Mass Effect: Andromeda – Second Impressions

When the launch trailer for Mass Effect Andromeda was released in March 2017, I was filled with a sense of optimism and hope for the new direction of this franchise following the conclusion of the series on the last generation of consoles. During the generational transition I had invested significantly in Biowares other franchise, Dragon Age Inquisition on both the xbox 360 and again on the PS4 and had high expectations a title released on the current hardware would be this amazing amalgamation of storytelling, gameplay and more advanced graphical prowess. Unfortunately the reality of the situation was a game that felt and looked rushed, for whatever reason, receiving a significant amount of backlash and understandable condemnation from the gaming community and fans of the series.

Despite the polish of the Launch Trailer, first impressions were vocally critical of the broken graphics and effects that greeted them on arriving in Andromeda. It was enough to deter me, it was a year or so after release I would pick this up for a heavily reduced price long after any support had been concluded with the graphics and effects patched up to the final updated 1.10 and any planned post game support cancelled in favor of charting its new franchise, Anthem.

My first experience was largely positive, benefiting entirely from the efforts of the team behind the game in bringing it up to an acceptable standard, by the time I strapped on the space boots of Charles Ryder, pioneer and pathfinder it looked and felt like a solid Mass Effect game using the framework and playstyle of the last generation but given a new layer of polish and shine with the hardware available on the current generation. Equally however, I went into the game with next to no expectations or enthusiasm to play it to completion, it felt very much like an exercise in morbid curiosity, how bastardized had they made this beloved franchise of mine to release within a given window, how much damage had been done and would the series survive the ruthless and unforgiving decision makers at EA.

As witnessed with other series under its umbrella in the sci-fi domain, notably Dead Space, a bad third game could signal the end of any further support, and with the critical and commercial mauling Andromeda received, and no additional content or support, whatever enthusiasm garnered with the release of that epic trailer was wiped away. Playing a game with no enthusiasm is like eating at a badly reviewed restaurant, how bad can it be, would I rather go without than subject myself to its misery?

The New Normandy

Honestly, I enjoyed the experience, it felt competent and fixed, from a pure aesthetic and presentation standpoint to a similar standard to the release of Inquisition on the current generation if not a little further ahead. The issues with the character models appearance had been fixed, there were no notable glitches or bugs in the game that ruined the narrative for me. I’ll always champion Mass Effect 2 as one of my all time greats, that said very early on during its release window I recall playing the game with a close friend of mine and experiencing a game breaking bug on the first mission that was comically bad and far worse than anything experienced in Andromeda.

I’ll concede to benefiting from others misery in experiencing and reporting these bugs and issues but you can only experience what you’ve played, and my first time with Andromeda wasn’t a complete mess but a passable and solid entry and chapter in the Mass Effect franchise. It formed and left a positive impression, not the soul destroying Ark Of The Covenant enveloping and destroying any mortal eyes that lay sight upon it, a game that legitimately tried to execute its own vision and story in the world of Mass Effect, perhaps to varying degrees of success but certainly not what I had believed it to be before hand.

I decided recently to revisit Andromeda, now with the weight of nostalgia and positive first impressions weighted against it, one of the qualities of the earlier entries has been an a desire to replay the experience in its full despite the investment of time in doing so, not a feeling I had held towards Andromeda. In actuality, I remain convinced I really enjoyed the opening hours of this game, the chaotic arrival and tutorial level of the game is easily for me one of the best of the series as it genuinely felt ‘alien’ in contrast to the human colonies and experiences in the original trilogy. Despite the coloured skies, Eden’s Hope in the first game just felt like any other setting from that period of time.

Strange New Worlds

And the level felt big, or at least in scope it seemed large confined once more to the corridor based designs and soft open world approach as seen in Inquisition. I didn’t mind this mechanic, it worked in that franchise and here in allowing the development teams to craft different environments and terrains without the needs to create these vast, expansive and usually empty open worlds. It wasn’t perfect, but like Dragon Age it did feel genuinely alien and unlike anything we had experienced in the Milky Way. A great introduction to Andromeda. I particularly like the First Contact with the alien race, whilst it destined to lead to conflict you do wonder at whether it was ever conceived to allow peaceful contact without resorting to violence and death.

I always remember being amazed in Far Cry 4 if you stayed put in the opening sequence the game would conclude in short order if you didn’t venture outside and trigger the confrontation. Here, if Ryder’s comm unit had established dialogue with the alien race, could the game have played out like a galactic colonisation simulator without resorting to violence and death? it’s fun to speculate but obviously, given the nature of the franchise it was fairly evident they were destined to be this titles cannon fodder to your heroic escapades. Though, a nice touch at the characters calling out the hypocrisy of traversing the galactic expanse and exhibiting moral umbrage for being challenged on their arrival.

I enjoyed the expansion or return to some of the more Role Play Mechanics, whilst combat and the armoury had been simplified in the sequels, the first game and it’s modification of arms had been a fun mechanic to explore and evolved here with the option to research and develop a variety of guns based not only on domestic technology but also localised variants to the Andromeda galaxy. If fine tuning and customisation were your particular forte you were in luck. I respected the fact this was taken into consideration as it was a logical, progressive step in this gaming universe as opposed to artificially limiting yourself to only the equipment you had brought along.

The Tumbler in Green and Black, colours of the Initiative

My initial return to this game concluded with liberating the world of Eos, one of the first ‘Golden Worlds’ and hopes of colonisation for the Initiatives mission. It introduced the Kett as well as the robotic guardians of the ancient terraforming technology, the ground based replacement for the MAKO from the first game was available and generally it felt like a great introduction to this new Galaxy. It reminded me of certain issues I’ll return to when I review this game on conclusion of this play through but largely I enjoyed my time on this planet, the colonisation efforts and bigger picture political dynamics at play as opposed to a vague ‘End of the world’ prophecy of sentient computer beings and so forth.

I still haven’t really bonded with my crew, through no fault of their own, they seem like an accomplished amicable bunch however they lack any new personality traits or behaviours I hadn’t already seen in the original series of games. Because the developers played it safe in using pre-established aliens as your crew, you could easily anticipate, accurately, the type of characters and personalities you would come across to a high degree of accuracy. There was some variation but not enough to feel different, to make it feel this crew was unique and distinct to this particular voyage, which as secondary impression go, reinforced my first critique of this game.

I know the path that lays ahead, to make Andromeda viable for the Initiative and resolve the conflict with the Kett. The details are less clear as it has been a while since I originally played and completed this game and in the interest of fairness I wanted to experience it again before retrospectively reviewing the game. That said my first impressions to date seem fairly accurate, many of those initial concerns and issues remain and ultimately I know this will most likely be a singular game experience with no continuation or resolution so devoting my energy and will to getting the most out of this seems a futile endeavour. But I’ll persevere, because I’m the Pathfinder.

Those were my second impressions of this game, did you enjoy this new direction in the franchise, did you feel inspired on its release despite its many reported flaws or felt disillusioned with the new direction for Mass Effect? Let me know what you think, N7 day is on the horizon.

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