Mass Effect Andromeda’s romances are more elaborate and more forgettable

In Mass Effect’s twin galaxies of the Milky Way and Andromeda, there’s a lot of smooching to be done, along with awkward flirting, saucy trysts and deep romantic connections with pretty alien boys and girls. BioWare’s been tinkering with its sexiest system for years, even before Mass Effect let us play out our embarrassing Kirk fantasies. And with Andromeda, they’ve promised even more junk-to-junk shenanigans, as well as deeper relationships.

Have they delivered? And, more importantly, can anything beat hooking up with Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Iron Bull and his infinite pecs? I’ve become a space Lothario to find out.

The one promise that’s undoubtedly been fulfilled is the expanded choice of romantic partners. It’s a big ol’ sex buffet. There’s still room for improvement, however, especially when it comes to gay options. Chaps get the short end of the stick with only two potential same-sex partners, neither of whom can join your squad. There’s Gil Brodie, the Tempest’s engineer, who loves to talk about himself and sports a horrific pseudo-beard, and Reyes Vidal, a smuggler and undoubtedly the hotter of the pair, but he’s a pretty minor character.

Straight, bisexual and lesbian Ryders have a lot more options. An overwhelming number of them, in fact. I wasn’t in the Tempest for more than a few seconds before I was being given the choice to flirt with people I didn’t even know, and it’s worth noting that it’s possible to flirt with characters who ultimately aren’t interested in what’s in your pants. Every introductory chat barring two – Salarians and Krogan continue to get zero love – has the potential to turn into some creepy workplace sexual harassment.

It’s not a great start. I get it – BioWare want to make it clear there are lots and lots of people you can knock boots with, and none of the flirty dialogue choices are compulsory, but it just comes across as very awkward. Every single one of them ends up hovering between chatting up your first high school crush and being a sleazy boss. What it also does, however, is establish that romance isn’t some end-game reward. It can start very early on, and the climax of that relationship isn’t forced into a fixed point near the end of the game.

Characters are looking for different things, and they might change their mind about what those things are. Some are super flirty and don’t take much convincing if you’re looking for zero-G fun, while other relationships are slow burners, starting off as friendships before flourishing into something more romantic. It’s a significant change from the one-size fits all approach in the original trilogy, particularly the first game, where the majority of relationships evolved in the same way, at the same pace.

Andromeda recognises that committed monogamy isn’t the be all and end all of relationship statuses, too. A casual fling with Jack in Mass Effect 2 is clearly a dick move, but this time it’s healthy, just another point on the romantic spectrum. There are some characters, like Avela the historian, who are only interested in a carefree hook up, others who are interested in both types, and a few who only want something serious. The system, then, is by far the most elaborate of any BioWare RPG, but it’s still this overtly mechanical thing.

The seams are so terribly obvious, and it quickly becomes clear that a lot of the aforementioned nuance is only surface deep. It’s all about perseverance and feels uncomfortably transactional, almost predatory at times. It largely boils down to doing a heck of a lot of flirting after missions and doing a spot of busywork for your chosen paramour. This isn’t remotely exclusive to Andromeda, of course, but it’s much harder to forgive this time around because Andromeda lacks the integral ingredient that makes the relationships in the first trilogy or the Dragon Age series so compelling: intriguing characters.

Cora, who seems positioned to be the main romantic partner, has less personality than her haircut. She might not be the least likeable member of the Tempest crew, but she’s definitely in the running for the most bland. It’s a hotly contested position, mind you. The script is just a nightmare, transforming conversations into long-winded info dumps peppered with robotic banter. Breezy chats, theological debates – they’re all handled with an impressive lack of sophistication. The crew don’t feel like people; they don’t even feel like archetypes.

Nobody really talks like a person in Andromeda. Their preferred method of communication is spewing out clichés, and listening to them is akin to being forced to sit through the audio tape of the world’s most dismal autobiography. There’s so much of this inane dialogue that, I confess, I often found myself browsing my Twitter feed or talking to my dog instead of listening. My ears can only take so much abuse. The introductory chat with Gil really encapsulates everything that’s wrong with Andromeda’s script.

Ryder: “What’s your social circle like?”

Gil: “I’m good for a laugh, so I know lots of people – but I don’t let too many in.”

He’s a total liar, because you honestly can’t get Gil to shut up about whatever is running through his mind. He’s more than an open book, he’s every page of a book stuck on a wall for all to see. And, as I’ve already mentioned, he has a really stupid beard. Don’t date Gil.

The truly weird thing about the dialogue is that, despite there being more of it than you can possibly digest, when it comes to romance, it’s all incredibly rushed. If you flirt a couple of times, spouting off some cheeky lines, you’re essentially courting. Cora seemed to think we had a “special relationship” after this superb example of barely flirting:

Cora: “I was there for soldiering, not romance.”

Ryder: “You’re not technically military anymore.”

Cora: “Can’t get anything past you, can I?”

Not long after this exchange, I was informed, by Cora, that we were close. Thanks Cora! That’s nothing compared to the pace of seducing Peebee, the gregarious Asari archaeologist/treasure hunter/nuisance. It amounts to two characters basically just shouting “FLIRTING” at each other until they make out. You literally flirt with Peebee by talking about flirting with Peebee.

So while Andromeda might have the best system for finding love among the stars, it actually ends up with absolutely the worst romances. It’s rather telling that the most convincing relationship in the series is the one that’s least like the others, between Shepard and Liara in Mass Effect 2. It works so well because Liara is able to define herself. She’s got her own mission, a job, friends – a life that no longer orbits someone else. She has a level of agency that no other character gets in Mass Effect. It’s a brilliant inversion of the game’s focus on recruiting a team for a suicide mission, as Liara recruits Shepard for her very own risky endeavour. And there’s none of the awkward seduction or perfunctory systems that typify the series’ romantic entanglements.

In my first playthrough of Mass Effect 2, I was compelled to stay faithful to Liara because I was utterly invested in this fictional relationship between a spacefaring zombie and a blue alien. It was a romance rich in character development, emotional growth, and importantly it felt like a relationship between two equals. But Ryder, inexplicably, has no equals. People fall in love with Ryder because Ryder is the Pathfinder and the most important person in the galaxy.

Andromeda’s treatment of romance suffers in the same way as the rest of the game. It’s larger and more ambitious, but it’s devoid of personality and crippled by an amateurish script. It shows that it’s not enough to simply expand the number of potential partners or acknowledge more than one type of relationship – they need to be supported by quality writing. And let’s not beat around the bush here: this is some of BioWare’s poorest writing. In this new galaxy, celibacy is pretty damn tempting.

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82 Comments

  1. Chentzilla says:

    Wait, there’s a character named Peebee? You are dating someone who is basically called Urine Insect?

  2. SanguineAngel says:

    God I loathe the way romance is handled in this game. I love this article though: where’s the heart shaped romance dialogue option at?

    • Xerophyte says:

      I generally quite like Bioware’s dumb romance plots, they make a nice break from all the murder and so I generally have my … Shedders? Ryde-herds? flirt with anything on two legs. The flirting in Andromeda was really unusually creepy, though. Suvi the science officer’s romance chain started out with a public conversation on the bridge of the ship that my character is commanding. Paraphrased:

      Ryder: “I really like having you here on the bridge.”
      Suvi: “Well, thanks, I really like being here doing science to this majestic unexplored galaxy.”
      Ryder: “No, I mean I think you’re really cute, I’m attracted to you and I think your accent is adorable, please date me.”

      Suvi then becomes all flustered and it’s played out as an adorable moment of unwilling candor. Meanwhile I’m super creeped out and wished Suvi had punched my character in the face for managing to simultaneously insult, harass and belittle her in a single sentence. Apparently it’s not sexual harassment if you’re the space lesbian protagonist boss.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Re: your last sentence, does it play out any differently if your character is male, and are there no similar situations?

        I get your concerns and all; the idea that women/homosexual individuals are incapable of harassment is common enough that many people still don’t realize that bisexual individuals are sometimes harassed by homosexual individuals as ‘traitors,’ for example. Just want to make sure that’s actually what’s happening here, since it’s kind of a major accusation.

        • Xerophyte says:

          I’ve only done the one (half, really) playthrough as a Sara Ryder, dunno if there’s an equally terrible exchange if you’re Scott-ish. I believe Suvi is only romantically interested in women, so I’m guessing the exchange isn’t there at all for men. Possibly you can go for it and get more gently shut down, but I dunno. Either way, it’s definitely the creepiest bit of flirting I’ve seen from Bioware to date.

          Semi-unrelated: one thing I do like about Andromeda — there are a couple of them, for all the issues the game has — is that if you pick the default first names (Scott/Sara) for your Ryder then your character’s friends will actually use that name in conversations. If you go for a non-default then people will always call you Ryder or Pathfinder, because recording dialogue for every possible name is obviously not a good use of time, but taking the time to do so for the most common choice is one little piece of extra effort that I felt really paid off.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Suvi is only a romance option for female Ryders, so that conversation doesn’t play out the same way for the male Ryder. Male Ryder can still flirt with certain other members of the crew in a way that makes no sense for the leader of a combat team, but hey… that’s Bioware.

          What makes that particular scene with Suvi so egregious, is that the romance dialog in Bioware games is usually with characters in their time off between missions, as the ship travels. But Suvi is bridge crew. I think this might be the first time there has been a scene where the protagonist is basically harassing someone at their work station while doing their job. The fact that Suvi immediately responds in a positive way, more-or-less, doesn’t make it any less creepy.

          • Insignus says:

            I wonder, sometimes, what would happen if there were secret consequences inserted into some of these games.

            Flirting with the bridge science officer, for example:

            1) During your exchange, she misses the scan pip for a giant alien death sphere. You come too close to it and get doused with radiation which horribly maims some of your bridge crew, not including Suvi and the Player Character. Going forward, the bridge conversations reflect this “We’re clear Ma’am”
            Other Crewmen: “Are you sure Suvi? I’m reading a high gamma radiation count. You sure weren’t scanning her ass this time, were you?”

            2) You have a bad break up. She storms off the bridge in the middle of a shift, or second guesses you in a crisis.

            “Yes Ma’am, I’m confident it’s safe for you to touch those alien creatures. There’s no reading of Space Clap”

            3) Male Captain Meets NPC Female Captain, and attempts to Kirk it up. Wakes up to alarm Klaxons.

            “Captain, where is she?!”

            “Last I saw her, she had a smile on her face.”

            *Deadpans* “Sir, we have radiation alarms across all decks, the weapons locker is empty, and we found your pants in the airlock.”

  3. LexW1 says:

    “In my first playthrough of Mass Effect 2, I was compelled to stay faithful to Liara because I was utterly invested in this fictional relationship between a spacefaring zombie and a blue alien. It was a romance rich in character development, emotional growth, and importantly it felt like a relationship between two equals. But Ryder, inexplicably, has no equals. People fall in love with Ryder because Ryder is the Pathfinder and the most important person in the galaxy.”

    Oh dear.

    And here is where Fraser crashed the article into a tree at 70mph.

    The Liara romance in ME1 is appallingly written. Liara literally falls in love with Shepard because Shepard is Shepard and the most important person in the galaxy. She pretty much literally says that. I assume Fraser hasn’t played ME1 any time recently, or he might remember this – unlike him, I have, very recently.

    So this criticism is completely bonkers. The rest of the article is reasonable if poorly-supported opinion. Nothing outrageous. But this? No. You don’t get to say people fall for Ryder because Ryder is Ryder then bring up the BLOODY LIARA ROMANCE for god’s sake, where that literally happens in ME1!

    This whole bit about “Ryder has no equals” seems like drivel, too – I didn’t get that vibe at all in ME:A. I have no idea what could even be the reason to think that. Especially as lots of people will shoot Ryder down in flames if he/she hits on them. And again, the idea that Liara, in ME1, a starry-eyed schoolgirl of an alien, is an “equal” to the hardened, bossy, tough-as-nails person that is Shepard is an absolute joke.

    The request for “quality writing” is just completely undermined by this example too – the writing is terrible. Liara is all “you’re a magic person I’m in love with you” like some kind of godawful anime character.

    Anyway, yeah, perfectly legit article completely ruined by an example which precisely destroys all the arguments Fraser was making.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      OK, but he was talking about the romance in ME2, not the romance in ME1.

      I haven’t played either game, mind; I just feel that’s worth pointing out. You’re discussing paths in two separate games. The fact that the one in ME1 was shit doesn’t mean the one in ME2 is equally shit; it just means that there was improvement between the two games.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      I didn’t mentioned the Shep/Liara romance in ME1, which isn’t handled very well at all. The part you actually quote shows that I’m writing about ME2, which is entirely different. Liara is nothing like the “starry-eyed schoolgirl” you describe her as when we get meet her again in ME2. She’s been hardened by her quest, and is granted more agency than any other character aside from Shep.

      All of this should be clear in the article you’re getting a wee bit too angry about.

      • brucethemoose says:

        You specifically say “I was compelled to stay faithful to Liara”. Meaning you romanced her in 1, right?

        ME2’s romance didn’t happen in a vacuum. Liara’s character was built up in 1, a bit in 2, and finally culminated to the romance in the Shadow Broker DLC. Meanwhile, we’re still in phase 1 in Andromeda.

        I think Thane would be a better comparison to 2, if you’re looking for one. Here we have a fascinating, sexy, and most importantly, new character who’s counterpart in Andromeda (Jaal) isn’t quite as impressive, IMHO.

        • OldMacRonald says:

          You specifically say “I was compelled to stay faithful to Liara”. Meaning you romanced her in 1, right?

          Author writes about ME2. You claim author is wrong because ME1 is not like that. People point that out and your response is that CLEARLY the author MUST have felt the same way about ME1 as ME2 because handwavy reasons. The fact that it’s possible to play ME2 without even ever having seen anything from ME1 renders your point moot, not to say moose.

          • skeletortoise says:

            I mean, it was no doubt an ill advised assumption, but I can definitely see how ‘compelled to stay faithful’ has connotations of continuity and previous experience which could be interpreted as pertaining to the prior game.

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          sbrn10 says:

          It didn’t happen in a vacuum, but Liara’s romance in ME2 is not necessarily an extension of the romance in ME1. It CAN be, but it doesn’t HAVE TO be, and even if you romanced her in both, she’s a pretty different character by Shadow Broker and the relationship has very much changed. All in all, Lex up there seems extremely angry about something that Fraser simply didn’t write.

          • brucethemoose says:

            This is true. I should know, as I played 2 first and romanced Liara :/.

            Shadow Broker is basically a Liara DLC, but that line of argument is kinda splitting hairs.

            My point, though, is that comparing a character that Bioware had the opportunity to evolve over 2 games and a DLC to brand new ones at release doesn’t seem very fair. Yes she’s totally different in 2, and players don’t have to know her from from 1, but her character still evolved from 1’s own (flawed) development.

            Reasonable? Yes, but I can see where OP is coming from.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Re character development – Perhaps, but I’d counter that that had the experience of the original ME series and several games since to see what works and they’ve gone backward.

          • Magus42 says:

            Just to back up the original poster, I read the article the same way. I don’t see how being invested in the Liara relationship in ME2 can mean anything else but a reference to the ME1 history. And, honestly, I just replayed ME2 and I still find the actual writing for Liara in that game to be pretty terrible, however much I might like what they were trying to do with the character. I think people tend to have selected memory for past Bioware writing. They’re really great when they’re great, but there’s a lot of rough bits too. I went right from the old to the new, and ME:A doesn’t feel that different. Better than most of ME1 by a fair bit, about the same as the bulk of the later games, without the really great moments that stick out in your memory.

            But obviously the Internet has already decided that this game is bad and shouldn’t be enjoyed by anyone, so carry on.

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            sbrn10 says:

            My point, though, is that comparing a character that Bioware had the opportunity to evolve over 2 games and a DLC to brand new ones at release doesn’t seem very fair. Yes she’s totally different in 2, and players don’t have to know her from from 1, but her character still evolved from 1’s own (flawed) development.

            That’s fair, and I have no problem with that, but that’s not what OP said. OP said, “How dare you say Liara’s romance in ME2 is good writing when her romance in ME1 is shit.” I’m just saying, Fraser never said the romance in ME1 is good. If OP had disagreed that Liara’s romance in ME2 is good, I wouldn’t have bothered to comment; everyone’s entitled to an opinion.

            Just to back up the original poster, I read the article the same way. I don’t see how being invested in the Liara relationship in ME2 can mean anything else but a reference to the ME1 history.

            Eh. You can acknowledge that her ME2 story builds upon the ME1 story without thinking the ME1 story is all that great. I’m not sure why this is so weird as a concept — it’s like “I hated character X in season 1 of this TV show,” would necessarily mean “And therefore I must hate character X all the way to season 3.” No, because characters change? Writing can get better or worse?

            And, honestly, I just replayed ME2 and I still find the actual writing for Liara in that game to be pretty terrible, however much I might like what they were trying to do with the character. I think people tend to have selected memory for past Bioware writing. They’re really great when they’re great, but there’s a lot of rough bits too. I went right from the old to the new, and ME:A doesn’t feel that different. Better than most of ME1 by a fair bit, about the same as the bulk of the later games, without the really great moments that stick out in your memory.

            Well… yes. Mostly mediocre but with some AWESOME parts is better than completely mediocre.

            But obviously the Internet has already decided that this game is bad and shouldn’t be enjoyed by anyone, so carry on.

            Well, no. I beat it last weekend after spending about 40 hours with it. I romanced Peebee; the sex scene was awkward but there were parts of it that were kind of sweet! It wasn’t terrible — I don’t think any terrible game retains people through 40+ hours. It’s not terrible, it’s just mostly mediocre. It feels like a step backwards (and perhaps that’s unfair, maybe it’s just more of the same rather than actual backwards, I’ll admit that I may not be the best judge, but even if so, that’s human psychology for you — if it ain’t getting better it’s getting worse). ME1 was *interesting* in 2007. MEA is largely not in 2017. That’s all.

            I will say this: I replayed ME1 and ME2 both like four or five times. I have all the (in retrospect incredibly dumb) achievements you get when you bring a particular squadmate on more than X number of missions in ME1 to prove it. ME3 twice, I think. The Citadel DLC an embarrassing number of times that I shall not mention. I am pretty sure that I will never launch Andromeda again having beat it once. *shrug*

          • brucethemoose says:

            @sbrn10

            Ah, but you forget, DLC!

            If Bioware adds 1/2 of what they added to ME3, you (and I) will definitely install Andromeda again and some day.

          • LexW1 says:

            Well, I always seem hilariously angrier than I actually am, apparently! :)

            But what is very silly is that literally every single criticism he has of ME:A applies incredibly strongly – far more strongly – to ME1’s Liara romance, than it does to ME:A. It’s thus staggering to mention the very romance which exemplifies this, but to act as if it comes into ME2 ex nihilo, as it were.

            Hell, even if he hadn’t mentioned it, the legit thing to say would to claim might be “Bioware has gone back to ME1 levels of romance writing” or something. Only it’s not true, because none of the romances in ME:A are anywhere near as bad as the Liara romance in ME1, not even close. Their greatest sin is that none of them are particularly edgy or dangerous or have any real “exotic” elements, unlike a lot of the ME2 romances particularly, which are often with horribly damaged people (Miranda, Jack, Thane, etc.). There’s no-one on the ME:A crew who is even that damaged.

        • Coming Second says:

          Ah yes, Pepe the sad assassin frog who is recruited for no reason whatsoever, whose emotional vulnerability Shepard can cynically manipulate to get a bonk off. Thane, who Bioware actually managed to forget that players might give a shit about in the third game. That model romance?

          • brucethemoose says:

            You’re saying the Jaal romance is better?

            That’s legitamite question, as I’m not far into the Jaal relationship yet.

          • Coming Second says:

            Hell if I know, I’m not playing that rubbish.

      • LexW1 says:

        That you don’t mention the low quality of the ME1 romance with Liara, and yet say “stay faithful”, seems pretty strange, frankly. Also the content of the article is more than a wee bit hyperbolic itself. The headline of the article is pretty reasonable though.

        What’s also pretty disingenuous is comparing a huge and impressive DLC focused on a single, specific character, and essentially giving you a sort of “Romancing the Stone in Space”-type adventure in which they completely change personality from the previous game, and which is really only interesting because you already have an established relationship with them. It wouldn’t be possible to have something similar in a new game unless they put that relationship in the backstory, or somehow broke the story up, like DA2 – and I don’t think it’s any accident that DA2 had some of Bioware’s stronger romances despite the “Hawke-o-sexual” element (or because of it).

        All in all, I think it’s easy to say that the LotSB Liara romance is probably the best romance, and certainly the most interesting one that Bioware have ever written (I’d argue it was also more interesting than the romances in TW3, despite them having years of backstory as well, personally), so when you’re saying “ME:A’s romances aren’t up to the standard of Liara circa LotSB”, I tend to agree.

        However none of Bioware’s romances are up to that standard, which is why I say it’s disingenuous, and it’s also disingenuous to make those specific criticisms, and not admit or any way indicate that they actually apply very well to the same character in the previous game. ME1’s romances in general were quite significantly worse-written than all the ME:A once I’ve seen. You can knock Cora but at least she acts like someone who is attracted to someone else, and sends very in-character emails and so on, and whilst it isn’t terribly exciting or original, and thus I agree forgettable, it is a lot more believable than most of the other ME romances.

        (I know I’ll be crucified for this, but I’d also say very few ME romances are as utterly forgettable as Tali’s one, myself.)

    • Coming Second says:

      The Liara romance in ME1 is a bit generic (and possibly a bit skeevy given the overawed schoolgirl element, but I RP’d my Shepard as someone with basically no experience anyway), but it’s serviceable. Better, in my opinion, than the Kaiden alternative, who comes across as horribly clingy and needy.

      The point the author’s making is that Liara actually develops as a character. By the time you catch up to her in the second game she’s become a driven hard-arse, toughened up by the death of her mother and having to fight her own battles. This not only makes her feel like a real person, for me it made reuniting with her quite poignant – I was expecting to meet the gushing nerd I knew in the first game, and instead found someone recognisable but quite different.

      Others vehemently disagree about this I know, but the evolution and independence of Liara is what makes her romance good and the codas with her in LotSB and ME3 deeply satisfying, and I believe that’s what the author is trying to say.

      • LexW1 says:

        I think it’s actually disingenuous, even only due to article length limits or whatever, to generically criticise ALL the ME:A romances (rather inaccurately, I should note) for sharing traits (which they don’t but whatever), when the Liara relationship in ME1, whatever you think of it, definitely possesses every single one of those traits in spades, when bringing up the continuation of the romance in the DLC for ME2.

        And that’s a bit disingenuous too – Liara’s romance stands out because she gets an entire DLC (a really good one – probably the best DLC ever made for any game at the time it was released) to basically be in Moonlighting (is anyone even old enough to remember that show?) with Shepard, which really makes the whole thing work. It’s easily the best romance in the entire ME series as result.

        The ME:A romances are not as good as that (at least the ones I’ve seen), and they aren’t generally as memorable as the ME2 ones, because those were either with messed-up people and quite dramatic as a result (Jack, Miranda, Thane, etc.) or were with established characters people were already obsessed with (Tali particularly, also Garrus), so even though they were fairly pedestrian in nature, the years of “WHY CANT I ROMANCE TALI!!??” caused people to value them greatly. None of the ME:A romances I’ve seen are as bad as the ME1 romances, for sure.

    • Masked Dave says:

      To be fair, that’s 1 example of a range of romance/relationships between the player and the NPCs from ME1.

      If there was only one character in ME:A who acted all “O.M.G. UR Pathfinder! Please jump my bones!!!” then the criticism probably wouldn’t exist.

      The issue is (from my reading of the article, I’ve not played ME:A because of all the complaints about the writing) that it seems every character comes across like this.

      • LexW1 says:

        The article is simply wrong on that claim, and he offers no evidence of it or explanation for what he means. It’s much more true of Shepard in ME1, where, as FemShep, both Liara and Kaidan have to be metaphorically fought off with a stick if you don’t want to romance them.

        “If there was only one character in ME:A who acted all “O.M.G. UR Pathfinder! Please jump my bones!!!” then the criticism probably wouldn’t exist.”

        Evidently it does exist despite this, as I pointed out, that’s the problem. I mean, I cannot think of a single character who justifies their keen-ness for you on that basis. Cora you have to actually be pleasant with and funny and intentionally flirt. Peebee is just after sex, basically, and if you won’t give it to her, she finds it elsewhere. Other relationships vary but I cannot think of a single one that fits that metric, and plenty of people will shoot you the fuck down.

    • ravenshrike says:

      ME1 cost at most 20 million to make, probably closer to 10 million. That means a hell of a lot less resources for things like character development. Yet even with their faults, the companions are still, even Kaiden, more interesting than their ME:A counterparts. As for the romances being poor, compared to Pessaria, Liara in ME1 is a deep and varied character who overcomes great hardship and has a wee bit of an obsession with the fact that your brain can withstand a Prothean beacon. What’s really annoying is that the roots of good characters are there in ME:A it’s just that the writers they hired utterly ignored them. Take Drack for example. The majority of his loyalty quest should have been a primary quest for Kesh, and his loyalty quest should have involved him becoming a more obvious cyborg using either Heleus or Remnant tech as the Milky Way tech keeping him alive failed. Boom, instantly a much more memorable character with interesting design possibilities, with the added benefit that his cybernetic enhancements become something that are shown, not told. Much better storytelling.

      • ravenshrike says:

        Note, according to IMDB ME1 cost 2.7 million to make, but that just seems low. Might not be though, and assuming it’s true means there’s even less of an excuse for the utter mehness of the ME:A characters.

      • Crimsoneer says:

        That is a damn awesome idea. Drak grievously injured, the team their backs against the wall until he heroically saves the day with a badass remnant robot arm.

  4. Antsy says:

    I loathe Bioware need to have the romance system in general, but yes, the way they do it doesn’t help. It’s not like the romances have any actual interesting impact on their games characters or narratives (both words used loosely these days). They just seem to be an excuse to have the most embarrassingly awkward interactions and cutscenes they can come up with.

    Honestly Bioware, get over your Second Life fixation.

    • Shadow says:

      I’d wager romance mechanics exist because they sell. It sells to give people their space waifus. Not to mention it contributes to their PR-boosting “inclusiveness”.

      That said, it could be done a lot better, and it’s worrisome that Bioware has barely learned anything about it in 10+ years other than realizing super serious monogamy isn’t the only option out there.

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      sbrn10 says:

      Whereas I feel that it was previously the best part of modern Bioware games — well, not romance per se, but just fun character interactions, of which romance is one! Inquisition was largely forgettable other than its character interactions (I realized the other day that I had literally forgotten who the main bad guy is, and the whole point of the inquisition, but I remember Cassandra reading Varric’s trashy romance novels because that was hilarious); the most of the best parts of the ME trilogy were its character arcs (I admit that I was far too invested in my femShep and Liara, but see also Garrus, Tali, and Wrex).

      Andromeda is absolutely shit at it, yes, and Bioware has ALWAYS been hit and miss so it’s not like they were consistently good at it before, but it’s not like anyone plays a Bioware game for the stellar combat or the clever level design, you know?

    • dskzero says:

      They don’t have to add anything, but they could just happen organically. I had a romance with Liara in Mass Effect 3 because she was nice and the entire interactions seemed ot lead to that.

      It doesn’t seem that way in Andromeda.

      • LexW1 says:

        It’s as much that way in ME:A as it is in ME3, for sure. The article is engaging in a lot of hyperbole, and some of it is confused as a result of him thinking the only way to do romance is to press flirt every single time it comes up, which it isn’t in ME:A.

  5. Gordon Shock says:

    Geez all screenshots in this article make the game looks like it was made 5-7 years ago.

    I’ve seen some videos where they show the “payoff” of dozens of hours of play and boy it looks and feels lame. Same old “people get down while the camera pans away” BS just top not shock the parents of the teen the plays the game.

    Why can’T EA/Bioware assume that adults will play and treat romance like The Witcher did, as in mature, sophisticated and real…to the end.

    Yeah I am still bummed that I couldn’t romance Samara.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      It doesn’t look quite as bad at the highest settings, but I had to turn them down to a mix of high+medium because the game is a real hog for some reason.

    • karnak says:

      “Why can’T EA/Bioware assume that adults will play and treat romance like The Witcher did, as in mature, sophisticated and real…to the end.”

      Maybe because the Bioware devs are mostly a bunch of nerds who probably lack a lot of social skills and have very few skills/experience in the complexities of human sexual psychology.
      It’s just a theory. And maybe a very dumb one.
      Or maybe it’s not as dumb as it may seem.

      It’s a fact of life that people with more culture and education fuck much less than people with less culture and education.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        So do you have anything to back that claim up, or?

      • Shadow says:

        I’d rather put my money on the evidently low writing budget, combined with a probable low priority for intricate romances if Bioware perceived, rightly or otherwise, that the majority of the target audience just wants to bone space babes.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If an action/RPG has to include romance options, then the Witcher (at least the last one) is a great example. But to be fair, it’s easier to pull off when the scope is narrowed down to just two or three choices-with-consequences and a single axis of female companions for a hetero male player character.

      They don’t even have to establish why Geralt would be interested, because every one of the romance options in Witcher 3 already has a history with him from previous games in the series, or the books. They’re basically an extended family at that point.

      I give Bioware credit for including options ranging all the way to cross-species hookups with aliens, however implausible the mechanics of that might be. I just wish they had writers that could handle it competently. And they seem to be getting worse at it, based on what I’ve seen in Andromeda so far. I’ve followed a few flirt lines, but haven’t bumped uglies with anyone yet. I’m afraid to see what the writing is like for the finale. Might take the celibate path this time around.

    • dog2 says:

      If Bioware are topping my parents, I’d get the feeling the game was a little too shocking.

  6. Whelp says:

    I think the PB romance was okay.

  7. Talahar says:

    I don’t even played the game yet, but I looked at the list of romanceable characters, and not a single one of them enticed me in any way. Just another way in which Andromeda is a let down. :-/

  8. brucethemoose says:

    Best romance in Andromeda?

    S.A.M. and Ryder.

    No, it’s not a romance romance, but their relationship is very… intimate. Kinda familial. It’s one of the more interesting relationships anywhere in Mass Effect.

    I’m not finished yet, but I’m already hoping that S.A.M. makes it to Andromeda 2. I felt that way about most of my ME2 squad, whereas I’m kinda hoping everyone but SAM/Drak perishes by the end. And I don’t think Drak will go down that easy anyway :P

  9. punkass says:

    If you look at great literature, it’s clear that love has as much potential to generate excitement, if not more, than violence. Hell, the same is true if you look at French films, or, indeed, much outside the Hollywood blockbuster.

    I can honestly say that talking to a girl I like when I don’t know if they like me back has been as thrilling as the riots I’ve been in or when I’ve fallen from a moving train whilst chasing thieves. It gives you a real risk, a real sense of the potential of loss.

    Maybe it’s just the fact that most games are still power trips that makes most gaming romance utterly perfunctory and boring. ‘Press X to win heart’ gives no stakes and shows the utter hollowness at the heart of most games.

    Maybe it’s a hangover from the fact that many games are set up with you trying to ‘complete’ the dialogue tree rather than have a proper conversation. I don’t talk to people to get information. I talk to build relationships, to enjoy a way of getting somewhere that neither of us expect, to reach somewhere new. That is the joy and excitement of human relationships, and perhaps it’s something that games, in their current goal-driven state, will have difficulty achieving. But perhaps, until they do, romance in games will seem like another task to complete, another icon to hoover up off a map, even if it’s purely a mental one.

  10. Buggery says:

    Why not make an RPG where you can’t fuck anything?

    Or maybe an RPG where you must fuck everything up to and including one of each type of weapon and furnishing?

    Like I get that these games are wish fulfillment fantasy nerd garbage but ultimately there is absolutely nothing about “romancing” characters in games that feels anything like more than fulfilling a win condition, like playing an erotic fighting fantasy book or getting a Steam Achievement except instead of a stupid pun you get 20 seconds of awkward character modelling.

    I’m not saying games shouldn’t include the idea of romance, but games writers are absolutely terrible at it. It all boils down to fulfilling conditions until you unlock mashing genitals. Where’s the bit where you spend an awkward evening watching a bad movie because you wanted to impress them by showing you like artistic stuff? The bit where you have to pretend to be likeable when meeting their family or friends? Why does it always have to end in sex, instead of having that be the bit the precedes the actual relationship part of the relationship?

    • LexW1 says:

      I’m taking it you haven’t actually played the games you’re criticising?

      Had you done so, you might be aware that several of those criticisms are actually rather outdated and silly, because what you’re wishing existed already does.

      • Buggery says:

        Nope, I played the entire series. Try again matey, or at least come up with a less tired handwaving away of criticism.

        • LexW1 says:

          You’re criticising “RPGs” though, on the basis on ME1-3.

          You want concrete examples – “The bit where you have to pretend to be likeable when meeting their family or friends?” – Happens in ME:A if you romance Jaal. Obvs. it’s up to you whether you’re “pretending”, but it’s an RPG, so…

          “Why does it always have to end in sex, instead of having that be the bit the precedes the actual relationship part of the relationship?” – This is LITERALLY how Peebee’s romance works in ME:A.

          “Why not make an RPG where you can’t fuck anything?”

          Pillars of Eternity? I mean, technically there are hookers, but there was a conscious decision to not put in any romances.

          Guess what?

          It feels slightly unnatural and a bit weird as a result and pushes all the NPCs into a sort of box, and the developers decided to add some romances (only where it works/makes sense, according to them) to the sequel, not due to public demand, either – fans were quite split on this issue, and there were plenty sneering at all romance in all games.

  11. ansionnach says:

    Reading this description of Andromeda, I would agree that ME1 still takes some beating in its terribleness here. I tried to avoid romance completely but still ended up with Liara. This was very annoying when it came to the climactic scene which was like a slow-motion car crash in which somebody rammed into you without so much as a by-your-leave.

    I get what is meant by how the Liara romance works in ME2, even though she’s put in the fridge for that game and it’s only in the Shadow Broker DLC that you really get to interact with her. Perhaps this “she has her own life” bit was purely accidental. I don’t think it was entirely convincing as it ended up being more “I really love you but I’ve got this completely contrived reason to not be in the game. Buy my DLC, though, and I’m all yours again. The transformation of Liara from wide-eyed to badass really didn’t work for me. In spite of this, I do largely agree that it is good.

    Perhaps there are other relationships that work better for me such as Samara and Thane as a straight man. These are even more about what isn’t written without the bizarre personality transplant Liara gets. I also like the Jacob fraternal relationship and that with Garrus (although that really requires ME3’s target practice to be fully appreciated). Needless to say, Legion is possibly the greatest character of the lot and perhaps the only one with which you have consistently satisfying interactions all the way to the end.

    Anyway, yeah, like others have said you’re wrong here because 1 != 2.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Getting put in the fridge means something a little bit different in most situations. Am I missing something serious, here?

    • ansionnach says:

      Missed in the edit timeout: some of the best moments with Liara are where nothing happens but emotional support. This may be more in ME3, though. It’s the familiarity and comfort in each other’s presence that works here, too. This might be similar to the Garrus “brothers forever” relationship over the trilogy in that he had a not-entirely convincing transplant into ME2 as someone completely different. In this case you may not have always been close but he was there as the seasons changed – you grew old together. Mass Effect (1) is problematic in a lot of ways – poor combat, thin plotting, superficial characters and I would say it’s the greatest failure as an RPG (role-playing isn’t about junk identikit gear and inflated stats). ME2 is where it shines and ME3 has some good highlights provided you consider the game ended at the team talk before the final mission.

      Back to Liara and perhaps the real high point is the bit in Shadow Broker where she’s back seat driving! Does she so this if you’re not involved? Humour wins out in the end!

    • ansionnach says:

      That was supposed to be a reply to LexW1.

    • lglethal says:

      Just a quick comment on the Liara suddenly becoming cold and a badass. That is actually explained really well in one of the Dark Horse Mass Effect Comics. But ist completely f%&king stupid that they didnt cover the erasons at all in the game. Having played ME2 first and then read the Comic, it was so enlightnening “Ahh thats why she was like that!” I still cant understand why the hell they didnt include the info in the game, it would have taken about 2 minutes of set up and everyone would have been happy.

      Anyway, if your interested grab the ME Comics (I believe Liara’s Story is covered in the Redemption series), they are actually pretty good! :)

      • ansionnach says:

        Could it be that it wasn’t in the games because it simply wasn’t there at all? Perhaps whoever did the graphic novels had to pull a bit of a Houdini act to come up with an explanation afterwards? I don’t know.

        Really, a lot of the characters from the first game, even the supporting ones are shelved, dropped or given a personality transplant because they want a fresh slate (and maybe they just weren’t very good in the first game). Tali might be an exception as her differences are more like a development than a renaissance (memory?). Pressly is a good example here as he was really just in the first game as a bit of a plot device and that purpose had already been served in the first game. It’s pretty weak writing regardless of whether the character is man, woman, child, animal, vegetable or mineral. They need to have more to them than simply a way for the writer to beat you with a message or have somebody die because it’s sad and that somehow makes the story “dark” and not just juvenile (I’m looking at The Force Awakens here).

  12. brgillespie says:

    It’d be nice if they’d remove these vapid romance subplots entirely and re-purpose the required development time on other areas of the game.

    • sege says:

      Really?! I was thinking remove all the other boring stuff from the game that no one likes like, quests, combat, leveling up (assuming this game has leveling up?) and just give us what we really want, Dating Simulator in Spaaaaaaccee!!! :)

      • Buggery says:

        I’d be fine with just one or the other really. Make the Mass Effect romance simulator, or the Mass Effect RPG game.

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          Grizzly says:

          I’d love to see a Bioware make the player take on the role of cupid, bringing his or her party members together and helping them find love.
          It’s a bit like the Sims but you being a physical presence in the game world.

  13. mercyRPG says:

    What a heap of junk! People who buy this fully deserve what they get! Mass Effect series ended with 3.

    • yer taffin me says:

      For me, it’s a moot point since I won’t be buying for the sole reason it’s EA (been boycotting EA for years). It’s actually quite sad this article has too many comments from too many idiots apparently OK with actually funding EA? WHO ARE these people??

  14. unraveler says:

    We’ll bang, OK?

    • Jeremy says:

      Take it easy Shakespeare, that’s one too many syllables for a line of Bioware dialog. We’re not trying to win any Pulitzers here.

  15. PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

    I donno. I was a Nintendoid before coming to PC so I’m more geared towards gameplay rather than narrative driven gaming. To me, games like mass effect, fallout and skyrim are just jam packed with lots and lots and lots of content, but there’s no substance..

  16. Spuzzell says:

    I’ve always completely ignored the romancing aspect of Mass Effect, though I accidentally seduced Miranda in 2, which. Fine.

    I just can’t get over how embarrassing it is to pretend its either hot or meaningful. It’s really not either of those things.

    Saints Row 4 did it far better:

    *entire romance subgame*

    You: “Hey Kinzie, wanna fuck?”

    Kinzie: “Lets GO.” -punches you in face, jumps on you, fade to black-

  17. Masky says:

    Clearly you should have romanced Vetra :P

    Kidding aside, while I do think Inquisition did romances better(reactivity & scenes), I’m kinda appalled that author finds Liara romance to be compelling ._. Her romance is incredibly bland for something that can continue through all three games.

    Anyhoo, romance is stupid anyway, but I think its nice at least one developer tries to develop popcorn cheese romances outside of dating sim creators. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Obsidian did same romance thing(Pillars of Eternity 2 cough cough) and they would instead be praised since everyone knows Bioware sucks nowdays :D

    (everyone should romance Vetra though, that cow steak was hilarious. And I’m sure that would baffle statistic readers at Bioware)

  18. KastaRules says:

    I completely agree. My favorite part in the trilogy (romance wise) is the Shadow Broker DLC for ME2 in which Liara and Shep’ have a fight cause he cheated on her with Jack: “Yes you came back, and I have been tossed aside for a tattooed woman with anger issues!”

    I thought that was an excellent way of showing you that your choices made an impact on the other characters, great writing indeed.

    She took him back in the end; couldn’t really blame Shepard, after all he was only looking for affection and Liara wasn’t available to be romanced (again) till the DLC came out.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That scene in the Shadow Broker DLC was the only time I was ever actually impressed with Bioware’s writing with these romance bits.

      I had committed to a relationship with Tali in ME2, so it was apparently written to cover several different options. I don’t remember a fight as much as just a sad, “are you sure?” and then Liara being resigned to it. I was surprised it was written so well. Everyone was acting like adults, realizing that you can’t have everything and choices matter. Something completely absent in Andromeda, so far.

      • KastaRules says:

        One day we will look back at “the good ol’ days” when we were young and videogames had decent writing, only to despise the newer generations mindlessly bashing their keys/buttons/touschscreens (or whatever device will be in use) with no higher purpose. XD

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