I declared myself finished with Mass Effect Andromeda on Saturday, April 29. I finished the Priority missions and basically everything else except the sillier busy work under the Tasks section. ManicTime shows that I played for 99 hours. I reached level 59 in the end, and the save page showed I completed 92% of the game.
Before I get into this I need to reiterate that I enjoyed most of those 99 hours and would never write this much about something I didn’t like overall. Except for possibly the final week when I was starting to suffer from Mass Effect burnout, I couldn’t wait to fire up the game every day and keep going.
So now that I’ve finished the main story and seen the end credits, I feel like I can finally say what I think of the story, because the story is really the main reason to play any Mass Effect game.
It was a disappointment.
It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great or even good, when compared to the previous games.
The Big Bad was a cartoon bad guy. The kett were cartoon enemies. They had zero depth. There was no reason given for any of their evil schemes, except, “hey, we’re ugly and we’re evil, deal with it.” They were thoughtless, remorseless, emotionless genocidal killing machines. Ho hum.
Let’s compare to Mass Effect 1, the best story of the original trilogy, in my opinion. Saren, the Big Bad, had reasons for his evil schemes. It was clear why he thought he was the hero of his own story. In my game, he actually redeemed himself, sort of. Same for his second, the Matron Benodryl (I might be getting that name wrong).
Cut to The Archon. He was doing evil because … well, just for the sake of doing evil, I guess. He wanted to destroy all the worlds in Heleus. Why? Just because, apparently. Why were the kett even in Andromeda? Who knows? I don’t even remember seeing any hints about it from the start all the way to the finish.
Even the Reapers in the first trilogy, whose goal was to wipe out all organic life, had a reason for doing it. One could argue its plausibility, but there was at least a reason given.
The kett and their Exaltation seemed like thinly-disguised Borg, whose only goal was to absorb everything in their path, like locusts. Even locusts have a better reason for their destructiveness-locusts have to eat.
Then there was the Remnant technology. What the heck was that? Who are these mysterious “Jardaan” and why did they build a super convenient network of terraforming machines and deploy them to sit around and wait for the Andromeda Initiative to show up with their Pathfinders to activate them? If and when there is an Andromeda sequel or two, I hope they will delve into that more. Although frankly I’m a little afraid to hear what kind of reasons they come up with.
Many story items seemed arbitrarily shoe-horned in simply to justify open world mechanics. Like, say, the Remnant vaults. And the entire thing about collecting memory fragments, which turned out to be a total bust, in my opinion. When I collected all the memory fragments and reached the end of the Ryder Family Secrets quest line, I eagerly flew back to Nexus to see the final memory. That was going to be my first major story payoff in the game.
It was … nothing.
I expected to learn who the Benefactor was, but didn’t.
I expected to learn more about the nature of SAM and the implants, but didn’t.
I expected to learn why SAM can interface with Remnant technology so easily, but didn’t.
The “big reveal,” if you can call it that, is that mom isn’t dead … she’s frozen in cryosleep. And dad saved Scott so that mom wouldn’t be sad when she was unfrozen. To be fair, it was a surprise, and I didn’t see it coming. And it’s great and heart-warming and all, but it’s not like we can wake her up, because she’s still got the disease. (I don’t remember what it is … cancer I guess?) It’s kind of a weak emotional payoff considering how much time it took to “unlock” those memories. (The Movie Night payoff was better.)
Beyond that, all we got was a lot of fan service and rehashing of events from Mass Effect 3. All of that made me roll my eyes and groan. I thought this was supposed to be a new game with a new story. The “Benefactor” apparently got involved because of concern that the Reapers were going to destroy all life in the Milky Way. That points to the Illusive Man, and if that’s who it turns out the Benefactor is, I’m going to eyeroll super, super hard.
Previous Bioware games have made a big deal about the consequences of the choices you make. As far as I can tell, there were no consequences for any choices made in Andromeda. Nobody died. Nobody got mad. Nobody refused to help. Nobody tried to kill you.
For example: Creating the outpost on Eos, you can choose to make a scientific outpost or a military outpost. It was supposed to be a “statement” of your intentions in Andromeda. I created a scientific outpost, because duh. (I couldn’t even conceive of choosing a military outpost because no part of Ryder’s story or the Andromeda Initiative had been militaristic up to that point, but that’s beside the point.) Cora expressed some doubt about the decision because maybe the outpost would be vulnerable (a legitimate concern). It wasn’t, and nothing bad ever happened to the outpost.
Later, there is some fallout from the decision in the form of a protest on The Nexus from military people who I guess wanted something to do. You couldn’t leave them because for some reason, the protest interrupted the food supply. The leaders wanted to remove them by force. That seemed silly to me. I resolved it by caving in to their demands. Kandros scolded me because he thought there would be more protests from people who wanted things (a legitimate concern), but nobody ever protested again. Waking up more people was supposed to be a strain on the station’s resources (a legitimate concern), but nobody ran out of food or even complained about it ever again.
So … none of those decisions had consequences, except maybe a line of dialog here or there to the effect of, “Hey you shouldn’t have done that.”
Now maybe in the next game there will be some consequences. But it seems a little … I don’t know, arrogant? … to simply assume that we will come back for the next game to see how our choices turned out.
All of that probably makes it sound like I hated every minute of the game. But the characters were pretty good, and that made it fun to hang around them even if the story wasn’t going anywhere. I liked Ryder and the new group of folks. Since the characters were so likable, it didn’t really matter that the story was weak. I really enjoyed riding around in the Nomad listening to the squad mates banter. A lot of characterization came out in those moments.
Oh wait: I liked Ryder except for one minor character flaw: The thing where he occasionally commits cold-blooded murder to solve his problems. Most of the dialog choices basically resulted in the same outcome: Fairly peaceful, agreeable conversations that led to everyone getting along and hugging it out in the end. Except, you know, when you spontaneously shoot people. I still can’t believe it gave you the option to shoot Kalinda in the back so that Peebee would keep that Remnant gizmo. (At least I assume that’s what it was. It just said, “Shoot” and I was appalled.)
One of my favorite pairings was Drack and Peebee. She opened up more to Drack than anyone else, and they seemed to bond in a way that only long-lived species can.
Vetra and Liam was also an interesting pairing. Liam was kind of a jerk to Vetra, calling her “irresponsible” for bringing her kid sister to Andromeda. Vetra was having none of that, though. They sort of worked it out in the end.
Vetra and Peebee were interesting as well. Vetra, of course, is an older sister and Peebee, it turns out, is a younger sister. They had plenty to say on that subject, and they didn’t always agree.
(I changed squad mates a lot to see how they would interact with each other. In terms of combat, it didn’t seem to matter who I brought with me. I tried to cover every combination of pairings but I’m not sure I got them all.)
Narratively, I liked the brother/sister thing with Scott and Sara Ryder. I also thought it was a very clever way to allow the player to choose a male or female protagonist. However, when it got to the part where you had to play as the other sibling, I questioned the gameplay choice. You were suddenly thrust back into a newbie character with terrible weapons where it took 20 head shots to kill a single kett. I understand the reasons for the story, but it was not fun to play that little section.
Another thing that saved the game was that, unlike the original trilogy, the game was as engaging as the story. The combat was fun. The cover mechanics were really intuitive. The weapons had a lot of interesting variety (though I personally used the same weapons for 95% of the game-Mattock assault rifle and Sidewinder pistol).
I didn’t care for the “bullet sponge” effect though. We live in a gaming age where we expect headshots to kill enemies in one shot. Pumping a whole clip into an enemy’s head feels weird.
Still, I can’t complain about the difficulty. I played the entire game on Normal difficulty. The hardest part I remember was the mission of rescuing the Moshae, where I died three or four times at various points. I think I died twice fighting the first Architect on Eos. Other than that, I felt like I was overleveled and blowing through most of the combat.
I did not try multiplayer even a single time.
Overall I enjoyed the game, but after 99 hours I was tired of it and glad for it to be over. I definitely noticed that they “front-loaded” a lot of the content so that it occurred early in the game. There were long stretches of time when nobody said anything new on The Tempest. At a certain point, around Elaaden, I started to feel like I was on a death march to reach the end. I remember especially the search for the Drive Core on Elaaden seemed to go on forever and ever, an endless march from fight to fight across the yellow sands, and I couldn’t think of a single reason why it was important.
I’m writing this little addendum after listening to Totally Legit’s spoilercast on Andromeda. Those guys apparently played a totally different game than I did. :)
To reiterate, I played Scott Ryder, and it sounded like literally everyone else was playing Sara Ryder.
I never once thought Cora was whiny; I thought she was one of the only “responsible adults” on the crew.
I played my Ryder as a responsible adult most of the time too-I usually did the upper-right option or the lower-right option. He ended up sounding like a dork most of the time. But once, I picked the upper-left option at the end of a meeting and Ryder said something like, “And let’s all be kind to each other,” and I just rolled my eyes, as did most of the crew, it seemed.
Here’s what I thought of the crew, in order of meeting them:
Lexi: I liked her, but her part was too small. She was one of the few people on the ship who seemed to have a level head. I loved that scene where she got drunk on The Nexus, and I wish they had done more things like that to give her more personality. Her best moments were in the background conversations with shipmates, and her concern for Drack.
Cora: I didn’t especially like or dislike her. She didn’t really have much of a personality or backstory. She had no flaws other than professionalism. The only notable traits that I remember is that she liked gardening and she had an unhealthy hero worship of one particular asari commando. I brought her on a lot of missions.
Liam: I disliked him almost immediately. He had some humorous moments here and there but overall I feel like he embodied everything that is bad about the younger generation. :) “I know, I’ll leave my loving family and head to Andromeda! See you!” Still, I brought him on a lot of missions. I liked his grenade spam and that melee slam move he did, and I enjoyed trying to mimic his accent.
Vetra: I liked her, and I wish she had gotten more attention, but I never understood why she was on the ship in the first place. She had a nice story with her sister, and she had great interactions with the rest of the crew. I found her to be one of the better squad mates for my style of combat because she tended to use mid-range weapons and that’s usually where I fought most of my battles.
Gil: Meh. I didn’t hate him, but I found him generally off-putting, except when he talked about poker. I didn’t really “get” that whole thing with him and Jill. What was the point of that? I didn’t like Jill that one time we met. There was a guy on The Nexus who was interested in Gil, but that went nowhere.
Suvi: I adored her, but admittedly I was instantly seduced by her accent. Her part was far too small. I thought the “religious scientist” was an interesting choice when religion is largely mocked by kids today (see: Totally Legit podcast :). They didn’t dig nearly far enough into that subject though. It could have been a very meaty character study but it was mostly just a throw-away quirk that had no bearing on anything.
Kallo: No salarian will ever match Mordin from ME2 and ME3, so it’s hard to even rate this guy. I enjoyed his interactions with Suvi on the bridge. He was mostly comic relief, and in that role I suppose he was okay. Otherwise not much to write home about. (Now that I think about it, I wanted to know more about his story of becoming a pilot.)
Peebee: I liked her. She had that sort of irresistible quirky charm. I can strongly relate to that “leave me alone to do my thing” attitude of hers, although she was far more outgoing than I am. She had one of the more complex personalities and backstories with that whole Kalinda thing. Of all the squad-mates she had a tendency to die the most, but I brought her on most Remnant-related missions.
Drack: I liked him a lot. At first I thought he was just Wrex-lite, but he developed into an interesting character on his own, and I especially liked his interactions with Lexi on the Tempest, and Peebee in the Nomad, and Kesh on the station, and Vorn in his loyalty mission. His jumping sounds annoyed me a great deal though.
Jaal: Another meh. He had one of the most interesting voice performances of the crew, in terms of pitch and intonation and inflections and so forth, and I still have no clue what his accent was, if it was anything from Earth at all. He had some hilarious lines during combat (“don’t let them flank you!”) and some of his jumping grunts had me in tears (“hoooeeeeeyaaaah!”). I think he had his best conversations with Liam, and maybe Peebee. But as a character? I didn’t really relate to him. I don’t feel like I learned much about him. I brought him along a lot on Voeld and Havarl but I never felt like he was any good at combat.
I totally sided with Gil in his Kallo argument. I am amazed that anyone could think otherwise. I sympathize with Kallo, but yeah, let the engineer do his job.
I never got any romance options for Suvi, which sucked because she was the only one I was interested in. I had to settle for Cora.
No, they never explained the Architects. They were only there to present a challenging foe I guess-and little or no reward for defeating it. I never got much of a sense that the developers cared about whether any of the story held together under scrutiny. Another thing I wonder: How the hell does a kett race even evolve without any reproductive capabilities?
Also no, they never explained why Alec Ryder chose his son/daughter instead of Cora to become Pathfinder, other than the super amazingly thin reason I mentioned above about not wanting to tell his wife that her child had died.
I’m not planning on playing any DLC for Andromeda, particularly anything relating to The Benefactor and the Quarian Ark, unless it gets stupendous reviews. My general philosophy is that if they setup a story in the base game, fail to include the resolution in the base game, and then try to force you to buy the DLC to see it play out? I will vote with my dollars against that.
One last thing: I never experienced any game-breaking bugs. There were never any quests I couldn’t complete, at least that I know of. (Although I did have to reload in the last mission because mobs weren’t spawning or something… it kept saying “we’ve got to fight through these things!” and I couldn’t find anything to fight. That last fight was actually very confusing in terms of what you were supposed to do.) However a lot of times I would drive up to a place or structure on a planet, fight the people guarding it, and then find no lore or loot or anything and I wondered what the point of it was.
Next up: Dark Souls III, The Ringed City.