Mass Effect: Andromeda is a slow starter.
No doubt you’ve had that repeated to you over and over if you’ve dared to even glimpse at preview coverage of the game. That is, of course, if you ever bothered to scroll past the endless gifs and clickbait telling you just how ugly and awkward it is. Though my Origin Access trial promised me a free 10 hours with the game, what they didn’t tell me was that there’d be an arbitrary cut-off point where I simply wouldn’t be able to progress any further, quite literally stopping you right before you’re about to open a giant plot door. For me, those ten hours were more like five. On paper, that shouldn’t be a problem, seeing as by the five hour mark in the original Mass Effect, you’ll have already assembled a full party, met the big bad, read endless codex entries about the wondrous Elcor, and had two sequels worth of threats set-up for the future.
Five hours into Mass Effect Andromeda, I’ve talked to a fair share of boring humans, spent a considerable time looking at unskippable animations whilst planet scanning, played a bit of alien Sudoku, and fought a lot enemies that may as well be called Not-Batarians.
The important thing to note is that I didn’t say Andromeda is a non-starter, just a very slow one. It actually, at some point, does feel like it’s going somewhere, and when it gets to that enigmatic destination, that it’ll have something to say. It’s just that it spends so much time in the beginning telling you what to do, filling your log with endless quests, that it doesn’t really bother giving you much reason to care. By the time I’d approached that door, I could feel that starting to change, having made my peace with some of the more annoying quirks and ready to invest in this new world, ready to maybe even forget about that old galaxy that we’d left behind.
Whilst I’d like to point out, for the sake of fairness, that the original trilogy was not without similar sins, the reality is that Andromeda is not being judged the same way, fair or not. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game, but the problem is that it can’t afford to simply be “good”. It needed to be extraordinary to justify its existence.
I don’t envy the team being given that project, even this far out from the ME3 controversy. A brand new team, with, to my knowledge, zero ties to any of the original trilogy’s development, handed a damaged franchise that narratively had been written into a corner. The only way to move on was to break away entirely and create something new. In that scenario, if the new thing isn’t extraordinary, isn’t as groundbreaking as its predecessors, it comes off as a cheap imitation, a direct-to-video sequel that couldn’t afford any of the original actors. It’s a shame, since the general consensus is that Andromeda actually finds its footing much later, but in the modern era, the “it gets really good 20 hours in” is a hollow sentiment that may as well mean “it never gets good”.
The good news is that Mass Effect doesn’t die here. No matter what, they’ll get another chance.
The bad news is that Mass Effect doesn’t die here. No matter what, they’ll get another chance.