From LGBT representation to animation outsourcing, it’s no secret that Mass Effect Andromeda’s release has been full of scrutiny and disappointment. That feeling carries over when talking about the various races found in Mass Effect Andromeda.
Over the course of Mass Effect’s original trilogy, you could interact with over twenty sentient races and even more were offhandedly mentioned. It was clearly a vast galaxy with a plethora of races out and about in the world. Unfortunately, there was a clear bias toward giving exposition to our squadmates’ races and squadmate adjacent races. Many of the non-crewmate races were undervalued with little lore focus other than a sporadic codex. The problem persisted throughout the trilogy. This means, I already know most of Human, Asari, Turian, Krogan, and Salarian history, but none of what non-squadmate race, the Volus did in the year did in the year 2073 or any other year for that matter.
Logically, you’d want to change that as Mass Effect starts a new series right? Mass Effect has a huge library of aliens with only lightly touched lore. A new entry in the serious should explore races that have yet to enjoy the limelight right? That’s where Mass Effect Andromeda would disagree with you. Instead of giving the spotlight to any of Mass Effect’s many underappreciated species, the bias towards original trilogy squadmate races is continued.
In Mass Effect Andromeda, the main cast of characters yet again consists of mostly Turians, Asari, Krogans, and Humans. They’re all decently written characters, but I expect more than this shallow pool of aliens from Mass Effect. There are tons of untapped races to choose from, and each by their very presence would both make the world more interesting and expand lore. Characters in space operas aren’t just there for their own narratives, they’re also vehicles to bring unknown cultures to focus.
For example, why not give a Vorcha some starring role in the Andromeda crew? They’ve only been briefly seen as characters in Mass Effect with a mere 3 of them actually being named. Additionally, those named were only done so to highlight them in a gunfight. Comparatively, the aforementioned squadmate races(Krogans, Humans, Asari, Salarians) all have at least a double digits worth of named characters with the lowest amount being from the Krogans at 15 named characters.
Vorcha lore is ripe to be written by the developers. Maybe even make one a romance option for Ryder? If I can romance a pointy stegosaurus-like Turian, why can’t I romance a member of his demon-like alien contemporary race, the Vorcha? Try making it female to further expand Vorcha lore. Just do something to change up the current formula and please let me romance Lyanne the Vorcha.
To Bioware’s credit, there is one bastion of diversity on your crew, Jaal who belongs to a brand new race of people. He’s member of a race found native to Aya, a planet in the Andromeda system. Disappointingly, he and his race don’t bring anything of interest to Mass Effect. They’re basically humans with purple skin. Almost everything from tech to culture is exactly the same as what you find in human civilization. The only difference between Humans and Angara is their narrative with the Kett, another new race in the Andromeda Galaxy.
While that’s definitely a step forward, it’s hardly useful. I want aliens in the game that aren’t just a skin deep variation of the norm. Meeting a new race shouldn’t feel like you’re just meeting a person who purchased a droid instead of the iPhone. There should be senses of wonder, curiosity, and surprise in a races introduction, something that hooks you in. You don’t even need to change too much to accomplish this. For example, Quarians might act fairly human in personality, but the simple sight of their masks draw you in. This makes it obvious from the start that Quarians experience the world in a fundamentally different way than humans. Every race in a Mass Effect game should be like that.
Having varying races in the spotlight only enhances lore and makes me want to come back for the next installment. Luckily, Bioware still has the chance to include a more diverse cast of races in any further story expansions. The Andromeda Galaxy has many unexplored planets and there are multiple initiative crewmates still in cryosleep that could wake up to be any number of races. Please Bioware, if you make a follow-up to Mass Effect Andromeda, focus on any race other than the normal squad of Humans, Turians, Krogans, and Asari. They’re boring and their lore feels exhausted.