Mass Effect Andromeda – Nerfed Llamas Review – “Pathfinder, you have new email at your terminal…”
There are not many people that love the Mass Effect franchise more than I do. Equally, without a doubt… but not more. Certainly, there are folks who have gotten tattoos, created elaborate cosplay, written fan fiction, and are generally more involved in the fandom aspect than I am, but even still I would wager that they do not love the franchise (lore, characters, etc.) more than I do. To put things into perspective, let me share a scary fact with you: I literally don’t know how many times that I have completed a play through of Mass Effect 1, 2, or 3. As in, I have played all the way through all 3 games so many times that I have lost count. 10 times each game? Nah, that’s too few. 20? Maybe even more than that? Any and all guesses north of 20 could be right at this point. When I boot up a copy of the original Mass Effect games, affectionately known as the “Shepard Trilogy”, I get instantly immersed in a dense and richly populated science fiction world of interstellar space travel and fascinating exotic new aliens to meet and absorb the complexity of their unique culture. Even though I have completed each game numerous times, I still enjoy another play through just as much as I did the first time. I love making the hard choices, romancing the wide variety of characters, partaking in the amazingly deep character interactions, and diving head first into the fun and frenetic action of the battle scenes. I love it all. Not so much that I can’t see the faults in each game, but enough so that I can easily see past them to continue enjoying the trilogy with my excitement unabated. It is with this undying enthusiasm that I greeted the newest game in the series, a game 5 years in the making, Mass Effect Andromeda when it released recently on March 21st, 2017.
What is Mass Effect Andromeda?
This new Mass Effect game is set in the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy, nestled in between the events of Mass Effect 2 & 3 and yet also 600 years after as well. The basic story is that a private group, which includes nearly all of the various races from the original series, has created the Andromeda Initiative with the goal of setting up colonies in the Andromeda Galaxy. 7 golden planets have the potential to be habitable for these courageous explorers. The initiative sets up 5 arks (1 each for the Asari, Human, Krogan, Quarian, and Salarian races, with a few other races peppered in there for safe measure) with thousands of cryogenically frozen people for a deep space program designed to travel the 600+ year journey from to the next galaxy over from the Milky Way, Andromeda. When the human ark makes it to the Heleus Cluster, all hell breaks loose. There is a dark energy cloud that is seemingly spreading throughout the entire cluster and it wreaks havoc on technology as well as altering the environments of the planets. That last detail puts a wrinkle in the initiative’s plan, as the golden planets are no longer 100% viable anymore. There is a glimmer of hope however, as remnants of an ancient technology exist on these planets. This technology has the ability to terraform these golden planets and make them viable once more, so long as you can figure out how to activate them. Unfortunately, there is also a dark presence in the Andromeda Galaxy, the mysterious Kett, an alien race who are also trying to activate the remnants but for a far more sinister purpose. It is up to the player to establish colonies, unite the arks, and turn on the remnant technology to save the golden planets before the Kett steal the remnant technology and use it for their own nefarious means.
Here’s a trailer to help you get a feel for what Mass Effect Andromeda is all about:
Now that my bonafides are out of the way, let’s ask the really important question.
How is the new Mass Effect Andromeda game?
Well… that’s a tricky question to answer. On the surface, Mass Effect Andromeda is a really fun game that does a lot of things right, but underneath it has some pretty evident flaws that stick out much more so than the many of the flaws in the previous games in the series. I enjoyed my time in Andromeda for the most part. The game has some pretty terrific moments. The parts that work, work exceptionally well. However, as a perfect bookend there are some parts that don’t work, and they don’t work on just as large a level. Truthfully, it’s a bit of a mixed bag which is unfortunate as I wanted nothing more than to be enamored with Andromeda the same way that I love the Shepard Trilogy. I really REALLY wanted to love Mass Effect Andromeda, but left the game simply liking it a lot. Continue reading for my extended thoughts on the game, but beware: beyond this point there will be some unavoidable spoilers (I intentionally try not to spoil anything major, but even still the following commentary may contain some info that could be considered significant spoilers for those who haven’t played through the main game – you have been warned).
What I liked about Mass Effect Andromeda:
Exploration: There is a sense of freedom in Andromeda that is top notch. For the most part, you can go just about anywhere on any of the playable maps. The maps themselves are quite large, exceptionally detailed, and are usually themed (desert map, ice map, jungle map, etc.) which makes each planet more memorable. Their approach to planet design allows for a broad variety of environments and the beauty or hazards that come with them. Traversing these new worlds is fun as well. You can rip and run through these maps with the 6 wheeled Nomad, a throwback to the old Mako from the original Mass Effect game, that has much tighter controls than its predecessor and is thankfully upgradeable and visually customizable in many ways. When on foot, you can choose to hoof it or use the handy new jet pack to help you navigate the terrain more efficiently. There is a lot more verticality in the map designs for Andromeda than in previous Mass Effect games, and it adds a ton to the overall sense of exploration and scope of the terrain. In order to get to some areas, you have to jump jet to it, which wasn’t an option in the older Mass Effect games. With this added upgrade in map design, the play areas feel much less linear and far more conducive to going and doing whatever you want. The design isn’t as grand as the overworld map for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it has that same inviting atmosphere that makes you want to spend time exploring these strange new worlds.
Some of the main characters were quite excellent: The characters that were the most interesting to me were SAM, Peebee, Suvi, and Jaal. SAM is an artificial intelligence that is connected to many aspects of the Andromeda Initiative, however the A.I. shares a special connection with the Pathfinder Ryder (which is the player’s character, one of a set of fraternal male/female twins). SAM gives valuable information, makes observations, grows in its capacity to understand human emotion, and over the course of the game develops a fantastic rapport with the Pathfinder and the entire team. Like EDI in previous Mass Effect games, SAM gives us a look at an A.I. that is portrayed as cold at the beginning, but begins to warm up as the story progresses. Peebee is fun, even if only as a complete departure from the other major Asari squadmate from the Shepard Trilogy, Liara. Liara was serious, intelligent, passionate, and dramatic. Peebee is aloof, immature, intelligent, and a bit of a wildcard. What really makes Peebee shine is that she is an Asari that isn’t in love with her own species nor their culture. She is effectively Asari punk rock, which leads to a ton of fun dialogue between Peebee and the other characters. Suvi is an amazing character because she is portrayed as scientist with a strong religious faith. She is able to reconcile her belief in God and her love for scientific truth without her subplot ever becoming anti-faith. This is of huge value, because far too often people of faith get painted as alt-right nutjobs in popular media which is damaging as it paints the wrong picture of altruistic faith. As the narrative to the game unfolds, Suvi gets more complex and interesting, both in terms of her scientific discoveries and in how she handles her faith. Jaal is a great character, both as your gateway to learning about the Angarans (a new alien species introduced in Mass Effect Andromeda), and also as a guide for the player. Both Ryder and Jaal treat the situation as unknowing outsiders, which puts the player at ease because we are also outsiders to this new sector of space that has never been explored by humans before. Jaal is emotional, intelligent, complex, and chock full of insights towards the Heleus Cluster, the Kett, and the way things work for the Angarans and Andromeda. He answers the questions we have and gives us a broader understanding of his people and their struggles.
Tighter action game play than in previous Mass Effects (sort of): The movement mechanics for the Pathfinder are great. Ryder moves well, and with the jet pack can maneuver in combat with great ease. The jet pack also is tactical, as it can be used to find better viewing angles for sniper shots or biotic attacks. There are a ton of weapons to craft and upgrade, with more than enough options for any play style. Abilities are wide open this time around, which is a huge plus. In the Shepard Trilogy you picked a character class and were stuck with it the entire game. Each class had unique attributes, pros and cons, and they determined how you would play. In Mass Effect Andromeda you are free to play as any class and put your expansion points in any ability that you see fit. You can even switch classes on the fly for ability boosts and set multiple loadouts for your abilities. It’s a sweet set up that I hope carries over to the next iteration of the Mass Effect franchise. It’s not all party hats and handjobs though, as the auto-sticky cover is not great. It kind of works whenever it feels like it. I mostly play Vanguard (which has a charge attack that restores shields instantly) so it wasn’t a huge issue for me, but multiple people that I play online with talked about how it made the game artificially more difficult because of how hit-and-miss the cover system is. Also, the options in previous games to assign tasks/ability usage in the field to your squadmates has been stripped significantly, making them less than useful on many battle scenes.
Moments that you will remember: There are times when Mass Effect Andromeda has moments that are glorious. They connect you to the game world and the characters that inhabit it. When these moments pop up, you no longer feel like you are playing a game, you feel as if you are experiencing an event. Previous Mass Effect games did a great job of this as well. In Mass Effect Andromeda, a lot of these moments pop up in the form of Loyalty Quests and personal requests. The loyalty quests are fun and add some much needed depth to some of the characters. The personal requests (of which there are few too few of them in the game), gives the Pathfinder an opportunity to spend time with a specific crew member in a non-combat scenario. Each personal request is unique and again grants you insight into your team. Another great aspect of the game are hidden memory clusters, which SAM can help you unlock. These are memories from your father, and they give you an insight into his life, your mother, and the connection between you and your twin. These family moments are tremendously powerful and are some of the best parts of the game. Some of the romance is well done, although I feel like there were better romance moments (I’m not talking about the sex, I’m talking about the actual courting) in Mass Effect 2 & 3. All of these various opportunities for great moments are perhaps the most valid reason to play Mass Effect Andromeda, above and beyond the aforementioned exploration and excellent game play.
What was just OK about Mass Effect Andromeda:
Many of the main characters were just OK: Some of the new characters suffer from being a touch milquetoast, at least they were for me. I didn’t find Liam, Cora, Vetra, Drack, Kallo, or Gil to be all that interesting. I kept waiting for them to drop a bombshell of a story on me or to tell me some endearing tale to hook me in, but in the scheme of things they really didn’t. They mostly just repeated different takes on the same story they had already told me in the beginning of the journey. This is not to say that they didn’t have any charm or personality at all (some had some very nice moments indeed), it’s just to say that they didn’t really bring much intrigue, warmth, or frankly added any value to my connection to the game. Vetra was all about telling me how she had to raise her kid sister… over and over and over again. Liam told a bunch of stories about being a cop, how it wasn’t for him, and so he transferred to crisis response. He had a moderately interesting story about a classic car, but I won’t say anymore about it. Just know that it was pretty cool. Also, Liam always wanted to buy me a drink, which would have made me his bro except he only buys you a drink once (maybe twice), even though he offers to buy about a million of them over the course of the game. Cora damn near had an orgasm every time she talked about being a human working in an Asari Commando group but then never really had many interesting stories to tell about it. Oh she’ll tell you all about it, but it’ll be all sizzle, no steak. Cora liked gardening which is nice, and her special scene after her loyalty quest is especially heartwarming. Drack only talked about his granddaughter Kesh, being old, and then mostly a bunch of exposition about New Tuchanka. Drack is particularly disappointing, as I love a good Krogan squadmate, but never really fell in love with the character like I did with Wrex, Grunt, or Eve from previous Mass Effect games. He just didn’t do anything to stand out from the other Krogans. The bar scene in Kadara was awesome, but again that’s about as engaging as Drack got. Kallo, well Kallo is just kind of there. He helped build the Tempest which was kind of neat, chit-chats with Suvi a lot, argues with Gil a bit, and is otherwise just there to tell you when someone on board the Tempest wants to talk to you. Gil loves poker, tinkering on the Tempest, and is a touch immature… and that’s about it. I know this is a matter of personal preference. Many will likely disagree with me on this one, but these characters did not do anything to endear themselves to me over my lengthy stretch in the game. Perhaps it is because there were so many strong characters in the Shepard Trilogy, like Liara, Garrus, Jack, Wrex, Tali, Mordin, Kasumi, Thane, Miranda, Legion, Samara, EDI, Joker, and so many more that many of the characters on the Tempest just didn’t stand out as anything special. I didn’t dislike the new squadmates per se, but I didn’t care a huge deal for them either. This is an odd experience for me as I had never thought of Mass Effect characters as window dressing before, but in Andromeda that is what many of them were for me.
There weren’t many hard choices to make in the game: This is a big one that sticks out for me. I struggled with this a lot. In Mass Effect 1, you had to choose the life or death fate of no less than 2 squadmates. In Mass Effect 2, the entire game and the decisions you made decided who lived or died at the end, and yes it was possible for everyone to die. Mass Effect 3 had you deciding the fate of entire planets and cultures. In Mass Effect Andromeda you decide… hardly anything at all. Certainly no one’s fate. The whole decision experience in Andromeda feels like it is on predetermined rails and as such your decisions impact very little. I look back at my time in Andromeda and can’t think of a single decision I made that actually mattered. Not one. Perhaps I am wrong here, but I can’t think of one decision I had to make that mattered. Even having two side pieces (Peebee & Keri… I’m hooked on that blue y’all!) while romancing Cora didn’t matter. In the other Mass Effect games the romance options would confront you about playing the field. No fucks were given in Andromeda. Free love for one and all.
BioWare still hasn’t figured out planet scanning: I consider this as only an “OK” issue, because for the most part you can avoid it altogether if you really want to. It still feels like a chore and somehow less exciting this go around. I’m not sure what the solution is, but they clearly haven’t found it yet. You still will likely scan a ton of planets for no other reason than a small bit of XP and some resources for crafting. It is simply not rewarding in the slightest. The saving grace is that the music while scanning is dope.
What I didn’t like about Mass Effect Andromeda:
The character creator tools are some of the worst I have seen in a modern AAA video game: This is not hyperbole, the character creator is really limited. There are only a handful of hair choices, and that becomes painfully clear when you play the game because every human NPC in the game has one of these haircuts. The facial hair is terrifying. If you want to play as a male character with a beard, I hope you like the one whole beard option that they gave you (hint: I didn’t like it). It’s a weird mix of ugly mustache, goatee, and bizarre sideburn options. What’s also strange is that there isn’t much flexibility once you pick one of the customizable characters. Also, shades of skin tone seem to be locked in with some characters as well, so if you like the facial features of one of the stock characters but want to change their skin tone to look more like yours in real life… that might not be an option. Once you pick a character template to modify, you still can’t change much, mostly the size of stuff (nose, chin, checks, etc.). If you want to make a character that looks like you, it may not be an option. Simple things like freckles are not even on the menu to be added to a character you are creating. It’s a touch better for creating women characters as they get better access to hair designs. IF you want to, you can apply face make up to your custom Ryder (male or female) which may or may not be a good thing, depends on your personal preference on the matter. In moderation, it made my attempt at creating Pixie Ryder a touch more appealing (that’s my name for her, not the given name for the stock female Ryder). Frankly, the character creator tools in Mass Effect Andromeda feel like they were lifted from a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game from 15 years ago. Yes, they really are that rough. This is the first time in the franchise’s history that I have used the stock character because I couldn’t make a custom male character that I was genuinely happy with.
The main story is a huge let down: I can’t get into specifics without spoiling the entire story, so I’ll say 2 things that will adequately sum up my feelings on the main story.
- The whole narrative is based on a conceit that I not only didn’t buy, but also thought was lazy writing. The whole story hinges on the aforementioned dark energy cloud (named the Scourge in the game) that has caused all sorts of trouble for the Heleus Cluster. The problem with this, is that it is used as a catch all for just about everything. Can’t contact someone? The Scourge is blocking communications. Flew too close to the Scourge? Now your ship is damaged and you have to make repairs. Now the golden worlds are no longer habitable? That datgum Scourge wrecked their environments. There’s no other aliens in the entire cluster beside the Kett and the Angarans… you guessed it! The Scourge destroyed the viability of the planets which means that no other aliens could have survived except for the Kett because they are not indigenous to the cluster and the Angarans because they are the only species that survived the Scourge in the first place. With a “bad” alien race and a “good” alien race, it make Mass Effect Andromeda feel like an episode of Star Trek. That’s not a dig, as I happen to love Star Trek, but I am used to Mass Effect feeling like a season’s worth of Star Trek episodes, not just one super long episode. The Kett are boring, and really don’t factor into much other than cannon fodder and plot tropes. This leaves the Angarans holding the bags in terms of being interesting and new. The good news is that the Angarans are a wonderful and fascinating species. The bad news is there should have been at least three or four other alien species introduced in this game, and because there wasn’t we get to deal with the same old crap that we were dealing with in the Shepard Trilogy (mistreated Krogans, a rogue sect working against the initiative, another underworld overlord to appease, ). Frankly speaking, I would have much preferred meeting multiple new alien cultures and having a story that had me creating uneasy alliances with them, as opposed to having Angarans be the only culture to deal with.
- Mass Effect Andromeda has no 2nd act. It goes from the first act, to the third act, and then it just simply ends with a whimper. There is no sense of urgency in the game and nothing feels like it is at stake. Sure, the game tells you that everyone will die if you fail to make the golden planets habitable, but there is never any sense of consequence in the follow through. No major 2nd act event happens to propel you into the finale, you just go there because it is the next mission not because you have to or need to. On top of that, it feels as if the legitimate ending to Mass Effect Andromeda is being held back as DLC. This is not a new concept to BioWare, as they did a similar thing with Dragon Age Inquisition. The key difference here is that DA:I felt like a complete story before they added a huge DLC finale, whereas ME:A feels as if they just decided to end the game because… why not? Mind you, I’m not talking about the length of the over all game. I dropped well over 100 hours into my first play through, and I’ve already started a second as the other twin. I’m talking about the focus of the main narrative. This ties back into my first point, the conceit for this game effectively ties the narrative’s hands behind its back. It feels so painfully linear, and with only the Angarans and Kett to carry the crux of the story intrigue, it feels short and exceptionally “one note” in comparison to other games in the Mass Effect series. This lack of a second act really bothers me, because I can’t figure out why there wasn’t more focus on the main story in the game, especially in regards to the nuts and bolts set up for the finale that is missing. We literally go from the main story set up, to locate the huge MacGuffin an end the game. By the time you get to the end, it stops terribly abrupt, like Halo 2 abruptly, with a message that reads, “Oh hai, the game is ending now but you can still travel around and explore afterwards if ya’d like.” When I received that message (which I clearly just jokingly paraphrased), I remember thinking, “wait… what? Are you serious?” It didn’t feel earned and again it wasn’t all that rewarding. The final mission was a fun play, and the waves of enemies were challenging, but there never felt like there was anything at stake because I never believed, not even for a second, that I was going to lose or that I would have to endure a major teammate loss in order to win. Also, while beating the final story mission in the game you are introduced to a whole new beautiful area that you get to play around in for a few minutes with the Nomad, but you can’t go explore it after the fact, which means the vast majority of post game content is not all that thrilling. For a game that specifically allows for post game continuation, it feels strange that there isn’t more than a few minutes of post game content. The after game exploration mainly lets you finish any side quests that you may not have completed. Again, it feels like BioWare blatantly set this up for some big story driven DLC expansions that will be possibly coming soon. Mark my words, if they come we will get one DLC to help the missing Quarian ark, and another will be to explore the hidden mysteries of Meridian (that is already there in the game but you can’t go right now… because reasons).
I have a question and an observation:
Where are all the new aliens?
The narrative drive in the original Mass Effect trilogy had a huge amount of heft to it, in large part because of all of the demands of the various alien species that you had to appease in order to get their support against the villainous threat of the Reapers. In Andromeda, because we only get to meet 2 new intellectual species, the Angarans and the Kett, the weight of the overall Galaxy feels hollow. Most planets have a few Angaran, Kett, and Alliance Initiative folks scattered about. No one planet feels as though it belongs to any one species (even though the Angarans claim one planet as a specific homeworld and multiple others as satellite worlds). This is explained in the narrative in a way that frankly lacks imagination. We are told up front that in actuality the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy is uninhabitable because of the Scourge (the dark energy cloud I mentioned earlier), which is why there are no multitudes of planets teaming with diverse new aliens to meet. All we have are the Angarans, who are a welcome addition to the Mass Effect series, and the Kett, who are essentially a knock off of the Collectors from Mass Effect 2 and 3. I maintain, that had the scope of new alien life been enhanced to include 2 or 3 new alien species on top of what we got, that Mass Effect Andromeda would have been a vastly superior game in nearly every imaginable way. More variety in culture, more squadmates, more love interests, and more ways to get engrossed in the new galaxy.
Judging by the marketing, there were some identifiable red flags:
In the run up to the release of Mass Effect Andromeda, BioWare had become increasingly tight lipped about showing off much new content about the game. Part of this (which is pure speculation on my part) is likely due to the backlash a vocal portion of the fan base felt for the ending to Mass Effect 3. I did not dog pile on this backlash, as I don’t have any major gripes about the ending aside from the fact that certain portions of it don’t make a great deal of sense and were certainly not presented in such a way that made it any easier to swallow. Regardless of my trepidations about Mass Effect 3, the larger complaints that many voiced had to do with player choice, and how it affected the ending of the game. I found this argument to be lacking, and frankly showing a tad too much entitlement on the part of the complainers. They argued that by having the ending not fully explain what happened because of every single choice that you had made throughout the trilogy, that BioWare had somehow let them down. It was total hogwash. Your choices most certainly mattered. You were given the opportunity to correct a lot of the mistakes and bad blood throughout the Milky Way Galaxy, and it feels very rewarding to do so. Not knowing what happened after the fact is not BioWare’s problem. Regardless, I think that the highly vocal minority that beat BioWare up over Mass Effect 3 directly influenced the reserved marketing that we got. N7 day 2015 in particular was brutal, as the content we got was anemic. N7 day in 2016 was much better, but still light on actual game content and information about the characters. The marketing wheels really didn’t get turning until about 2 months before the game came out, and even that marketing was reserved. I have read news articles (which gaming news, especially rumors should be taken with a grain of salt and a shot of penicillin) that claimed that there were internal problems that led to a major design change late in the development cycle with Mass Effect Andromeda that affected the core narrative. I have no idea if any of the rumors are true, but I do know that the narrative in Andromeda is severely lacking and feels as if an audible was called that led to a significant chunk of the plot being scrapped, say a 2nd act’s worth, or re-written altogether. The end result, for me at least, is a lackluster Mass Effect story that had a terrific starting premise, but just couldn’t keep the momentum up past the set up.
Bottom Line: I liked Mass Effect Andromeda, but I did not love it. Don’t get me wrong, it is well worth the price of admission, and has more than enough content to keep you engaged for well over 100 hours of game play, even more if you dive into the multiplayer or start a new game plus as the other twin. Yet, I keep looping back to my initial statement: I liked Mass Effect Andromeda, but I did not love it. This is an odd and altogether new feeling for me. I loved Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3, warts and all (and trust me, there where many) I loved them. Commander Shepard’s story was captivating, the broad cast of characters (which were largely members of new alien races that you got to learn about) were amazing, and the overall narrative had just enough urgency and overall impact on the universe that you felt compelled to complete it. A lot of that drive is seemingly missing from Mass Effect Andromeda, which feels like a Sunday drive in comparison to the Shepard Trilogy. It’s fun to play for the game play, the exploration, the character moments, and the quirky BioWare charm, but it is definitely not as solid as previous Mass Effect games in regards to narrative focus and overall character development. It’s odd playing a BioWare game that is merely good, especially when I am so used to their games being superb. BioWare in many regards for me is the gold standard in which I judge all other Western RPGs. Mass Effect Andromeda feels like a misstep. Again, the game is not bad, it’s just not great and that truly bugs me. The development teams behind Andromeda had 5 years to put this game together and yet much of it feels woefully undercooked. There are not nearly enough new alien species to meet and learn about. The Tempest squad is far too small. There aren’t nearly enough quality romance options, and once you complete the game the romance is effectively not even acknowledged again. The character creator tool is a tragedy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater proportions. Decisions made in the game don’t seem to matter that much at all. The dialogue options feel oddly restrained in comparison to previous Mass Effect games (it feels like you can either be charming or serious in most instances… and that’s about it). The design bugs, dear Lord the design bugs, you would have thought that Bethesda made this game with all of the janky bugs that riddle this game. The core plot is so terribly vague/meandering, and the villainous Kett are so painfully generic (and frankly a blatant and boring rip off of the Collectors from Mass Effect 2 & 3), that when the plot starts to get interesting… it ends. Like I said before, the third act feels like it skips the second act altogether and as such it feels like the game’s narrative (even at 100+ hours) shouldn’t be done yet. Much like how I felt about Final Fantasy XV (another good game with some glaring issues as well), the story just feels incomplete. However, my gripes about Andromeda seem to somewhat smooth away when I actually start playing the game again. The controls and the exploration are so silky smooth that I genuinely enjoy playing Andromeda even if I don’t actually love the story or many of the characters. It is bizarre for me to process my feelings about Mass Effect Andromeda. I want to love the game. I truly do. Perhaps with patches and the obligatory story driven DLC that will be coming soon, I will get there. For the time being, I’m stuck “friend zoning” Mass Effect Andromeda as it is fun to play in a “popcorn movie/turn off your brain” kind of way and not in a “let me dig deep into the lore and get immersed in this interesting new world” kind of a way. If it feels like I’m damning Mass Effect Andromeda with faint praise, it’s because that is how the game makes me feel. For every step forward, there is an equal step back. There is a balance that the various BioWare teams were hoping to strike, and unfortunately they didn’t quite hit the mark. The whole is not more than the sum of the parts with Andromeda, as some of of the parts are vastly superior to others and the inferior parts weigh the whole experience down. I still say that Mass Effect Andromeda is worth playing and depending on your connection with the plot and characters, as you may enjoy those aspects better than I did, you might even love it. On a game play basis, Andromeda is a blast to play and the multiplayer is every bit as good as it was on Mass Effect 3, if not just a touch better. There is a lot to explore and enough variety in mission types to keep things interesting, and the exploration aspect is a blast to play. I just wish the narrative focus and attention to personality and character were given as much care as the game play was. If I were to give a numbered rating, I would give Mass Effect Andromeda a solid 7/10.