Imagine, if you will, that it’s Mar. 21, 2017. You just got back from your local game store with a copy of the long-awaited next installment in the Mass Effect franchise. You boot it up, eager to see what BioWare did in the five years they took making the game; and within less than an hour you realize that the game you’re playing, the game millions of players were eagerly looking forward to, wasn’t very good.
It may not be too hard to imagine since that’s pretty much exactly what happened. Mass Effect: Andromeda released earlier this year and was almost immediately panned by fans and critics alike for its buggy gameplay, poor graphics, and lackluster story. For a time it was a subject of much ridicule and fan hatred, but now? Now Mass Effect: Andromeda lies a forgotten relic in a year otherwise filled to the brim with standout games. Breath of the Wild, NieR: Automata, Resident Evil VII, Yakuza 0, each month has brought with it new game of the year contenders that will be fondly remembered for years to come; and once upon a time Mass Effect: Andromeda was a sure bet to be included in that lineup.
The game came out as the highly anticipated next step in the irreverent Mass Effect saga and people all over the world collectively shrugged. The game was good enough to not be terrible, but terrible enough to not be worth remembering either. At the time there was fan backlash to be sure, but compared to some of what EA went through later on it was virtually nonexistent. There are the game’s defenders, but the general consensus is that the game was just one big disappointment.
For others the writing was on the wall with Mass Effect: Andromeda. Footage and news of the game was sparse and relied largely on lofty promises with little actual evidence to back it. Not to mention as the news played out it became clear that the game had cut corners in more than a few places due to corporate mandates and the game simply suffered for it in the long run.
What would follow from that initial release outcry was a lot of “How did this happen?” with fans uncovering more and more as EA and BioWare did their best to damage control the situation. Updates kept coming out to improve the game and address its many issues. At least, until they decided to suddenly stop, basically giving the game an early death knell.
While this story is unfortunately common in the world of gaming, what’s actually kind of shocking is just how much the world has moved on from Mass Effect: Andromeda. For a game fans spent half a decade waiting for from one of the biggest developers and publishers in the business you’d be forgiven for thinking Andromeda never even released. Or that it existed at all.
This is from Mass Effect of all franchises. The fanbase of this series remains legendary for the sheer scale of the backlash to Mass Effect 3’s ending. To the point that BioWare had to create an alternate ending to try and mitigate its fans. Yet, this time around there isn’t a large campaign to get the game fixed. Or for some new game as retribution. The game came out, wasn’t great, and life moved on.
Part of this can possibly be attributed to just how big of a year 2017 was for games. Whatever void Mass Effect: Andromeda left was happily filled by games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, and plenty others. Players had plenty of other, better games to occupy themselves with and even when looking at Andromeda in terms of its backlash it was outclassed even there. By another EA game no less. The huge debacle of Star Wars: Battlefront II continues to play out well over a month later and has spurned entire legal movements investigating loot boxes in gaming.
In comparison to all of that Mass Effect: Andromeda is just sort of… there. It failed to reach the highs of all the other Game of the Year contenders and failed to be a catastrophic disaster that would stand out from all of the other incidents of the year. Perhaps the most telling thing you could still say about Mass Effect: Andromeda is that it was the start of EA’s unfortunate 2017 track record. A track record that only went worse and worse for them until Star Wars: Battlefront II blew up in a big way.
2017 has been a year of inspiring highs and impressive lows and right there in the middle is Andromeda. While BioWare has said it would like to one day continue the series, for now its latest installment is simply forgotten.