When Mass Effect: Andromeda first released back in 2017, it was fucked. There are no two ways around it. It was a buggy, ugly mess of a game. Backwards shooting guns, awful faces, terrible animations, broken cutscenes, crashes, etc. You name it, this game probably had it. In this environment I pushed through to complete my first, and at the time only, playthrough. I hated pretty much every minute of it. I was a fan of Bioware, and Mass Effect specifically, and I had hoped that if I continued to play I might find something to love. Maybe there was something to it I just didn't see? Maybe if I finished it 100% I would find something, anything to hang on to. Unfortunately, those hopes were never realized. I put 77 hours into the game, I did basically everything you could do, and if memory holds maybe five percent of it was genuinely entertaining. Now, two years older and ten years more haggard, I'm giving Andromeda another chance. I don't fully understand why I'm doing this, but here we are. Let's see if a handful of patches and some time has made Mass Effect: Andromeda something worth playing.
Right off the bat, I'm disappointed by the character creator. One of the little touches I remember fondly about the first three Mass Effect games is how their character creators were always framed to be within the universe itself. In the first game it was Shepard setting up their Alliance profile, and each game in the trilogy featured it's own unique spin on it. In Andromeda, there's just a plain old creator. As hyperbolic as this may sound, to me this is the first example of Andromeda's distinct lack of "soul." To be fair, after you're done creating your version of "Ryder," the opening few minutes are fairly intriguing. You're leaving the Milky Way galaxy behind to venture into the unknown. The Andromeda galaxy is the destination, specifically the Heleus cluster. It's chock full of "Golden Worlds" that the many races of the Milky Way can colonize. The possibilities seem endless.
Shockingly, everything didn't go as planned. The golden worlds are all a bust and it falls on you and your dad, "The Pathfinder," to fix everything. You get introduced to 2 of your full time squad mates, Liam and Cora, while you prep for a mission to investigate the nearest golden world. They both suck. Cora is basically the new Kaiden, she has nothing of note to share. She's supposed to be a badass biotic, second in command of the team. Instead she's just sort of there. Liam on the other hand, is just annoying. He's constantly talking and sort of making jokes but I'm not sure if he's supposed to be funny. Upon crash landing on the planet, I was finally given control of Ryder and started to play. The movement felt good. When I got my hands on a gun and started shooting it felt good. Using my powers felt good. The whole thing felt fucking good. Maybe the game was...good?
Andromeda is a third person shooter at it's heart, but it's completely different from the previous games in the trilogy. Where Mass Effect 2 and 3 leaned on cover based shooting and stop and pop styles, Andromeda is all about speed. There is cover that you have to use on occasion, but it's a blast to use Ryder's jump jets to boost around the battlefield. Your powers feel much more visceral this time around. Hitting someone with a biotic attack feels devastating. Flamethrowers and freeze attacks both burn and solidly freeze enemies. The shooting isn't quite as weighty, but it's fast and fluid. The whole thing feels almost arcadey at times. The only thing that really lets it down is the enemies you face.
One of only two new races in the whole of Andromeda, the Kett are, to be frank, really fucking boring. They play them up like some huge threat in the story, but they fall down like dominoes in a fight. On top of that, they nail the "generic alien" look a T. Of course, I don't remember their whole deal from my first playthrough and I'm not currently far enough in the replay to say for sure, but they don't seem to be an effective group of villains. Outside of the Kett, you also have new mechanical enemies to face called "Remnant." Given that they're robots with no sentience to speak of, they're also a boring adversary. They jump and/or fly around and shoot you when you enter their designated areas. That's about it.
Back on the fucked up planet, you and the two wet blankets, along with some red shirts, fight Kett enemies while your drop ship gets repaired. After running around for a bit, you find Dad Ryder and decide to storm an alien base that appears to be the cause of the planets issues. It's some kind of terraforming system, and dark energy is making it malfunction. You stop to plan out the attack with everyone, and it's here you get the first taste of real dialogue. The dialogue system in Andromeda is easily the best version of the Bioware wheel style. Each option has it's own icon representing the intention of the dialogue. These icons solve the old problem of certain lines reading one way in your head but meaning something else entirely in reality. Gone are the Paragon and Renegade systems of the original trilogy, so you don't have to always be a bad guy or good guy exclusively. On top of that, I was pleasantly surprised that Dad Ryder responded dynamically to what I'd done on the planet before meeting him. It's a nice touch, and in a game with better writing it would have been much more appreciated.
After storming the base you use your father uses his AI implant to reboot the terraformer, and the atmosphere is almost instantly restored to it's golden state. In the process, your father dies saving your life and now you're the Pathfinder. Being the Pathfinder means having an AI in your head that helps you make decisions and enables you to switch between combat profiles. The AI, named SAM, is extremely central to the games plot. He also somehow has more personality then any of the corporeal beings you encounter in the opening hours. With the dark energy scrubbed, the Ark ship you're on can finally reach it's destination, the Nexus. It's the Citadel, but not as cool or interesting.
This is where the opening prologue ends, and where this blog comes to a close. I'm going to keep playing Andromeda in the coming days and see where it takes me. So far, I must say I'm not impressed. The bugs seem to be toned down, and I will admit the animation isn't as bad as I remember. The game looks good in 4k, thanks to that out of nowhere patch Bioware put out last year. It's definitely a smoother experience then it was at launch, but no patch can fix the fundamental problems with the game. Those problems being the terrible dialogue, boring characters, and uninteresting central plot. There's a real lack of immersion in Andromeda that's hard to shake. I have no doubt that nostalgia plays some part in this, but I can't help but compare this game to it's predecessors and find it lacking. There's just not enough here to love, and saying that about a game with Mass Effect in the title is incredibly depressing. At least they fixed the backwards gun.