PaigeFTW: Andromeda’s Void

Nearly 30 hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda, I’d hoped to be able to report to you that my feelings had changed — or, as it were, at least solidified.

            The methodical job of a Pathfinder involves running from planet to planet, doing basically the same thing everywhere you go. Dive into a Tron-­hued “vault,” solve a space Sudoku puzzle (not kidding) and magically transform a planet’s atmosphere into instantaneously livable conditions.

            Then you run around the planet on 2,949 fetch quests until the list runs low, then you scamper off to the next destination.

            There’s nothing wrong with that kind of structure. It’s Open World Game 101.

            But something remains missing, nonetheless. I’m writing about Andromeda again to tell you that I’ve figured out what it is.

            Oh, there’s Something Bigger In Play, of course. Much as the Reapers loomed large over the events of the first trilogy, Andromeda has wasted no time in unleashing plenty of larger threats and mysteries to be solved.

            Perhaps therein lies the game’s weakness.

            Mass Effect 3 certainly went large with the apocalyptic, do-or-die scenario, but its first two stories were … smaller, if they can be called that. A simple political skirmish triggers the events of the first game, and the second game was a fairly straightforward investigation of the newly discovered Reaper threat. The buildup is slower, better paced, with less urgency and more time for Shepard to develop lasting bonds with his teammates.

            Andromeda has taken precisely the opposite approach. The player gets hurled straight into the fire and is saddled with a thousand different objectives — explore this new galaxy, find a place for humanity to live before everyone starves to death, figure out why this hostile alien species is so damn hostile, manipulate and understand these really advanced ruins, deal with new space politics, maintain a vast social network…

            As any burnt-out worker will tell you, it’s hard to care when you’re tasked with so much.

            Perhaps Andromeda’s sequel (there will, of course, be a sequel) will save this first title’s faults. But BioWare would do well to learn that sometimes less is more.