Mass Effect: Andromeda released earlier this week and the consensus has been mainly negative towards the game. I – like many – adored the original Mass Effect trilogy. The first two Mass Effect games are easily among my top 10 role-playing games ever made and I’m sure many would agree. This put an enormous amount of pressure on Mass Effect: Andromeda, and frankly I’m not sure Andromeda was ever going to be able to live up to the first trilogy.
Terrible animations and cringe-worthy dialogue aside though, I am able to see the good in Mass Effect: Andromeda. If you’re able to overlook the harsh criticisms of others and look at the game through your own eyes, there’s actually much depth in this experience. But, without delving into spoiler territory, there is one aspect of this game that I think excels beyond any Mass Effect game before it and also any other intergalactic experience we’ve seen on consoles recently.
Mass Effect: Andromeda makes you feel the wonders of space exploration
Sure, the original Mass Effect trilogy was set in space too; and you could explore planets to an extent. But let’s be honest here, those games suffered from the limitations of the technology at the time. While the original trilogy may excel in storytelling and character development, Andromeda takes the space exploration ball and completely runs to the other side of the stadium with it.
Beyond that, in the original Mass Effect trilogy, you were playing through the eyes of someone who’d already had some military experience. Shepard was already well traveled by the time you got to control him, so rarely was there any notion of being surprised at new surroundings. In Mass Effect: Andromeda, both you and your characters are exploring worlds that are foreign to you both, and thus you can react along with your characters in unison. You’ll witness Ryder’s excitement at new findings, and you’ll share the uncanny feeling as one.
Controlling your Nomad will bring you to new parts of the planets that aren’t even covered by the main story missions. You’ll find areas populated by your enemies, or various wanderers and explorers. You’ll find hostile monsters and hidden bosses. You can farm all the rare materials you’ll need to aid your R&D projects. The best part is that at no point does it ever feel limited.
Before Andromeda existed, the first Mass Effect had ironically been the most open in terms of exploration. But really, what was there to discover? Crashed satellites, ruins and some buildings with mercs. All of which had the same textures and layouts that were recycled again and again. Of course, this was all down to the limitations at the time, but if that first Mass Effect existed today then it would indeed be Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Furthermore, with Ryder’s goal as the Pathfinder, you actually feel like you’re leaving your mark on this new Galaxy. You’re developing the Galaxy for the good of all species, one planet at a time. If the original Mass Effect trilogy was about saving the galaxy, then Andromeda is about developing the galaxy. Both tasks are ambitious, yet exciting. But the latter leaves more room to be astounded.
An example is on the planet Eos where Ryder and his/her squad end up in an underground vault, where some technologically advanced structures are causing a hazardous environment on the planet. There’s much space jargon tossed around at this point, but never is it overwhelming. The only way to enter and exit this base is via gravity controlled drops. This in itself gives the game a well envisioned touch. Inside the base is a dark, shiny, expanse with neon lighting. There’s a maze of corridors in which you never really know what to expect.
I’ve hardly ever had such an pleasantly-uncanny feeling from a game dealing with space exploration, and it made me really think about what we’d find if we had the opportunity to explore other planets.
Quite simply, Mass Effect: Andromeda is the game for space enthusiasts. It’s for those who often imagine what life is like out there in our galaxy (or beyond our galaxy in this case). The Mass Effect trilogy gave me a great story, with a lovable cast of characters. So far on my Andromeda journey, I’ve been given a number of vastly imaginative worlds to explore and have fun in.
I’ll likely never feel the same way about a game as I felt about the first Mass Effect trilogy; but that doesn’t mean that there’s no room to enjoy the wonders of Mass Effect: Andromeda.