First Experience with Mass Effect: Andromeda

Note:  There are spoilers in this article.


Being an avid fan of the Mass Effect series, I had been looking forward to Mass Effect: Andromeda for what seems like forever.  Enough so that I couldn’t resist purchasing the Super Deluxe Edition to get twenty weeks of bonus content for the multiplayer side game.  As with Resident Evil 7 and Dead Rising 4, I was certain that Mass Effect:  Andromeda would not run on the computer I have.  Even more so in this case, since my PC is an i3 with only 6 GB of RAM and Andromeda required an i7 with 16 GB.

I still had to try, if only to cash in on the multiplayer content, but my PC became the Little Engine That Could.  I watched in awe as the game not only booted up, but actually ran without crashing.  I launched the multiplayer to collect whatever booster packs were available – I got an ultra-rare combatant and some nice weaponry in the process – before delving into the main game.  The picture is very grainy and there are a few minor bugs here and there, but nothing that really ruins the overall experience for me.

The story for Mass Effect: Andromeda is fairly simple.  You are playing as Sara or Scott Ryder, the default names given to a set of twins at the core of the story.  No matter which twin you choose as your character, the other still has a role to play.  You are part of an expedition to build a new home for humanity in a galaxy far removed from the Milky Way.  Such a task proves to be a challenge when it’s discovered that an unforeseen calamity has rendered all potential “golden worlds” uninhabitable.  It has also left the space station hub meant to be a waystation for colonists in dire straits.

To make matters worse for Scott or Sara, their twin is rendered comatose and their father, the expedition’s leader\Pathfinder, is killed at the end of the game’s first mission.  The task of finding planets to colonize and thus save thousands of people aboard the space station falls on the shoulders of Scott or Sara.

One of the things I love about Mass Effect: Andromeda is the character customization.  For my first outing, I picked the female Ryder twin, who I renamed as Claire.  The look I chose for her also determined the appearance of her brother and father.  The notion of having a non-playable character’s look be established by what is chosen for the main character is a feature I’d previously seen used in Fallout 4; I really dig the concept and hope to see it utilized in many more video games to come.

My character, Claire, and her father.

Though I had some idea of what to expect from having watched Youtube videos of the opening, I still felt like a out of my element at times.  The first thing that took some getting used to was jumping, particularly over long distances.  The game didn’t offer very clear instructions on how to leap over the more dangerous chasms on the first planet you explore.  I had to resort to trial and error and a lot of failed attempts before I made it across.

The next hurdle was in navigating the terrain.  I got turned around a number of times and was going in circles since there isn’t much deviation in the landscape.  The occasional fights I got into added to my confusion on which way I should be heading.  It’s a wonder that I even made it to a spot on the map where the story would advance.

It took me some time to get through the first mission, but all my roaming still yielded some discoveries about the planet I hadn’t seen in the Youtube videos.  Some landmarks I stumbled across got me inclined to think that this world will be revisited at a later point in the story.

Despite my eagerness to start exploring the next world to potentially colonize, I spent a good deal of time wandering around the space station hub – the Nexus – to talk to people and complete side quests.  After roughly two and a half hours spent “goofing off”, I finally ventured to the area of the Nexus where my character’s personal starship, the Tempest, could be found.  I might not have the best quality picture for the game, but I thought the ship looked beautiful when I first saw it.  In some ways, it looks nicer than the Normandy from the original Mass Effect trilogy.

The game crashed when I initiated a conversation with the Tempest’s pilot, but so far that’s been the only instance where it did.  There was no recurrence of this when I tried it again, so I gleefully surged ahead into the next part of the story.

Exploring the desert planet, Eos, came with its own set of challenges.  Soon after making my way to the planet’s surface, I uncovered a ground vehicle that could make it easier to get from one location to another – unless you’re like me.  As I’ve learned from many other video games that came before, I suck terribly at driving.  This largely led to me spending a half hour doing donuts around the derelict outpost where I found the vehicle or attempting to get up a very small hill with little success.  Part of the trouble associated with the latter was I couldn’t figure out how to shift from four-wheel to six-wheel drive.

After gaining access to and exploring an entire underground vault, I decided to shut down the game for the time being.  Mass Effect: Andromeda was set up so the game could be downloaded at the same time it was running.  I was disappointed when I saw the download, though near finished, had inexplicably halted.  I couldn’t figure out how to get it going again, so chose to cancel and restart it.  This turned out to be a mistake when the download started over from the very beginning.  I was unable to continue my saved game or access the multiplayer side game until it reached a certain point.  My internet connection isn’t the best, so it took two days to pick up where I left off.

As soon as I was able, I accessed the multiplayer game to participate in a few skirmishes.  I had no trouble joining a four-person team, but the load time to start the actual fight was unbelievably long.  After waiting several minutes to join in on the skirmish, I got a message saying my internet connection had been lost.  I subsequently tried a solo run.  While that one did launch after an excessive load time, I quickly got swarmed by the enemy units I was up against.  If that experience taught me anything, it’s to not stay in one spot for the entirety of the fight.

When I was able to resume the main game, I went about establishing a military outpost on Eos to serve as the first successful human colony in the Andromeda galaxy.  I then journeyed to another planet called Aya, where I met with the peaceful alien race, the Angara.  Sadly, this is where my fun came to a screeching halt.  After I recruited an Angaran team member, the game went into an infinite loading screen.  I thought if I gave it enough time, I would be able to carry on with whatever adventure came next.  After waiting nearly four and a half hours, I decided I would have to call it quits.  It appears I will need a new computer if I want to play out the rest of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Until such time, I am determined to stay spoiler-free on what comes next in the story.  But the game has done such a good job setting up several mysteries with the antagonistic Kett alien race and the underground vaults built by an ancient species known as the Remnants that I will anxiously await the day where I get to see how the narrative plays out.   I can promise a continuation of my impressions of the game when that day comes.


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