Mass Effect Andromeda is like revisiting a TV show from the ’90s that you absolutely loved as a younger, less cynical person, only to find out that the thing you cherished is kind of fucked-up and maybe not as great as you remembered.
Andromeda exists in that ether of millennial nostalgia, as it feels like a remake, it feels like a sequel, a prequel… a phantom menace. Albeit a more enjoyable menace.
I’m not going to tell you what the game is about, because if you’re bothering to read a review, you already know it’s about going to another galaxy, finding Matthew Macon-hey and going gentle into that good night. Instead, I’m going to tell you how it’s simultaneously really good and really bad. Like being alive!
Combat in Andromeda is fluid and exciting; there’s new weapons, new powers, new movement mechanics. You can teleport around with a sword and set illegal aliens on fire. You can showcase your space-2nd Amendment right and STAND YOUR GROUND against any motherfucker you deem to be a threat.
However, the new cover system, in which you automatically take cover by moving against things, leaves much to be desired. It takes a lot of getting used to, and often it doesn’t work perfectly. You might take cover when you don’t want to, you might not take cover and get blasted apart. It’s frustrating, and combined with Andromeda’s relative difficulty, it can be maddening. This applies to single-player and multiplayer: in a combat system based around mobility, you’d think they’d get the fucking mobility right, right? RIGHT? Naw, naw, we ain’t do that though, now jumping over obstacles doesn’t always work, and you’ll get stuck in cover while mashing the button while a floating asshole shoots orange citrus at you.
But I mean, you get used to it. What you don’t get used to is random glitches, in which enemies might teleport over to you and eat your face. There are glitches in the multiplayer combat that are borderline game breaking, and BioWare definitely needs to push out another patch. See the video below for an example.
But, most Mass Effect fans are all about banging their space waifus and having more in-depth conversations with calibrating bird-people than with their parents. If you’re bristling at that comment, maybe that’s a sign. So with their fan base so invested in intimate storytelling, you’d think them BioWare guys would get those face animations right. Nothing takes you out of the mood faster than talking to a person who has a Michael Meyer’s mask for a face. I won’t harp on this too much because everyone else already has, but it’s basically the Jar Jar Binks of Andromeda. Gamers will forgive a lot of flaws if they like the characters and feel connected, but BioWare doesn’t make it easy this time around. I found myself reading the subtitles and skipping the actual animations.
So what does Andromeda do well? For starters, there’s a metric fuckton of shit to do. On Eos alone there are dozens of side missions that turn into more side missions, which are side missions within side missions. There are so many side missions that I felt like I was getting fucked in the side-missionary position. And you know what? I LIKED IT. Exploring a new galaxy should be daunting, and keeping space-imperialists alive takes work.
Andromeda also does its characters pretty well. The new crew is engaging and amusing, although I truly miss Joker being a sad cripple. Each one is unique and none are too much like previous Mass Effect characters. Besides squadmates, the inner politics of the Andromeda Initiative are interesting, and pursuing Andromeda’s “First Murderer” and deciding his fate was what truly made me say: “Yep. This is that there Mass Effect.”
The game also reintroduces the RPG elements of the original Mass Effect. There are tons of powers and skills, along with a crafting and research mechanic that makes it worthwhile to use the Strike teams to get resources. In fact, the entire game really reminds me of the first Mass Effect. Young, (fairly) unproven hero, meeting new people, massacring things that look different than him, all that good stuff. I do miss the darker tones of the original trilogy, but I have crippling depression and I have a hard time connecting to things that are remotely hopeful.
Andromeda is an odd game. It does not (at least so far) match up to its predecessors, but at this point, can anything? Andromeda’s writing is solid, the gameplay is decent and the graphics (at times) are beautiful. I think the main negative is lack of polish, so I have to wonder if the outcry against the game is greater than or equal to what the outcry would be if the game had been delayed a few months.
Overall, I think Andromeda is a worthy purchase, and that may be my nostalgia and loyalty talking. But there is a ton of game here, if you are the type to try and finish most of the side quests, and enjoy a horde mode multiplayer. Andromeda is not Mass Effect 2. It isn’t in the same arena as the original trilogy.
It’s in a different galaxy.