owlmoose: (da - aeducan)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2017-06-19 08:44 pm
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Some thoughts on Mass Effect: Andromeda

We finished playing through the main storyline of Mass Effect Andromeda this weekend. I've heard many of the complaints about the game, and I'm hard put to really disagree with any of them -- sub-par graphics, too many meaningless sidequests, an uncomfortable colonialism narrative, etc. But ultimately, I enjoyed myself. I found most of the characters interesting, played out a satisfying romance, and for the most part had fun with the gameplay. Since I feel no deep personal investment in the Mass Effect series overall, I feel like I spent less time comparing it to the other installments, and more time appreciating the game for what it was.

Rather than a straight up review, I'm going to tell you about my Sara Ryder and use her story as the framing devise for my thoughts on the game overall. Spoilers ahead.

Meet Sara Ryder: artifact hunter, explorer, the eventual human Pathfinder, daughter of Alec and Ellen, older sister to Scott. I played Sara as a playful leader who never saw a situation that didn't call for sarcasm, but makes decisions with her head rather than her heart, for the most part. She butted heads with almost every authority she came across, and she had a somewhat prickly relationship with her father. Although occasionally willing to indulge in nostalgia for the Milky Way, for the most part Sara kept her feet pointed forward, looking toward building a future for herself, humanity, and the rest of the travelers in Andromeda.

For the most part, my Ryder tended to let people make their own choices. She gave Morda the Remnant drive core, for example, allowing the krogan to keep their colony on Elaaden, and let Reyes kill Sloane to take charge of Kadara Port (though she wasn't pleased with the way he went about it, and cut off any potential of romance as a direct result). The handing of the krogan, and how they seem to be building a real society complete with scientists and leaders, is one of my favorite developments in the series. After a bit of a rocky start with the angara, Ryder soon recognized that they would make better allies than enemies, and committed to working with them whenever possible. However, she never made any moves toward negotiating with the kett, seeing them purely as a threat to peace, stability, and self-determination -- especially once she discovered what exaltation was all about.

Ryder flirted with almost everyone to start, except Liam-- it was so clear that the game was trying to lead me in this direction that I got stubborn about it, and it was kind of entertaining to subtly (or not-so-subtly) shut him down each time. She had her fling with Peebee, but outside that she settled pretty soon on taking all possible romance options with Jaal and Vetra. I had a really hard time choosing between them (and I suspect I'm going to headcanon that she's involved with them both), but ultimately it was luck of the draw that she went on her one-on-one outing with Vetra first, and kissing Vetra on Kedara seems to have ended the romance with Jaal, at least as far as gameplay is concerned. (Although he kept talking about her as though he thinks they're involved; given the angara's open emotional style, maybe that's just how he talks about all his friends.) I was sad to have the choice made for me, but ultimately I was content with how the Vetra romance played out. (T would have liked to flirt with Suvi a little more seriously, but by the time we got to the point where that would have been a thing, we were already locked into Vetra.)

Overall I was pretty content with the story, but I wish Bioware had more closely interrogated the colonialist aspects of the decision to travel to a new galaxy. Given how many sentient species populate the Milky Way, the Initiative has to have expected Andromeda to have a native population. I would have minded this aspect of the storytelling much less if the Initiative had been framed as way of preserving the species and culture of the Milky Way in the face of probable annihilation by the Reapers. I can't remember if the timing of the ark's journey was made explicit -- whether it was before the Reaper War started, or after -- but either way it seemed like it was almost never mentioned again. Given the angara's (understandable!) suspicion of the Initiative after their experiences with the kett, I have to think that the Initiative would be better received if they'd framed their journey as a matter of survival, rather than pure exploration. If anyone ever said anything about the Reapers after they got to Andromeda, I missed it.

I do appreciate that the galaxy remains open, with more missions to complete and even a few new ones to trigger, and the business with the Quarian Ark seems primed to set up DLC. So I hope there is more to come. Would I play the game again? Probably not, unless someone can convince me that playing a Ryder with a different personality changes the experience drastically, or that one of the other romances is super compelling. But for now I'm content with what I got, while still glad that I never dialed up my expectations too high.

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