The lights are on
Romance is one of the most popular elements of the Mass
Effect series, and deciding which relationship to pursue is the most difficult
choice for some players to make. After all, who wants to be lonely in space?
And who wants to spend their time on the wrong partner?
BioWare has let us cozy up to various party members through
the years, and each have their own memorable moments. The best part of
exploring romantic arcs is that characters often reveal different sides of
themselves, such as Jack allowing you to see her emotional side, and Garrus
showing he's not always calm and collected when it comes to matters of the heart. For Mass
Effect Andromeda, BioWare wants to make romances more natural and realistic,
featuring different levels of intimacy. While the team isn't ready to talk
about these love connections in detail, we did uncover some basic info by
chatting with creative director Mac Walters.
Moving Forward From
BioWare is trying to evolve what it has previously done with
romances; the team has learned from the original Mass Effect trilogy, and is
taking those ideas in more interesting and believable directions. "We've built
on it [from the trilogy]," Walters says. "We had a strong foundation for how
[romance] was working. For me, typically in the trilogy it was a bit formulaic.
You'd talk to them and then get to that one point in the game where there was
no going and back and romance was going to happen. That's not real life. There
should be some people who just want to hop in the sack immediately. There
should people who are interested in a long-term relationship. There are people
who aren't interested in romance at all."
This means more mature situations and dialogue, as Walters
notes the first Mass Effect spent a great deal explaining the lore of
the world and the different races through the characters than focusing on their
individual personalities. "I think we've moved beyond just doing info dumps on
characters," Walters says. "It comes back to the circumstances. That is what we
should be talking about. What are those people actually thinking right now? I
think that's the mature aspect of it. Let's not ignore everything that's going
on just so we can have a moment to say, 'I love you.'"
The team wants romances to feel legitimate, not like an
artificial game mechanic. Different characters want different things from their
romances, whether it's physical or emotional, and Walters states that some
romances can happen early in the game, while some characters may take longer to
let their guard down. He also confirms that BioWare got rid of what he refers
to as "the hard line," where you're trying to fit in romances before you reach
a certain point and it cuts off the opportunity for a romance to occur.
Walters says the team wanted to make romances more varied
than previous entries. "Just because someone has a romance doesn't mean they
have a longer relationship arc with you," Walters says. The team even re-envisioned
what a romance looks like. As Walters says, "Think of the relationship moment
with Garrus in Mass Effect 3 where you [shoot bottles off the Citadel]. Does it
always have to be, 'Get someone into the bed?' or can it be, 'Let's go have a
bros' moment or a friends' moment.' I think once [our writers] started to think
in those terms, it expanded what those scenes could be like. But if you want to
get down to the sex scene stuff, we got aliens, alien environments...we keep
coming up with unique places to have some interspecies relationships.'"
Walters says the writing team has worked hard to make sure
characters are unique and fun to get to know. "The [characters] that aren't
romanceable should have just as interesting and in-depth an arc as the ones who
do," he says. "That's one thing we did to make it feel more natural. We have
to check ourselves because we know the fans want romances, so the obvious thing
is to make [everyone] romanceable, but that's not real. We're trying to find
the balance between 'yes, it's a game,' but we want to make these characters as
believable as possible and the situations as believable as possible."
This also extends to characters' sexualities. BioWare has
been praised for its diversity and inclusion of various sexual orientations in its
games, but it has also been criticized for shoehorning them in, particularly in
regards to bisexual party members. While characters have various sexual
orientations in Andromeda, Walters said the team made sure that it makes sense
for the individuals, and doesn't just come out of left field. He feels
Andromeda does this much better than past games. "It has to be a part of who
they are," Walters says. "It can't just be, 'We need to have three male and
three female [options].' We do look at the balance and make sure there's good
inclusivity, but I'd much rather say if we need to do that then we have to
rethink that character."
In Andromeda, BioWare wants the relationships between the
characters you see the most to be the strongest, but it also wants to offer
more casual interactions. Not every moment needs to be intense and heavy;
sometimes you'll just go on a casual date. "We tried to deepen the
relationships that you could have with your crew on the Tempest, and some of
the relationships are more minor and minute and aren't even on your ship at
all," Walters says. "There are people that you can find in the world and go on
a date or something like that."
Whether you can romance multiple people comes down to the
character; some will be okay with you dating others, while certain personalities
will feel betrayed. "There are at least a couple that don't seem to care,"
Walters says. While BioWare isn't sharing specific numbers of romanceable
characters, Walters did tease the amount of options in the game. "By my count,
if you include squad, crew, and light romances, we have more romances than
we've ever had before," he says. "And like I said, the relationships are more
in depth than we've had before."
Romance Is Here To
BioWare knows how popular the romances are, but that's not
why the studio includes them. These relationships provide something that no
other element could. "Our games are often about characters, about drama, and
romance just seems to fit in that realm," Walters says. "Even aside from what
Mass Effect has become, I think it just makes sense. You put people in these
stressful situations. There should be tension. There should be love. There
should be all of those ranges of emotions with the characters."
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Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.