Let’s get this out of the way: Mass Effect Andromeda’s characters look weird. When you first reach that character building screen, you’ll be stunned by how bizarre your options look. Rather than choosing the best face, you may find yourself choosing for the least bad one. I actually had to restart the game once I realized my first effort was a total nightmare; you can’t spend a game playing a hero you can’t look at. But after my second attempt at character building, I was finally able to dive into the game. Now I’m about seven hours in and I’m convinced the game gets better as you go. If you’ve read all the negative press I’ve read, then it may comfort you to know that Mass Effect Andromeda is better than you think.
Andromeda starts slowly. You have some dialogue to grind through, you meet the most boring characters first, and you have your prerequiste prologue mission to play through. While the dialogue can be a bit of a drag, the running and gunning portions of the game are immediately an improvement over the previous titles. The original Mass Effect had some pretty clunky shooting and while the two sequels were an improvement, this new game has much more active and exciting shooting sequences. Your character is much more mobile and agile than you ever have been before, and climbing walls or leaping wide swathes of battleground is easily done. Once you start meeting some more interesting characters and finding some new worlds to explore, the game starts to seem like a pretty fun experience.
By design, Mass Effect Andromeda puts its worst foot forward. I remember being fairly awestruck by the Citadel in the original game; here the Citadel-equivalent is still under construction and much less fun to look at (more like the home base in The Division). Shepherd was a stone cold warrior in my Mass Effect run through, Ryder is new to the job and learning the ropes. The original series was really about a intergalactic civilization at the zenith of its development, here you start at your civilization’s nadir. Andromeda is a game about building a new world in an inhospitable place, and it takes a little while before that becomes a whole lot of fun.
Really, the problem with Mass Effect Andromeda is it’s failure to measure up to its predecessors. Again, the original series had the advantage of providing you a universe at the height of its powers while in Andromeda you’re just getting started. Beyond that – and I can’t be sure that this is true yet – it’s hard to see a plot emerging as interesting as the battle against the reapers in the original series, or characters as interersting Garrus, Mordin, or Liara. So, yeah, I don’t think this game will be my favorite in the series, but its shaping up to be a worthy addition to the franchise. So if you like the original series, don’t be afraid to pick it up. It’s not like No Man’s Sky; it’s more like Halo 4, or Uncharted 4, or Saints Row 4, not the best in the series, but a fun game to play nonetheless.