What I Love and Hate About Mass Effect Andromeda

I’m still grinding my way through Mass Effect Andromeda and I’m enjoying the experience.  It’ll be a few weeks until I’ve beaten the game and I’m ready to review it.  Overall, I’m having a complicated experience.  It’s a fun game with good gameplay.  I enjoy the gunfights and exploration more than the previous titles, but I like the characters and heroes much less.  So as I’m untangling my opinions about the game, I thought I’d start listing out what I like and dislike about Mass Effect Andromeda.

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Alright gang: humans in the front, aliens in the back.

I LOVE….the pioneer spirit

I have a lot of love for the original Mass Effect trilogy and a lot of that has to do with the universe the game created.  The original Mass Effect trilogy took place in our home galaxy (you could even visit Earth!).  You got to explore an intergalactic civilization at the peak of its development and chase down the corruption that had festered inside of that.  The new game places you in a new galaxy that’s being colonized by travelers from light years away.  Everyone you meet is someone who gave up their lives 500 years ago to start a new life in a distant corner of the galaxy.  Thus, you get to experience the start of a world along with a army of adventurers who’ve given everything up their lives to explore a new universe.  Exploring their motivations for doing so while seeing a new civilization get started can get kinda profound.  It’s a great reminder that space travel requires sacrifices and adventure often means leaving things behind.  As cool as the original universe was, I like the pioneering spirit of the new universe even better.

I HATE….the new crew

As much as I love the new world, I wish I had some more interesting characters to explore it with.  Sure, it’s a little early for me to pass judgement on the crew but none of these guys measure up to the cast of characters populating Mass Effect 2.  Peebee’s talkative quirkiness, Drack’s silent gruffness, and Liam’s utter boringness have all been done before and none of the new cast hold a candle to the old cast.  To be clear, this includes your protagonist Ryder, who couldn’t be more of an unimaginative Nathan Drake clone if she/he were voiced by Nolan North.  The feline Jaal may have the best potential for breaking into new character territory and so maybe I’ll change my mind down the road.  But, for now, I really miss Liara, Garrus and Mordin.  Those guys could hold a conversation while also covering my back.

Help me Jaal, you’re my only hope for…decent characterization and a novel NPC experience.

I LOVE….the new combat

I always felt that combat was the biggest weakness of the original Mass Effect.  Controls were clunky, battles were repetitive, and the weapons weren’t particularly fun to use.  The later games developed a better cover system and more interesting weapon choices, but the battles were still a bit flat.  Mass Effect Andromeda’s incorporation of jetpacks and vertical environments allows a lot more variety in the gunfights you’ll experience.  Bouncing from cover to cover and leaping from one platform to another gives the battles here a dynamism that the series has never had.  For the first time in a Mass Effect games, gun fights are something you look forward to.

I HATE….the constant grunting

I don’t know what it is about Ryder’s flying ability, but literally every time she lands she sounds like she’s been kicked in the stomach.  See, the game gives you both the ability to jump to some extreme heights and then dash forward, which can make covering a lot of ground pretty easy.  Weirdly, though, Ryder always grunts with ridiculous histrionics whenever you land from any height.  Jump one foot in the air and dash forward six feet?  She’ll grunt like you just hit her in the ribs with a baseball bat.  Honestly, if it hurts that much to use the jetpack, maybe next time leave it at home.

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You can’t get the drop on them when you can’t keep from grunting like an angry buffalo.

I LOVE….exploring these new planets

The exploration of the planets works pretty well.  Driving around to different sections is fun, and fast traveling (from any point on the map) to certain designated connections makes everything move quickly.  Some of the random missions are a bit grating but they tend to be optional so I can skip them whenever I don’t feel like pursuing them.  It can be worth taking a detour though; the planets are beautifully rendered and creatively constructed.  Sure, they seem to subscribe to the Star Wars one-planet-one-biome theory of planet design, but they are all fun to explore and I always look forward to seeing the next one.

I HATE….the damned Sudoku puzzles

I have no idea why aliens in the Mass Effect universe like Sudoku puzzles so much, but they apparently just love them.  Whenever you come to an ancient technological marvel you need to unlock, you’ll need to complete a Sudoku puzzle.  These puzzles don’t seem to change in terms of type or difficulty, and I find them consistently irritating.  I don’t mind a quick half minute puzzle to unlock a door, but a several minute puzzle to open an alien structure is ridiculous.  And you’ll need to solve at least one before you can save the planet you’re exploring.  And these puzzles are difficult, taking a few minutes of annoying plotting every single time you run into one.  If you love Sudoku, you’ll love these.  If you don’t love Sudoku, you’re gonna hate these irritating puzzles and the aliens who torture you with them.