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.


  1. I'd made the decision a while back that --even though it's not necessary-- I should play the original trilogy first before Tackling Andromeda. Given that I've put new games on the back burner while we tackle home and work issues for a while, by the time I finally get to Andromeda the game will likely be patched all the way up to respectability.

    Still, it's good to hear that at least the ending is better than ME3. After all the bugs, you hope that they didn't screw that up.

    1. They've made large strides with the last couple of patches. So it should be in good shape when you get around to it.

  2. For me, Andromeda looks like a try to go back to Mass Effect 1, with more sandbox and less focus on the main story than 2 and 3 had. This can be both good and bad, dpending on one's taste.

    1. Also I think they were influenced by the success of open-world games like Skyrim. So maybe they thought that going back to a ME1-style sandbox would appeal to those players.

      I've also heard that they were originally going to do heavy procedural content, but ripped that out when No Man's Sky bombed. But that's just rumour.

  3. I went back and played the original trilogy and if you take ME:A as "part 1 of a triology" it outshines ME:1 in every way. Every way. Of course, its not - its technically ME:4.

    If you allowed for the pacing of setting up a secondary and third game it is well done and left a lot still out there to be explored.

    I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it even MORE after playing hte original trilogy because it reminded me that the nostalgia of 1-3 are actually stronger than the games themselves. Playing them made me appreciate how much tighter the gameplay was in ME:A instead of relying on imperfect memories =)

    They can definitely improve though, and I hope they do try.

    1. I agree with you, if it had been the first game in the series, it would have probably been received better.

      But maybe not though, the animations were terrible on launch, and just having the ME name probably got people to look past it. I know that I would have probably not bothered with a new franchise after seeing those initial animations.

  4. See I liked the game. It was not best but really it reminded me of Mass Effect 1 where you are just starting out with these characters and you do not really know them yet. You say that the new races are uninteresting and really that can be tided to the fact they seem to hide much information if you do not do side quests. What gets me is you say that the companions make you think of teens and really did you not remember how some of the original Mass Effect companions acted? Each game had half the team be teens act wise then you either saw growth in later games or they had more serious moments but most of the time still acted like kids. See I wanted to see more MEA games that showed growth with these characters because if they make more they could keep the same characters have great growth for each one.