Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 242017
 

Over the weekend, I finished Mass Effect: Andromeda. In the time leading up to its release, I was conflicted about it… and I’m still conflicted.

I can’t say wholeheartedly that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game. But it’s not a bad game, either… it’s just kind of bland.

Let’s get the technical issues out of the way first. Yes, it had some problems with facial animations, although a patch fixed some of that, and it still has glitches here and there. Aside from a couple bugged side quests, however, it’s perfectly playable.

I don’t have a lot to say about the combat. It’s enjoyable enough, but I really play a game like Mass Effect for the story, characters, and world galaxy.

Andromeda doesn’t suffer from the same problem I had with Inquisition, where its story and open world felt entirely separate. The story quests here take place on the same planets you explore for side quests and optional content.

Unfortunately, I never felt compelled to explore. The planets just don’t have many interesting things to see or discover, and following side quests around the map often showed me everything. It often felt repetitive, with similar goals and locations in each world, along with 2-3 types of boss fights you’ll encounter repeatedly.

Click for Mass Effect: Andromeda boss types
There’s the kett that shields itself with an orb you have to destroy, the optional Remnant Architects that bombard you with powerful attacks while you try to destroy their legs, and maybe 1 or 2 bosses that don’t fall into those groups.

Many of the side quests are fetch quests, although a few are more interesting. The more in-depth quests often send you from planet to planet, a task made frustrating by the slow galaxy map navigation, and result in a choice at the end. Despite what you may have heard, Andromeda does have some tough choices, although they don’t impact the game overall. These choices may become more important in any sequels.

What bothers me more than the lack of impact from major choices is the lack of impact from dialogue. Dialogue choices affect your character’s tone, but little else. The persuasion system is also gone, and I missed the ability to earn additional solutions. It felt like nothing I chose in dialogue really mattered.

But Andromeda’s story has issues beyond the player’s choices.

Story

Before the game came out, I worried it might de-emphasize the story. It didn’t do that. Andromeda has a clear plot and also presents mysteries, like the origin of the mysterious “Remnant” structures scattered throughout the cluster. The mysteries caught my attention and kept me intrigued. I wanted to know more.

The main plot, however, only occasionally kept me interested in what would happen next… mainly because of the lackluster villains.

When I reviewed Dragon Age Inquisition, I mentioned how Corypheus disappointed me, because after his ominous start, he stopped feeling like a true threat.

Andromeda’s villain is somehow less compelling than Corypheus.

The start of the game introduces an alien race that rejects all attempts at communication and attacks the Milky Way travelers immediately.

They are the kett, and they are also newcomers to the Andromeda Galaxy, hostile invaders fighting the native angara. The kett’s leader, the Archon, is obsessed with the Remnant technology and searching for a way to control it.

Click for Mass Effect: Andromeda spoilers
Eventually, you learn that kett “exalt” other races to turn them into kett, gathering other species for their traits.

This sounds similar to what the Reapers do (and it also involves brainwashing them into absolute loyalty), although it’s specifically the way the kett reproduce.

That’s about as interesting as the kett get, although the Archon is a rogue. Primus, another kett willing to work with Ryder to take down the Archon since the larger kett empire is annoyed with his Remnant obsession, is mildly more interesting, which suggests the kett could become more complex and varied in sequels.

I didn’t find the Archon interesting or threatening. The kett overall provided a credible threat, but the Archon himself came across as a cartoonish villain, or like a little kid throwing a tantrum.

Fortunately, the Archon is the low point for characters in Andromeda.

Characters

While the dialogue can be awkward at times, I loved the main cast. My party members and crew aboard the Tempest were all lovable (except Liam, who annoyed me more often than not), and I looked forward to each new round of dialogue with them. Their loyalty missions were exciting and had some of the game’s best choices, and they also had some interesting minor quests as well.

(But I’m so disappointed that I never got to see Firebreathing Thresher Maws of Doom. Was that scene unfinished?)

Interactions between the Andromeda crew lead to some of the best dialogue and scenes, and those were the moments where Andromeda really shone.

There’s only one thing I’ll criticize about the character interactions, and that’s the small role filled by the other Ryder twin.

Click for major Mass Effect: Andromeda spoilers
Male and female Ryder are brother and sister, and both exist in the story.

The one you don’t play as remains in a coma for much of the game, and near the end is captured by the Archon.

The problem is you have a couple conversations with your twin and see them in a few flashbacks, but you don’t interact with them enough to bond like you do with your party members.

In theory, it was upsetting to have Ryder’s brother scream as the Archon used him to access Meridian. In practice, I had almost no emotional attachment to him.

That scene would have been much stronger if they let the player bond with the twin through regular interactions, not just 3 or so conversations across a huge RPG.

Despite this, at least the main cast was strong. By far, my favorite party member was Jaal. Jaal is an angara, the alien race native to Andromeda, and he’s wonderful.

Jaal and Xeha Ryder, my Xehanort-inspired Ryder because I’m weird like that

Jaal’s conversations with the other party members are endearing and funny, and he’s such an entertaining and sweet character that he became my romance option of choice.

Click for minor Andromeda romance detail
As a side note, it always bugged me that BioWare romances usually resulted in either having sex or breaking up the romance, with no option to say no to the sex but stay in a committed relationship.

But Andromeda finally made that an option, at least in Jaal’s romance.

The angara in general are good characters. Some are excited to get to know us aliens, while others are violently opposed to dealing with outsiders, and still others fall cautiously in between.

At its best, Andromeda gave me fun conversations with my party members, entertaining scenes, and enjoyable interactions with both the angara and the Milky Way travelers trying to make a home in Andromeda. At its worst, it gave me repetitive worlds full of fetch quests as I fought a boring villain and worked through a lackluster plot.

So, do I recommend Mass Effect: Andromeda or not? Well… I give it a maybe. I enjoyed it… but there are so many things it could have done better.

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  3 Responses to “Mass Effect: Andromeda Has Glimmers of Brilliance in a Bland Galaxy”

  1. Ooh, I’ve waited a long time for this!

    So you play a Mass Effect for story, characters, and exploration, and you only like… one of those three?

    • Pretty much, yes.

      Although it’s not like Zestiria, where I enjoyed the character interactions but found the story so disappointing and annoying that it dragged down the entire game for me. Andromeda resulted more in me just wishing it was better.

  2. […] the next game would be completely removed from Andromeda. Personally, I don’t mind. I had mixed feelings about Andromeda, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with its setting. If Andromeda 2 has […]

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