No New Same-Sex Romance Options In Mass Effect Legendary Edition Is A Mistake
The reason that Mass Effect became such a phenomenon, despite many problems and upset fans as the franchise went on, is because of its story. The universe that BioWare created is populated with characters who mean something to its players. With the release of the new Mass Effect Legendary Edition, developers had a chance to fix the mistake they made about same-sex romance options in the first game and onward. Yet, they chose not to, and that continues a mistake made in the development of the very first game and perpetuated through the sequels and into Mass Effect 3. And, like many societal problems in the United States since the turn of the century, it’s Fox News’ fault.
Developers made a lot of changes in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. But, starting with the announcement, they pushed back on the idea that it would change anything significant about the game’s story. This statement seemed directed at the abandoned “dark energy” plot from Mass Effect 2 or the controversial ending that necessitated the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3. Yet, after spending time playing the games, it seems that there was a lot they didn’t change simple bugs they should have. (Yes, Joker’s teeth are still black as oil in Mass Effect 3.) So, it seems that hoping they’d add better same-sex romance options in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition was truly a pie-in-the-sky dream.
Now, I have to admit that in Mass Effect 3, there are two exclusive same-sex romance options still present in the Legendary Edition. However, shuttle pilot Steve Cortez and tech assistant Samantha Traynor are not all that interesting. Also, they aren’t characters that the fans have truly gotten to know.
When Mass Effect Met Fox News
When first released in 2008, Mass Effect was an Xbox exclusive that caused some controversy via a Fox News report. Now, even though I’ve played the entire trilogy through three times (with dozens of half-finished campaigns), I did more research for this article than they did for this report. Seemingly delighted that they could use the term “SeXbox” to describe the game, the people arguing that the game was somehow bad had no idea what they were railing against. God bless Geoff Keighley, formerly of Spike TV, for trying to correct facts for a group of people who didn’t care to get the record straight. You watch this nonsense above for yourself.
While this report was stupid culture-war nonsense typical of the now-halcyon days of the late Bush administration, it rattled cages at BioWare (and, later, parent company EA). In Mass Effect 2 the character of Jack was supposed to be pansexual, a romance option for all. (Of course, if Shepard romances Liara, an alien known as asari, he or she is also, technically, pansexual since she’s not human.) They abandoned this idea, and then tamed down the content going forward. The romance scenes in ME2 are safe-for-network TV. And in ME3, the scene where Samantha Traynor takes a shower in Shepard’s quarters shows she showers with her underwear on.
There is an underlying horniness in the space adventure genre that dates all the way back to the original Star Trek. But the romance in the Mass Effect games are more than simple horniness. They allow players to create a customized hero whose morals and attractions mirror their own. Longtime (and new) fans of the franchise deserve to have the chance to purse same-sex romances with characters they care about, not just two late additions to the final installment.
It Would Have Been Easy for the Mass Effect Legendary Edition to Include Same-Sex Romance Options
When approaching the game remaster, Mass Effect Legendary Edition developers looked to the mod community for guidance. (They were able to fix Joker’s teeth in ME3…yes, I am hung up about this.) However, the mod community came up with a quick fix for this problem, allowing Shepard to romance characters like Kaidan or Garrus if they play as a man or Ashley, Miranda, or Jack if they play as a woman. Essentially, the mod switched the genders in the system but not in appearance. So, a sad downside, is that if you are romancing Kaidan or Garrus, every other non-player character refers to Shepard with the wrong pronouns. All the developers would have had to do is build on what they started, allowing the player character to romance the characters they wanted to.
Some of the characters, such as Samara (voiced by Billie Eilish’s mother Maggie Baird), have their past relationships with people of specific gender in their stories. But the main romance-able characters—Kaidan, Ashley, Garrus, Miranda, Tali, and Jack—all have their feelings for Shepard come from their interactions with the character. None of them have specific sexualities as part of their backstory, so allowing characters of any gender to romance them wouldn’t undercut anything important. What allowing these same-sex romance options would have done is given Mass Effect Legendary Edition players a chance to have their ideal experience with the story.
Of course, game developers should be allowed to make the games they want to, how they want to. Yet, what irks me most about this specific situation is that it all stems from culture war panic brought on by a Fox News segment where the producers couldn’t even be bothered to report accurately what it was they were angry about.
Update: Modders Already At Work On Same-Sex Romances for Mass Effect Legendary Edition
While the Mass Effect Legendary Edition team may not have had a mandate to make changes to the game, it seems that they knew the modding community would step up to fill that void. These intrepid coders, hackers, and (uh?) slicers already constructed mods that allow players to have a same-sex romance option in all three games of the original trilogy. They already have a quick-and-dirty edit to the games’ Coalesced_INT.bin file that opens same-sex romance options (but only for the “default” Shepards for some reason).
However, the community at Nexus Mods and other places is diving into the files for the Mass Effect Legendary Edition and made some discoveries. They found recorded dialogue and cut scenes for these romances. Now, they are working to create mods that will allow players who can mod their game to expand the romance possibilities throughout all the games.
The Mass Effect Legendary Edition is currently available for PC and consoles.
What do you think? Do you think they should have added in the option for same-sex romances for the “big” characters? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Nexus Mods
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.