Why I Can’t Seem to Finish Mass Effect: Andromeda

You guys, I tried.

There are good, entertaining parts to this game–I’ve mentioned them before–but the parts in between them are too much of a slog. At some point, the anticipation that drives me through that slog to get to the good parts wears thin. Andromeda needs more than cool ideas. It has to execute them well, and consistently enough to keep the audience engaged. The game is made up of a series of good moments, and some great ones, with a lot of not-so-good stuff in between them. But what it needed was to draw the audience into a continuous story, and it doesn’t really do that.

Time

Too many things about this game waste your time. There’s a lot of unnecessarily unskippable animation, the most glaring of which is the travel. Yes, the image of the galaxy with the background of a black hole behind it is striking. Yes, the first time we watch ourselves zoom through that galaxy is cool. But the tenth time isn’t. Nor is the hundredth time, especially when it takes so long.

Then too many missions will take you all over the map without enough happening to make it worthwhile. I don’t want to pick up half a dozen objects in completely different locations for a story-based mission. There have been a few times when I’ve been pulled in by the story behind a mission, only to have it turn into a fetch quest that killed my enthusiasm.

Characters

The characters are cool conceptually, but don’t draw me in enough to really connect with anything about them. They’ve got the right framework to be interesting. But they feel off, because there isn’t enough subtlety–they state who they are and what’s important to them with far too much honesty and self-awareness. It doesn’t feel real. We have to guess at why things bother us, and at what the complexity of our reactions actually mean. We don’t magically know these things, and even if we did, we wouldn’t spell it out for someone else.

I wanted to like most of these characters, if the game had only provided more depth to their characters. For instance, Liam is practically a gift to this team. Everyone else is wrapped up in themselves, even at the expense of diplomacy with a new species. Meanwhile, Liam naturally reaches out towards others, and is frustrated when different sides try to shut people out. He could have been a natural choice for a player to confide in. I was always waiting for him to show a full-fledged personality. I wanted the game to delve into the urgency that’s behind his desire to get people talking to each other. Into where this desire to take truly audacious risks–the kind that could backfire–to get that cooperation comes from.

Maybe it happens in a part of the game that I haven’t gotten around to. But it’d be too late anyway. Too many moments had already passed, where his character–and the other characters–could have felt deep but came off as shallow. Even talking to them has become too much like doing homework.

I’m also tired of characters telling me that I’m interesting. In the same words. Again, and again, and again. Maybe this is because your character doesn’t have a set personality, preventing anyone from being too specific about you. But there are other ways of managing that which don’t sound so trite.

Almost everything about the character growth wasn’t working for me here. There’s no sense of development. At some point, the crew started talking about becoming a family, and I was all like ‘how did this happen while I wasn’t looking?”

The high point for character work in the game is Ryder’s father-sibling relationship with her/his family. There was genuine tension, and care mixed with misunderstanding. I would’ve loved if the game leaned into it more. My biggest regret with not finishing this game is that I won’t know if my character’s brother ever wakes up, or what their relationship would be at that point. But it’s not worth playing through the entire game just for a few good scenes.

Loyalty Missions

When I realized Andromeda was going to have loyalty missions, I was excited. Because I was thinking of the loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2, a major part of the framework of that game. Each of your companions asked you to go on a mission that mattered to them, and how you resolved it determined whether or not you gained their loyalty. These missions dug into the characters you were journeying with, and I absolutely loved them.

Naturally, Andromeda’s version is watered-down and less exciting. Part of that stems from the inferior characterization. Given that the whole concept of a loyalty mission is character driven, that makes sense. But another problem is that the missions themselves are far less in-depth. Unlike in ME2, where those missions were a major part of the game, Andromeda’s loyalty missions are far less key.

That could have been alright, if some other part of the game allowed for stronger character development. But instead, I’m left disappointed that these strong opportunities to highlight the companion characters couldn’t have been more powerful. That isn’t to say that none of them were enjoyable–some were–but generally, they felt like just another side mission.

Of the few I managed to complete, two stood out:

Vetra’s mission – It was too short to have much of an impact, and didn’t bring any huge surprises plot-wise, but I enjoyed it. Bringing Vetra’s relationship with her sister into focus, it was the high point in the game for Vetra’s characterization. The set-up was also fun–I enjoyed getting locked in the prison and having to break out, picking one out of several combat advantages ahead of every battle.

Drack’s mission: I was too disillusioned by the game at this point to really enjoy the mission, but there were moments when it still managed to draw me out. I liked the older generation/younger generation conflict of personality, but where they both obviously still cared for each other. There was one really funny moment when Drack dangles the antagonist off a cliff. Drack’s a ruthless ex-soldier who’s obviously capable of dropping him and not losing any sleep over it–but the antagonist still accuses of him of bluffing, in a laugh out loud moment.

Overall

I wish the whole game was good. Or that the whole game was bad.

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