Monday, May 15, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

This post contains spoilers for Mass Effect: Andromeda.

A good ending forgives a lot of sins. Mass Effect: Andromeda has a solid ending. It also has a lot of sins.

I finally finished Andromeda last night. I think it might be easiest to review it in bullet-point form:

  • The ending of Andromeda is quite good. It feels like someone listed everything which was wrong with ME3's ending, and systematically went about writing the opposite. As a result, the ending is very fulfilling. All the allies you made appear and help, validating all your choices in the game. Though you still have your 2 squadmates, all your other squad members show up to help in the final fight. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, and Andromeda goes out on a high note.
  • Andromeda has one really good decision to make. On Kadara, there are two rival criminal organisations seeking control of the planet. You have to side with one of them. The two groups are very different, and it's not obvious which is the better choice. I've seen some interesting debates as to which choice is better. Additionally, Andromeda used the "quick-time event" to make the choice, forcing you to make the choice with time pressure. Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of the quick time events, but here it worked perfectly.
  • The combat is fun and works well. There are lots of different builds and play styles.
  • If you like Krogan, there's lots of interactions with them. Drack, a squadmate, is pretty awesome. The krogan colony is pretty funny, and provides a much needed dose of humour. (Apparently, some krogans LARP, playing Krantt: the Ragening. There's also a new father support group, where they have sing-alongs and demolition explosion demonstrations.)
  • The six companion loyalty missions are very well designed, and actually fairly interesting, with a wide variety of styles. 

  • The story and writing is decent. It's not particularly good, but it's not particularly bad either. In fact, in some ways it's unfortunate this is a Mass Effect game. If it had been an entirely new franchise, I would have said it was a promising start, and hopefully would get better in the sequel.
  • The open world and driving around in the Nomad is reasonably fun.
  • Your crew, aside from Drack, are not very interesting. Honestly, they're kind of annoying. After thinking about it for a bit, I've come to the conclusion that this is because they're teenagers. Oh, they're theoretically adults, with adult histories. But they act like teenagers in a television show. Everything is overly dramatic and histrionic. I wanted to space half of them by the end.
  • The game has a set of quest objectives called Tasks, which are an utter waste of time, and really just serve as filler. Collect 10 rocks, etc. Some tasks have objectives which randomly appear in enemy camps. I strongly recommend that you simply ignore all the tasks you get, and just focus on the main quests.
  • The software quality is not quite there. The animations and cutscenes have mostly been patched up to reasonable quality by now, but quests can still be fragile and buggy.
  • The game lacks the "grace notes" of the original trilogy. Elements like the elcor, hanar, and volus, which weren't really part of the story, but enhanced the world.
  • The new races introduced, the Angara and Kett, are uninteresting.
  • The entire scanner mechanic is overused, and really slows the game down.

Looking at these notes, I don't think I've touched my main issue with the game. It feels like the new studio was given the Mass Effect franchise, and they felt like they had to do "more" to live up to the name. Add more open-world content and bring back driving a vehicle. Add a scanner. Add all these tasks. Add NPC strike teams. But in the end, they spread themselves too thin. Pretty much every element of the game, save maybe combat, is a step below the original trilogy.

In a lot of respects, I think they would have done better to cut all these extra features and focus on polishing the main story and animations. If the player does everything, tries to 100% the game, it's too long. It would be better as a shorter and more focused game.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a bad game. It's just not a great one. And Andromeda has the misfortune to be a sequel to a set of truly great games.