It’s probably fair to say that Mass Effect: Andromeda hasn’t exactly had the smoothest landing since it launched last month. Billed as a new chapter for the popular science fiction action RPG series, Andromeda somehow managed to garner a less than ideal reception from what feels like all sides. The series’ core audience have gone cold on Andromeda faster than they did with Mass Effect 3, while the rest of the gaming mainstream have been left laughing at what seems like the buggiest Bioware game in years.
Maybe it’s just me, but as someone who has burned through the entire original Mass Effect trilogy no less than six times, Andromeda feels like a game I’ll be apprehensive about revisiting even once.
It’s not even like Andromeda is that bad. I mean it’s got issues, sure, but I’ve certainly played worse games. Despite the technical issues, more-or-less pretty much playable from start to finish.
The problem is that, every step of the way, Andromeda seems to inspire the exact opposite effect it’s aiming for. The writing in the game talks itself up as this exciting story about exploration and discovery, but ultimately Andromeda fails to grapple with the inevitable dimensions that a colonialist narrative drags in with it. Where it should be deep, it’s shallow. Where it wants to excite, it tires. Worse than that: it disappoints. Bioware can, and have, done better than this.
When Andromeda’s sister-franchise, Dragon Age, transitioned to open world gaming, it was probably about as clumsy as Mass Effect’s, though it still managed to weave together solid character writing and sweeping narrative magic that Bioware are usually known for. There’s no such cohesion in Mass Effect: Andromeda. There are a few interesting story beats and visually-arresting environments (along with one particularly compelling quest-chain) but the whole affair is wrapped together in a story arc that doesn’t just feel like a tale you’ve seen told better elsewhere, but one you feel has actually been told better in Mass Effect games in the past.
There are gems to be found in Andromeda, but they are buried in the mundane. Where previous Mass Effect games delighted in curating the best experience they had to offer, Andromeda forces you to search for the needle in the haystack. It’s a game that fails to respect the time of its audience and confirms the fears many had about the series making the jump to open world.
Rather than set a new course for the franchise, Andromeda plays like a shallow remix of its greatest hits sprinkled over narratives well-worn and plodding than even the darkest horses of the studio’s past. Space operas have rarely been this dull.