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Mass Effect Andromeda's New Approach To Romance

by Kimberley Wallace on Nov 18, 2016 at 08:00 AM

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 The Trilogy

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.'"

Andromeda's Varying Relationship Types

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 Stay

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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