Two best friends vs. a galaxy. Editor-in-Chief Colin Cummings and Editor Logan West take the newest game in the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect: Andromeda, for a spin.
The galaxy map opens before you, planets circle distant stars, and a familiar beat begins to resonate, as you push your ship into the unknown. This brings you back, to places like Noveria, or Eden Prime. Instead, a brand new set of systems greets you. You won’t remember their names. You’ll think back to previous adventures, rather than the quest laid out before you, and miss those uncharted worlds.
While playing through Mass Effect: Andromeda, I was reminded of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ‒ a movie that tries to establish itself as a new beginning. However, by relying on the nostalgia of its predecessors it never manages to fully take off.
The premise of this new entry in the Mass Effect series is that, between Mass Effect 2 and 3, multiple Council species launched arks into deep space. The arks were sent with the intent to colonize the Andromeda galaxy. The game conveniently leaves out some of the more interesting alien races, like the Quarians and Hanar. While the Salarians, Asari, Turians and Krogan join Humans for the ride. They bring their baggage with them too, and old conflicts die hard.
So far, the game has introduced three new alien races that don't even compare to ones from the Milky Way. The first being an irredeemable evil and fanatical empire, and the second an “ancient” civilization that resemble something out of mediocre sci-fi like Too Human. The last race, The Angarans, and especially your companion Jaal, end up being the best of the bunch. They feel like the Drell from the original games, but still boring by comparison.
This is where the game falters. When Mass Effect: Andromeda is doing something new and striking out into the unknown it shines. However, these great moments are diluted by the two main problems plaguing this game: the reliance on nostalgia of the original trilogy, and a lack of polish that’s clearly visible in the game's thin open world.
Andromeda's characters are its strongest points. Ryder and her companions are interesting, well-acted and, when they break from their racial stereotypes, can provide some deep insights and provide emotional beats that resonate. My Ryder is a dork; a sarcastic, but loyal, engineer who is in over her head, and cracks jokes to cover her lack of confidence in this role thrust upon her. It's a neat characterization that is a far cry from Shepard in the original games, and helps provide levity with a protagonist who feels more like a real character, on her own. Her companions are hit or miss, but the motley crew gathered by Ryder feel like a family, and have great interactions on the ship while in the Nomad. I found this gave them agency beyond just fulfilling their role as teammate. Their lives don't revolve around Ryder's, which is a fresh take on a team dynamic.
When the game leans into the themes of colonization and exploration, it begins to tread on uncharted territory, and provides a new sense of accomplishment for the series. Unfortunately, it’s also where the game makes some of its biggest mistakes.
The worlds that the game provides feel empty and lifeless, a problem shared by another game with the same DNA, Dragon Age: Inquisition. The player is never incentivized to explore the environment with unique story beats. Instead, you explore the unknown to find one of 14 rocks someone has tasked you to find. The rocks are boring, the reward for the quest is meaningless. and all it does is waste your time. The game wastes your time a lot. It hides some of its coolest moments in the sidequests, but it’s hard to tell which one will lead where, and ultimately most of the extra content and errands are busywork. In addition, the game feels unpolished; like it was rushed to release for the end of a financial quarter, which makes these rough spots even worse.
I still have much more of the game to go, and I've heard the game does get better as you progress. There are moments of greatness here, and I do get flashbacks to the original trilogy; a game series that I hold dear to my heart. However, so far I’m disappointed by Andromeda, because it tries too hard to be “Mass Effect” instead of it's own thing.
The game gets caught up in fancy, meaningless words, as if it’s important to the series.
As a player I loved the Normandy, the Citadel, the Protheans, and being a Spectre, because it gave these titles and places heart, and history. These things earned their adoration and importance, not just because they were capitalized by swelling orchestral music, but because they were well-introduced, becoming important over time. Andromeda replaces these things with the Tempest, the Nexus, the Remnant and being a Pathfinder. So far, nothing interesting has been done with them. The Tempest is a cool ship, and SAM is a neat addition to being a Pathfinder. Nevertheless, it's a case of "been there, done that", which is the antithesis of a game about exploring a new galaxy.
Be on the lookout for the final part of More Like An-Drama-Da coming soon! Editor-in-Chief Colin Cummings, Editors Logan West, Mike Blais, and Alex Marshall will be discussing (and spoiling!) the game on an episode of our podcast Third Person Presents.
Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.
Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.
When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.
Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4