This review contains spoilers for Mass Effect: Andromeda
Let’s start with the important piece here: I love the Mass Effect trilogy—yes, even the deeply “controversial” third entry. Looking back at the games I’ve played in my life, Mass Effect 2 is easily the one that I put the most hours into, exploring every nook and cranny, every piece of DLC, and every conversation with every character I could find. I loved the universe, and how impactful all my actions felt through the series and particularly in that second entry. I won’t deny that there are plenty of issues in all three of those early games, hell the first one is practically unplayable in my opinion. It’s easy for me to understand how I could fall under the spell of Andromeda; jumping back into the universe that I lost myself in years ago had huge nostalgic appeal. That nostalgia even helped me, very enthusiastically, through the early parts of Andromeda, as I relived a lot of the feelings of wonder and exploration that the earlier games offered.
Then the cracks started to show. The flooding damage and peeling wallpaper of this space place I called home started to seep through. My outlook on the experience transitioned from the wonder and fun of exploring new planets, to the tedious and ridiculous fetch-quests that had me going back and forth through 6 different loading screens, all to get to a new cutscene which offered very little for all the work that I’d done. Coming out the other side and having finished the main quest, it was hard to find much in the way of motivation to tackle the almost absurd number of leftover side quests and tasks that I had accumulated through my 30-40 hour playthrough.
There are pieces of Andromeda that I very much enjoyed. Some of the action set pieces are fun, and the story manages to be at least partially engaging. Not all throughout, but there are some reveals in the story that packed quite the wallop, like figuring out exactly who the Kett, the main enemy faced in the game, were or more specifically how they came to be. Unfortunately, these moments don’t ever add up to Andromeda becoming even half of what it could be or should be, and, unfortunately, it’s the negatives that stand out the most for me after my playthrough.
Perhaps the biggest problem that I had with Andromeda came from the structure of so many of the missions, and how those missions interact with the way the game functions mechanically. This is particularly present in a loyalty mission that has you going to several different planets to find different pieces of technology and to talk to different people. One egregious example being that you are sent to a planet to talk to one person, and then go back to your ship, then are sent to a different planet to pick up something else. While this might not seem like much, between each of these trips, you are faced with a loading screen that you will have seen 1000 times since the start of the game. You have a screen to land on and take off from a planet, a loading screen to fly from one planet to another, and a loading screen to go from one star system to another. While there are some that can be skipped, for the most part you are buckled in, and the back and forth becomes so tedious and irritating that the information that you unveil loses any impact because you’ve had enough and just want it all to be over.
Bioware, of course, has brought alone its awkward sex-and-relationships system from, well, every game they’ve ever made, and it doesn’t seem to have evolved or changed at all. Characters you can be romantic with are essentially vending machines who will swap sex for favours and saying nice things to them, and the sex scenes vary in length and graphicness depending on how much like a human your chosen partner looks like. The more humanoid the longer the scene, and the longer the scene the more awkward and uncomfortable the whole affair becomes. The romantic dialogue is clunky and weird, which I suppose is to be expected, but honestly after more than 7 years, seeing these mechanics remain unchanged is disappointing. They feel more eye-rollingly stupid than sexy or titillating, which is why the scenes are even supposed to be there—if you like to pretend they have any meaning or impact in the story at all.
Perhaps the most frustrating piece of Andromeda comes in the epilogue chapter. Through the game, I was very aware and disappointed by the absence of the Quarians. Easily my favourite species from the original trilogy, the Quarians make nary an appearance throughout the entire game. Then, in the final moments of the epilogue, you learn that a signal is being received from the Quarian Ark, (which I don’t recall hearing a single mention of during the entire game), and they’ve asked that no one attempts to rescue them yet. Andromeda essentially steals it’s final moments to let you know that you’ll be getting some story DLC in the near future, so get ready to shell out another $15 or $20 in order to bring a new race of characters and more quests into the game. Here’s the thing though: There is so much open space and tedious fetch-quests in Androma, that they could have used the room for this unreleased DLC.
In the end, Mass Effect: Andromeda is flawed and problematic, but also produces some positive feelings of nostalgia, creates beautiful visuals, and has some fun moments to it. I was even lucky enough not to have many of the glitches that so many seemed to—in fact I had more glitches after the first patch than I did before it. Unfortunately, none of its positives could hide the dated and flawed mechanics; tedious mission structure; weird commentaries on colonialism (which is probably a whole other piece); and ever-problematic Bioware interpretation of sex; making Andromeda one of those games that I feel pretty unlikely to pick up again, much to my chagrin. It also effectively dampened any excitement I might have for sequels going forward.