Here goes. Before I am mobbed and lynched, I want to talk about why Mass Effect: Andromeda is actually a fairly quintessential Mass Effect game. The game has been out for the better part of two years but I will still add a mild spoiler warning for the below article. Let’s just jump straight in.
First, let’s look at what made the previous Mass Effect games unique. The original trilogy was actually quintessentially BioWare (and DragonAge) more than simply Mass Effect because it borrowed heavily on so many well-known innovations from BioWare. The dialogue wheel, for one, is something that BioWare “trademarked”, whereas most RPG’s simply used linear dialogue lines. A simple, aesthetic change but it still gave the franchise a unique twist.
Character progression and romance options were also a heavy BioWare influence in both Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Players were able to progress with their characters, both in dialogue and the throws of passion, exactly how they wanted. It was no longer about play style alone, but also about how you would act in that same situation.
Then there is the combat mechanics and the like which tend to follow the trends at the time, but still including some niche concepts. For example, the first Mass Effect had an overheating system for the weapons, after which they shifted to a standard clip-ejection system. Overall, combat was fluid, fast, and intense in all the previous Mass Effect titles.
However, the most important aspects to any good Mass Effect title is the character progression, the customisable play style, the dialogue options, and, of course, the romance. This is something the original trilogy nailed, albeit with some hiccups here and there.
This leads me to my point: Mass Effect: Andromeda is a quintessential Mass Effect title. Andromeda was plagued with technical bugs in the beginning, with the facial animations being the biggest issue that arose from all the critics who played through Andromeda. However, after a year and a half, multiple patches have been released to fix all these issues, and the game has been shining for the better part of a year already. Now that all these issues are no longer in the way, we can see that Andromeda is, in fact, a Mass Effect title.
The dialogue options were actually better than those offered in the original Mass Effect trilogy, at least, that I found. Ryder stays more true to the option you have actually chosen, thanks to the “emotion” system that BioWare has implemented in Andromeda. In the previous games, I often chose dialogue that I thought was right, but ended up making matters worse. Now, no matter what I am actually saying on screen, I know that the response will be better received because of the emotional weight behind it. A simple adjustment that actually rectified something I felt was somewhat lacking in Mass Effect 3, where my choices were only really different if I chose Renegade or Paragon dialogue. This time around, each choice feels much weightier than before.
The customisable game play was odd in Andromeda, especially after the introduction of the “Profiles” system, where you could change your abilities and skills on the fly. Before, you chose to be a Soldier, Vanguard, Tech, Biotic specialist, and so on, but you added and upgraded skills based on these profiles. Now, you can select different “Profiles”, and can adjust those on the battlefield, depending on your enemy and terrain. It was strange at first, but I am now enjoying it because I don’t feel the need to stick to one individual play style for the thousands of fights you get into. A small deviation from traditional RPG systems, and I understand why fans weren’t happy about it, but Andromeda does well to justify this necessity, as you encounter so many types of enemies.
The romance options, everybody’s favourite part of any BioWare game, and probably the most interesting part of Mass Effect (c’mon, the Reapers were not nearly as enticing as sealing the deal with both Liara and Ashley in the same play through). The romancing is fairly much the same in Andromeda as the previous titles, but that isn’t a bad thing. Sure, finding your beloved and chatting the them every time you hop back onto your ship can be tedious, but the original trilogy was no different. Personally, Cora and PeeBee are my favourite so far, and the Asari has now been dubbed “PeeBae” (thanks Sam).
Now, let’s move onto one of the biggest problems Andromeda faced, and was so harshly criticised for: the faces and their animations. First of all, Ryder watches the inside of his eyelids way too much, and that one lady on the Nexus stares at you with unnerving fortitude. However, the original Mass Effect games, and even Dragon Age, were just as bad *gasp*. Remember Ashley from Mass Effect 1? Do yourself a favour, go look. Yes, that was an old title, but Commander Shepard also had some issues around the eyes (that could just be the whole “saving the galaxy” thing), and at one point, had this really weird smile that creeped everyone out. The only reason Shepard had decent facial animations is because he only had one facial expression: umgh.
Jokes aside, BioWare has never been renowned for their facial features, but they excel in their storytelling. Andromeda is slightly more dragged out than the originals, yes, but that is the whole point. Shepard and his crew were fighting off a semi-omnipotent force threatening all life. Andromeda is about exploring the new galaxy, navigating more intricate systems to create a suitable, and sustainable, habitat for those from the Milky Way. They are massively different in their premise and purpose, so to judge Andromeda based on that is not right (I know because I have done it).
Andromeda was also harshly smashed for the actual dialogue and story itself. Andromeda does suffer from infuriatingly pointless fetch quests, and sometimes reaching full loyalty with a crew member can be tedious. However, you can still have full loyalty with your crew, giving you better benefits than just “who dies, and who doesn’t”. Andromeda has weightier consequences to your narrative actions, and that is something I felt Mass Effect 3 lacked in. Like I have said before, I actually prefer the dialogue in Andromeda to most of the other titles.
Lastly, the lore and setting. Andromeda is a new galaxy, with virtually no limits on what it can be represented as, because we don’t have anything to compare it to. I feel that BioWare has created an incredibly rich lore-filled universe here, and references to the Alliance is also enjoyable. Mostly, though, I found myself reading Codex texts for close to two hours straight the other night, without even realising it, and that was what sucked most of my time in the original trilogy as well. I was so intrigued in all the new places, species, and enemies, that I got sucked into spending over 50% of my play through just reading the Codex. This experience made Mass Effect such an incredible journey when I played them on Xbox 360, and I feel that same experience resonating in Andromeda.
I could go on and on about Andromeda, but I would just be waffling then. Does Andromeda have problems? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Is it a true Mass Effect game? Well, if you read this and don’t believe so, then I have failed. Andromeda keeps all the core components of what makes, or made, a BioWare game so great, and they have implemented it fantastically. Mass Effect 2 will always be my favourite, but Andromeda is really high up there, narrowly wedging out Mass Effect 3. The sad part is that, Mass Effect: Andromeda actually lives up to the true RPG experience, but we might never see a sequel because the game was given the wrong spotlight.
Do yourself a favour, Andromeda is fairly cheap across the board at the moment, so pick it up and give it a try. I guarantee that you will spend at least 40 hours playing through the game, and not 40 dull hours either. Speaking of, I have Kett to kill.
Loves games with deep character development and a rich storyline. Also, shooty-shooties. Loathes microtransactions. Likes to use sarcasm and metaphors.
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