BioWare’s Mass Effect series is one of the most popular RPGs of the modern gaming era. The focus on a detailed storyline with choices that affected your options across the entire original trilogy was an inspired effort that hasn’t been attempted by many other games. Giving gamers the opportunity to create their own unique space opera within the diverse galaxy and lore of Mass Effect is a truly unique experience. With an expansive amount of dialogue options, relationship possibilities, loyalties to earn and mission paths, there are several outcomes for each type of player.
However, each game also came with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The first Mass Effect was a decent introduction thanks to a magnificent story, but was hampered by repetitive gameplay and clunky mechanics, Mass Effect 2 set the bar for excellence and was a great improvement, while Mass Effect 3 polarized fans of the series with a lackluster ending that saw them releasing an alternate as free DLC.
Despite all of the positive things that EA and BioWare have accomplished with Mass Effect, the series has been far from perfect. Everything ranging from glitchy animations to media controversy have plagued this series from the first title. There have just as many things that EA would hope that consumers have long forgotten as there are things they want remembered. Prepare to take off your rose colored glasses and look at the bad and the ugly that the Mass Effect franchise has presented us with over the years.
15 Mass Effect 1: Combat System
The original Mass Effect was our first time taking control of Commander Shepard and leading the diverse crew of the Normandy starship. It was exciting to watch the story unfold as Shepard and his team pursued the rogue agent Saren across the galaxy in an attempt to end his scheme to bring back an ancient evil force back to rule the cosmos with an iron fist. Well, it was until it was time to actually fight against those enemy forces.
The combat system in Mass Effect was clunky, the controls were simply not intuitive and didn’t flow well with the rest of the game design. Actions such as taking cover would often have you sticking to the wrong surface and result in you getting pumped full of lead. The aiming wasn’t tight either and often saw you flailing wildly hoping to land a shot when firefights became hectic. Luckily, they got the formula right for the subsequent releases.
14 Mass Effect 2: Space Mining
Exploring the vastness of space in Mass Effect is one of its key features. The ability to go to different planets for missions is cool and brings about plenty of reminiscing of watching old episodes of Star Trek. Landing and interacting with the inhabitants of the planet, whether it be friendly or hostile, helped to breath life into the game and make the stakes feel that much higher for you. Space travel was awesome, until it came time for you to upgrade your ship in ME2.
The space mining sections that had to be completed to upgrade your ships shields and navigation, among other things, was boring and tedious. You basically moved a radar icon across the surface of the planets and hoped to get a ding. At which point you would launch a probe to extract the precious resources the planet held within. The first few times weren’t so bad, as it was kind of immersive to have to actually mine for resources, but by the fifth time, the novelty had long worn off.
13 Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Reviews
Mass Effect Andromeda’s reviews were the worst that the franchise has received in its lineage. It seemed to be universally off-putting to gamers and critics alike. While it maintains a respectable percentage on most of the review aggregator sites, the reviews themselves aren’t very in their descriptions of the game. Giant Bomb in particular was quite harsh in the nicest way possible, “Andromeda largely feels like a shoddily assembled facsimile of the previous Mass Effect games.”
Most outlets agree that this was not a fitting follow-up to the stellar trilogy that preceded this release.With the announcement of Anthem at the 2017 E3 Expo, it seems clear that BioWare and EA are moving on from the Mass Effect series in hopes of launching a new, more successful IP in the science fiction realm.
12 Mass Effect 1: Confusing Item Management System
Mass Effect has a ton of unique, futuristic gear that will be at your disposal as you blow away aliens, robots and the occasional human in your efforts to save the galaxy. There’s no better feeling than entering one of the numerous space stations, armed to the teeth and ready to launch war against anyone on the wrong side of the battle. The feeling lasted right up until it was time to equip a new weapon into your loadout.
The inventory system in the inaugural Mass Effect was convoluted and was difficult to navigate. There seemed to be an endless sea of menus with each selection opening yet another page of options for you to select from. The option to break down unwanted weapons into resources for upgrading the ones you cherished most was a nice touch. However, the amount of effort it took to get to that point threatened to keep you from even attempting the chore.
11 Mass Effect 1: The First TV Commercial
The first Mass Effect was riding a well-deserved wave of hype as its release day was approaching. It had become a gaming media darling as the gamer masses prepared to venture into the universe that BioWare had built for us. There was palpable excitement for many to embark into the deep space opera storyline that hadn’t been attempted at this level.
Then the first commercial dropped and did nothing to show us the depth of choices and gameplay we would encounter when we booted the game up. It basically just showed Shepard, Garrus and Ashley standing around the cockpit listening to a distress call with worried looks on their faces before deciding they were going to let that situation run its course and blast off to another planet. This doesn’t illustrate the feeling of making difficult choices in the game, it just makes them come across like heartless monsters. The game itself actually makes this moment resonate on an emotional level, but the commercial just comes across like a missed opportunity.
10 Mass Effect 3: Day 1 DLC
Mass Effect 3 just wasn’t able to avoid controversy when it was released. Gamers complained about it being a copy-paste of Mass Effect 2, they said the ending was a horribly unsatisfying conclusion to the trilogy (more on that later) and they were upset about the fact it felt like their actions in past games had no real bearing on the outcome of the game. The cinematic ride that we had all been on was ending on an extremely sour note.
One particularly egregious offense was that EA had the audacity to ship the game with release day DLC. Needless to say, gamers were pissed that EA would be so greedy and require gamers to pay extra money for content that should have been included with the game itself. It was even more infuriating to find out the DLC mission also gave the player access to a party member that they would not be available otherwise. The $10 price tag was still pretty steep for the amount of content the player actually received.
9 Mass Effect 1: Ashley’s Xenophobia
Ashley was one of the original crew members onboard the Normandy. She was basically your right-hand woman throughout the campaign thanks to Kaiden’s general uselessness and his boring personality. She was a trusty companion in battle and had no problem holding her own against the swarms of enemies you encountered on various planets. The only downside was her beliefs about the various alien races that humanity has encountered throughout the galaxy.
Ashley is basically a human supremacist and makes this known on every occasion possible. He distrust of all of the alien allies is cringe-worthy and makes you look at her character in a completely different light. Things come to a head when she kills Wrex with barely a second thought when he goes into a rage after the events of a particularly sensitive mission. I always wondered if she was so quick with the trigger because of her beliefs or because she genuinely felt like she was in danger.
8 Series: Terrible Side Missions
The side quests in the first Mass Effect are universally panned by most gamers that consider them to be playing the same mission, with the same level design with maybe a palette swap of the enemies or a new end objective. Most RPGs are known for having a dearth of uninspired quests for you to do outside of the main game, but they generally have at least one or two that stand out. Some even become legendary in the gaming community due to the depth or emotional resonance that they can produce.
One saving grace was that the side missions seemed to have actual stories that would have gone somewhere if the levels themselves weren’t so redundant. Truly a missed opportunity to make a great experience even better. They did improve on the side missions to some extent in later games, but it wasn’t quite as progressive as it could have been.
7 Mass Effect 1: Fox News Controversy
Upon Mass Effect’s release, it was the subject of a bizarre controversy brought about by an interview on Fox News with a person that barely knew anything about video games in general, let alone Mass Effect. Back in 2008, Cooper Lawrence came on Fox News to condemn Mass Effect and its makers. She was quoted as saying that the game was filled with “full digital nudity and sex.” This led to outrage from gamers, especially when it was discovered that she had never even played the game and was only quoting what she had heard from someone else.
Lawrence was quoted as saying she, “had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said, 'It's like adult films.' It's really not though, as I've seen episodes of 'Lost' that are more sexually explicit." She then went on to say, "In hindsight, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to play this game before appearing on the program." Gamers were not pleased and took the battle to the comments section of Amazon of her recent book. They left hundreds of negative reviews, stating they didn’t have to actually read the book to know it was horrible; they already heard it from someone else. Game, set, match.
6 Entire Series: Lack Of Character Customization Options
The character creation system in the Mass Effect series leaves much to be desired. Sure you can make your characters facial features be truly unique thanks to the extensive system in place for that, but everything else is lacking. With only a handful of hairstyles available, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t another Command Shepard that looks exactly like you elsewhere in the universe. The game was advertised as having one of the deepest and most expansive customization systems available, but it never managed to live up to the hype.
The game is especially short on options for people of color, with a limited range of skin tones available and with hairstyles that don’t represent the variety of textures and styles that people of color wear. It’s a common sleight in video games, but you would think in a galaxy with advanced technology and alien races, there would be more options than afros and cornrows to represent people of color.
5 Mass Effect 3: Space Edition
In what is possibly one of the most ill-conceived advertising campaigns imaginable, EA decided to launch two copies of Mass Effect 3 into outer space via weather balloons. The balloons contained all kinds of cool Mass Effect branded swag like clothing, collectible and, of course, the game itself. They were to be found and claimed by fans when the weather balloons descended. Technical difficulties plagued the high-tech scavenger hunt leaving participants without a way to adequately track the locations of the landed payloads.
Some were unable to be recovered due to the balloons landing on private property in some instances. One of the London launches landed on a farm and the prospective scavengers were actually attacked by cows as they attempted to retrieve it. This was far from a failure, however, but EA would probably you rather forget this strange attempt at creative marketing.
4 Mass Effect 1: The Mako
Planet exploration is a big part of Mass Effect. Most people wouldn’t want to traverse the entire expanse of a planet on foot, so the developers decided to give you a form of transportation in the Mako vehicle. It was kind of like amphibious assault vehicle or a less cool version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles van. Sadly, many gamers groaned any time they were forced to get behind the wheel of the cumbersome tank to complete a task.
The Mako was slow and the controls were clunky while trying to maneuver the large hunk of metal across the various types of terrain you encountered, as it was laborious to even turn around to inspect an item of interest. The weapons seemed to lack any real punch and felt like you blasting away at enemies with a baseball-loaded slingshot. Don’t even get me started about the repetitive deployment cutscene every time you landed on a planet.
3 Mass Effect: Andromeda: Facial Animations
The facial animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda are horrible. It’s almost as if they were created with no regard for actual human emotional responses. There is a complete detachment from immersion as we watch cringeworthy expressions of joy, anger and confusion. The character’s faces seem to be continuously glitching and contorting into polygon madness. There have been a number of sources that have come out to say what some of the possible reasons for this could have been.
The most frequent reason cited so far has been outsourcing of the facial animations to outside studios in other countries to cut costs. It has also been reported that designers in BioWare’s home studio offered their services to do extra work on the human models because they knew that they weren’t up to par. Another possible reason being discussed has been an over-reliance on 3D Scan technology to save time on sculpting and creating the models. Whatever the issue was, it certainly piled on more issues to an already troubled product.
2 Entire Series: Your Choices Affect The World
One of the most touted features of the Mass Effect series is that your save files from each game can be transferred into the next game in the series. It was supposedly so that you you could bring the choices you’d made along to haunt you or help you. It was a noble idea and one that caught the attention of gamers that were yearning for more out of their interactive experience.
It was mostly a complete lie. There were very few instances where it felt like your choices in past games had a truly lasting effect on the events that you would encounter in the later titles. Mass Effect 2 introduced Renegade and Paragon quick time events, but even that didn’t seem like a sufficient use of a supposedly groundbreaking feature. The choices themselves affect the actual in-game loyalties and reactions you receive but it does not have any real measurable effects on the other games in the series.
1 Mass Effect 3: The Ending
This is probably the act that EA hopes that fans of the series would forget the most. The ending negates any choices that you’ve made regarding the universe in the past and was a static ending for all players. The ending is particularly disappointing for people that have invested a great deal of time into developing their characters and making the right choices for their ideal outcome. It caused a major backlash against EA and BioWare for what many gamers considered to be a lazy conclusion to an otherwise epic series.
The outrage was so significant that the companies released free DLC that allowed players an opportunity to view the extended cut cinematics which were intended to bring a more fitting end to your journey with Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. You know they seriously want you to forget about something when EA, a company known for notorious microtransactions, gives away free DLC to insure that gamers don’t turn their backs on them and their products.