You know when people keep telling you that a movie is bad, so you go in with low expectations, but because your expectations are so low you end up enjoying the movie? I think the same thing is happening to me with Mass Effect: Andromeda. All the reviews kept bashing it, but I have nothing but enjoyed my first ten hours with the game, and the first ten hours are supposed to be the worst. In a lot of ways it is reminding me of the first Mass Effect game. It just takes its time to get started, and instead of elevators there is a tram.
In Mass Effect: Andromeda you play as either the male or female Ryder twin as you seek to colonize the Andromeda galaxy. You leave right before the events of the first game, so none of Commander Shepard’s adventures factor in to this game. Which makes sense. Given the different ways the first trilogy ended it would have been hard to write a story that made sense for all those outcomes. I am sure more than a little hand-waving would have been necessary. Needless to say things do not go as hoped when you get to Andromeda, and the former residents of the Milky Way galaxy are counting on you to get things put right so they can start their new lives.
As a small spoiler, you were not supposed to be in charge of this mission. Your Dad, a former N7 agent, was chosen to be the Pathfinder (person in charge of making the new worlds habitable), but he dies and leaves the task to you: a young kid with no real qualifications. This is a big change from the previous Mass Effect games where Shepard was the best of the best. In Andromeda you are receiving on the job training and just trying not to get everyone killed. I like the change of perspective. It allows me to truly play a different role instead of a Shepard clone.
I also like that there are no longer any locked skills. As I level up I can choose any Biotic, Tech and Combat skills that I want. There is a reason for this that I am not going to spoil, but it is an interesting concept. What it means however, is that I can send out my Biotic Shockwaves and then turn around and hit people with my wrist mounted flame thrower. To help you with these skill combinations are ‘Profiles’. Profiles are built around trying to get the most out of your play style. If you are going hard core Biotic you can choose that Profile, and it will lower your cool-downs on your powers and give you a couple of buffs. Though if you have a Tech power selected, its cool-downs will be slower and slightly de-buffed, so it would be best to choose the Tech/Biotic Profile. Though the Biotic buffs will not be as good as the all out Biotic one.
The combat is the best in the series. It is fast and hard hitting. You can no longer control your squad, other than giving them locations to guard, but at least it makes Mass Effect feel like the action game that it always wanted to be. The only small issue is the cover system. When you get to cover you automatically crouch down behind it. In theory this makes the combat smoother since you are not always spamming the ‘A’ button. In practice it means that Ryder will just sand there getting shot because you are not standing behind the rock quite right. It usually works, but it seems to fail when you need it the most.
I am also enjoying my new team quite a bit. They have been called out for being generic, but to be honest, so were the first and second Mass Effect squads. They are not perfect, but they all fit their roles, and they are fun to talk to. Even if the animation system is a bit janky, and sometimes the writing isn’t quite up to par.
Which leads me to this game’s flaws. Of which there are quite a few. As I said the writing and the animations could have used some more polish. The character creator is the worst BioWare has ever created. The bad guy is uninteresting, and I do wish they would have taken a few more risks with the BioWare formula. There are too many fetch quests, but I got some good advice before I started playing, “If Ryder doesn’t take her helmet off for the conversation, you can probably skip it.” This game just feels rushed. Like they created these worlds, but then they needed to fill them in a hurry, so they used a quest generator or something. Everything just feels like it could have used another year. This makes me wonder if there was another Mass Effect: Andromeda before this one that got trashed, so they rushed to create this one.
I am really enjoying Mass Effect Andromeda, but it is far from perfect. The flaws that other reviews are pointing out are there, but they just haven’t been bothering me. For five years I have wanted more Mass Effect and Andromeda has given me that. It also gives me hope that they can build off this game and make something truly special, like Mass Effect 2. If you have been scared off by bad reviews, I would say that if you liked the other Mass Effect games, you will like this one. Just give it some time and don’t focus too hard on any of the human faces.