In my previous article I spoke about the squad members in Mass Effect Andromeda and how well written they were. But I also neglected to mention the crew members, who are equally important to your mission. And there’s a good reason for that. Whereas the squad mates have interesting personalities and character arcs your other ship mates are one-dimensional and dull as fuck.
I can understand why a ship mate would be more difficult to write than a squad mate. You don’t get to spend as much time with them, bonding over your favourite television shows and pizza toppings. They can’t share their opinions on all the weird places you visit and there’s no snooping in everything you do! The friendship will always be one-sided: you always drag your ass to the ship and talk to them on that same spot that they absolutely never leave in their entire life. So of course it’s difficult to bond, as the game only allows you to ask questions that are related to their profession and the reasons why they came to Andromeda. You know, that stuff that allows you to really form a connection with each other. Nothing so silly or fancy as talking about the things you two enjoy, your favourite food, stuff you guys hate. Nah, none of that shit. You can talk about the ship! Or some fauna and flora. Real loose stuff.
One thing that is noticeable is that they all have a quirk. This one silly/strange trait that is intended to make them more human-like: Lexi has a crush on Drack, Suvi has a fondness for tea, Kallo is a gossip and Gil just loves poker. And sure, it brings a few moments of actual interaction, but it feels like something the writers slapped on top of it all because they realised these characters were dull and needed a little somethin’ somethin’. Instead of, you know, actually writing proper characters!
The first crew member you meet is Lexi, voiced by the lovely Natalie Dormer. The reason I mentioned her name is because I really feel that Lexi was written as a plot-related character that also accommodated Natalie and not the other way around. Our beloved Reach queen has a wonderfully soothing voice and I always calm down whenever I hear her talk. But the Asari doctor herself is dreadfully boring: she’s nothing more than a doctor: caring for her patients, focused on her work, an intellectual and fascinated by the new Kett anatomy. It’s very obvious that she needs to drive the plot forward. She just NEEDS to dissect the Kett corpses so that we can learn their dark little secrets. And she just NEEDS to express the dangers of an AI several times to show the player that maybe SAM is not as harmless as we think it is. But beyond that she doesn’t do much. She has no social life and she doesn’t seem to do very much on the ship except chase after Peebee to probe her beautiful mind. Hell, the most memorable scene is when she gets drunk and asks you if you find her too heavy and all protocol. You can’t even romance her because of her desire to see you as nothing but a patient. Though of course this doesn’t deny her a chance to crush heavily on Drack, which is honestly the only point of comedic value this character derives. I guess she’s attracted to very muscular men…
The second female character is Suvi, a human scientist on board the Tempest to investigate new bio-material, samples and to provide healthy, yet terrible tasting snacks for the movie night. Suvi consists of two elements: her never-ending curiosity to explore new terrain and her religious beliefs. I honestly don’t mind her being a god believer, because many scientists in history have been religious and were inspired to do research because of that. But what I did not like about it was that you can’t really argue about it. This is another one of those “tolerant SJW” elements of the game: you can only really agree to disagree, no matter how much you might be against it. While this would be practical for work reasons it’s not realistic. Such things often cause friction between people and it would’ve been interesting to actually explore this as a character arc: two people being unwilling to find common ground at first and through serious and many discussions eventually agree to disagree. That would’ve been a lot better than just the one conversation and the one question afterwards on the subject. But she loves tea! And she’s running out! Why was that never a quest? I would’ve loved chasing after new tea samples.
Our third character is Kallo, the only Salarian member of the team. Honestly, he’s the most one dimensional character of the bunch, to the point where he only seems to be there to have a rivalry with Gil. Kallo can be considered a traditional blueprint flyer. He wants the ship (the Tempest) to remain as it was when he designed it. So naturally he’s angry at Gil, who changes things on the fly if he thinks it’ll improve the ship’s performances. And that’s what it all boils down to from the start: a rivalry that eventually culminates in a fight between the two where you have to decide. Whatever you may decide, both people will instantly agree with you. You know, real human behaviour. Don’t you remember all those fights you’ve had with a classmate you just couldn’t get along with? To the point that your teacher had to step in to stop it? Don’t you remember all those feelings between you instantly erasing? Why, I can only imagine that the two of you went for some tea and biscuits later in the afternoon and to this day the two of you cuddle whenever you see each other. Maybe a teasing kiss on the cheek?
Though maybe I’m too harsh, they do seem to somewhat grudingly make up afterwards. Still, it doesn’t feel like a transition. Just a conflict the writers wanted to force and then resolve before movie night.
One thing that is good about Kallo, I guess, is that he’s a “gossip.” He’s happy to tell you his opinions about the other squad mates and… that’s it. There could’ve been so much more. For one thing it would’ve been better if he would update his opinions as he spent more time with the other characters. Or that he had pertinent stuff to say about interactions between characters or events. You know, like an ACTUAL gossip that pisses everyone the fuck off by spreading their dark secrets. What we get now is one conversation option per character about how he feels when he meets them.
The final character, and second half of the wonderful conflict, is our beloved Gil. The first thing to mention here is that he’s gay, which would explain why Kallo and Gil seem to be having these homoerotic tensions going around. More than once I felt the need, like any sane, professional and competent person, to scream at my screen that they should just fuck and get it over with.
Beyond this conflict Gil feels like the best written character of the bunch. He’s a “free spirit” my man, who prefers to do things his way and use that freedom to upgrade and enhance the ship the way he wants. The thing about being a free spirit is that it actually brings about a flaw that you can explore in this game: he doesn’t want to settle and he happens to have this female friend who wants to have his baby. You know, normal couple stuff. Except they’re not a couple… Or sexually interested in each other… She just wants his baby. Did I mention that he’s a romance option?
Of course Gil is not ready at all, as nobody would in that position. You, as his beloved leader, can resolve this however you like and, after a few poker matches, the two of you become fast friends.
Oh yes, poker seems to be an important free time activity throughout the entire game. It’s actually something every companion plays and it’s something they use to bond with each other. Of course Gil is the master in the game and wins all the time, but it actually forms some friendly rivalries between your squad members as they plot in secret to destroy him like the vile beast he is! It’s one of those details that fleshes out the characters and this, along with his issues, make Gil feel like the best written character of the Tempest crew members. I still don’t think it’s to the same level as your squadmates, but it’s a close second.
And that is my opinion on the crew members that inhabit your wonderful Norma- Euh, Tempest! There are a lot of missed opportunities that could’ve been explored a lot better, but it was inevitable that these characters would be a lot more one dimensional considering the interaction limitations you have. I sincerely hope they’ll experience some evolutions in the next game, because their concepts are interesting, but poorly executed.
- The True Power of Friendship? – Taking a look at the companions in Mass Effect Andromeda
- The Creeping Voice in Your Mind – Discussing the Indoctrination Theory in Mass Effect 3
- Daggers & Doppelgangers – How Klaus Knew Elena Existed
Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the game series Mass Effect. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. The Mass Effect game series belongs to Bioware and EA Games.