I can’t wait for the high-definition Mass Effect trilogy. I’m so excited, in fact, that I caved and tried to play Mass Effect Andromeda, a game I intentionally avoided at launch. It wasn’t due to the wobbly-faced gifs, though that didn’t help but more because of the collective ‘meh’ it elicited from everyone who’d played (including my colleagues).
When I went to grab the game a few weeks back, I realized that I’d already bought it — two years ago. I picked up Mass Effect Andromeda: Deluxe Recruit Edition in 2019, for under ten bucks, direct from the PSN store. (If you want an easy sign that a game didn’t do well, check how quickly that online price drops.) But I still hadn’t played it. I think I was coming off a run of lengthy games and wasn’t up for the time investment, especially with a game that might ruin a series for me.
But living alone during this pandemic has given me ample (read: too much) time to play through my gaming backlog, and it was now time to explore Andromeda.
Now I’ve finished exploring, and I realize it’s not a bad game. It’s just not good enough for anyone that loved the series. Quality varied hugely through the game. Some planets and sections seemed lovingly designed and planned out, while others seemed like one-note areas with a random environmental hazard. (Don’t get me started on all repetitive parts that seem to pad out half the game, like the ‘remnant’ temple structures you need to activate to settle your pioneers.)
I could just tell when a planet was given more love and attention than others. The first one was Elaaden, the Andromeda-based home to the warlike Krogans, a desert wasteland with huge pits, squishy bugs, scavengers, and a surface temperature that wasn’t geared towards human biology. Side quests on here had a wild-west flavor, with new political twists, and touch on your relationship building with your Krogan squad member, and the mystery behind what went wrong on the Nexus, the collective space base for all the species that made the trip to Andromeda.
Without spoiling anything. the final location, too, looks utterly gorgeous, with luscious plant life, space battles overhead and a hectic race that rushes you through the entire thing. I later discovered that couldn’t return to this location to explore in the post-game section. What a waste.
Other planets and locations are typically smaller than Elaaden, and the same critique could be leveled at most parts of the original games, which didn’t have the raw power to render bigger areas.
But it’s these bigger areas that tap into what was new with Andromeda: exploration. It doesn’t surprise me that Bioware had planned to focus on exploration with this game, building on the narrative and action base refined in the first three titles. (Kotaku published a great deep-dive on its troubled development.)