Mass Effect: Andromeda’s poor reception may be attributed to its troubled production, as recounted by Kotaku. A lengthy behind-the-scenes report details how the game languished in development over the course of five years, with the bulk of it built out in just a year and a half.
BioWare handed its Montreal satellite the keys to Mass Effect in 2012, despite its Edmonton branch handling development for the initial trilogy. The team had a slew of grandiose concepts for Andromeda at first: procedurally generated planets, highly detailed facial animation and expert use of publisher Electronic Arts’ powerful Frostbite engine.
Each of these proved tricky for the team to implement, however. Frostbite in particular gave BioWare Montreal trouble, in part due to the developer’s need to build original features for the game — like its expansive maps and role-playing mechanics — that the engine had difficulty handling. Frostbite wasn’t built for role-playing games, so Andromeda wasn’t the best match for the engine.
“Whenever you’re trying to do something that fits the engine—vehicles, for example—Frostbite handles that extremely well,” one designer told Kotaku. “But when you’re building something that the engine is not made for, this is where it becomes difficult.”
Among other problems was the departure of Casey Hudson in 2014, executive producer of the original trilogy, and other key members. With new team members came countless revisions, and it wasn’t until 2015’s end — when the game was out of pre-production — that the team dumped the core procedural planet element. Story and cinematic elements also lagged behind in a situation where the underlying tech was still constantly changing, and a troublesome facial animation system led to some infamously poor results.
As Kotaku describes, these myriad factors complicated Andromeda’s tight production deadline. Much of this bears out in the final product, which launched to tepid reviews this past March. BioWare has reportedly restructured its Montreal arm, with members now assisting the Edmonton studio instead of working on an Andromeda sequel as initially planned.
Kotaku’s full report goes further in-depth on just how these complications reflect both the unpredictably trying nature of development, as well as how Andromeda is one particularly complex case.