According to an e-mail I recieved from PSN some months ago, Mass Effect: Andromeda was the game I played most in 2017. At 217 hours, it dwarfed the play times of Persona 5 (an even 200 hours) and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Combined with the PC version, I logged just over 250 hours into the latest Mass Effect entry with another 100 or so hours expected this year on the PC version (which got some much needed optimization tweaks).
But I'm sure you didn't come here just to hear me brag about how long I spent in Heleus. The actual reason I'm blogging about this is to proudly exclaim (yes, proudly) I loved ME:A. I bet most people are gonna point to the game's shortcomings: the facial animations, the technical gaffes and yes, the facial animations. For the most part, I agree with the criticism; the facial animation, while improved still isn't perfect and the game still has its fair share glitches and hiccups, though I honestly enjoyed the game and was bummed out when Bioware announced they wouldn't add any story DLC for the game.
"But you still haven't explained why you like such a crap game you dumb Prankster!" I'm sure plenty of people are gonna say to which I'll say this: I'm not PranksterX, I'm TricksterX. In all seriousness though, give Andromeda a chance and what you have is actually a good game. And if you're not completely turned off by this blog I can actually explain why. At least I think I can. Or I hope.
I bet I can jump it
You are the Pathfinder, charged with finding a new home for humanity. That was from one of the promotional trailers for the game leading up to it's release. Though you do more than find a new home, that remains the central focus of the game. Along the way you discover your father had some secrets he didn't want revealed, there's more to the kett that meets the eye, Garson's death may have been not an accident etc. This makes for an interesting, captivating story (the Quarians go without saying) with plenty of loose ends and mystery that left me theorizing more than a physics professor on coffee and Red Bull. I couldn't deny the feeling of wonder as I walked through a vault and looked at the vast emptiness thinking "I've gotta find what made this." Whether you like the story or not, Andromeda did have some great story beats.
If a game doesn't have a strong story, if its just decent, the gameplay needs to be great. Thankfully, In Andromeda's case, the gameplay delivers in spades. Enemies flank and surround you. Cover is destructible so you have to stay on the move, you can use power combos for extra damage, even the Nomad isn't a pain to drive, a compliment I could never give the Mako.
The Nomad is actually a pleasure to drive
Gun battles can sometimes be a dog fight, there's cloaked enemies, heavies, techies, biotics, sometimes all in one fight with each presenting their own challenges and weaknesses. Count yourself lucky if you have just one enemy type to deal with in an area. Have I mentioned the classes? For the first time you can play as any class with four being mappable, the trade-off is that you can only use three powers per class which in my opinion is fair, otherwise the game would be way too easy. Want to play as a Infiltrator with the Biotic Charge ability? DO IT. Freeze an enemy then use Throw to hurdle them off the map? Why not. Experimenting with the powers was a big time highlight for the game and I constantly found myself mixing and matching for combos. Because using one power doesn't throw all your other powers into cooldown you won't need to pray your AI teammates will use their own powers in a timely manner. Crafting also found it's way into the game and it was surprisingly more deep and detailed than I thought. A semi-automatic assault rifle can be made fully automatic, you can have a pistol shoot lasers if you so choose or have a sniper rifle shoot lightning, or have a shotgun shoot enemy seeking, death inducing plasma rounds. The possibilites are plenty and some are truly impressive, the gameplay encourages experimentation and once you find what you like, tearing through enemies have an almost cathartic feel to it.
While some of the missions in Adromeda feel repetitive, the loyalty missions are spot on. These optional missions not only ensures their loyalty to Ryder, but also serves as a way to flesh out your squadmates and take some of the limelight off of Ryder. I'm gonna use my favorite loyalty mission from ironically, my least favorite squad member: Liam [BLEEP] Kosta. Liam is reckless. Liam is careless. Liam is trying so hard to build bridges through his own brand of diplomacy that he's not afraid to bend the rules to do it. But when his Angaran friend is captured (a friend that has Initiative access codes), our crisis response specialist ends up having to launch a rescue mission with a less than thought out plan.
The end of the mission represents a change in philosphy for how he goes about building those bridges and it's a good representation of the change your squadmates go through at the end of their own loyalty missions: Cora no longer relies on plans from more experienced individuals, PeeBee learns to be more trusting and Drack isn't quite as suicidal as before.
If I had to create my ideal game, it would star a wise cracking rogue-like adventurer who goes on a long, epic journey. They'd go to all kinds of exotic locales, meet new people, unexpectadly run into an enemy force and find a way to prevail regardless of the futility of their situation. Mass Effect: Andromeda came as close to fulfillilng that vision for me as any game I've ever played. Andromeda was disappointing (and I'll explain why in a future blog) but lost in all the facial animation memes was this: It was still fun to play. What did you think of Andromeda? Let me know in the comments!