Musings on Mass Effect Part 1: Andromeda

Publishing this post has taken way longer than I planned. It’s one of four I’ve written about Mass Effect. I’ll be posting the other three over the next three weeks. I wanted to post this after playing Mass Effect: Andromeda last year, but I decided to get some perspective by replaying the original Mass Effect trilogy first. I also played Dragon Age: Inquisition in between to try get more of that Bioware fix, but I didn’t find DA nearly as compelling as ME. While I enjoyed DAI, I concluded that playing the Inquisitor felt a bit like playing a silent hero, lacking the strong personality of someone like Shepard. In between all of this, I also broke my arm, delaying my replay of the Mass Effect trilogy by many months. But I finally made it, so here’s the first of my rambling posts about Mass Effect.

If you’ve not played Mass Effect: Andromeda, I’ve kept my references fairly vague 🙂

When Bioware announced they would no longer be creating single player content for Mass Effect: Andromeda, it was a huge blow for me, as someone who absolutely loved the game. The team put in a lot of effort to polish the game after its release, but not having DLC to tie up all those loose ends was crushing. Apparently there will be books and comics, which is great and all, but it’s certainly not what I would have wanted. I doubt the books will feature a Ryder who chose just about every casual or sarcastic response available. And I’m guessing that Sara isn’t the Pathfinder in the canon, which will no doubt frustrate all those players who played through as her. And hell, the book that I actually want to read, about what happened to the Quarian ark, still hasn’t been published (Amazon shows a release date in October 2018)!

I played through MEA not long after its release, when only the first two or three big patches had come through, and honestly, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s not often I’ll put 90+ hours into a game, not even other RPGs like Final Fantasy XV, which I also loved to bits. Sure, there were a few small bugs and some patchy animations here and there, but nothing that ruined my enjoyment of the game.

I decided to step out of my comfort zone and play as Scott Ryder – if you’ve chatted to me about Mass Effect, you’ll know I consider FemShep to be the only Shep, so this was a big step for me. And I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed playing as an impulsive, sarcastic, and sometimes downright rude character who romanced anyone who would let him.

Somehow, however, the problems that the game had (let’s be honest, it never should have released with some of those glaring issues) became all anyone talked about, and resulted in an awesome game doing ‘poorly’ (I guess 1M+ sales counts as ‘poor’ when ME3 sold over 5M copies…) And so, EA has killed off another of my favourite game franchises… even the recent SimCity disaster got one expansion pack!

The price of MEA has dropped through various sales over the past year, and the full game is available to play if you subscribe to Origin Access. I reckon it’s worth a play if you enjoy Bioware RPGs. Personally, I’m looking forward to replaying it sometime in the not too distant future. I’m toying with the idea of playing as Sara, but I loved playing Scott so much that I’m still torn on this point.

Some of the highlights of Mass Effect: Andromeda for me included playing as a young, inexperienced character who is nevertheless awesome, with an awesome voice actor whether you choose Scott or Sara. And by young, I don’t mean JRPG young, just younger than Commander Shepard, who is already a veteran by the time we meet her. Side note, if you choose the default name (Scott or Sara), characters in the game will sometimes call you by your first name, which I thought was a really nice touch, and a first for Mass Effect. Also interesting is that, because Scott and Sara are twins, they both exist in the game world, and you can still interact with the one you’re not playing as.

Both Scott and Sara have a solid list of romance options for both genders, ranging from humans to various alien races. My Scott ended up completing the Cora romance, which I initially thought might be boring, but she turned out to be really sweet. Regardless of who you end up romancing, the game also includes loyalty missions for all your squad mates. These missions are some of the best side quests in the game. There’s also a chain of annoying fetch quests that ends in a great sequence where the whole crew gets together for a night off. The final mission of the game actually involves all your squad mates – I’m really glad we’ve gone away from the days of assembling a strong team, only to find yourself forced into the final confrontation alone.

Some improvements over the older Mass Effect games include a flexible leveling system that lets you completely change your build and class if you get bored of your abilities or combat style along the way (a distinct possibility if you, like me, end up playing for 90+ hours!) The combat system itself is solid, and your squad has decent AI. Ryder also has jetpacks to help him get around, which adds a fun alternative to just running everywhere, and allowed for more varied environments. You can also customise your armour to craft a unique look for your character.

There are several planets you can explore in your new NOMAD, essentially an upgrade from the old MAKO, with much more interesting environments to see. A real highlight of this game for me was its soundtrack. I’ve got a massive Google Play playlist featuring all the music I could find from the ME games, and the signature MEA tracks (A Better Beginning and A Trail of Hope) always stand out for me. Last but not least, the voice acting (Tom Taylorson as Scott Ryder in particular) is stellar.

I could probably ramble about how much I loved Mass Effect: Andromeda for ages, but I’ll end here. It’s a great game that got hurt by a few memes and unfortunate bugs, and it’s killed one of my favourite game franchises ever.

Read part 2 of this series, my thoughts on Mass Effect 1.

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