If I had to think of one way to describe Mass Effect: Andromeda, it would be extremely disappointing. I can’t help but think of all the things this game could have been after so many years of development.
The premise of going to a brand new galaxy sounds intriguing. What mysterious new planets, races, weapons, cultures, structures, and storylines will I find? How about a total of 2 new races (remember this is a brand new GALAXY), a quick nod to what galactic first contact should be, and the first new race you see within 10 minutes of starting the game is a bipedal alien race wielding assault rifles. I guess I just expected something different.
Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be after seeing those EA early access videos showcasing the terrible animation and writing, but they do stick out like a sore thumb. The combat is great. Possibly the best in the series with it’s more fast paced action and booster dashes. The main story isn’t bad and kept me interested most of the time. The concept of exploring habitable planets for the Milky Way species in a brand new galaxy is a good place to start a new trilogy. However, it misses more than it hits.
The Ryder siblings waking up from cryostasis to help with the Andromeda Initiative is a good beginning. The story of their father, Alec Ryder, and what he went through with his wife and revealing bits and secrets of the Andromeda Initiative was very interesting and kept me wanting to continue finding the memory fragments. There IS some light that shines through the cloudy, muddy mess of writing and animations that all but ruin certain scenes.
I really need to get the animations and writing off my chest here. The amount of poor animations over the course of the 50 hours I played is astonishing. It really does hinder the experience. There are countless examples of emotionally charged cut-scenes that are completely ruined by the dead stare of characters eyes coupled with the unexplainable mouth/facial movements. Sometimes even the subtle twitching of the characters eyes can tarnish the scene. Characters sometimes don’t even look at each other if there is a height difference. All these little things add up.
Maybe this is also an example of the poor writing. That something like a t-pose or a clone of the character you are talking to popping up in the middle of a cut-scene can derail the whole thing. That the writing can’t even keep me engaged enough to ignore some of these minor bugs and glitches. After a while I became numb to the poor animations and was still put off during certain key scenes. You just know something is wrong when you expect a human being to react a certain way or present some type of facial emotion when hearing news or seeing a traumatic event, and it doesn’t come.
The inconsistent storytelling during some missions is another aspect that annoys me. For example, when npcs don’t take into account that you actually completed a mission and they talk to you like you didn’t. For example, gaining the trust of The Maesha requires completing objectives on one of two planets. You can choose which planet to go to, or complete them both. I finished one planet and Jaal, your companion who knows The Maesha, tells me that I now have her trust. Well before completing the mission I decided to check out the other planet for discovery sake. I completed the objective on that planet as well and Jaal reiterates that only NOW have I gained The Maesha’s trust. It’s just awkward and confusing. Come on Jaal.
I also just don’t believe Cora would let you become the pathfinder so easily when it seems she was next in line for the job. Instead of showing any signs of dismay, jealousy, or dislike for you, she just falls in line. I would think you would have to earn her respect or something. Maybe show a little bit more depth to her character.
I also felt slightly punished for exploring as much as I did on planets. I decided to head to a vault early in my exploration phase, completely wiping out all the enemies in a vault and searching every corner, only to find one door that I just could not interact with. I know that it’s something I’m going to be able to open up later because I can scan it and see that it will eventually be an interactable door. Of course I have to run around the whole planet and receive a main story quest that tells me to head to that vault. Miraculously I can open the door now. No key or anything was given to me. It was just a closet with an item I needed to find in a crate. Why even bother exploring if eventually I will have to come back here anyway. They should let me pick up the item not knowing what it is, only to find out later and save me the run.
Having said that, navigating a planet IS actually fun thanks to your all-terrain vehicle, The Nomad. It starts off a little slow and has a hard time climbing up some of the steeper hills, but once it’s upgraded, this thing climbs and zooms all over the place. It’s too bad it doesn’t have any weapons on it though, like the Mako from the original Mass Effect.
Not to mention SAM and other npcs talking over each other during conversations making me miss out on crucial information. This happened more than a few times. Oh and also coming right out of an important emotional cutscene only to be told by SAM I have emails waiting for me to be read. What? I’m about to go finish the game and I need to read an email about Jaal making gifts for the rest of my crew? OK!
Scanning planets. I don’t really mind scanning planets and reading some of the information about what type of ecology exists on said planet, but the long, LONG, animations in between each planet is annoying to say the least. The zooming in to your ship, then flying all the way over to the planet, then zooming out takes 15 seconds too long. When multiple solar systems open up at once, I dread having to go to each one and scan every planet for some small amount of resources. After 60 scanned planets I just had to stop doing it.
The combat is really good, but unfortunately they took away your ability to tell your squadmates to use skills. This left me hoping that they would actually use their combo finishers when the time was right instead of knowing they would. It didn’t really impact the way I played but it would have been nice to have more useful commands besides move and attack.
Strike teams, think Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood style, are non playable missions you send AI controlled teams to complete. If they complete it, you can gain some resources and credits as well as enabling the team to level up to attempt more difficult missions. The resources I obtained off these missions didn’t amount to anything. I never had a problem crafting anything I wanted. The strike team stuff was just bland and boring. Set it and forget it.
I only really enjoyed being around 2-3 of my companions and crew. Peebee, although quite annoying at first, has such a different, overt personality than the rest of the crew that she stuck out in a good way. Drack is the old Krogan war veteran who’s been around for ages. The Krogan have a long history of in-fighting and disputes with other species, so of course Drack will expand upon those interesting issues. Vetra, the female Turian soldier, has an interesting storyline regarding her sister. Vetra also isn’t afraid of crossing moral lines and doing illegal activities if the case presents itself. These characters come with some fun loyalty missions that bring you to some special planets and set pieces that are worth the time and effort to go after.
Mass Effect is about the characters and story first, combat second. The storylines and characters exhibited in Andromeda just don’t have much substance and are, for lack of a better term, boring. They almost nailed the combat perfectly but it’s not enough to keep me playing the unoriginal, wave based, loot box opening multiplayer. The ending left me wanting to learn more about the galaxy and what lies ahead for the Andromeda Initiative, but I can’t help feeling disappointed at what could have been a much, much more polished experience.
I kind of want to replay the original trilogy now. Mass Effect deserves better.