My bad, you guys. I’m sorry. But I can explain. So, we were on our first recon mission on Habitat 7. And the thing is, okay, I shot first. But only because I thought the alien guy was going to shoot first. Me or Fisher. I don’t know. Maybe I was wrong. I don’t know. There was a lot going on at the time, and I… I might’ve misinterpreted the situation. I broke protocol. I probably could’ve introduced myself properly or offered them some nice biscuits or something. What even is protocol? I’m new at this job. I didn’t train for this job. I didn’t even want this job.
And now we’re at war, and it’s totally my fault. Oops.
The year is 2819. With the events of the original Mass Effect trilogy wrapped up and the Milky Way saved forever from murderous spaceships, interstellar colonialism is the next big thing. As part of the Andromeda Initiative, 20,000 representatives of each Council race – that’s humans, asari, salarians, and turians – and the quarians packed up their shit to trawl the vastness of space for new planets to choke on non-biodegradable plastic, nuclear missiles, and unsolicited dick pics. Now, 600 years since launch, the human Ark Hyperion has arrived at its destination, only to find that some nerd back in the Citadel labs miscalculated, and their designated home world is an uninhabitable dump and besides, the Hive from Destiny got there first anyway.
Things get complicated, obviously, but in the meantime, nobody wants to bang me.
I mean, I’ve tried. I flirt with the engineer, Gil. He’s gay. I flirt with Cora, one of my officers. She’s not gay. I keep flirting with Peebee and Jaal, but she’s playing hard to get, and he wants to talk about feelings. So much for hot space sex, but I can’t blame them. I’m super lame.
So, what else is there to do? Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s plot isn’t complicated or even very compelling. I’m the Pathfinder, and I have to find a new home world for my people. Bad guy aliens want to stop me. Its predictable progression of exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution is the stuff of a third grade intro to creative writing class, but what it lacks in the grand theatrics, subtle sophistication, and intrigue of the first three games, it makes up for with unambiguous purpose. It’s been a controversial change of focus for a lot of players, but one that was, I think, absolutely necessary for the start of something new in the franchise. And almost everything you do in the game, including a lot of the side missions, makes sense in the context of this fundamental narrative of, you know, starting something new in the franchise.
For example, a number of main and side missions contribute towards terraforming planets in the galaxy, establishing viable outposts, and developing rapport with the locals. There’s always something to do, but more importantly, there’s a real reason to do it that isn’t impending annihilation (but that too, sort of). It helps that planets in this game are much more impressive than before, though. Instead of mostly desolate wastelands with an occasional copy-pasted rock, its diverse and spectacular worlds are crammed with points of interest, and unlike previous games, exploration and discovery in Mass Effect: Andromeda actually matter.
The game’s clumsy, convoluted inventory – while not a first for the series – is pointlessly frustrating, however, as is the excessively onerous crafting system that requires locating too many esoteric materials for top-end gear. Also, for a game in which my literal occupation is finding paths, waypoint navigation is inexplicably imprecise and confusing at times, with no on-screen minimap.
The supporting cast is mostly superb, even if I didn’t exactly like all of them. But that’s part of the game, isn’t it? Sometimes they didn’t like me either. Relationships are somewhat more complex this time, with more nuance and less melodrama. You know, like proper relationships. We’ve had our differences from time to time, but we made up. I had lots of opportunities to talk them one-on-one, and much like Mass Effect 2, there are also loyalty missions to complete that improve those relationships and, unlike Mass Effect 2, these can be done after finishing the main story. In fact, most of the extra side missions are available when that’s concluded, so even with 30 hours on the clock, I’ve still got plenty of things to keep me busy.
That includes the game’s very decent multiplayer mode, which hasn’t deviated much from Mass Effect 3‘s debut. It’s the same standard-issue co-operative survival mode putting you and up to three battle buddies up against waves of increasingly formidable enemies to see who dies first, but even on the easiest Bronze difficulty tier, it’s merciless. I’m up to level 15 or so on two characters, and still can’t even finish it on Silver. But I’m not giving up.
84As the first new game in one of the last generation’s most loved series, Mass Effect: Andromemda was simply never going to be good enough. And it’s not, but it got close. With immersive new worlds and an engaging cast, it’s an auspicious start to a new trilogy, and probably much better than everybody remembers the original Mass Effect being 10 years ago.