After playing through and writing about the opening hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda a few days ago, I was tentatively excited to continue. I hadn't necessarily loved what I'd played up to that point, but I felt there was room for improvement. The small taste of combat I'd gotten was exciting, and the story set up had potential. Sure, the characters were mind-numbingly boring and the dialogue stunk, but maybe I could have a good time in spite of that. I'm here to tell you that I thought wrong, so very wrong.
Soon after finishing the prologue planet you land at the new universe hub, the Nexus. I was immediately reminded of all the problems I had with the game my first go around. The somewhat acceptable facial animation of the prologue was gone, replaced by strange, automaton like movements. The dialogue continued to be horrible, both in how it's written and how it was performed. This downward trend was somewhat expected, but the lack of quality was still a bit shocking. When I heard a character say "their face was tired," I knew I was in for some real shit.
At this point, the game opens up and reveals it's nature. There are 5 planets you want to make inhabitable, and you also need to deal with the alien threat known as the Kett. Eos is the first stop on this journey, a vast desert populated by uninteresting ruins and annoyingly uneven terrain. There is nothing about this planet that sparks even a bit of interest. You start in the middle of a failed colony, but they don't paint a good picture to portray why it failed. There are some audio logs and terminals with little tidbits, but it's all fluff. The real problem is that the world feels unreal. You go around through the empty buildings and you roam the desert killing indigenous wildlife and Kett but nothing feels like it has an impact. All your progress is shown through bars filling up, and it's just not satisfying. I solve a puzzle and I get two percent higher planet viability. I get some collectible and I get another three percent viability. It feels like the world is just one long checklist full of boring objectives to fulfill. Again, the combat itself is fun but even it's limited. Most encounters only involve a handful of enemies, and by the time you get into a groove it's over.
I proceeded to start the terraformer on Eos and set up a colony. I had to pick whether I wanted a science focused colony or a military one, but in the end it made very little difference. I looked it up in the moment out of curiosity and the actual outcomes of this choice are negligible. It does transform the world quite a bit because this outpost is huge, but in actuality it doesn't add anything worthwhile. A bunch of side quests from new characters open up and new shops appear, but honestly I was more annoyed then excited by the prospect of more side shit. At this point my log was full of side quests that all seemed like busywork. The last thing I wanted was to tack on a few more.
At this point I got to meet the only other new race of the game, the Angara. It was this meeting that deflated any sense of hope I might have had lingering about. This is supposed to be first contact with this species in an official capacity. At this point the Angara know of humans but this is the first real meeting of the minds. What transpires is a quick walk through the alien city that culminates with their military leader asking you to help fight the Kett to earn their trust. It takes about five minutes. That's it, that's first contact. This completely lackluster experience really hit home the fact that this game is a hollow imitation of it's predecessors. A huge part of what made Mass Effect so interesting was it's attention to detail. The first contact war, how hanar and drell came to live together, the keepers, quarian's need for suits, etc. There was almost always an interesting explanation for every aspect of the world. It felt grounded, it felt like a real place. In Andromeda, that's just not the case.
After that nonsense was done I tried to keep playing. I went to the next world and started on the quest to make it inhabitable but I couldn't keep going. I was bored out of my fucking gourd. The endless fetch quests and completely inconsequential side stories were just too much. Even the main quest line was becoming a chore to complete. I really wanted to play through the game again because of my love for the franchise. I really wanted to like this game, but I think I knew from the start of this journey that it wasn't meant to be. A few weeks ago, I bought the sequel book to the game, Mass Effect: Annihilation. I still plan to read it at some point so I loaded up my old 80ish hour save and read a few entries from the codex for posterity. The game is now uninstalled, destined to live forever in the "ready to install" section of my library. I still harbor a little bit of hope that the franchise can be redeemed. There's potential for greatness in this universe, even if it comes on the back of mediocrity. Whether it's in a sequel to Andromeda or an entirely new title, I dream of the day I can fall in love with Mass Effect all over again.