I want to preface this post and future articles in this series with a clear understanding that the purpose is not about reviewing a game and slapping a score onto it. I am not rushing through games to get to the end so that I can post an article shortly after launch with a tidy score to sum up a games faults and best attributes. There are plenty of sites that do that already. What this series is about, and what I hope to accomplish is discussion in the comments section and on our Facebook page. Not all of the games I play will even be from the current generation there will be some nostalgia thrown into these posts as well. With that being said if you want to hear my detailed thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda as a major fan of the Mass Effect Series read on
Mass Effect Andromeda is a big game, and while that should be its greatest achievement and attribute I feel like it is the games major stumbling block. Looking back at the franchise I remember the lovable grind with wonky controls and frequent glitch based stoppages in play that the first game provided. What kept me going through the original Mass Effect (a game I have played through to completion 5 times.) was the novelty and detail that the universe provided. I wanted to know everything about the world, I wanted to find every shred of dialogue. The whole thing while being rather clunky and unwieldy at times hung together so well and kept pulling me in because it was so complex and well thought out. I remember obscure threads of dialogue from that game that still make me laugh when I think about them. Mass Effect 1 definitely felt bigger than 2 and 3 but it never felt empty. Even the maligned Mako missions which stand out as a sore spot were not that bad and you could power through them. The rewards of perseverance were a lively game world filled with memorable characters, locales, dialogues and decisions that made me pause and think about the effects my choices would have on the complete narrative. Overall the game was so good I kept getting pulled back in. I was really hoping for Andromeda to hook me as much as the original Mass Effect but it never got there. While it definitly achieves the size of the original game it never manages to have me buy in to its new world and characters the way the first game did.
With regards to Mass Effect 2 it was a complete tour de force. Sheppard gets brought back to life after a massive smack down that sees his crew scattered and his ship destroyed. I can’t think of a better way to start a sequel than that. I was mad as hell that Sheppard, my bad ass in game avatar got killed by some random species I’ve never even heard of. Then game play swings to building a new team of crack professionals, gaining their loyalty, turning them into a well oiled machine and pulling off a suicide mission where nobody expects you to succeed let alone survive. I don’t know about you but I’m contemplating ditching this article and spinning up that game just to relive the excitement. Mass Effect 2 ditched the slow methodical pacing and larger missions for tighter more combat focused game play with missions that really packed some heat. Yes the RPG elements took a back seat in the sequels. But personally I loved the combat of Mass Effect 2 so much it was criminal. For me that’s not too bad of a trade. The character development was fantastic as well for the most part, and the design of levels structured around the team really allowed for you to get to know each character and what made them tick. While not all of these missions were stand outs each one was enjoyable enough and really made the Normandy SR-2 feel like a real ship with real people. The struggle to build the team and bring them together never felt forced and seeing them come together to clear the final mission with everyone surviving was hugely rewarding.
After the unrelenting success of Mass Effect 2 I wasn’t too surprised when the 3rd game came out and never really hit the same high. Mass Effect 3 is a great game that lives in the shadow of a masterpiece. Regardless of your thoughts on the ending though. Mass Effect 3 brought back a lot of characters I loved, packed emotional moments with some of my favorite characters and had a darker end of the world as we know it theme. Mass Effect 2 was a story of hope. Mass Effect 3 is a story about resilience, sacrifice and desperation. It reminded me of Saving Private Ryan in a way. No matter what I did in Mass Effect 3 I never really felt like I was going to beat the reapers. The odds were so bleak and the Reapers who were a vague threat in one, a persistent threat in two became absolutely horrible in three. As the game goes on you see more horror and atrocity then some of the best war movies. The mechanics were almost as good as the second game. Regardless of the way the series ended I still really enjoyed my time with the game.
Which brings me finally to Andromeda. I will come right out and say it. Of the four I feel like this is the weakest game. I’m not a fan of the combat, the open world and lack of pressing a button to enter cover means I die more often to random enemies coming out of nowhere. Which they do with alarming frequency. Enemy AI is wonky at best and more than a few times I scored easy kills on an enemy on the wrong side of cover, or as they ran back and forth between two areas of cover while blindly shooting at nothing. The characters don’t really resonate with me the way the ones from the first games did. I don’t think they are bad but I feel like they just aren’t quite fleshed out enough. Except for Cora who is fleshed out plenty if you manage to romance her.
As for the story I struggle to find interest in it. The threat of the Khet never really takes a hold the way trying to stop the reapers does. It’s tantalizing enough to keep me grinding through the massive open world and the multitude of pointless fetch quests. However that might have more to do with my fandom of the series. Touching on the worlds for a second. The Andromeda Initiative was supposed to be about the Milky Way races settling a far off galaxy but at no point did I feel like I was taming a frontier. The addition of the Revenant to the game as a quick fix to what ails each planet is one of the things I like least about this game. It cheapened what could have been a decidedly defining feature of the game. Imagine if they had gone a route similar to Dark Cloud with settlement creation or at the very least allowed some form of customization. Instead all we get is a quick load screen and a bunch of pre-fab buildings pop up in a clearing.
The only settling of a frontier your going to do in this game is at the business end of a gun, and yes while combat is the main draw of any combat game in this case there is precious little substance behind the shootouts. The missions lack the focused depth of the second and third game in the franchise and after a while I just started driving by Khet and Outcast squads because I couldn’t be bothered to stop and fight another meaningless pop up battle. The fact that special ammo has become limited use instead of a continuous effect is a stupid change that I don’t think was required.
Overall there is enough Mass Effect in the game that I can’t say it’s a complete let down. Some parts of it are cool. Nods to the original series are always welcome. Particularly meeting Zaeed Masani’s son who never knew his father on Eos was a pleasant surprise that sticks out. Liara’s note to Alec were a nice touch as well. Dr. Okeer’s PErfect Krogan research finding its way to Andromeda was cool as well. Overall though even these nice tributes to the series past don’t make up for the shortcomings apparent to me when I try to stand this game up to the original trilogy. I’d have to say that I rate Andromeda behind Mass Effect one which by no means makes it a bad game. I just can’t shake the fact that they tossed out the lessons they learned about tension, pacing, and character and threw it out the window in favour of an open world to explore. Which could have been a trade worth making if the unexplored frontier had been bristling with character. Unfortunately I never really cared much about the planets or the settlements I established there. They never mattered beyond the simple facet of advancing the story which is a shame. This is highlighted mostly by Eos, I’ve played through both paths and was shocked to learn the only impact choosing military or science had on the game was what the group of protesters that greet you on return to the Nexus are going to complain about. I miss playing as Sheppard and having my whole experience define the game, this as an alternative just seemed soulless and lazy
Anyway, in conclusion Mass Effect Andromeda was fun, long and an eloquent reminder of the genius that went into the original trilogy. It is sadly not up to the level of even the most dated game in the series but thankfully it is Mass Effect enough to tide me over until another game is made in the series. Though based on current news coming out of EA the team behind the game has been re-assigned to non-mass effect products with no plans to start work on the new sequel. Bioware is probably working on a new Dragon Age game to follow on the success of Inquisition and they are also launching a new IP in 2018. Maybe this would have been different had Andromeda fared better in the review circles. As it stands it may be some time before we visit this world again. I don’t anticipate playing through the game again because I’m not looking to experience how other options effect the story as based on my experience there is precious little changes based on character choice. Which for me sums up my thoughts on this entry into my favorite gaming franchise as best as anything. I never bought in enough that logging another 100 hours into a game I’ve beaten once to do it again. Which for this franchise is unfortunate.
That’s all from me, what did you guys think of Mass Effect Andromeda.