Mass Effect Andromeda - An Opening

Mass Effect Andromeda is unique, in that it is not constrained by its predecessors - Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3. The Technology, the Worlds, the Aliens that surround us are not forced to abide all that we once knew. That alone can be off-putting, and will surely drive a wedge in the affections of previous fans to this new game. More still, our actions, our choices that we struggled with in the past series are all bypassed and made for nothing by the fact that we leave the Milky Way before Shepard has a chance to even fully prove that Reapers exist. Mentions of these mysterious ‘reapers’ are all we get. Some cameo messages from a particular Asari, and talk of this N7 agent known as Shepard are mildly brought up and dismissed in the same sentences. It’s kind of disheartening to many who spent many hours in that galaxy only to not see the effects first hand. Especially after the bland endings of Mass Effect 3.

Bioware has much groundwork to make in this new galaxy, and this was fully brought on by themselves. Instead of using the groundwork, and all the lore that was readily available to them in the Milky Way, they opted to start anew, and so I will too. In an effort to fully enjoy this game, and make it worth its money I decided to disregard Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 in story, and lore for the most part, and take in what this galaxy has to offer.

For those who are interested, you are joined by familiar races: Asari, Salarians, Turians, and thankfully, the Krogan. Making a cast of five, including the Humans. And so we go to sleep, and wake up in the intro.

Like every good series needs, Andromeda has it's opening chapters. Mass Effect Andromeda exists in the Mass Effect universe, but not the same galaxy. Traveling in dark space for some 600 years from the Milky Way to the our neighbor Andromeda in stasis, we wake up to a cluster under siege by hostile aliens. These aliens are unlike any we’ve met before, and we are forced on our heels from first landing. On top of these new enemies, the cluster - our potential home - is infected by a phenomenon known a the scourge: a deadly energy cloud-like entity that reaches out and destroys most anything around it. We discover that our mission has been plagued by failure since before we awoke, in the form of rebellion, and failed colonies. It is up to you, Pathfinder, to navigate these trials, and forge a foundation for not just humanity, but every species that was brave enough to traverse the dark space in the name of exploration, and discovery.

The game as a whole, is a pretty solid foundation for a new series, but definitely needs more attention to story, and lore the second time around. As Mass Effect is an Action-RPG and one now based on exploration and discovery, we needed more world around us, and less terrain. What does that mean? Well for starters, each potential planet you can turn into outpost is vast. They really are huge lands to explore. But more like Star Wars Galaxies, and less like The Witcher 3. Huge, Empty, and randomly cluttered with guard posts that attack on sight. While I suppose this makes some amount of sense, considering these planets are not yet inhabited by sentient beings capable of building a skyline - I would have loved to see more. It is unfortunate that the predecessors of Heleus cluster - the Remnant as you will come to know them - are akin to dwarves. They prefer solid ground, so much so that everything interesting enough explore is under it. Thus making topside vast and dull.

I also believe that the Remnant bases were a squandered opportunity, which brings me to the second most annoying aspect of the game (for me). The Puzzles. I really don’t like puzzles in games which don’t need puzzles. One, or two sure - but the abundance that we received was overdoing it. I hope your Sudoku game is mediocre at least, because that’s the encryption that the Remnant preferred. Good thing those Kett don’t know patterns very well. That wasn’t the worst of it however, because not only did you need to solved the runic version of Sudoku, but you first need to find this missing runes thrown about the base… which are always the same. It should have been that you found one and it gave you a starting point. Perhaps as you progress through the game, they add more runes which makes the mini-game harder, and you need to learn those additional runes. Or just do away with the mini-game and let us in. Once inside the vault you need to activate it, usually with more puzzles. Mostly order of activation, and jumping around making the pathway clear. I feel like they could have done a lot more with these bases, as they are clearly important to the story as a whole. Instead I dreaded activating the fourth, and fifth vaults because I knew it would slow down the pace of the game.

Pace is another issue with Andromeda. The game is too spread out and it takes too long to get from point A, to point B. To make matters worse for the pace, are those stupidly annoying transition screens. The. Worst. Part. of Andromeda for me were those headache-inducingly slow transitions from the planet to space, planet to planet, and from space to space. I crawled to the finish line when it came to surveying each system, and I always push it off to the end of each chapter, because I didn’t want to do it. At all.

Speaking of surveying, did anyone notice that all fire planets seem to contain the same molten trench, strikingly similar to the Mariana trench? I don’t know how they designed their planets, but it certainly made surveying less adventurous when you came to the same scene each time. While I enjoyed the descriptions of many of the planets, they felt less unique when the backdrop of that description was the same for many other planets. I’m not sure I should have expected much more than what we got, considering planets without atmospheres, or with weak atmospheres are more than likely going to look like giant rocks in space, some on fire, and some frozen over. I guess I just didn’t like seeing the exact same things over and over again.

Finally, I need to bring up the technical issues that - as of writing - afflict the game. Mostly in the form of wonky animations, and mostly in the walk, and talk of the NPC’s and you. I did not see many of the funky walking animations that others did, but I did occasionally look like I was tip-toeing and about to fall on my face. I don’t know what caused it, but it was rare, and so mostly funny to see. The facial animations however, were apparent and definitely need work for any future game, and/or DLC. Finally, I noticed that characters, mostly female NPC characters looked the backside of a Ass’s ass. Raw, and unshapely. I’m not sure if this was an oversight, or a political statement made by Bioware, but I sure hope it’s the former, as I play games to escape the political sphere, not to see more of it. And the men of the game seemed to be just the same as previous games (average but mostly human looking).

What the game does excel at is class design, and combat. You are no longer constrained to one template chosen at the start of the game, and are granted the freedom to mix and match abilities to your heart’s content. Seeing as Combat is a huge part of Mass Effect, this is absolutely a huge plus for the game. I was excited for the combat, and enjoyed each moment of it, especially in the later levels when I started expanding my choices further. I played a tech heavy character who used shotguns, robots, and biotic powers when needed. This was an experience you just couldn’t get in previous games. Especially with the Jump Jet. I loved the Jump Jet. With the aid of the AI renting space in your brain, you can further enhance your abilities with ‘profiles’ which resemble the previous classes and give bonuses to different areas of combat. You can focus everything in raw combat, tech, or biotics. Or expand your field into two areas, or even try your hand at using all three. What’s more important is you can change your ‘profile’ on the fly, which allows you to better deal with the different enemies you may encounter.

The companions are hit-and-miss. Some I really enjoyed, while others I ignored other than doing their loyalty missions for fear of a suicide mission. Specifically I didn’t like the other human companions. One I followed for their interest in Remnant, and they gave me the best gift a pet-loving person could ask for. Unfortunately I didn’t take them with me on combat missions because they didn’t line up with my build. Another was a Krogan, who doesn’t need anything else to be awesome, but ends up having a pretty great history, and companion dialogue. He accompanied me on every mission post-joining my team. Romance wise, I didn’t pursue anyone, but I heard something about nudity, so pursue at your own risk.

The story, though raw as it is, definitely caught my attention. Which is why I say it lays down the foundations for a potentially great series. You are the Pathfinder, a human enhanced by an AI embedded in your head that allows you to see things, and do things that normal people would take far too long to see and do. You need to shepherd the colonists of this new frontier through the trials and tribulations that colonizing entails, but with the risk of no return. The groundwork was laid down by those in the Milky Way, when they surveyed Andromeda with the aid of the the ‘Prothean’ technology. After they found potentially habitable worlds in a resource rich area of the galaxy, they built Arks and the Nexus that would act as the new Citadel, and carries of the brave souls willing to traverse the dark space in a one-way trip to a new galaxy.

At some point between then and now, Andromeda pretty much turned upside down, and everything they thought they were going to, turned out to be polluted, infested, and now occupied by hostile aliens - the Kett - who have no intentions of allowing you the space to plant the seeds of a new civilization. You encounter another alien race - the Angara - who are being oppressed and enslaved, by the Kett. You side with these Angarans to push back the Kett, and solidify yourselves in the Heleus cluster. I’ve tried to avoid too many spoilers, so if it seems like the story is gist, it’s because I excluded quite a bit so that you can discover it for yourself.

The Kett in the Heleus cluster are just the tip of what appears to be a very large iceberg, and they - like you - are interested in the abandoned Remnant technology that is scattered throughout the Heleus cluster. There is also the matter of the Scourge which makes itself very present throughout the entire cluster but wasn’t really touched on by this game. So I imagine that will make an appearance in later additions. With the combination of the Kett, the Scourge, the Remnant, and the prospect of the rest of the Andromeda galaxy to explore (with whatever conflicts that arise because of it) I can see this series of Mass Effect earning its place in our hearts. Ryder is an easily remembered name, like Shepard, and if Bioware stacks their blocks right, I imagine we will remember his story too. As a side note, Mass Effect 1 seemed pretty crude before we got 2, maybe this will be the case here too.

To summarize: What we got in Andromeda was fun for it’s own game, but definitely lacking in comparison to Mass Effect 1-3. The story was a bit raw, and should be refined, but leaves the door open to a world of possibilities - they were smart to limit this game to just one area of Andromeda. The Pace is unsteady and could be more focused. The combat is far superior, and cleaner than the previous games which aid greatly in the gameplay. The worlds are beautiful, but lacking in exploration. The enemies are interesting, and give you a good reason to want them dead. The companions are varied, but some lacking in interesting features to latch onto and follow. Finally the discovery factor lies in the Remnant, and who are your enemies truly. There is plenty of potential, and I hope they opt to try again with a sequel, but take in the criticisms positively. Refine the story, expand the lore, focus the pace at similar speeds instead of the varied we got. Reduce the tediousness like puzzles, and transition screens. Finally, please populate the worlds just a little more, to make it more interesting to explore.

I'd give it a 7.5/10. It's a good game, not great, but definitely good.

Ending Spoiler Alert Look away if you haven’t already beat the game as this is a very specific detail you may want to learn on your own - There is also the matter of the missing Quarians who had troubles before they left, and now appear to be in more trouble now that they have arrived. Sending you a warning NOT to approach whatever area of Andromeda they landed in. Maybe a DLC, or something. Hopefully it’s great, because I love the Quarians.