“Fifty-one hours? I’ve only been playing for 51 hours?!” This was my initial thought after taking a look at my playtime for Mass Effect: Andromeda. I had been convinced that I’d clocked-in at least 70 hours. So, discovering that I’d only played for about 50 hours should have been pleasing or at least something of a relief. Instead, all I could think about was just how much longer it had felt. That wasn’t the even the worst part. No, the real kicker here was that I hadn’t even finished the game yet!
Having dozens of hours of content is not an inherently bad quality for a game to possess. If the game is able to make that time feel fun and/or rewarding, then it’s often held up as a major selling point. What if much of that playtime feels pointless or, even worse, boring though? What happens when players start looking forward to the end instead of enjoying the journey? What happens is that the game ceases to be fun and becomes something decidedly not fun: a chore.
I started Mass Effect: Andromeda knowing that it was supposed to be a long game, and I was even rather excited about that. I’d gladly spent at least a hundred hours or so in each of the previous ME games, so I was definitely all set for the long haul in Andromeda. At ten hours in I was still having a blast. At 20 hours I was still having fun with the exploration and the combat, but was starting to feel like the story hadn’t advanced much. At 30 hours in I felt things were moving too slowly, so I decided to ignore everything that wasn’t a character quest, Heleus quest, or “Priority Operation”. Even that wasn’t enough though, because here I was, 50+ hours in, and I still had a full-blown laundry list of “important” quests to wade through. It’s at this point that the heart of the problem became apparent. It wasn’t that the game was running long or that there was a lot to do, but rather that all these so-called “important” quests weren’t actually important at all. They, just like the obvious busywork that was everything that fell under “Tasks and Assignments”, were simply just more borderline inconsequential things to do.
For the most part, I’ve been left wondering why I bothered doing most of it. Aside from the initial Ryder, squad member, and ark missions, which at least added some character background or resolved some mystery, I can’t really recall a mission that added anything except playtime to my experience. There were no interesting scenarios, no wrinkles in mission design, nor even much information revealed about the Remnant, the Kett, or even the Angara. In fact the one time that I did find something I thought was interesting, it wound up amounting to nothing anyway. I should have had the chance to learn about the pre-Scourge Angara, but nope. There were no new reveals to be had. At this point, I’m really hoping that there’s at least some sort of story acknowledgment for getting every planet up 100%. If there isn’t, then it’ll be hard to convince me that most of the game wasn’t a waste of time.
I probably sound like I absolutely hate Mass Effect: Andromeda, but I actually don’t. I’ve enjoyed the main story. I think the combat is the best in the series. I genuinely like (most of) the characters, and I even like tooling around in the Nomad. My problem with it is the same one I had with Dragon Age: Inquisition: there’s just too much fat on it. The original trilogy of games were just fine with around 35-40 hours of play each, so one would think that Andromeda would have been fine without most of the busywork too. A game that tightens-up its belt and only provides what’s needed (and perhaps just a bit more) will always leave the player with a better impression than a game that provides mountains of unnecessary content. The former is fondly-missed while the latter inevitably winds up overstaying its welcome.
What do you think of Mass Effect: Andromeda and games like it?
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster