Look, it was on sale for seven dollars, okay?
I’ve heard the many complaints about Mass Effect: Andromeda, but with Rachael spending the last month doing an aggressive play through of the entire Dragon Age series, I’ve been craving my own trip through a BioWare game. Unfortunately, the original Mass Effect trilogy is only on PS3, and while I could bust that series out, I figured that it’s probably best to let things lie. It’s been a long time since I finished Mass Effect 3, and I’ve come to terms with the story that my version of Shepard finished. The realization that the only way to make sure Shepard survives is to enact a synthetic genocide makes it a little hard to countenance trying to do a glorious re-enactment where instead of making the heroic sacrifice he (my Shepard was a dopey looking ginger dude) inevitably had to make, he’d make it through and enjoy a peaceful retirement with Tali on the Flotilla. So I picked up Andromeda on the cheap and have calibrated my expectations to the lowest possible setting.
My first couple hours with the game have been pretty good, all things told. It’s always fun to play with the character creator after all. I decided for this game my protagonist would be Sara Ryder (I decided to keep the default first name and was pleased to find that the dialogue actually uses it), and she would be a Black woman with an interesting facial scar that she got in some way that I haven’t fully figured out yet (I’m thinking it’s a burn from a training accident). I’m pretty pleased so far with the character design, but I’m still adjusting to the voice acting. It would have been nice if there were dialogue tracks from a couple different voice actors like in Dragon Age: Inquisition so you had some options for audio matching. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but the voice actor just doesn’t quite match what I imagined Sara sounding like when I designed her face.
The premise works perfectly fine for me. Some time during the lead up to the final conflict with the Reapers, the Citadel civilizations organized a backup plan to send ark ships off to the Andromeda galaxy in order to maintain the survival of the Milky Way’s most prominent species. Exploring a new home is a cool idea, although I do wonder how well the story’s going to handle issues of colonialism. I finished the introductory mission on the first planet, and it involves inadvertently starting a war with hostile aliens who are also there exploring a thing. Not the best beginning, if I do say so. We’ll see where it goes from there.
The gameplay so far is perfectly fine. I’m long past my days of enjoying shooters, but I can deal with the mechanics for the sake of a story. Rachael and I along with our friends recently determined that it’s best to think of the Dragon Age series as a dating simulator with fantasy RPG elements. I’m going to declare Mass Effect the same, but with sci-fi shooter elements. Just here for the interpersonal drama and chill hangouts, thanks. To help make things at least a little less tedious than point-and-shoot, I’ve decided to go with a straight biotic build on Sara. The interface suggests that over the course of the game I’ll be free to mix and match abilities from all three of the basic character classes, but I think trying to stick to one specialty will make the game a little more interesting (and also give me an excuse to actually pull the trigger as little as possible). It’s occurred to me that I could just set the difficulty to narrative mode, but I figure I’ll wait until I encounter a challenge I actually don’t want to deal with in order to get on with the story.
Initial thoughts on the package as a whole are that the game’s first few hours feel really solid and reminiscent of what I liked about the original trilogy. The urgency to keep the story moving isn’t quite there yet, but maybe it will pick up. If that’s not in the cards, then playing Andromeda can at least be a meditative experience.