymore. There’s no gradual arc, no pressing situation that molds her into a new shape—she just finds out her idol doesn’t follow their own commandments without hesitation. Even after the revelation, she feels mostly unchanged, just more accepting that someone besides your dad could have a robot in their head and colonize planets.
Tyler: Yeah, and on that mission she discovers, apparently for the first time, the idea that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” but decides she disagrees with Spock. I think I spied a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the bio lab.
5. Liam Kosta
Tyler: Poor Liam. He follows in the footsteps of boring humans Kaiden and Jacob, stuck in the belly of the ship and easily ignored, with early game traits such as: has a couch, drinks beer, and hates those damn kett bastards. He does get a little better, but still talks like a dad who just read his first book on Zen Buddhism. “Hear that? Just… a moment of nothing. Enjoy it.”
Jody Macgregor: I'm going to be the only person who sticks up for Liam, aren't I? OK, he's the boring first male companion BioWare games usually saddle us with, the Carth Onassi of the Heleus Cluster only with Jacob's propensity for doing pushups. But his loyalty mission, which takes place on a pirate ship with the gravity turned sideways, is one of the best bits of the whole game. Especially when the villainous pirate captain keeps trying to rant at you over the vidscreen while Liam and Ryder are too busy arguing with each other to pay attention—suddenly Andromeda's writing leaps up to Citadel DLC levels of goofiness, and actually pulls it off. For that alone I'll stick up for Liam, even if he's such an ordinary dude I'm pretty sure I saw him in the audience of an episode of Top Gear one time.
James: Even if Liam has a great companion quest, nothing leading up to it made me want to be his companion. He’s just kind of there when the game starts, poking his head in for a quick one-liner when it’s convenient. And if are an indication of personality then I want to log-off. “I think I really pissed that one off. Maybe because I shot him in the face.” For a dude that’s supposed to be a battle-tested soldier, I have to wonder what kind of institution would put out anyone that made a joke—is it a joke?—when murdering an alien. Getting to know the guy isn’t great either. I’ve had one too many beers on a dirty couch where someone tells their whole life story without warning. Liam really makes that videogame beer feel 600 light years away.
4. Nakmor Drack
Tyler: Drack’s got a few good lines, but he’s a bog standard krogan tough guy. I like his granddaughter more, though it’s sweet anytime he talks about her.
Jody: Drack's entrance is really badass, and I appreciate that Ryder has the option to basically say, “Hey, that looked really badass,” after he surfs into frame on a dead kett. In a crew full of children Drack is the one tough old man, the Andromedan Zaeed. But since he's a krogan, being old hasn't matured him in any way and he still talks about his quads all the time and launches himself into battle like he's divebombing at a pool party. While other alien characters in the Mass Effect series have tried to subvert the idea that you can stereotype an entire species into a single, broad personality type, Drack basically says to hell with that and embodies what it means to be a krogan. Just, you know, a slightly older and crankier one.
James: I think I like Drack more than you two. His companion quests are a slow burn that introduce mild stakes with no setup, but by the end I saw through his badass krogan warrior stereotype. Beneath it all, he’s a loving space lizard grandpa that wants nothing more than his family to be happy. In embodying everything it is to be a krogan so wholeheartedly, Drack’s vulnerable, loving side stands out in sharp relief. Dude just wants to hug his grandeggs, you know?
3. Pelessaria 'PeeBee' B'Sayle
Jody: PeeBee is an asari scientist who joins your crew to help examine all the forerunner artifacts you'll find and also possibly get in your pants. She's a lot like Liara from the original trilogy, yes. The difference is that she's younger and feistier and talks faster and shows off more skin. She's anime Liara. Thing is, I liked Liara and I like Peebee too. She's into pulpy crime novels and relaxing in zero gravity, and when Jaal asks her who the asari worship she replies, "Me... obviously." She gets drunk on agaran booze and hangs out in their museum. Peebee's an obvious bundle of quirks but at least she has a personality, which puts her one up on Cora.
Tyler: PeeBee can grate (“the flirts will flow”), but unlike several characters—Gil and Liam especially—she doesn’t spell out her entire life story the first time you meet her, actively avoiding questions about her past. She’s not immune to the exposition bug, but follow along with her loyalty quest, and her past reveals itself at least partially through narrative. She also builds you a cool robot friend.
James: PeeBee and I had a lot of casual sex. It was pretty cool to see that kind of adult relationship in a videogame, a casual carnal agreement a lot of folks I know are into these days. You two find each other good looking and interesting enough to stand, and when you’re spending so much time on the Tempest, it makes sense that folks would take explore more than just celestial bodies. The rest of PeeBee’s story hit me and fell off—it’s been less than a week and I can’t remember what happened, but as a bright, lively personality that doesn’t give a shit what most people think, I respect her.
Tyler: I'm proud of you for admitting this, James. My Mass Effect characters, like me, have never had sex, and don't even know what sex is.
2. Vetra Nyx
Jody: She’s like Han Solo but in space! Wait, Han Solo is already in space, forget I said that. Plus she has more of a wheeler-dealer thing going and a sister to care for. She’s her own turian, and a pretty cool one. By Andromeda standards that makes her amazing.
Tyler: I appreciate that Vetra isn’t defined by her species. She has the same problems any human character might: concern for her little sister, a need to control everything she can in an uncertain time, and a distaste for bureaucracy over action. I would’ve welcomed more turian-specific traits—hints at a culture humans only partially understand—because she does feel a little like a human who looks cooler than humans. But looking cool is important. Why do turians look so cool, anyway? They have weird mouths.
James: Kid sisters and cool mouths. Worth the number two spot for me.
Tyler: The kid sister thing is really what endears Vetra to me. She has a real, living motivation to make Andromeda work, whereas several other characters are like, “Uh, I came out here because, I just don’t have a lot of attachments, and I guess I want to explore and stuff.” I barely exaggerate. It isn’t a novel motivation, but it works, and it’s cute that Ryder has a fan.
1. Jaal Ama Darav
Tyler: I didn’t like Jaal at first. Our meeting was too compact, a rushed, ‘accidental’ first contact that felt more like arriving late for college orientation than the meeting of civilizations it should’ve been. He volunteered himself to my crew not 10 minutes after our first meeting—not even questioning whether our life support could accommodate an alien lifeform we’ve literally never met—thereby vaporizing any remaining wonder in Helius. But despite being written into the story in a footnote, Jaal grew, and grew, and grew on me. Nyasha Hatendi’s sonorous voice belies Jaal’s true character: he’s not a success, a great warrior or tactician. He’s easily cast off by his peers because they don’t see him as a crucial asset. And his attempts to earn friendships on the Tempest are some of Andromeda’s most tender moments, without being sentimental. He integrates far too easily for an alien—even in Andromeda, aliens are humans with slightly different cultures—but putting that aside, he’s the funniest and least predictable character on the ship. The ‘fish out of water’ gag gets plenty of play, but there’s usually a creative bent to it, such as when he and Liam practice insulting each other to explore their cultures’ boundaries. It’s a shame that Jaal is, for some reason, only open to a straight interspecies relationship, because male Ryders needlessly miss out on one of the better, if extremely unlikely, romances.
James: Jaal might be the best companion because he’s the most harmless. Coasting in on the back of one of two new species in Andromeda, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect of the guy. He comes off as a severe, tight-lipped lone wolf, but quickly—maybe too quickly—reveals himself as a sensitive and considerate fish man (with one hell of a fish ass). I haven’t seen his entire story through quite yet, but anytime I spend with Jaal is easy-going. He may not feel alien, but such concentrated earnesty can feel that way, especially when the majority of games feature relentlessly grave and cynical heroes or ironic one-liner robots. Jaal’s willing emotional vulnerability stands out against the violence and desperation of Andromeda’s story and even sharper against the cold void of space. Jaal is a good boy, as all boys should strive to be.