In preparation for Mass Effect Legendary Edition, I recently finished Mass Effect: Andromeda for the first time. Over the course of several weeks, I played through a handful of major side missions, scanned over 50 planets, drove the NOMAD up and down mountains, and bested the Archon. But as the credits rolled on Andromeda, I didn't long for a sequel – even though it's clearly set up for one. Instead, I found myself daydreaming about the original trilogy, a testament to how strong the characters of Mass Effect are and how comparatively weak the Andromeda squad is.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition introduces new players to some of the best characters ever written for a video game franchise and will let returning players reunite with their virtual best friends. Whether it's your squad's varied and passionate motivations for joining you on the adventure, their emotionally engaging loyalty missions, or the fleshed-out romance options that have the potential to break your heart, there's just no comparison when it comes to the original Mass Effect trilogy.
If you want to look back in the annals of history to discover some of the earliest examples of shipping culture, you'll find Garrus Vakkarian and Tali'Zorah nar Rayya fan art. There's a reason BioWare has leaned into the Garrus hype in the marketing material for Legendary Edition - they know that the original trilogy's characters are a special kind of beloved, evoking a kind of burning passion that's difficult to find in video games. Igniting that kind of passion for fictional characters starts with Mass Effect 1's core crew, who can follow you through the entire trilogy if you play your cards right (with an exception or two).
Humans Kaidan Alenko and Ashley Wiliams join automatically, but Liara T'Soni, Urdnot Wrex, Garrus Vakarian, and Tali'Zorah nar Rayya join up in a variety of interesting (and organic) ways. Wrex joins because he wants to kill someone you're already after. Garrus because he's sick of bureaucratic red tape and knows you'll cut right through it. Tali tags along after you save her life because she's curious about the geth. Liara joins because you save her, and because she's a Prothean fangirl. Ultimately, they all join Shepard because she's a natural leader, an igniter of passions that a group of disparate aliens can rally behind.
BioWare cleverly keeps the squad numbers low in Mass Effect 1 so you can get to know and love these core characters. Ashley Williams certainly comes off like a hyper-religious space racist at first, but spend some time with her and you'll see she's got some room to grow. Kaidan Alenko is a powerful biotic, but struggles with the ramifications of his own powers, and you'll watch as he decides to finally use his biotic abilities against living creatures because of the horrors you stumble upon as crew. You'll need to choose to save the life of either Ashley or Kaidan more than halfway through Mass Effect 1, and it's a harrowing decision.
You'll learn more about Liara's troubling relationship with her mother, who's working with the game's main antagonist, and discover just how adorably awkward the asari can be. Tali will open up about the loss of her mother to an airborne virus and her people's struggle with the geth. Garrus will give you multiple reasons to fall in love with him, making it even more frustrating that you can't romance him until Mass Effect 2. Wrex opens up about the krogan genophage that drastically affects his worldview, so much so that he can die in the late game if you don't handle a confrontation about the genophage correctly. These characters all have dense backgrounds, complex personalities, and personal stakes that can draw you in from the jump.
The personalities of the Mass Effect: Andromeda squad – their reasons for joining and core conflicts – simply can't hold a candle to its predecessor. Like Mass Effect 1, the core crew is just six characters: two humans, an asari, a turian, a krogan, and an angaran. Like Mass Effect 1, the humans – Cora Harper and Liam Kosta – join you right away. But unlike Mass Effect 1, these humans don't feel nearly as multifaceted as their predecessors. Cora is painfully boring and openly jealous of Ryder, while Liam is just a space bro who wants to drink beer on the couch he smuggled from Earth.
Turian Vetra Nyx is one of the strongest characters, but joins your squad early on by simply meandering onto the ship. There's no motivation aside from her wanting to go on an adventure, so unless you invest time into the loyalty mission that centers around her sister, it's difficult to care about her as a character. Asari Peebee joins shortly after you save her life because she wants to research Remnant tech in what is an obvious repeat of Liara T'Soni's story. But where Liara is awkward and charming, Peebee is standoffish and grating, and attempting to woo her is harder than driving the Mako in Mass Effect 1.
The krogan Nakmor Drack tags along because he likes the way you fight. That's it. There's no drive behind his decision aside from the stereotype that krogans love war. The only squadmate with any real motivation to join you is Jaal, an angaran native to the Andromeda galaxy who comes along solely as an observer at the behest of his leader. As you learn more about him and his people, he becomes a valued member of the squad – but Jaal is only one of six squandered opportunities to give us a new batch of characters to fall in love with.
One of Mass Effect: Andromeda's biggest mistakes is that none of the main squadmates can die, no matter what decisions you make. The beauty of the original Mass Effect trilogy is how much it builds up relationships with characters just to rob you of them if you don't make the right decisions – it's a powerful mechanic that makes you agonize over every dialogue option and plot path. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and with no real stakes, it's hard to invest in any of Andromeda's crew.
Mass Effect: Andromeda's crew may be harder to love because they're held to standards set by the original Mass Effect trilogy. It's hard to enjoy romancing Peebee when she's standoffish and flighty, especially when you compare it to your adorably awkward romance with Liara. Vetra has a lot of depth as a character (far more than most of the Andromeda crew), but getting her to fall for you isn't nearly as engrossing as your efforts with Garrus.
Maybe Andromeda's characters just aren't my type, but I'm not the only person who felt this way about the crew - that they fail to sparkle with the special kind of magic that shines forth from key characters like Tali'Zorah and Garrus, and even minor characters like Thane Krios and Zaeed Massani. Returning to these characters with Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a declarative reminder that the original trilogy's crew is unparalleled, both within the Mass Effect franchise and outside of it.
Want to learn more about BioWare's remastered trilogy? Check out our Mass Effect Legendary Edition review in progress