Remember that article I made predicting that Mass Effect Andromeda wouldn’t be as good as the trilogy because it didn’t have interesting companions? I was wrong. Many may disagree, but I genuinely found the Andromeda companions, both the squad and shipmates, pretty interesting characters in their own right. And while I have to admit that the current companions took a lot of elements out of the trilogy friends (overused vat of outcasts and all) I found myself emotionally engaged to these people. Far more than I did to most characters in Mass Effect 1 back when I played the first game.
Let’s start with Liam, the first one to join your group. Now right out of the bat I’m going to say that he is the dullest of the team. In fact, if you were half-blind, you could swear that he is pretty much like Jacob, a cool black dude that has little to few mental issues. And while that is true I found Liam to be far more interesting than Jacob. The young crisis specialist just exhumes optimism and youth. In the Guy-sensei kind of way. Honestly, you feel he’s adorkable for the same reason. He’s always the one making the silly jokes, trying to lighten the mood and in this way he acts as an opposite mirror to essentially all your other companions, who tend to be more pessimistic and have their fair share of mental issues. That made talking to him rather refreshing. After hearing everyone having doubts about the mission or each other it’s nice to go to the chill black guy who’ll have a beer with you and talk about frivolous things, while being incredibly optimistic about your successes.
In terms of combat I feel he’s a very average companion. He’s got a grenade that does decent damage, a melee attack and overload to deal with the shields. He’s got some bulk to deal with survivability (a big factor on insanity), but it doesn’t get too crazy. This makes him a “jack-of-all-trades” and mostly useful if you need to deal with shielded enemies. The advantage of that is that he essentially fits on all teams. The disadvantage is that anything he can do, the others can do better.
The second human on the team, Cora, seems to be made from the opposite cloth. I have to admit; at first I thought she would be the “strong, empowered, take-charge-don’t-need-shit-from-men” woman. A talking point or perhaps even strawman rather than an actual character. But boy was I wrong. Remember how I said that Bioware loves to make social outcasts? This character is the very epitome of that: her entire character arc and personality is based around “finding a place where she belongs”, as she’s felt like an outcast her entire life because of her biotics. This is why she idealises her previous job: being an asari commando. It’s the only place where she felt useful and where the thing that made her an outcast (her biotics) made her part of a team… Before they kicked her out, anyway. But when you meet this character she’s still struggling to find a place within the Andromeda initiative and it really shows. The girl has a major inferiority complex, constantly placing all the praise of the successes on the pathfinder and not giving herself any credit. This, despite being the second in command of the entire group. Another factor I didn’t expect was that this girl is surprisingly sweet. She trusts you through-and-through and is always there to cheer you up or support you. These factors contributed to the fact that I romanced her and I found it sweet to see her resolve her character journey at the end.
As a companion on the field Cora is very useful, but ironically more defensively than offensively. Despite being a vanguard, the fact that she has lower damage because she’s a companion cripples her killing power significantly. On Insanity difficulty playing like a vanguard means you have to strike fast, hard and kill as quickly as possible. She simply doesn’t have the raw power needed for the job, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be a useful distraction, allowing you to snipe from afar or slash your way to victory while she draws attention to herself. Though Her best utility, arguably, lies in her Shield Boost skill. On the insanity difficulty shields are a lifesaver and therefore her repairing and boosting your shields will be the difference between an hour of frustration and smoothly killing your way through mooks.
When I met Vetra I definitely got a vibe of Garrus, but honestly they don’t really have many similarities. They’re both Turian, they’re both loyal and badass, but that’s where it stops. Vetra is the team mom of the group and she’s constantly busy trying to take care of literally everyone she meets. That is a huge contrast from Garrus’ more individualistic personality. He always wanted to get the job done and punish the bad guys. Vetra is more interested in making sure everyone else is ready for the job. Of course this need for having people depend on her leaves its own issues, considering that this girl can’t sit goddamn still. Apparently the only free time she has is playing poker.
As a squad member I really don’t know how to deal with Vetra. She seems to be a soldier and her skills are designed around survivability while shooting from afar, with her armor and turbocharge skills respectively. But I feel that on insanity mode this doesn’t necessarily mean much, as she uses an Assault Rifle and tends to stay out on the open way too much. Personally she feels like a more bulky Liam to me. Good at being a soldier, but beyond her Turbocharge (which is OP anyway…) she’s average.
The next character I’ll discuss is Peebee and I have only one thing to say about her: OMFG SHE’S SO ADORABLE! LIKE A CHIPMUNK ON CAFFEÏNE! This girl is arguably the most unique character of the bunch and I say that in a both positive and negative way. First off, this is a character that WANTS to be a social outcast. It’s clear from the start this girl has abandonment issues and as a result tries to avoid bonding with others, putting up a huge wall you have to chip your way through to get her as a friend or romance option. She’s also excentric and is a very individualistic person, a trait that I can appreciate myself. But while I really like this character I can definitely understand why not everyone does. Her hyper individualism also makes her act without thinking about others, react with a “whatever” vibe and if this weren’t a video game I would sincerely wonder if she could even function in a group at all. The girl has a lot of mental damage and she needs a shrink or two to deal with them. In fact, I would even go so far as to diagnose with her autism. The clearest indication of this is when she says she needs time in the Zero gravity escape pod to relax and is visibly upset for going on so long without one of those “soothing trips.” And then she asks for sex, but that’s a minor detail, right?
Combat-wise Peebee is a support-based character, which is very good considering that squad members carry damage penalties. Her main selling point is the Invasion skill, which allows her to weaken your opponents while saving up a slot on your skills list. Pull is always useful to temporarily fuck with some enemies, but that only works on the lower mooks. Shielded enemies, like those damn Anointed Ketts, aren’t phased by that, which lowers its utility. Shockwave mostly seems to be a last resort before she goes down and god does she go down a lot. One problem with being a support character is that she’s very frail, so expect her to go down often during the first twenty or so levels.
Next up is Drack, our token Krogan teammate. I like Krogans, so I naturally like Drack. The thing I really like about him is that he is just that: a Krogan. He isn’t a biotic vanguard leader who has deviating ideas like Wrex. He isn’t a tank-bred Krogan who is conflicted about his goal in life. He’s a plain Krogan who loves fighting Kett and is trying to take care of his grandchild. Kind of like Mike from Breaking Bad: a badass old-timer with a soft spot for certain people. But at the end of the day; just a lucky and old Krogan with nothing really special going for him. I really liked this contrast, because it always felt weird that we couldn’t really see what a normal Krogan looked like. Murderous, dominant, the reasons why other species felt at odds with the race in the first place. Of course, there is the major problem that Krogan are very soft in this game and Drack is no exception. Takes a lot of shit, makes a lot of threats, but ultimately no real bite to match his bark when dealing with non-Kett.
On the field Drack is what every Krogan team member has always been: a tank through and through. Has high HP and shields, a shotgun for close combat and a unique melee attack to keep enemies off his back. It’s simple, it’s effective and it does the job. On insanity difficulty he can hold out for a long time before he ultimately bites the dust.
And finally Jaal is the Angara alien who is native to the Andromeda galaxy and acts as your guide for the Angara people when you meet them. He’s certainly a unique character: on the one hand he’s very similar to Javik: a soldier born and raised in a civilisation that’s stuck fighting an invading enemy that wants to… erase them. Though one who focuses on guerrilla fighting tactics over bombing the shit out of your foes. On the other hand he’s a very emotional creature who needs a lot of time opening up to you. Honestly, sometimes I felt like I was in a relationship with him. Because I made certain decisions he didn’t like he needed some distance every now and then and this made me feel like I was walking on eggshells, which is never a good situation to be in when interacting with companions. But strangely I also felt that his strong emotions made him act very rational at times. The fact that he stoically asks for distance instead of yelling at you? The fact that he can clearly explain why Angara need strong emotions? I’m not entirely sure an emotional human would act as rationally as an Angara would, but this made Jaal a lot more interesting to me. Even if I don’t always agree with him.
As a squad member Jaal is the quintessential sniper, with bits of kasumi mixed in for fun. He’s a tech-based characters who’s got access to a bomb, energy drain to deal with shields and the Kasumi Shadow Strike to deal some sneaky melee damage. Maybe not exactly the wisest idea, considering he’s supposed to be away from the enemy. But he’s an AI, so naturally he’ll walk right in the middle of the fight next to you…
So as you can see I really like the companions. I feel they’re unique enough, that the characters have different character journeys to explore. And while they contain recycled parts of Trilogy characters, the writers tried to give a new spin to it. You know, one of the few actually good spins, if you ignore some of the SJW aspects to the characters. And honestly, when it comes to the 4th game in a series that’s all you can really expect at that point.
But even if I like the characters I can admit there are some problems. The biggest one being that a lot of interaction with the companions are… forced and awkward. That the lines are written in such a way that the responses they give don’t really flow naturally from the questions you ask. The biggest example would be in the Cora romance I followed in the game. I won’t spoil it completely, but people who have already followed the romance will know what I mean when the end part of the romance had some really weird… conversations. Even I cringed quite a bit.
But then again, this isn’t a criticism towards just the companions. The entire game suffers from cringy voice acting, so I wonder if that’s just because the writers can’t write dialogue properly…
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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.