So I completed Mass Effect: Andromeda for the second time. I wanted to give my overall thoughts on what I think of it. I also wanted to look at the first Mass Effect compared to Andromeda and see if they have completed what they set out to do, which is make a Mass Effect game focused on exploration.
Is Mass Effect: Andromeda a bad game?
Is it a great game?
To understand why I feel this way you have to look at why I got into Mass Effect in the first place. I direct you to exibit A. This scene:
I was first introduced to Mass Effect after my best friend insisted I play the second one that just released at the time. I stopped after the first minute of this cut scene, went out and bought Mass Effect 1, finished it, and then came back to finish Mass Effect 2. This one opening scene drew me into the franchise. But why?
Well, for a start, the acting and the setting definitely drew my attention to the world. In that first cut-scene, you understand that there is a bigger threat out there than everyone realizes except for this organization and a person named "Shepard". That opening scene wanted me to see what happened before and experience that for myself. And honestly, I was glad I did. The characters were interesting and dynamic, the world was surprisingly fleshed out, and it gave me even more of an appreciation for the second game.
The premise of the first game was to stop a rogue agent from unleashing the end of the galaxy. Its a pretty big deal and had huge stakes with losses along the way that did tug at your heartstrings when it happened. You could approach different situations in various ways that had impact later in the series.
But I can't deny the flaws that the first Mass Effect had. The combat was clunky, the RPG mechanics were tedious, some of the animations were a bit stilted at times, the planets were surprisingly bare, and some of the side quests/loyalty missions were difficult to find the first time around. Despite that, I still enjoyed my time with it but I didn't see much of a reason to replay it aside from changing the ending with one of the endings not really being much of a consequence as much as it should have been (no spoilers).
With that being said, I think that will apply to the second Andromeda game. Mass Effect: Andromeda has a lot of the charm as the first Mass Effect game but some flaws that I can't ignore. Bioware did want to make Andromeda a sort of reboot of the Mass Effect franchise by focusing more on what they originally envisioned the game to be about: Exploration. For the most part, they did nail it. The worlds themselves were interesting with far more things to do than in the first Mass Effect. However, there are fewer planets to land on than in the first Mass Effect. It does seem like the problems are backwards this time around in my personal opinion.
The combat is the best the series has ever been. Ryder is a lot more mobile than Shepard with jump jets that let you zip around, dodging bullets and getting into cover quickly. With different combat powers that you can switch on the fly and can combo into more powerful damage dealing effects, you can approach situations in various different ways. Some of the side quests were interesting and reminded me a little bit of Witcher 3 with how dynamic they can be as far as changing the world around you. One example is how you deal with the Krogan on Elaaden (again, no spoilers). Depending on what you choose to do with them, it will change how the Krogan perceive you and the Initiative considering the past circumstances that led them to be there in the first place. It does lead to different playthroughs that change how the world is shaped in different minor ways.
However, the overall story was the weakest part in my opinion. The main premise is you are essentially trying to find a home for the Initiative to make, building various outposts to get resources for the Nexus so that you can start waking up colonists and populate Andromeda. It is an interesting premise, but I never felt the same way I did when I played the first Mass Effect. While it was a dire situation, everyone seemed to have a pretty optimistic view of the situation. There was some character conflict that seemed out of place during some cutscenes. There is even one choice similar to the first Mass Effect that didn't tug at my heartstrings the same way. Mostly its because you had to make a choice about a character that you barely met versus a squad you barely know anything about aside from another character mentioning said squad I think once at the intro. If it involved a squad member directly like in the first Mass Effect, it would have had a pretty awesome impact I think they were looking to go for. But because you don't have enough time to build up with that character, the moment isn't as difficult of a decision as it should have been.
The choices you make felt a bit more heavy handed with obvious consequences and choices you regret later with the game reminding you that those were bad choices. To use one example from Mass Effect, you are given the option to either save the Rachni Queen or kill her. The Rachni are a race of alien bugs that started a huge war with the rest of the galaxy that the rachni nearly won were it not for the intervention of the Krogan. The Rachni queen later explains that it was not by their choice and that they were influenced by the Reapers (a sentient race of machines that want to wipe out the galaxy every 50,000 years) against their will and promise to help Shepard when the time is right. There isn't a real right or wrong answer here based on this new information and you could argue both sides correctly. In Mass Effect Andromeda, you do have a similar choice. I am being as vague as possible to avoid spoilers. You have a split second to decide between two characters. One character lives while the other dies based on your choice. One of them is clearly a bad person and the other, while deceitful, has the galaxy's best interest at heart. Its really a no-brainer.
After taking off the rose tinted glasses and looking at both of these on its own merits by themselves, they definitely have their own similarities. The difference between Mass Effect and Mass Effect: Andromeda is the development of the characters over the series. Remember, Mass Effect's characters when it was first launched weren't fully developed and as iconic as they are now because they haven't been built up over the course of three games. They started to get more notoriety with Mass Effect 2 and is regarded as the best game in the series. The same I can safely say is the same about Mass Effect: Andromeda. This one is a good primer for a series to build up over time now that you are introduced to the Andromeda galaxy. By themselves, Andromeda's characters are interesting but not as iconic as the previous series because we haven't quite developed with them as much as with the previous three games.
I just hope Bioware does continue this series in the future.