2017 has been a really tough year for many of us, for many reasons. Gaming took its share of hits as well, especially in terms of one of the most anticipated games of the year – Mass Effect: Andromeda. What was touted as a space opera on a scale like no other turned out to be anything but. Fallout from this seemingly led to the end of all things Mass Effect, at least for now. However, while MEA might not have been the game that fans expected, there’s still plenty of good in it. Maybe I’ve just been overtaken by the positivity of the season, but the way I see it, despite its overall limpness, MEA actually transcended its predecessors in a few ways. Yes, MEA is a good game with problems, but that doesn’t automatically make it “bad.” For my final Listmas post of the year, I present to you five good things, five really good things, about 2017’s problem child with a heart of gold, Mass Effect: Andromeda.
1) The inclusive universe
Much in the same vein as the belief in Star Trek that we are greater than the sum of our parts, the world of MEA is presented as one of inclusivity and non-judgement. This sense comes keenly into play when Ryder must court the Angara, an insulated race who almost seem to hold “ancient” human prejudices. But their knowledge of the Kett proves too invaluable for the Andromeda Initiative to pass up, so a relationship must be forged. The process takes time, hits road bumps, and serves as a gateway to proving that the universe is a better place with the Angara in it. Of course, the Angara likely knew this all along, but discovery is discovery. And the world of MEA is nothing if not a welcoming place for those who seek peace.
Over the course of the original Mass Effect trilogy, combat improved drastically, but it never truly excelled to the point where anyone would place ME among the best shooters. MEA made a grand run for that title, however. Combat in the game is on point. Firefights are fast-paced, enjoyable affairs that really involve all your teammates and keep Ryder on his or her toes. Combat controls, too, were so much improved over previous games. Switching weapons was effortless, as was choosing various powers and directing teammates during battle. I still probably wouldn’t call MEA a shooter first, but instilling the game with a solid combat system was a very good choice on the part of the developers.
3) Planetary variety
Boy, is MEA ever pretty. I mean, every locale looked better than the last, no matter if we’re talking about a barren, rocky wasteland or a lush, tropical forest. Sure, there were your standard environments – snow, jungle, desert, city – but each one was well-infused with style, and beauty, and even a little extra personality in its wildlife. (Okay, not much personality in the wildlife perhaps, but it could have been worse.) Most interesting was the jarring juxtaposition between the Remnants’ dark, futuristic spaces and the more recognizable planetary surroundings. In going between them it almost felt as if you had switched games. Exploration in the games was never not fruitful, even if it might have felt it times.
4) The open class system
One of the hallmarks of the original ME trilogy was its class system. But although players had a decent amount of freedom in customizing one’s chosen class (primarily in ME 2 and 3), Shepard remained defined by whatever he or she could or couldn’t do. There was certainly nothing wrong with that, and, if anything, it meant that players had to more actively balance their teams (or not). With MEA, specializations remained, but players were given far more control over them, and no one was tied to general presets. If you wanted to be a straight-up soldier, you could be that. If you wanted to be a soldier with some command over, say, stealth and biotics, you could be that too. If you wanted to focus on tech skills but still use the biggest and baddest rifles, you could without issue. Of course, the system still required leveling up and the acquisition of points to apply. But once you had them, you could apply those points in any fashion. Having that freedom led to Ryder feel more well-rounded as a combatant over Shepard.
5) Character customization
If I say nothing else about MEA, I will readily shout from the mountaintops that its character customization system is one of the best I’ve ever used. Now, I will also admit that it’s also one of the more difficult to figure out, as it took me three tries to understand how to get past the basic presets and into the details. But once you know how to customize, the system is place is robust and quite meticulous. (I’d liken it only to the character customization in Fallout 4, which is also a top favorite.) The choices allow you to alter any and every feature. And what’s great is that the alterations never verge on caricature; they’re subtle but effective. After I completed the game, I spent some time just creating Ryder after Ryder, which proved more enjoyable than it probably should have.
What are some of your favorite things about Mass Effect: Andromeda?
All images (© EA, BioWare) were taken by cary using GeForce Experience.