I was very excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda...I had put it into our Most Anticipated Games list for 2017 (even giving it the featured image), thanks in large part to my intense fondness for the original trilogy. I even said this:
"Mass Effect Andromeda is the game in 2017 I am looking forward to the most, and I cannot quite believe that it is going to be here in March.
As of writing this....Mass Effect 2 is in my Top 10 Games of All Time, with Mass Effect 3 also appearing in my Top 100, so it really should not be surprising to anyone that I am stupidly excited for Andromeda and the start of a new, third-person action-rpg space game with a whole new galaxy for me to explore...and probably spend hours just bombing around in."
Now I was a bit late to the party, thanks in large part to two months of Persona 5 , so when I finally got my hands on Andromeda, I was ready. I had paid attention to some of the reviews, yes, but so many of the talked at great length about janky, weird animations and/or graphics, but I'm a Bioware fan, so I figured that at least there would be a massive, quest-filled story that will gloss over that (I loved Dragon Age: Inquisition after-all).
As of yesterday, about 25 hours in, I've given up on Andromeda....so what happened?
Essentially, the premise is that you are part of the "Andromeda Initiative", a mission by the various species of the Milky Way Galaxy to explore and settle in the Andromeda Galaxy. You play as one of the Ryder twins (either male or female--who you can customize in fairly interesting ways) whose father is the "Pathfinder" for the Human ark (essentially the chief explorer/major influencer of the direction of the Initiative). Fairly early on, your father is out of the picture, and suddenly, in a sheer, reckless break of protocol you have the mantle of Pathfinder thrust upon you (complete with unshackled AI implant) and you are tasked with doing everything.
Here's the launch trailer, so you can see that, it does, indeed, look rather dope (as it always did):
Yours (aka the Humans) is the only ark that made it through some sort of alien/construct/storm to "The Nexus", which is essentially a big ol' space station that will work as the center of Milky Way culture in Andromeda (you know, like the Citadel from the first trilogy), so now, you are given a ship, a crew, and a list of tasks that include "solve all of our problems", "make these horrible planets viable for settlement", and "fight off evil aliens who are there and are evil". You do this with a cast of characters who all join you incredibly quickly (and are essentially stock characters), leaving a lot of the setup just....unearned and flat.
I'm belittling the story a bit there, because frankly, a lot of the quests fell hard into repetitive, or frankly just uninteresting traps. For example: making a planet viable for settlement involves, essentially, doing side quests in order to improve conditions. These ranged from driving around in your sweet 6-wheeled APC (seriously, it was fun to tool around the maps in the Nomad...to a point), to dealing with ancient Proth...oh wait, no, Remnant monoliths to essentially terraform, usually involving some awkward as hell platform jumping, and every video games' best feature:
Ancient Glyph Sudoku.
Just...why did this...happen? Who in the development stage said:
"OK, we don't want players to just hit a button to activate a monolith...any ideas"
"Well, everyone likes Sudoku right?"
"Well what if we have a Sudoku puzzle, but like, you have other boxes you can't double symbols in?"
"That sounds pretty easy"
".....can the player have to awkwardly search around the area for missing glyphs too?"
"I feel like that was implied"
If you only had to do this a few times, fine, but the fact that you're sometimes having to do three of these things per planet is insane. They're not hard, by any means, but they are time consuming which means that all it did was make every one of those sections feel like busy work; there had to have been a more engaging way to do that, but it got to the point where I was (in only 20 or so hours) dreading the next time I would have to do that.
The exploration/mining from your ship/vehicle sections (that I sunk hours in to in the first Mass Effect trilogy) have been streamlined down to the point that they, again, just feel like some half-padding ESPECIALLY considering there are 15-20 seconds of flying screens that yes, look cool, but when you've seen eight of the damn things in a row, and each planet gives you as many resources as just walking around a planet picking up crystals does, it feels pointless, even if I want to upgrade stuff...
Which brings me to the menus.
Clunky, awkward menus. They were a pain to get through on the PS4, and, while I do have a good TV, I found the text to be borderline too small in its' weird blue colour, so it meant that I found myself not really paying any attention to the codex/lore because it was just a giant pain the ass to get to and read. I love Mass Effect lore, and am one of those players who actually read the backstory and lore (let us never speak of how much reading I have done in Elder Scroll games), but I just couldn't bring myself to do it here....the maps drove me nuts, especially as someone who took some geography in University...I just....how were they THAT awkward.
There are so many little things that didn't quite work....and all of this could have been glossed over by really engaging characters, or a main plot that grabbed me and did not let go...
And I got neither of those.
The characters were...fine. I didn't like any of them (there were absolutely none I was interested in romancing, which is so very much a part of the engaging nature of the Mass Effect relationships: Tali forever....), and some seemed to be such stock characters (in the time I spent with them) that I could not bring myself to keep going in order to see what happened. This could be because I didn't find Ryder interesting.
He (I made a goth Polynesian Ryder, who looked pretty great) was someone that I could just not get a sense of when it came to the conversation wheel--you pick general responses, and then there's a line reading that loosely ties into that. I have no idea where some of the intentions, or the directions that statements went came from, but it was...OK. As long as you were willing to look past a lot of inconsistencies, and some readings/lines that just felt completely out-of-the-blue off of the situation and/or character. It's been a long time since I played the first trilogy, but I'm hoping I'm not rose-coloured glasses here, or maybe, Shepard was just written more cohesively/in a way that I groked, whereas Ryder...was...fine?
Fine just is not good enough to keep my attention around all of the other jank...or the awkward (read: feels old) shooting mechanic, or that cover system...
I got picked off more than once because of weirdness around cover, like not entering cover, leaving without my moving, or even, my favourite, something that is the same size/shape as the cover I left apparently not being cover....thus getting to restart from a checkpoint or save because...reasons.
All of this said...I can see that, if you are able to look past all of the little things, or if you were able to connect to the characters more than I did, that there is an OK game here, that could even (based on the plot points that I read after I gave up) turn out to be fairly engaging for someone. I fought a piece of Remnant tech called...I think it was an Architect on an ice planet once, and THAT was an excellent time, the problem was, it was followed right up by having to go back to my ship, to answer a holophone call, to then go back to where I just was to pick up a McGuffin to take to another place to then do more Sudoku.
The good bits (and there are good bits in this, despite my....apparent need to rant) are there, they're just too few and far between for me. If you loved it, or at least liked it? I'm glad for you (no sarcasm there at all, I really am) because I really wanted to...
This, really was a disappointment, and upon seeing the trailer for Anthem, I wonder what Mass Effect: Andromeda could have been, rather than the MEHss Effect game I got
I'll show myself out.