77 Hours Later, and Mass Effect: Andromeda is in the Bag

Actually, 77 and one-half to be precise, but who’s counting? Me, that’s who, because I really can’t believe that I spent anywhere near that time in the world of Mass Effect: Andromeda. But there it is, and now it’s time to talk about it. Where to even begin?! There’s so much to unpack here, but I’m going to keep things streamlined and spoiler-free (but no less opinionated) by exploring the game through five topics: story, missions, characters, gameplay, and graphics. I’m also going to aim to keep the previous Mass Effect games out of the picture. As bound in that universe as Mass Effect: Andromeda is, it’s a different animal from the original trilogy.

TL;DR Mass Effect: Andromeda is a solid and enjoyable game with its own set of issues and quirks, none of which significantly detract from the overall experience.

Now, if you want to read, continue at your leisure…

The Story

After a lengthy opening sequence, during which it’s revealed that some 600 years ago, humans and other alien races were sent on a cryo-laden journey from the Milky Way Galaxy to the Andromeda Galaxy — you end up specifically in the Heleus Cluster — in order to “explore” and “find a new home,” you begin your journey as the human Pathfinder – the one who’s in charge of finding and settling new planets.  Along the way, you meet faces old (the Turian, Salarian, Krogran, and Asari) and new (the Angara, the Remnant), and together everyone must band together to fight a reprehensible enemy – the Kett, led by the Archon – who’s bent on galactic dominance. It’s not necessarily your standard “good guy versus bad guy” story, but that notion rests firmly at its core. The Pathfinder is set up to be the hero and is, in most cases. Though a little bland and not without a few lulls, I found the story to be more than passable. It definitely got better and more intense later in the game, so it was by no means a letdown.

The Missions

Players are given all sort of leeway in determining the path they want to take throughout the game. You can follow the main story itself (your “priority” missions), veer off into missions within the cluster, complete loyalty missions, or take a break to do some tasks and assignments. I didn’t really have a plan going in, so, much as I tend to do in open-world RPGs, I bounced between the choices. I suspect that the main story itself isn’t very long, as I’m pretty sure that I spent at least two-thirds of my 77 hours on everything but the main story. (The loyalty missions are the absolute highlights.)  It’s a big game, and there’s no shortage of things to do.

And that brings me to one of game’s most glaring issues, which Hatm0nster addressed in this post and other bloggers have touched upon – there are too many things to do outside of the main story. Now, it’d be one thing if the side missions and tasks were interesting, but…they’re not. The tasks and assignments are generally dull and don’t amount to much in terms of rewards. (I’m including the Strike Team Missions here, as well.) Though I will say that the game did dole out experience and resources hand-over-fist, so by its conclusion, I had racked up far more resources than I could ever use. I guess that’s good?

The Characters

Gold stars all around! If the story seemed a bit trite, and the missions were a little insipid, then it’s because Bioware put all its eggs (or the vast majority of them, anyway) into creating the game’s characters. Your companions have meaty stories, real stories that you reveal in layers during various conversations.. Your team isn’t perfect, and they’re not trying to be. But they’re all behind you as the Pathfinder. Each of them is imbued with purpose and realness. Having the opportunities to learn about their foibles and triumphs, their inner beliefs and outer personas is where the game really shines. And this was especially true during their own discussions! Hearing your companions converse among themselves always provided insightful fireworks, whether you were on your ship or on a planet.

If I have but one complaint about the characters, it’s that some of the portrayals came off as heavy-handed. For that reason, I didn’t connect very well with a couple of the characters who, at times, felt like they had had dramatic dialogue shoehorned in for no reason. And of the peripheral characters – those with whom you could interact but weren’t part of your team – they mostly felt incomplete, and I wished their stories had gotten more attention. I purposefully pursed a romance with one of them, and it was cute, but it didn’t lead to much.

The Gameplay

Despite early reviews and videos that seemed to highlight the game’s potential gameplay defects, I didn’t experience any issues with movement or combat. Battles with enemies ebbed and flowed nicely, and the controls felt smooth and buttery. Ryder herself was sturdy as ever. Even with my clumsy controller, I could make her turn on a dime during harrowing situations. She looked natural walking and running, and I adored the addition of vertical movement. (I really overused my jump-jet, believe you me.) I did experience the occasional glitch during combat where an enemy might suddenly start hovering mid-air or magically “fall” into the ground, but they were generally few and far between. In fact, the game was remarkable glitch-free, save for a few side missions that glitched out when it came to completing them. They aren’t the only reason I stand at 95% complete overall, but they’re certainly part of it.

If anything hampered the gameplay, or, maybe more specifically, my gameplay, it was the cover system. When it worked, it worked fine, but it seemed far too easy to take Ryder out of cover inadvertently. Of course, I’m not a very graceful or patient shooter, so, as I said, that could have been more my fault then the game’s. Also, thank goodness they allowed for skipping between planetary travel, because I was over that in a heartbeat. I only wish they had allowed the same when traveling between solar systems, and entering and exiting planets, as well.

The Graphics

My goodness if Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever played. I hardly ever take (or remember to take) screenshots of any games, even my favorites. But with this game, I couldn’t stop taking them. The people, the planets, the landscapes, they are all simply beautiful. And I was pleased to see planetary landscapes that felt more alien than not. Granted, we still can’t seem to get away from the tropes of “grass land,” “sand land,” “snow land,” “jungle land,” and so on, but Bioware made a vested effort to give players some unusual environments to explore. And the same extends to everyone you encounter. I couldn’t stop staring at the details placed in the faces of the Krogans and Salarians. I’m all about the eyes in game characters, and once things were fixed so that everyone stopped looking like they were caught in headlights, I found myself hypnotized by character’s eye movements during close-up conversations.

On the flipside…the hair. My Ryder’s hair. It simply had a mind of its own. During every, single cutscene that didn’t take place inside, her hair moved constantly, as if she were always standing in front of a fan. It was very distracting, to say the least. Outside of that, the animations of the human and Asari faces remained a bit strange throughout (my Ryder made the funniest fish-mouth when pronouncing “u” and “oo” sounds), but they were easy to overlook after awhile.

In sum

My 77 hours with Mass Effect: Andromeda were 77 hours well spent. Yes, there are too many meaningless side quests; and yes, some of the characters could have received more polished storylines; and yes, the character animations did seem a bit inferior to the planetary designs. But none of that takes away from the fact that Mass Effect: Andromeda offers players a robust RPG experience. In the end, it’s a game that gives as much as it takes, and it’s really up to each player to formulate his or her own balance. I had a great first time through, and I look forward to someday saving humanity all over again.


All images including lede (© Bioware) were taken by cary using GeForce Experience.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. I played the game on PS4 at launch and it didn’t suck me in after 6 or so hours, so that combined with the gameplay issues and I ended up shelving it. However, I definitely saw its potential and I’ve been wanting to revisit it now that it’s been patched a few times. I genuinely love the original trilogy and although I didn’t expect the same level of quality, I was initially let down. I do hear it picks up a ways into the game, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      The game does get better in its later acts, so I’d recommend jumping back in if only to play through the main story.

      If I’m being totally honest, it didn’t immediately hook me either. It’s opening and prologue mission weren’t exactly stellar. I found a groove with the game after that, but then…somewhere around 30-40 hours in, I really struggled to find motivation to play. I simply wasn’t interested. What helped me push past that were the loyalty missions and ignoring the “tasks and assignments.” Once I got back on track, the game became a different and much better experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good to hear. I’m never a fan of “wait, it gets better” because I could be playing something else for those 10 or so hours, but Mass Effect is different I guess. I want to believe there’s something worth experiencing in there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. cary says:

        I think there is, as long as you’re willing to invest the time. But, to be perfectly honest, you’re right. There are 10-12 hours games that are wholeheartedly better than MEA.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review. I played it for seven hours straight when it first launched, and it was a little not what I expected… But it grew on me and especially re-starting it with the patches makes it a whole different experience. I’m definitely seeing the pick up in action like you mentioned, and of course I’m in love with the characters, which is something that’s very important for my enjoyment of a story. I’m almost finished with it (I think) so I’m looking forward to seeing how all the conflicts conclude (or not)…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Good luck! I’ll be really interested in seeing what you have to say about the game once you’re finished.

      As I mentioned in my comment to CheapBossAttack, it took me a little while to really get into the game. And even after that, things ebbed and flowed. Some sessions with the games were really fruitful, while other felt wasted. But boy, the characters — I ❤ them all! If anything really made me stick with the game, it was my team. Thank goodness the bulk of them didn't get the storytelling shaft, otherwise…well…I don't dare think of what game we might have ended up with.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. fminuzzi says:

    I felt similarly when playing the game – once I got into it, it was pretty fun! There were enough fun characters to enjoy that side of the game, and as my first cover-shooter, there was enough to play with, even though I stuck to the same 3 abilities for the whole game. My only niggles with it were some of the more repetitive missions (collect X samples, as you said, isn’t that fun or urgent), the fact that I didn’t do any research/crafting because it overwhelmed at first and wasn’t necessary later… And the fact I can’t seem to have a good conversation about the game with people who’ve played ME 1-3 (I hadn’t played ME before this one, just dragon age) =P But maybe that’s because I had those conversations early on when people were still only talking about the graphics when I wanted to talk about the rest of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      See, it’s not a bad game at all! Though, my IRL conversation about the game haven’t been the greatest either. It’s a pretty polarizing entry into the ME series.

      Though I stuck with the same profile throughout the game, I changed up my abilities a couple times, and eventually stuck with the same three to the end. Frankly, I wasn’t super impressed with the abilities or the modifications (I hardly ever remember to use them!), but they were helpful in some cases.

      Oh, the crafting. R&D. What a bunch of B&S. Lifting the curtain a little, my first iteration of this post contained a huge rant on how much I disliked the crafting system. You’re right – it’s worthless overall. I ignored it at first, only then the game kept telling me that I had unused research points and that I should *really* used them. I’m not really a fan of crafting in games, and this one certainly didn’t change my mind. The whole system was very cumbersome, to say the least.

      Like

      1. fminuzzi says:

        It’s a shame too, I’m not against crafting in general, and I actually loved collecting materials (and scanning everything!) but I just didn’t make anything with them. I like to think that the Initiative used the resources instead =P

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! That’s so funny about your character’s hair. My character has a ponytail, so I guess didn’t have that issue. I agree with so much of what you’re saying here. The characters are the highlight of the game for me, and overall I’m enjoying the story. I love that you use the jump-jets so much, I agree they are really fun in combat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Thanks! It took me little while to get the hang of using the jump-jet during combat, but once I did, it completely changed the way I approached battles. It gave me a lot more flexibility in terms of targeting, and it was a great way to give Ryder a few moments to regain health and shields in the thick of things.

      Next time I play through, my Ryder is going to have short hair, for sure! 🙂 Though, I’ll have to try long hair again at some point. I don’t know if the hair glitch was particular to the style I chose, of it had something to do with my PC. Either way, it was truly strange and the glitch never let up!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. simpleek says:

    I still need to finish it, but I really wish they cut the fat out and gave us less fetch quests. I think the game would still be fine without padding it with all the useless stuff, you know?

    Haha, I agree with you on the whole sand land, grass land bit. While each place looked different enough to really sink in and discover each new world, it almost feels like the environments are categories of where to find Pokemon in a way!

    I’m glad you had an good time with this game. I look forward to evaluating my experience with it soon and see if it compares with everyone else’s. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      It seems like you’ve had a pretty good time with the game so far from your own posts, so I look forward to seeing what you think of it as a whole. 🙂 Those sidequests…yeah, they’re like a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re driven to complete them for the sake of completing them, and on the other hand, they mostly feel empty. Surely they could have come up with a better system for them. (Honestly, by the last third of the game, I was ignoring them completely. I really don’t think I missed anything.)

      I love the Pokemon reference, by the way! I had Mario in mind, but you’re right – it works for Pokemon too. Guess those “land” tropes are pretty widespread generally among games.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    ICYMI, I barreled through Mass Effect: Andromeda all the way to the very end. And by “barreled through,” I mean that if I had had two actual free week to complete the game, then maybe my description would be more accurate. Still, me getting through a single game in less than three months is nothing short of a miracle, so my words stand. To see those words, which involve lots of spoiler-free thoughts on the game itself, just click below to see them on Virtual Bastion.

    Like

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