The state of how fans concern themselves over an impending game release has distinctly evolved in recent times. Very rarely is a game judged on its own potential merits, as brought about by new trailers or details released by the developer; rather, the atmosphere surrounding a release can gain either hype or concern based upon numerous other factors, from the specific people working on creating the title to other titles clearly unrelated to the subject at hand, but ones that fans believe should have a certain influence on the new game’s resulting experience. With some topics unpredictably gaining more traction than others, it’s starting to get harder and harder for a game of any kind to have a smooth road to launch, and that can be made worse from an outside perspective when the bumps along the way are seemingly unprecedented or farfetched.
The latest game that is being subjected to some arguably unnecessary criticisms is Mass Effect: Andromeda, which is unable to escape the shadow of its predecessor despite the entirely different intentions of both titles. That’s not to say there aren’t some legitimate concerns out there for the space RPG; EA’s approach to its marketing has been questionable until the past few months, with a mere three trailers having to suffice fans for an overly extensive period, from the game’s announcement at E3 2014 until this past November, when the game was finally properly unveiled during N7 Day, the annual celebration of the Mass Effect franchise. Even after N7 Day, Bioware has still been keeping most of the game under wraps, with many aspects of both the story and gameplay still being a mystery prior to its launch in just over two months. In addition, on a more subjective level, what has been announced will certainly appease or upset fans on an individual level, due to some drastic changes for the series, from an entirely new setting and cast of characters to new gameplay abilities, such as being able to switch classes mid-game.
And yet, while these concerns have certainly surfaced and disappeared, as many tend to on online gaming communities these days, one worry has seemingly overridden all others over the past two and a half years; 2012’s Mass Effect 3 and its controversial ending. Representing the conclusion of a lengthy trilogy, Mass Effect 3 had the substantial task of wrapping up countless storylines, many of which surrounded characters that fans had grown attached to over the prior five years. While critics were mostly favorable to the trilogy finale, many fans were upset with the simplistic manner that it wrapped up Shepard’s story, resulting in one of the largest community backlashes in recent years. With the reaction as substantial as it was, it’s unsurprising that the next entry in the franchise decided to get an entire galaxy’s worth of separation, although one could argue that this was a likely next step for the series regardless.
While it would certainly be problematic to disregard one’s opinions on Mass Effect 3’s conclusion, the amount with which it has coincided with Andromeda and its path to release is a cause for concern for a number of reasons. For one, Andromeda is being led by a separate team of developers within Bioware, with many of the key members of the Mass Effect trilogy development team having moved on to other endeavors, both inside and outside of Bioware. Additionally, Bioware’s capacity to tell engrossing stories with memorable characters is still among the best in the gaming industry, and Dragon Age: Inquisition: the sole release of the developer since that controversial conclusion, is indicative of that commitment to high quality. It’s also important to keep in mind the noticeably unique intent of both of these releases; while Mass Effect 3 had a massive task ahead of it due to the countless storylines it had begun over the past two entries, Andromeda carries a very minimal amount of that same motivation, instead resorting back to the days of the first Mass Effect, where introductions and world-building reigned supreme above all else.
Now, this isn’t an argument to boost Mass Effect: Andromeda beyond reasonable expectations; if 2016 taught us anything. It’s that unchecked hype can greatly affect the reaction to releases regardless of the game’s actual potential. But, if we can start judging Mass Effect: Andromeda on its own merits and not on the final twenty minutes of a five year old game that, despite being a part of the same series, is substantially different in numerous ways, then perhaps the game can receive the proper fanfare it deserves between now and March 21, which is really all one can truly ask for an anticipated release.