I can see why Bioware decided to begin with a blank slate. Beginning ME1 with the sumptuous Milky Way galaxy and all it's aliens on their teeming worlds probably contributed to the nightmare of story threads and their alternatives to tie up in ME3, and the subsequent dropping of a few balls. What better way to ensure this doesn't happen by starting in a wasteland? Unfortunately the epic space-themed story telling Bioware were so good at has been lost. Now it's mostly a survival and build game that could legitimately call itself Mass Fallout. If you enjoy scanning the living shit out of every rock, plant and bit of metal, or are into driving games, it's great, but if you were hoping for Mass Effect style Aliens and interesting worlds... meh!
The planets are pretty generic - this porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold, this porridge has an obligatory giant mushroom growing out of it - which is a shame considering the vast amount of time you spend on the few you're able to land on. Don't scan planets in the hope of finding an SOS or interesting 'Anomaly' to check out, there aren't any and you can't land on them. Instead there are a handful of planets on which you can drive around and sort peoples water shortages out in between running over the odd small but pissed off dinosaur. When you do get out of the Nomad the bland voice of SAM will continually repeat the temperature and what to scan. This is useful in the first few hours of gameplay, but halfway through a second run and it's like nails on a blackboard. Unlike EDI, SAM does not come with a mute button! Joker would be pissed.
Despite the problems of the paragon/renegade system, I miss it. With it you had a sense of the reputation you were building and it was much easier to keep track in order to do it all differently the next time around. Then a third play through was even more fun to just do as you please and pick up the bits you may have missed. With Andromeda the promised nuances and grey areas are so nuanced and grey a second play through reveals little more. Mostly you can choose goofy Ryder or professional Ryder, both of whom will childishly yell 'speed bump' after running over a Kett. It's all a bit too grey.
To add to the blandness most of the conversations are just people standing still. I've just replayed ME 2 and so enjoyed the conversations with the various camera angles and animated characters. Andromeda feels very dated just for the stand n talk style conversation alone. It's nowhere near as engaging to watch, which the writing doesn't make up for. I don't mind chasing around monkey faced Collectors, called the Kett, and as much as I'm done with Reapers, if they make a return, that's fine too. It's the characters that add to the blandness of the conversations. Like much of the quests... sorry, side-missions, the characters go nowhere. Gill and Kellog's little drama peters out and Lexi the depressed doctor never really cheers up. Peewee will shrug off a sterner Ryder and Cora will frown more at goofy Ryder.
Romancing Jaal was... Ok. Remember that famously cringe making moment when Jacob said, "Sheparrrd..." and while half the fan girls were melting at his smoky voice, the other half were curled up cringing like they'd had an electric shock to their genitals. I was in the latter category and romancing Jaal felt like that all... the... time! I got the impression that selling Jaal's race as an emotional one was just a vehicle to get Jaal crying to illicit feels from fans who like a strong man who weeps. I would normally agree but in this case I just wanted to slap him. Oddly, the rest of his race don't really get excited about anything, no strong emotions that I could see, unless you class being a bit grumpy, or a warm greeting as a strong emotion.
I figured I may be better entertained by having Ryder bang her way around the galaxy, but got trigger happy and opposed my way into a romance with little boy Liam. His romance was short, sweet and it was nice to get a welcome curveball at the end. I say 'nice' I'm still hoping he does a Kaiden in Andromeda 2 and dummy spits his way into the sunset. He can take the rest of the Tempest crew with him.
Playing Andromeda was akin to going to the theatre to see a show too early and ending up helping to build the set. It was a prelude at best, with a few decision arcs to set the scene of act 1/Andromeda 2, at the end of which Bioware practically trip over themselves to hook you with, 'The Quarians are coming! Oh, wait, no they're not! Ooh...' I admit it, I'm curious. Not pre-order curious, but I'll take a look. If it's more building, scanning and driving at the expense of a space-theme, with space ships and more than a token new alien race, it will be the last one I buy.
In the meantime I'm done. Just twice through was enough for me. Or, one and a half if you count all the padding I avoided the second time around. Playing it safe need not have meant throwing away originality and not attempting the kind of story telling Bioware was so good at, but it has. I've returned to the trilogy because despite knowing how every decision will affect the story and being able to recite a scary amount of it even after all this time, it's still way more interesting, well written, and produced, than Mass Fallout Dragon Age Halo Andromeda.
Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Mass Effect shorts.
Mass Effect novel. Resolution.
Synopsis and all 13 chapters @
Resolution: Alternative ending short.