The Mass Effect series is one of the most storied sci-fi franchises in current gaming. Winning numerous awards and spawning books, comics, and a potential movie, Bioware’s trilogy created a universe that enthralled millions. Ending on a sour note with the conclusion of the third game, many were surprised when a new entry was announced. With the original narrative wrapped up and fan ire still seething, Bioware had a lot going against it by creating a fourth game.
Issues began to arise in social media. The head of the project was an ardent racist who made vile comments about white people via Twitter. Increasingly leaks came out about how this game would embrace feminist, homosexual and trans culture. This was reinforced by a staff that was predominantly vocal via social media regarding the “ills” of the franchise being a “white male fantasy.” Even the voice actors gave interviews about how this game would veer away from the misygonist tropes of the original trilogy. Gameplay footage was rare even up to the month before release and the game found it’s release date pushed back.
When the game was finally released, it proved a PR disaster. Glitches and bugs were everywhere. The player editor, a highlight of the franchise from game one, had taken several steps back including the near impossibility of creating a white-skinned character. Facial animations proved lifeless largely due to outsourcing as a budgetary measure coupled with an inhouse animator whose primary talent was cosplaying rather than…animating. Fans were quick to voice their opinions, still raw from the travesty of the last game. They hated the new focus of the game, were angry about the bugs, and above all were pissed about the SJW threads woven into the game itself.
I’ll confess, the player editor was a major fail. Something that had allowed me to put myself in the game, literally, and fully immerse myself in the Mass Effect universe was sorely missed. Bioware deserved the lambasting they received especially since their last game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, had the best player editor yet allowing freedoms of personalization that spanned Dragon men to dwarves. This game allowed bad facial tattoos, ugly unrealistic hair styles and colors (everyone wants big pink afros), and a limited preselection of faces virtually impossible to shape to your liking.
But as to the rest: yes, there are homosexual and trans characters but their stories aren’t forced on the player or made a major plotpoint. The story itself can drag in the first act but this is the beginning of an entirely new narrative in a different galaxy. It needs to build an entirely new universe. The bugs were an issue and one the publisher was quick to offer patches on.
The major problem was the fans. I am a diehard fan of Mass Effect and loved Commander Shepherd. Going into this game, I was irritated by the shift from soldier struggling to stop the apocalypse to colonist trying to create a new home. The importance of my mission just didn’t seem “cool” enough. It is definitely a shift from an aggressive masculine franchise to a nurturing feminine one. The first few hours I hated the game but once I embraced the change I loved it. There are still the unique characters, the personal subplots, and the mysteries only deep space can give. There was so much possibility laid out for what was to come…and now it won’t.
Fans were incredibly vocal about their hatred of the game. Not as big a hit as the initial trilogy, low sales coupled with the loud minority made EA, the parent company of Bioware, place future games on hiatus. The studio that made the game was dismantled meaning at best only patches rather than future content is on the horizon.
The game became another victim in the culture wars that has engulfed our country. I am ashamed of my fellow male gamers who bashed the game for having fugly females and ugly aliens. I am also ashamed of the developers who did their best to keep the focus on girl power and LGBTQ issues as if it was the main narrative thread of this game and bashing male gamers at every turn, the same male gamers who had made this franchise succession.
It is sad because despite the controversy I loved this game. The fresh interaction of alien cultures, the hope it engendered of new life among the stars, the questions it asked and the decisions it forced you to make; there was so much potential here. Misunderstanding and posturing not only killed a franchise but also threatens to kill one of the last great RPG studios. This was a game that celebrated differences. Humanity has proven once again why differences serve to divide.