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Mass Effect: Andromeda

June 4, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda rolled out a couple months ago, amid a flurry of tepid buzz and disappointed reviews. All I remember thinking before I got it was, gee, this sure sounds a lot different from the original trilogy, and maybe not that great. As a fan of recent BioWare games, there was no way I wasn’t going to play Andromeda, but my expectations were certainly tempered.

Maybe that was the key. In any case, for some reason, I enjoyed the crap outta Mass Effect: Andromeda. I don’t care what the buzz and the journalists say.

Andromeda retains one crucial element from the earlier Mass Effectgames: no game franchise makes me feel more like I’m captain of the Enterprise. And, quite frankly, there’s nothing I could want more from a video game. Ever. I assemble my crew and earn their trust. I make decisions that affect the destiny of the galaxy. I understand the importance of following my own chain of command while reserving the right to go against it should circumstances warrant. I get my hands dirty shooting aliens on away missions. I build relationships and choose who to bone. I’m Captain Kirk, Picard, or whatever Star Fleet captain or amalgam of multiple captains I choose. And that is such a thrill to get that in a video game I’ll keep playing any game this series releases.

While I’m singing praises, let me also say that the combat system feels great. I played on normal, and I died occasionally but not much. With more difficulty levels above that, I’m sure it gets plenty hard for those who like that. Me, as you know, I’m all about being a starship captain. And “normal” was a nice, manageable difficulty setting just for people like me. There’s plenty of room to choose to fight with any combination of biotic powers, tech gadgets, or a more conventional shooting weapons.

With such huge entries in the pluses column, any criticisms seem like picking at nits. But I do have some, largely where Andromeda falls slightly short compared to the earlier franchise entries.

For one thing, the choice of main character is lackluster. Shepherd in the original trio was fantastic–both the male and female versions–a special operations veteran and total badass. in Andromeda, you have the choice of playing as Scott or Sara Ryder. They’re twins, and whichever you choose has to step up to responsibilities they’re not quite ready for and strive to grow into the mantle of the job of human pathfinder. I played the opening mission twice, once as each, to see if either impressed me. They didn’t. I arbitrarily chose Scott. There is something about the feeling of being overwhelmed and not ready, but it’s nowhere near as fun as being the formidable Shepard. My fantasy is being the seasoned captain, not Wesley Crusher! (You can technically create your own character, but that doesn’t get me any closer to my badass avatar fantasy either.)

The other characters have their moments, too, but they didn’t win my devotion as much as my crewmates had in games past. (I think that’s a fair criticism, but I will cop to the idea I might be comparing the supporting cast to the extra characters in my other favorite BioWare franchise, Dragon Age, which always had characters even more compelling than Mass Effect‘s.)

Mass Effect has always had this paragon/renegade system, where your dialogue choices could earn you a reputation and unlock options as you leaned into one or the other. It was admittedly slightly gimmicky, but it was also a lot of fun. Andromeda used a four-horned system, where you can choose from among professional, casual, logical, and passionate responses and craft your reputation more organically. Except, I don’t recall any consequences to the reputation I honed. At all. I made sure to answer professionally 90%+ of the time I had the option, and . . . I honestly didn’t see how that affected anything.

I should also note the game does feel a little janky at times and in certain ways. Weird eye movements and faces, squad mates running all over the place, that sort of thing. The menus seem less intuitive than they should be too. None of this was a huge distraction for me, but it seems like most reviewers were awfully put off by it.


The last thing I’ll gripe about is that, as usual for video games these days, it was too long. Still, I was riveted for probably around 60 of the 70+ hours I spent, which is longer than it usually takes for me to get into slog mode. I just love that Captain Me element.

So is Andromeda perfect? No. Is it probably the fourth best Mass Effect game? Yeah, maybe. But does that also make it the fourth best game of all time at making me feel like I’m captain of the Starfleet flagship? Hell yes.

Loved it

From → Video Games

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