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"Mass Effect: Andromeda" (2017): Why Fans Hated Liam


Lee has an embarrassingly deep love of all things "Mass Effect." Her favorite is the original first game.

Liam fan art.

Liam fan art.

I actually went into this game baffled by the hatred for Liam and trying my best to like him. But alas, I hated Kaidan and Jacob and, yes, even Vega . . . and sadly wound up hating Liam, too.

A lot of people have pointed out that Liam was written to be a divisive character, and this is true. BioWare loves employing the Good Soldier trope in their games, and as I have explained on other articles, the Good Soldier is typically a self-righteous, annoying, young soldier who you either love or hate. Some examples from other BioWare games would be Alistair, Carver, Cullen, Kaidan, Vega, and Jacob, whom Liam is often compared to because they're both black (as if that had to do with anything).

Having played a lot of BioWare games, I went into the game expecting Liam to annoy the hell out of me by continuously hitting on Sara Ryder, even after she had said no or had shown zero interest. This was a staple of BioWare games of old when it comes to the human male love interest, so I was pleasantly surprised when Liam's crush on Sara was more background noise than in-your-face, constant, and unending "Please, romance me!" harassment.

No, the reason I and so many other fans wound up hating Liam is that . . . Simply put, Liam is an asshole.

He's Emotionally Immature

My screenshot of Ryder and Liam during Habitat 7.

My screenshot of Ryder and Liam during Habitat 7.

Liam behaves like a lunatic on Habitat 7.

Liam behaves like a lunatic on Habitat 7.

During the prologue, Liam's behavior is unhinged and emotionally immature. He shoots a corpse in a violent fit, wasting ammo and basically acting like a deranged war criminal (since shooting the dead is a war crime).

He wants to ignore first contact protocol and just go in guns blazing, then insults/mocks Ryder about it no matter what she says. His attitude is really crappy in that regard, but Ryder just ignores it.

Then he jokes loudly about shooting the kett "in the face." His behavior and his poor jokes are extremely childish and take away from the gravity of the situation. That first contact went horribly south upon arrival to Andromeda was a good concept for a promising story, but a lot of it fell flat thanks to Liam acting like a lunatic and yet facing no real consequences for it.

Ryder and Cora can scold him once and he keeps behaving like a crazy five-year-old.

My screenshot of Ryder joking about first contact.

My screenshot of Ryder joking about first contact.

Then when the Tempest is forced to land on Aya, Ryder decides to head outside alone and attempt first contact with whatever aliens are out there. This is a character-defining moment because it says a lot about who everyone is as a person based on how they react.

Vetra expresses concern and sounds on the verge of begging Ryder not to go. I've noticed that Vetra cares a great deal about Ryder and is always trying to protect her.

I think Cora also expresses concern (I can't remember, would have to watch the scene again), and Peebee looks as if she wants to stop Ryder (she is seen standing very close to Ryder with her mouth open).

Everyone seems afraid and is taking the situation very seriously. But what does Liam do? He cracks a joke. Liam cracks a joke after watching Initiative allies get gunned down on Habitat 7 after attempting first contact. He understands the gravity of the situation but still makes a sarcastic remark.

The player has an option for Ryder to also joke about the situation, but I think it's more forgivable coming from Ryder since they're the ones going out there, they are kind of afraid, and joking is an easy way to put on a brave face.

Liam jokes about first contact.

Liam jokes about first contact.

Liam is similar in a lot of ways to what fans have deemed "Casual Ryder" (the version of Ryder who jokes a lot) in that he also jokes around a lot to cope. But the fact that he couldn't drop the childishness when his friend and potential lover might be gunned down horrifically . . . is mindboggling. Even Peebee (the fandom-hated Sera knock off) takes it seriously whenever Ryder is in real danger.

Liam does not. Not if Ryder is awake and can see it. During the end of the prologue, when Ryder is near death, Liam can be seen to pace constantly in the background. Liam is also the only one who sits beside Ryder, waiting for her to wake up, so that she doesn't have to wake up alone. This happens whether the player chose Sara or Scott.

I think Liam cares a great deal about Ryder but lacks the emotional maturity to properly show it. I understand why he's like that, but just . . . hate it. Even when she dies on the Archon's ship, he expresses his worry by joking about it being "emotional abuse" and sends Ryder an email asking if she's okay, but he has no idea how to properly express his emotions in a serious manner to her face.

Even Peebee (again, also deemed "immature") will take Ryder's death on the Archon's ship seriously enough that she expresses real worry when you speak to her on the Tempest afterward, rather than cracking a joke. In fact, Peebee is one of the few squad mates aside from Lexi who actually cares that it happened.

So basically, Liam's inappropriate jokes and emotional immaturity are annoying.

The Infamous Fight with Vetra

Liam argues with everyone in the Nomad except for Jaal. The worst arugment (and the argument people hate him for) is probably with Vetra. I've seen Liam's fans defend him by saying that Vetra "started" the argument by criticizing Liam's chaotic and reckless combat behavior, but lots of people criticize Liam's combat abilities (Jaal included) and he doesn't go off the deep-end verbally attacking them.

It would have made sense for Liam to respond that Vetra needs to work on her own combat abilities. He could have just said that or told her to mind her own business if he didn't want the criticism. Instead, he went for the jugular, attacking her about her fears and worries regarding Sid in a vicious attempt to hurt her as badly as he could just because his feelings were hurt over her criticizing his combat prowess (or lack thereof).

Vetra has every right to criticize someone's combat abilities if their reckless behavior puts her life in danger. How was she wrong for that? Yet Liam overreacts (as he overreacts to everything) by attacking a vulnerability Vetra has in an attempt to deliberately upset her.

It's way out of line. It's like if someone says your shirt is on backwards and you respond by attacking them personally and calling them fat and ugly. It's an extreme response to mild criticism.

It's childish.

Liam Argues in the Nomad

Liam basically insults everyone in the squad like this, not just Vetra. The only person he remotely gets along with is Jaal, and I think it's because he and Jaal have a lot in common: they are both highly emotional and sensitive, insecure, and feel like outsiders on the ship, except that Jaal's not an asshole.

There's also the fact that, when in the field, Liam is a dick to Ryder for no reason whatsoever. I remember when I decided to start using him more in my squad. I took him with me to get the kett transmitter on Kadara. When Ryder finds the transmitter is broken, she has an option of remaining optimistic. All the squadmates tease Ryder a little for this (Jaal and Peebee actually think Ryder's optimism is cute), but Liam is the only one who seems to straight-up mock her and becomes sarcastic in a meanspirited way.

Not going to lie: it really rubbed me the wrong way. It sounds silly, but it did. His voice just kind of dripped with dislike or resentment toward Ryder, even though my Sara had done nothing but be nice to him.

And the resentful tone just kind of goes on with the way he talks to Ryder in the Nomad as well. His background comments about sinkholes and hazards, the way he sarcastically tells Ryder on Voeld not to "gun it" down an icy mountain . . . His tone of voice just dripped dislike.

There's also a quest that you complete with an angara who's interested to see how impressive the N7 program is. If you take Liam along for the quest, all he does is make sarcastic comments in the background every time you pass one of the angara's tests. After a while, I hated bringing him in the Nomad because it meant listening to him sarcastically snark my Ryder in-between being an ass to the rest of the squad.

The people who like him must be the ones who romanced him, because he is otherwise just not likeable at all.

And the Snark Just Goes On

Liam hilariously opens the wrong door during his loyalty mission.

Liam hilariously opens the wrong door during his loyalty mission.

Sadly, Liam's asshole snark continues during his loyalty mission.

Toward the end of the mission, Ryder has auto-dialogue (aka dialogue not chosen by the player) about how terrible the mission is going. Liam's response? He makes a nasty comment about how it's still "better than their first day in Heleus."

It wasn't so much what he said; it was the way he said it. The tone of voice behind the comment made it sound like he was mocking Ryder about what was basically the worst day of her life. Their first day in Heleus, Ryder's twin winds up in a coma, her father dies, and she nearly dies as well, only to arrive on the Nexus and be treated like dirt by the leadership there.

Liam insinuates that Ryder's father is a screw up (because really, Habitat 7 was Alec's fault. Captain Dunn tried to stop him going down there and getting killed), so according to Liam's insinuation, because Ryder's father messed up, she has no right to judge Liam . . . It was a really cruel, below-the-belt comment.

But it's not out of character for Liam. If his feelings are hurt, he tries to hurt the other person as much as possible by attacking their vulnerabilities in what amounts to a very cruel personal attack. It's a really mean and childish thing to do.

And unlike with Vetra, where Liam apologizes and admits he's an asshole, he never apologizes for what he says to the Pathfinder. They both just pretend like it didn't happen. I was pretty pissed about that . . . Until I thought of Bojack Horseman (and then I was still pissed anyway).

Bojack Horseman stares into the mirror.

Bojack Horseman stares into the mirror.

On the show Bojack Horseman, Bojack is a deeply troubled and insecure person who lashes out disproportionately when people hurt his feelings. Princess Carolyn might make a mild but reasonable criticism about his behavior, and when his feelings get hurt, he lashes out by attacking her parenting skills, telling her she's a terrible mother and a bad manager, etc. Since being a good mother is Princess Carolyn's biggest insecurity, Bojack attacks it to hurt her as much as possible. But because Princess Carolyn knows that Bojack doesn't mean anything he's saying (he's just a pathetic child flailing), she just tiredly ignores it and goes on.

Bojack's is a disproportionate reaction to a reasonable criticism, but he overreacts to criticism because he's emotionally immature and deeply insecure. And like Liam, he is painfully self-aware. He apologizes to Princess Carolyn after his outburst and tells her that she's a great mother.

Liam does the same exact thing with Vetra, even telling her that he's just insecure and took it out on her. Vetra's response is a hilarious and yet accurate, "So you're not just an asshole but a self-aware asshole?"

Bojack sings the "credits" to a real-life situation.

Bojack sings the "credits" to a real-life situation.

I've also noticed that Liam, like Bojack, is completely out of touch with reality.

There are several moments on the Bojack Horseman show where Bojack will start singing theme songs to a "scene" he's living. He'll imagine credits rolling after a touching moment or he'll become frustrated when things don't magically work out like in a sitcom (a key example is when he took Penny to the prom and no one wanted to see him dance).

Liam does much of the same thing. During his loyalty mission, he panics when things don't go right and exclaims that the good guys are supposed to win. There's also the fact that he's a little obsessed with movies and uses escapism to deal with the fact that he can't deal with reality.

As someone who was an escapist for most of my life, I'm not judging Liam for not being able to handle reality. But the fact that he's mentally unsound and clearly out of touch with reality makes him not fit to be on the Tempest. And yet, for some insane reason, he's allowed to continue as a part of the Pathfinder's team.

He Commits Treason

Another image of Liam.

Another image of Liam.

Granted, Liam does a lot of stuff way worse than simply arguing with people. He tricks Ryder into scanning people on Aya without really telling her what's going on, which (obviously) could have caused a diplomatic incident. Then he puts a cherry on the cake by giving security codes to the Nexus to outsiders . . . which is basically treason.

But I feel like, given the fact that most fans (myself included) could forgive Peebee for the hugely, massively idiotic thing she does on her loyalty mission, it's not so much that people hate Liam for doing stupid things. They hate him for being a jerk on top of that.

I mean, I know why Liam is an asshole. He's insecure, afraid that he made a mistake in coming to Andromeda, and is desperate to make it work. But none of that makes him a likeable person (and none of that makes his behavior okay).

The funny thing is, I wanted my Ryder to be friends with Liam, but his crappy behavior (constantly insulting her in the background, his terrible comment during his loyalty mission) just pushed her away.

The vicious insinuation during the loyalty mission was the moment I basically gave up and just stopped liking his character. The fact that he never apologizes for it kind of makes it even worse.

Put on a shirt, Liam.

Put on a shirt, Liam.

I'm frankly surprised more people don't hate Liam for that remark. But at the same time, it's a comment that's really easy to miss given that the other characters frequently talk over Liam during the quest. In fact, I had done Liam's loyalty mission a couple times before I even heard that line. But when I finally did, I thought to myself, "You know what? F*ck you, Liam."

And to make it worse? At one point toward the end of the main mission, Gil will tell Ryder how he and Liam enjoy yucking it up about her screaming as she fell to Habitat 7. Again, it was the worst day of Ryder's life, and Gil and Liam enjoy laughing about it. That's kind of messed up given that the first fall is what cracked Ryder's helmet and caused it to later shatter, forcing her father to die for her . . . Much as I love Gil, he's a di*k.

Ryder Yells at Liam

When Liam's loyalty mission was over, I detained his angaran friend just to piss him off, then went off on him about how stupid he was. I wasn't shocked when he threw a baby tantrum and stomped out, rather than owning his mistakes.

And I can admit that it's pretty childish to "get back" at Liam by detaining his friend. But the game gives you no other way to call him out. You can't tell him he was a d*ck for his comments toward you during the quest. You can't even confront him about his explosive behavior or his obvious panic about Andromeda not working out the way he thought. You just basically nod your head and smile at a crazy person while ignoring the fact that he's a ticking timebomb.

Liam deliberately keeps Ryder in the dark, takes advantage of her trust, and makes huge messes for her to clean up, messes that endanger the lives of thousands, as well as an alliance she has busted her butt to create all the game. That Ryder can only yell at him for the loyalty mission isn't remotely satisfying. There is way too much stuff that he does that Ryder just let's slide.

Liam Thinks He's the Protagonist

Liam tries to speak to the Archon behind my Ryder.

Liam tries to speak to the Archon behind my Ryder.

Another thing I've noticed is that Liam seems to think he's the protagonist. When meeting the Archon, you can see him in the background, trying to barge up and speak to the bad guy while Cora holds him back.

There's an interesting dichotomy between Liam and Cora in that Cora is angry she's not the protagonist, while Liam thinks he is the protagonist.

Because everything Liam does stems from the fact that he doesn't believe Ryder can do her job. Instead of letting her be the diplomat and build bridges slowly over time with the angara (the only realistic way to build trust), Liam just wants everyone to get along right now and goes behind Ryder's back to make it happen.

But Ryder is actually doing a great job. There's a quest on Havarl where Ryder can help the scientists there figure out how to grow food for the Initiative, and yet Liam tricks Ryder into stealing food secrets from Aya, as if she didn't just take steps to feed their people. He completely ignores her efforts as if they just aren't good enough and screws up by trying to be Pathfinder himself.

That Ryder can't call him out for this is extremely annoying.

Liam's character model.

Liam's character model.

I'm not sure what the writers were trying to achieve here. Maybe they were trying to create a Bojack/Princess Carolyn dynamic, where one friend is toxic and abusive and the other just kind of takes the abuse? But like most people, I don't like being verbally abused or seeing my character verbally abused by someone who is supposed to be a "friend." (Repeatedly saying cruel things to someone is, yes, emotional abuse. Mocking Ryder about the worst day of her life (she clinically died and her father permanently died) plus all the other background snark is abusive behavior.)

Liam is highly insecure and comes off a huge asshole because of it. And yet, unlike Bojack Horseman, he never really grows, changes, or apologizes for the way he talks to and treats Ryder. The fact that he never changes is what makes his behavior so unbearable: he stays an insecure, loose canon asshole to the very end of the story with nary an apology.

I did multiple playthroughs where I tried to be friends with Liam. I tried so hard. I even let his angaran friend walk free with security codes! But by the end of the game, he was still an asshole toward me for no reason whatsoever.

Some Of It Is Just Racism

Liam speaks to Sara on Aya.

Liam speaks to Sara on Aya.

All that being said, while there are legitimate reasons to hate Liam, a lot of it seems to just be good old-fashioned racism. Jacob and Liam are probably the most hated Mass Effect characters in the franchise, and what do they have in common?

It's obvious when you look at how different Jacob and Liam are in personality. One common complaint about Jacob is that, in an effort to avoid making him a racist caricature, the writers made him too boring. Liam, while annoying, manages to at least be entertaining in his whackiness, and yet, fans still hate him.

Leaves you with the realization that it isn't really the personality of these characters that's the issue. It's the fact that they're black. Kaidan and Vega, while they have their haters (myself included), have never faced this sheer level of vitriol from the fandom.

They fight the same but they don't look the same. Remotely.

They fight the same but they don't look the same. Remotely.

I even saw a fan basically admit online that he hated Liam because he's black. He stated that (of all the silly reasons) he hated Liam because his hair looked dirty.

Oh, the ignorance.

Why would Liam's hair automatically be "dirty" because the texture is 4C? As a black person with 4C hair and afro-dreadlocks, I've dealt with ignorant people making comments about my hair having lice and being dirty just because I'm black (this happened even when I didn't have dreadlocks).

The hilarious thing is, people with straight hair are the ones with "dirty" hair and are actually more prone to lice because their hair produces more moisture, which makes it straight in the first place. This is why people with a straight hair texture have to wash their hair everyday and people with a "nappy" hair texture don't.

In other words, our hair is naturally cleaner. But I'm not surprised people hate Liam for being black and "dirty." Racism is based entirely on ignorance, emotion, and delusions, not reality or rationality.

I thought Liam's hair was cute.

I Tried to Like Liam

Liam on Eos with Ryder.

Liam on Eos with Ryder.

I don't feel the game really gave me a chance to like him. No matter how kind and nice and understanding my Ryder tried to be (again, across multiple playthroughs where I tried harder each time), Liam kept up with the snarky, disrespectful comments, then called her a "jerk" during his final mission on Eos.

Why, oh why, were we not allowed to airlock this fool?

There's nothing wrong with creating a character that is divisive or unlikeable. But then forcing players to interact with them for forty hours? That's not right.

Unfortunately, Mass Effect has a long tradition of not allowing players to be rid of divisive characters. I have always deeply resented the fact that the only way to be rid of characters I didn't like was to kill them. But we can't even let Liam die! We're just stuck with him!

Sadly, Andromeda is not going to have a sequel, but if it did, it would have been ideal to allow players to decide who's in their squad. Nothing made me happier than not recruiting Vivienne in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and who could forget the utter satisfaction of being able to literally chase Sera out of Skyhold?

The Inquisitor Kicks Out Sera

Once upon a time, there was a really hilarious video of a human Inquisitor terrorizing Sera and chasing her from Skyhold. The video above is the best one I could find right now.

But the point is, one of the great things about the Dragon Age franchise is being able to kick people out. In Origins, you could make just about anyone leave, while in Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, you could avoid recruiting characters you didn't like in the first place. But for some reason, Mass Effect wants to force you to use their characters. Especially in Andromeda, where squad mates can't die.

To be clear, I don't want to avoid recruiting Liam or kick him out. I feel he's worth keeping around for Movie Night, and if you simply ignore him on the ship, you don't really have to interact with him much, same as Kaidan and Vega. But it would be nice to have the option (kicking him out after Movie Night would be hilarious).

Also, having the option to at least dislike Liam or call him out for mistreating Ryder would have been nice. Back in the first Mass Effect, Shepard was allowed to treat her squad mates terribly and/or at least call out their bad behavior. She could threaten them, insult them, hate them. Then Mass Effect 2 came along, and she was suddenly forced to be everyone's friend (except, for some reason, Tali, and I recall being able to mock Thane as well).

We are not even allowed to dislike Liam. This while he snarks us, insults us, and screws up constantly. It's . . . incredibly frustrating.

Having no options in a roleplaying game . . . kind of defeats the purpose.

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