Bioware’s return to the Mass Effect universe this year via Mass Effect Andromeda received a lot of negative publicity from both players and reviewers at the time of its launch that likely impacted many other player’s perceptions of the game. Now that I have had time to get through the majority of the game I thought I’d share my final opinion below. Though it might come across as negative I will say that I’ve enjoyed all of the ME games (including Andromeda) and only wish to see more from the franchise in the future.
Warning: potential spoilers ahead! If you haven’t completed the game yet and want to be surprised please stop here and get back to playing. 😉
Endings and The Aftermath
After seeing the endgame and completing a lot of the side quests I suppose that I am feeling a little disappointed with just how generic the main story turned turned out to be. At first you’re not sure what is in store for your character but as you get further into it you will start seeing similarities in the main story arc to what has been done before in previous games of the franchise. Taking away that is set in a new galaxy, you could almost substitute the Kett for the original Mass Effect‘s Geth and the Archon (Andromeda’s big bad guy) for Saren and it wouldn’t feel too out of place.
Despite that familiarity there are still enough twists and turns to surprise you. There are some suitably epic moments during the endgame that showcase the best of what the game offers and look pretty amazing as well. That you get to experience it through a variety of different set pieces really does keep you entertained and avoid falling into the trap of grinding through enemies. Leading up to this moment I definitely think that veteran players and those who soak in all the side quests will get the most out of it by having all that additional backstory. The more you understand everyone’s motivations leading up to this point the more rewarding it becomes. So it’s worth completing as much of the the side stuff as you can!
Keep on Questing!
Amid all of the standard search and shoot type side quests that you’ll encounter, there are also some really great quests that are seriously worth playing. The companion loyalty quests are not only worth doing to unlock the additional skill levels but also have some of the best moments in the game too. I liked Drack’s probably because Krogans continue to be some of the most interesting characters in the series (more Klingon than real Klingons in my opinion). In the case of a couple of my crew I totally forgot about their loyalty quests until after the endgame which was unfortunate for me. The ones for Peebee and Liam go above and beyond the typical side missions with some really cool unique locations. It’s still hard to compare the Tempest crew to that of the Normandy but I really liked completing those quests.
Ryder’s own story would pale into comparison to these if it wasn’t for the backstory that presents itself when you begin unlocking the memories you “discover” during your travels. I can see that the developers didn’t want to reveal too much right away and wanted to ensure that the player at least travelled to the majority of locations before being able to access everything but it also means that some interesting topics don’t get the attention they should have deserved. I do wish that there could have been more to it as it was nice having a more personal story than what was possible with the ME trilogy’s Shepherd who was a blank slate. Once again, depending on your game playing priorities you might just miss out on these interesting story threads in your rush to complete the game.
It’s great that there are so many side quests on offer because if you do end up taking them all on it’ll add much to your total play time. The downside for me was for those those quests that I avoided to complete the main story I would later feel obligated to finish them off just to make sure I didn’t miss anything useful. Unfortunately when you’re at that point of the game there is no longer any urgency to play further and if you do you realise what you missed out on.
Some of these would lead into possible shadow organisations and factions driven by conspiracies hinted at but never pursued further was likely to have set up some plot threads for future expansions and games (there’s also one potential DLC/sequel hint revealed past the end game) but after three Mass Effect games already laying out factions such as Cerberus it seems a waste to have to start it all over again. Running into the side quests that hinted at what was to come was exciting but then frustrating because we may not get to see them resolved.
Much Ado About Travelling… And Waiting
There’s a lot of planet hopping involved for many of the larger quests which does make it seem like it is deliberately done to stretch out your play time. Having to go through a cutscene of flying off a planet, then select your next system from the galactic map, seeing another cutscene for the jump, selecting your final destination on the system map (at least you can now skip it thanks to a recent update) and finally another cutscene during landing. That’s five to ten minutes of cutscenes and load screens that can break the flow of play.
The game also doesn’t help itself though with some quests getting put “on hold” to allow other events to play out before you are allowed to continue. It’s actually not that bad an idea to try and pace out some of the side quests to allow them the chance to interleave within the main questline but if not done right I think it can also have the opposite effect of having players walk away and do something else.
If Wishes Were Starships
These are unique faults with Mass Effect Andromeda – prior games in the franchise have faced similar issues and it’s also visible in other open world RPGs too. Being able to take your time to play through the world in the way you choose is incredibly empowering to the player but they still need a reason to be there in the first place. Eventually playets are only left with collect-a-thons, monsters spawns or courier missions for little reward and you’re not going to be feeling much like a hero anymore. The developers at Bioware must have anticipated that and did include some post end game content that gives players a tease of what was intended to come but it is just that while being yet another way to stretch out the game for an hour or two.
If I could dream up an ideal addition to the game it would be having SAM (your AI buddy) be more of an active influence on your quest paths. For example, maybe you defeat Kett stationed at a base and then are reminded that there is an alien ruin nearby worth investigating. Having the game guide you a little more through a continuous narrative might take away much of the open nature of the experience but could expose players to more appropriate quests at the right times. Even having some of the loyalty quests play out more as self contained missions requiring completion before you can go further would benefit the game and get players to experience it the way the developers had planned.
Though I do have plenty of criticisms of the game, I did put a lot of hours into Mass Effect Andromeda and don’t regret playing it at all. I think it might be simply frustrations with the end product is not quite the big step up from the ME trilogy that we were all hoping for. Considering the troubled development the game was revealed to have gone through it’s a miracle it arrived in as good a state it did. The post release updates have also gone a long way though to smoothing out the rough edges and making the game be the best it can be.
If you are willing to ignore the negativity and delve deeper into the game beyond those first impressions there is a lot in there to keep you occupied and most importantly, enjoy. In the end I think that’s what makes it a great game.
Mass Effect Andromeda is out now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.