What we love and hate about ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’

A veteran Mass Effect player and a complete novice walk into a bar.

This isn’t the beginning of a terrible joke: Instead, it’s the premise of a conversation between Engadget associate editor Timothy J. Seppala and senior reporter Jessica Conditt, both of whom have been playing the latest Mass Effect game, Andromeda, over the past few weeks. Tim has devoured and adored the Mass Effect series for almost a decade while Jessica has never touched the games before.

How does Andromeda compare to previous Mass Effect games? Does it stand on its own as a worthy addition to the sci-fi genre? Are the animations always this messed up? In the following conversation, Tim and Jessica discuss Andromeda’s highs and lows from two vastly different perspectives — and somehow, they end up with similar conclusions.

Spoilers for the entire Mass Effect series reside below; you’ve been warned.
Gallery: ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ | 21 Photos


Timothy J. Seppala, Mass Effect fan

Jess, it pains me to say this, but I don’t want to play more of Mass Effect: Andromeda. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in that universe, playing through the previous trilogy a handful of times as the altruistic Timothy J. Shepard and as his evil counterpart Toni Shepard. Together, they helped form some of my fondest recent gaming memories. The games were nowhere near perfect, but their rough charm made them all the more endearing. It was easy to overlook how awful the UI and cover system were in the first game when I had a team of ridiculously well-developed alien compatriots along for the ride. More than in any series prior, Mass Effect’s characters felt like friends.

The bond I formed with those characters helped carry me through the sequels and their increased focus on being action RPGs versus the hard-core role-playing games developer BioWare was known for. I’ll never forget my reflexive scream when Legion, a former enemy robot, and Tali, a mysterious helmeted scientist, sacrificed themselves in Mass Effect 3 within moments of each other. I thought I’d saved them both from certain doom before that cliffside conversation. Watching helplessly as Legion gave his life and Tali took her own was a 1-2 punch to the gut after all the time we’d spent together.

It wasn’t easy, but I managed to keep my expectations tempered going into Andromeda. And somehow, I’m still disappointed. You’ve never played a Mass Effect prior, so I’m curious how you’re feeling about the game. After all, it’s a new story line that’s set in an entirely new galaxy, so it should be a good starting point for people, right?

“I was worried I’d have to argue that one of your favorite series is actually generic and janky garbage, so I’m glad you came out and said it first.”
Jessica Conditt

Jessica Conditt, Mass Effect noob
You’re absolutely right that Andromeda should be an ideal introduction to the series for new Mass Effect players — emphasis on “should.” I’ll be honest, it’s a relief to hear you’re not thrilled with this game. I’ve never played Mass Effect, even though I’m a fan of the sci-fi genre in general, and Andromeda has certainly not won me over so far.

I was worried I’d have to argue that one of your favorite series is actually generic and janky garbage, so I’m glad you came out and said it first.

Timothy J. Seppala

I can love something and still admit it has flaws! It’s called being a rational adult.

Jessica Conditt

You’re a saint — and I might have been a little harsh. I’m only a few hours into Andromeda, and I realize this game is not representative of the entire Mass Effect franchise. However, as a new player, it’s all I have to go on. And so far, I simply don’t understand the hype.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is broken. When I think about my time with the game, the first thing that springs to mind is how busted some of its mechanics, animations and narrative arcs are. The camera angles during dialogue scenes look as if they were directed by a film school sophomore attempting to “recapture Kubrick’s melodrama” and the characters’ facial animations are distractingly stilted, as the internet has already noticed.

It’s not all terrible though. I truly enjoy Andromeda’s combat; these scenes remind me of Halo and Gears of War but with a fun super-powered twist. I also love how my character looks: I’m playing as Chenault Ryder, a female model with neck and face tattoos and cotton-candy pink hair. It’s wonderful to see her flying around deep space, kicking ass.

What I’m most curious about is the story. So far, Andromeda’s narrative has felt uninspired, and I’d always had the sense that Mass Effect was a rich and unique sci-fi landscape. So, Tim, tell me: How does Andromeda’s story compare with previous Mass Effect games?

Timothy J. Seppala

Well, so far, the narrative is on a much smaller scale — the polar opposite of the previous games. The Shepard trilogy was a gigantic space opera about saving the galaxy from a race of ancient machines that emerge from their hiding spots and wipe the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years. You know, the usual. On top of that, Shepard him/herself had to represent humanity to the rest of the galaxy and prove that we aren’t just a bunch of bullies. Or not. I mean, if your evil-speech skill was high enough, you could coerce the end boss to commit suicide.

In contrast, Andromeda feels a little more personal and self-contained. As one of the twentysomething Ryder twins (above), you’re out to find your dad and somehow settle an entirely new galaxy. And then a few laborious hours of generic third-person shooting and an overlong vehicle segment later, Andromeda reveals its hand and shows what the game is really about. Rather than appeasing the Space United Nations, you’re dealing with interpersonal conflicts. There are larger implications from your actions though. Will your first outpost on an alien world be a research facility focusing on science? Or is setting up a military to help guard against the Kett, your cannon fodder for the game, more your style?

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