Mass Effect: Andromeda Complete Thoughts

***The following will contain major spoilers for the game***

I love Mass Effect: Andromeda. I also find it to be an annoying game that needed more polish before it was released. So much of this game is absolutely amazing, but so much of it turns me off. I couldn’t put it down.

I’ll start with a positive. The writing has been stepped up. The story is appealing for the most part. Ryder needs to establish outposts so the colonists have somewhere to go. Exploration and discovery. It’s very Trek-ish. I’ll talk about what I didn’t like later on. I love using the new conversation wheel. When speaking with people like Director Tann or other authority figures, I use logical/professional responses, but I usually go with casual or emotional responses when speaking with the crew. Ryder is capable of a much wider range of emotion than Shepard. He’s quick with the sarcasm.

Crew interactions are abundant. I found myself liking each crew member more and more as the game went on. Every single time I was on the ship I heard a new interaction between crew members. Liam thinking he could take a headbutt from Drack was great. The banter in the Nomad gave me fits of laughter or made me feel awkward. Each crew member doesn’t necessarily like the other. Liam and Vetra have testy conversations, for example. Drack is my favorite crew member by a mile. I still couldn’t bring myself to save those scouts though.

One thing I adore is the language. The characters drop curses often, but it’s always realistic. When I almost drove off a cliff on the intended Turian world, Drack exclaimed “Shit, shit, shit”. It adds realism and emotional range to all of the characters. These people are adults that regularly tackle life-or-death situations. It makes sense for them to swear. I was always annoyed when the Trilogy avoided this.

The game is absolutely gorgeous. Even more so now that the new patch hit. I’m sure there are a multitude of screenshots of Ryder looking at the horizon on Habitat 7 or Vetra and Ryder standing at the edge of the cliff. There was effort put into this game, but it still needed more. Polish is lacking.

The openness of combat is both positive and negative. I played Vanguard in ME2 and ME3, and I wanted to continue that with Ryder. However, given how one can use any ability regardless of profile, it kind of defeats the purpose. Ryder currently has Charge, Barricade, Pull, Backlash, Assault Turret, and Remnant VI for those interested. It’s strange not being able to tell the squad what powers to use, but it allows you to focus 100% on what you are doing as the player. I wish you weren’t limited to 3 powers in your loadout however.

The research and development system is huge, but I don’t use it too much. I experimented until I got the Krogran Hammer, Dhan, and Ushior, and now I’m good. I also pack a Sandstorm for more precision. The weapon augment system is a neat addition that I do play around with rather than the large number of actual weapons.

Compared to the Trilogy, I felt a much larger sense of accomplishment. When I finally established that outpost on Eos, I felt incredible. I had truly gotten immersed in making this planet viable. I love the role of Pathfinder. As Shepard, I was saving the galaxy from extinction by a threat beyond imagination. As Pathfinder, I’m securing the future of colonists in dire need. Vastly lower stakes but still life or death.

The human diversity in this game is also fantastic. There are so many people of color in this game, and what I like most is that there are even more accents. It was great to see and hear the numerous NPCs, including the angara. Was I the only one who kept hearing a very Idris Elba-like voice from some of them?

There are times when I thought this game does this so much better than the Trilogy. Unfortunately, for every great thing in this game, there is something else that’s terrible or needs improvement.

I encountered a game-breaking bug in which I was killed while in conversation with Bain Massani (last name not a coincidence). With the mission failure screen up, I was still continuing the conversation like normal while not being able to resume gameplay. I had to go back and load a save from about 35 minutes before. Luckily, I had a semi-recent manual save.

I play with subtitles on because I don’t like misunderstanding or mishearing any conversations. Without fail, the same conversations about filing a complaint with Tann or wanting to go back to stasis show up each visit to the Nexus. So many of the NPC conversations you hear on the Nexus repeat every visit. It gets to be annoying quickly.

By the same token, the subtitles were how I find out that some banter wasn’t loading in Pathfinder headquarters. Most of the time, Cora would only say “Hi, Ryder”. When I left, I suddenly saw subtitles for conversations with Avitus or for Pathfinder interactions. However, I could never see the full conversations because I was no longer in Pathfinder HQ.

The email system needs fixing. I, and others, have gotten the email about poker with Jaal before we had ever visited Aya for the first time. It’s not the only time I got emails early. There was another bug during a mission on Kadara where mercs continually respawned. I was in the middle of fighting when I saw them reappear with my own eyes. I eventually had to let Drack and Liam kill everyone while I tried to not move too much. The bug seemed to be triggered by moving some distance the game considered too far.

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EA/BioWare

The above shows two Dracks. Here’s the craziest part: I started the conversation in the crew quarters and ended it in the galley. That happened more than once. I started a conversation with Vetra in the crew quarters and ended it in her room. I tried to speak with Lexi in the Med Bay, but it didn’t work. It turns out that I was supposed to speak to her at the research station. Peebee moved out of her apartment on the Nexus, but when I went back later on, she was right there just like before.

Conversation triggers don’t always happen. Example, I spoke to Suvi just now and saw that I could ask her about the origin of the angara. I’ve spoken to her multiple times since beating the main story, but this option has never appeared until now. Little things like this permeate Andromeda. It’s maddening because there are other little things that are wonderful.

World design is also an issue at times. Kadara is by far the most annoying place in the game. There are fast travel points in the city, but 95% of the quests take place in the badlands. The only way to get to the badlands is to take a lift (loading screen) to the slums, run over to the warden’s office, jump over the gate, and hope that you ran far enough for the map to transition from the Kadara Port to the badlands so you can know where you need to go. It’s exceedingly unintelligent design and worse if you’re coming from another planet.

I wish that there was more wildlife in the Heleus Cluster. It was annoying seeing the same few creatures over and over. Many of them are basically just reskins, which makes it more disappointing. They don’t have any different tactics. Enemies like fiends or exalted krogan are much more challenging on this front.

A large part of Mass Effect is making decisions. Some of the decisions in Andromeda are lacking. I most agonized over saving the krogan scouts or Pathfinder Raeka. In the end, I had to choose Raeka because she was the last of the original Pathfinders. I couldn’t let her die, even though she made a risky decision. Of course, that didn’t sit too well with Drack as they were his scouts. If it had been other salarians, I would’ve chosen the krogan easily.

You have no way of explaining that to Drack, and it’s upsetting because I was pro-krogan in every other decision. And it’s an error on BioWare’s part because Kesh literally tells Ryder that they’ve done so much for the krogan that she can’t be too mad about the situation. Why couldn’t Drack get that too?

Choosing between Sloane and Reyes would also have been easy, but I couldn’t let Reyes cheat to win a duel by having a sniper around. Apparently, Reyes is much more friendly if you take his side. Two way too easy decisions were Peebee’s loyalty mission and the Contagion side quest. I was NOT about to let Peebee sacrifice Remnant tech to save her abuser from death who had just been trying to kill us. She must have been outside her mind. And Ruthie made the ultimate sacrifice so I could ensure that there wouldn’t be a pandemic. Those decisions need work.

There is often delay in conversation while the game loads a character’s responses. It’s anywhere from 3 to 7 seconds. I won’t talk about the much-maligned character animations, but I will say they didn’t bother me most of the time. I also wish your twin wasn’t in a coma for the 90% of the game. It’s a missed opportunity.

Another missed opportunity is the lack of a poker mini game. The entirety of the crew plays poker without you. It gets mentioned often in crew interactions. There’s even a chance to play with Gil, but it’s just a cutscene. Adding a poker mini game would have been a great detail. There’s a similar issue with the Flaming Thresher Maws game that you cutscene with Drack and Kesh (wording intentional).

You can’t buy weapons or armor after the main story is complete. I don’t know why that is, but I don’t see a reason for it. I suppose I just have to research everything and hope I have the credits or components to get them. It’s incredibly annoying. The most irritating thing in the game for me is my galaxy map, which currently sits at 96%. There are two arrows on the left, but there’s no way to get to wherever those arrows are pointing. It makes my eye twitch.

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This is what anger looks like.

One last note on negatives, I wish that the story wasn’t so human-centric. Humans were special in the Trilogy, and that continues here. The human ark arrives, and the cluster is saved by the human Pathfinder. The human ark gets stolen and crashes on the Jardaan perfect seed world. Multiple characters say some variation of how Meridian is now humanity’s new world. Why wouldn’t it be the world for all the races, angara included?

***Extreme spoilers that you probably don’t want to see if you haven’t played it for yourself***

Now for the things I’m most excited about going forward. The ending of Ryder Family Secrets gave me goosebumps. Besides finding out that Ellen Ryder is alive and in stasis, we get a direct mention of Shepard and the Reaper threat. We also see Garrus’ father, as well as hear Liara. It is imperative that they find a way to incorporate the endings of the Trilogy now. And Jien Garson was murdered. I can’t wait to solve that mystery.

After you beat the main story, you find out that the quarian ark (also drell, hangar, elcor, and volus) has sent out a message. This message isn’t a distress signal, it’s a warning. It says  not to come near. I am of the belief that this is for DLC and not sequel.

Final thoughts. I can’t help but feel like those of us who bought the game early deserve some sort of compensation for putting up with the problems. Ubisoft had to offer up a DLC for free because of Unity‘s disastrous launch, and I feel that EA/BioWare should do something similar. It’s unfair, and it’s not right.

All that being said, here I am starting another playthrough.

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