I’m a huge “Mass Effect” fan, and I’ve been looking forward to “Andromeda” for a good five years. Like so many other devotees to the series, I wanted this game to be good.
So when the reviews dropped this week, my heart sank a bit.
My colleague Ben Gilbert called “Andromeda” the worst game in the “Mass Effect” series. Others have pointed out the games bugs and glitches. And others claimed the story and characters lacked the depth and excitement from the original trilogy. Metacritic, which culls together reviews of video games, has “Mass Effect Andromeda” rated at 74 out of 100. It’s a C game, at least according to the pro video game reviewers.
I’ve only been playing “Andromeda” for a few hours so far, but I can already tell the reviews were overly critical. Expectations were understandably high for the latest “Mass Effect” game, but those high expectations appear to have skewed early perceptions. They were expecting perfection and didn’t get it. And it was unreasonable to think that would have ever been the case.
I’ll just say it. “Mass Effect Andromeda” already feels like a great game and a worthwhile addition to the fabled series, even though I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the gameplay mechanics and story.
Warning: Some light story spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you want to go into the game fresh.
The premise of “Mass Effect Andromeda” is intriguing from the start. You’re a member of a group of about 100,000 pilgrims from the Milky Way galaxy that travelled to the Andromeda galaxy in search of a new home. Of course, things go bust, and the planets you and your companions were supposed to inhabit are marred by environmental disasters and a mysterious energy called the Scourge that’s generally mucking up all the planets in the galaxy.
Oh yeah, there are some aliens called the Kett that want to stop you for some mysterious reason — and some ancient technology left behind by a mysterious race called the Remnant on each planet that exists to make worlds hospitable again.
It’s up to you as the Pathfinder to figure out how to get those planets back into tip-top shape and become the paradises they promised to be.
Again, I’m not that far into the game, but I did finish an important first step: growing into my role as “Pathfinder” and clearing my first world in the Andromeda galaxy for settlement. Along the way in my first mission, I dug up enticing mysteries about what’s causing things to go so wrong in the galaxy and the shadowy forces behind it.
It was on that planet where I discovered the game was deeper than it appeared after stumbling into an ancient Vault built by the Remnant that was packed with a bunch of eerie, physics-defying technology that will certainly play a big role as the game progresses. Plus I picked up two quirky new squad mates on my first mission.
And I can tell I’m just barely scratching the surface.
In a lot of ways, “Andromeda” reminds me of the first “Mass Effect” game. You’re thrown into a confusing universe full of new characters, ships, weapons, and political history that takes several hours of gameplay to fully digest. There’s literally an in-game encyclopedia to help you make sense of it all.
But once you do, the game sings, and that resonates throughout the rest of the trilogy.
It feels like “Andromeda” is the same kind of launching point for a similar trilogy. While the gameplay mechanics make “Andromeda” feel like just another “Mass Effect” game, the new beginning in a new galaxy is clearly setting the stage for something bigger. I think the initial reviews lost sight of that and gave too much weight to the games flaws instead of looking at the bigger picture.
My prediction: We’ll look back at “Mass Effect Andromeda” as the start of another legendary video game series.