Mass Effect Andromeda: Impressions and Takeaways

Despite all the hullabaloo on the site recently about Persona 5, I also managed to beat Mass Effect Andromeda a couple weeks ago. While I don’t have quite the glowing praise for the Ryders that I do for the Phantom Thieves, it’s still a solid game that’s worth checking out.

Rather than do a full review, here are some of my main thoughts about Andromeda, and where it succeeds and fails:

  • The game feels like Mass Effect from top to bottom, which is mostly a good thing. I think the main mistake a lot of people have made with Andromeda is comparing it to Mass Effect 3. The more apt comparison is to the original game in the original trilogy, and that’s where you can see some of the design choices in play here. Planetary exploration? It’s mostly a plus once you get away from Eos and have a chance to upgrade the Nomad. Galaxy exploration? There’s a ton out there, and now that you can skip half the loading screens (THANK GOD), it’s worth checking out all the stray locales.
  • The story is decent enough. It doesn’t take long to establish a suitable enemy, and the Archon and friends clear the bar of “you’re evil and I want to stop you now” with relative ease. I thought the concept was especially cool — without going too much into spoilers, this is hundreds of thousands of species trying to make it in a brand new universe with plenty of roadblocks in the way. Despite their best work to scout out locations, it turns out that new planets aren’t that simple, and it’s up to the Pathfinder to try to make the best of an untenable situation.
  • The combat is essentially a slightly better version of Mass Effect 3, which is a good thing in my book. Everything is quick and responsive, and the addition of verticality with boost jumps and rapid dashes and mid-air hovering feels great. I think they went a little overboard on cooldown timers for powers, but you can eventually correct that with gear and skill point choices.
  • As for multiplayer, it’s essentially the same as the previous paragraph: a better ME3. The stages are fun and the classes are versatile but useful across the board. The cooldown complaint really hits hard here — using Throw and having to wait 12 seconds to get it back just feels bad. Even heavy investments into those skill trees isn’t enough to salvage some abilities. But the servers have been stable so far and the familiar co-op gameplay delivers with its objective-based focus.
  • Let’s address some complaints here. First, no, the animations are not as bad as you’ve been led to believe. There are certainly situations where characters look silly, and the facial textures are simply not good enough in 2017. But most of those GIFs of Ryder looking goofy on stairs or teleporting out of scenes are exaggerated or have since been fixed with patches. Now, why this wasn’t corrected before release in what feels like a rushed game? That’s definitely a debate worth having.
  • Second, yes, the relationship choices are a little subpar. Cora gets a much longer and more detailed (and graphic) love scene with Scott than almost all of his options, while a couple of Sara’s options feel almost lifeless and flat in comparison. I’m not sure what to do with non-hetero choices in games like these. Do you make everyone an accessible option to be inclusive, and sacrifice personality and exclusivity in the process? What happens when every partner is essentially bi, even though your playthrough’s choices dictate the experience in certain ways? I can’t say I have the answers. Dragon Age’s approach is an alternative, but I’m not sure it succeeded in every way either.

If I were doing a score for Andromeda, it would probably be in the 7.5 range. BioWare has employed a number of patches to fix some of its release-date issues, but there are still a handful of ways where the game just doesn’t feel finished, particularly with bugs and animations. Of course, you could say the same thing about Mass Effect 1 — the big difference here is that the original trilogy exists now, and it has colored our expectations for ME games going forward.

Still, the game is thoroughly Mass Effect, and gamers who enjoyed the original trilogy will find something to enjoy here. The best part about Andromeda is that it reflects how much you want to put into it. If you’re only interested in character loyalty missions and main quests, you can probably beat the game in 25-30 hours. If exploring planets and collecting new mineral samples for a 100% file is of interest to you, that number might double. And the multiplayer adds a lot of replay value if it’s your cup of tea.

Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t without its issues, but it’s a good enough game that it’s worth checking out.

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