Mass Effect: Andromeda is Actually Pretty Good

Mass Effect: Andromeda came out just over five years ago, on March 21st, 2017. And fans were…less than enamored. It was buggy, it was janky-looking, and it fell far short of what the fans were expecting, all around. Were these criticisms accurate? Yup. Is the game still good? Also yup. Great big YUP.

Yee-haw

I didn’t play Mass Effect: Andromeda when it first came out, though I was a huge Mass Effect fan. I’d played through Mass Effect 2 & 3 several times and love them dearly. I played 2 first, making Mass Effect 1, though groundbreaking, practically unbearable to play after.

Can’t be beat

Mass Effect 2 is close to a perfect game, in my opinion. The story, the action, the characters, all blend together to make a gaming experience that, thus far, is unparalleled. Mass Effect 3 was also a remarkable game with certain moments that actually surpass Mass Effect 2. But as a whole, 2 is the pinnacle of the franchise.

Again, 1 is downright unpleasant to play. Maybe Legendary Edition fixes the problems I had with it, but I don’t care enough to find out. If you love it, more power to you.

Which brings us back to Mass Effect: Andromeda. I knew that starting from scratch with a new main character, a new cast of supporting characters, new plot, entirely new galaxy would make it a challenge to connect to. I also knew that it had a reputation as glitchy, goofy-looking, and just all-around mediocre. So really, I went in with low expectations.

So let’s really get into the good and bad. First off, the visuals. It looks goofy sometimes, sure. But so did all of the rest of the franchise. The characters are all wooden, their expressions are robotic, and very few things move naturally. However, just like the rest of the franchise, it has some truly spectacular visuals. Spaceships look stunning, planetary vistas are gorgeous, and traveling the galaxy is a feast for the eyes.

Vroom

How about the gameplay? The combat is really fun, without a doubt the best in the series. But things do start to feel repetitive after a while. You fight the same enemies over and over, including wildlife on each planet. Across the galaxy are the same animals that try to eat your face over and over! It’s fun to shoot and throw biotics around, but the repetition is FELT.

And then there’s the driving mechanic. Driving around on planets is pretty enjoyable. Your ride, the nomad, is pretty sick and it’s much easier to control than the mako was. But, as with the combat, you drive…a LOT. Over and over and over. Miles and miles and miles. I grow weary, lemme tell ya.

But the biggest stumbling points are:

1. The squadmates

2. Losing the paragon/renegade system

3. Lack of new aliens

First, the squadmates. While there is nothing inherently bad about them, they are also mostly unremarkable. They are just…there. They aren’t bad characters, and they actually become endearing later in the game. But for the majority of the game, you have little reason to care about them.

Meanwhile, in previous games, the squadmates (for the most part) made an impression and you immediately were invested in them. Were there a couple duds? Sure, but I cared a lot for Jack, Morin, Miranda, Liara, Wrex, Garrus, Legion, and others. But the Andromeda crew? I like ’em, I feel warmth towards them, but ultimately, I don’t care for them like I cared for the Normandy crew.

And that’s it.

Also, there are only six of ’em. Gimme some more variety! And take your time introducing them! We got them all almost right off the bat. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but taking your time bringing new crew in can give other members time to shine.

Now, there are some standout moments with your team. When you’re riding around with them, you get some great back-and-forths, like finding out that Liam hates Vetra’s guts for neglecting her sister. Or that Cora despises Peebee for not caring about the missing Asari Ark. Or that Drack gets along with literally everybody because he is a badass like that. But it doesn’t quite make up for how they are lacking otherwise.

…Jaal has some cute moments, too.

Then there’s removing the paragon & renegade system. I know the system cliché at this point, but those other games that ran it into the ground copied Mass Effect! Why should Mass Effect change? They’re the ones who suck!

Mass Effect: Andromeda was the perfect scenario to implement the system. You’re a Pathfinder, stuck in an impossible situation where the Milky Way Arks are lost and people are actively dying in a strange new galaxy. You can be brutal to ensure survival or you can take big risks to preserve your morality in a varren-eat-varren world. But alas, the choices you make have no impact on you as a character. They affect the world, but Ryder’s decisions don’t change the person.

You miss this.

And speaking of Ryder, I have to say that I really like the character. You’re new to your role, figuring out how to play it while there are so many people who are just waiting for you to fail. It would have been great to have people start to admire you, fear you, even mock you as you find yourself through the game. It could have been dynamic and thrilling. But nothing, instead.

Lastly, where are the new aliens? We get two new species, the Kett and the Angara (and the remnant, I guess, sort of). But we also lose a bunch! No Drell, no hanar, no elcor, no volus, vorcha, hanar, geth, batarians, QUARIANS…

I genuinely expected the Andromeda galaxy to be teeming with new races to meet, win over, learn about their interactions, and so on. But instead, the galaxy seemed to get a whole lot smaller.

Again, I know that I’ve been picking it apart, but I want to reiterate that I LIKE THIS GAME. I like it a lot, in fact. I’m having a really good time putting the pieces of the disastrous voyage into Andromeda back together. It is fun! I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoyed the first three. But it definitely falls short of the standard set by the OG trilogy.

But Shepard couldn’t jump this chasm.

The game is, genuinely, a blast! It does a lot of things right and I have many times found myself up long past when I should have gone to sleep because I couldn’t put it down. It will probably happen tonight! But to overlook its faults, especially in relation to previous installments in the franchise, is difficult to do.

I hope that the next game doesn’t discount the adventures of Ryder and crew. I have really relished my time in Andromeda and to have it all be hand-waved away would feel…disheartening. Andromeda happened. It matters to the series that it exists and the characters played their part in the universe. I just hope that the pathfinder finds their way back from the edge.

2 thoughts on “Mass Effect: Andromeda is Actually Pretty Good

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s