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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Stop Complaining About Mass Effect: Andromeda

After BioWare released the final installment of the Mass Effect trilogy in 2012, fans breathlessly anticipated what might come next. Eager gamers were desperate to discover where the studio would take the franchise. The game they got—Mass Effect: Andromeda—was, to put it mildly, a huge letdown. Instead of a direct sequel, Andromeda, which came five years after its predecessor, was set in an entirely different galaxy. The aliens were familiar but the setting and story were entirely foreign. Nobody, to borrow a phrase, asked for this.


Looking back, it’s easy to understand the ire. But, frankly, the disappointment had everything to do with what legions of button-mashers wanted and nothing to do with whether or not the game’s developers succeeded in making the game they wanted to make. There were absolutely legitimate complaints—Andromeda was buggy as hell when it came out, which made it hard to enjoy. But the central argument against it seemed to be that Mass Effect: Andromeda was bad because it wasn’t what people expected. Fan reaction to the game was so universally bad BioWare canceled its plans to release additional downloadable content and shifted their attention to fixing bugs. Frustrations mounted; gamers griped, or just gave up.

Versions of this scenario have played out dozens of times, and not just in gaming. When something—a movie franchise, a band, a YA trilogy—is beloved, fans always clamor for more. But they often do it with preconceived notions of what, exactly, “more” looks like, and generally that translates to “more of the same.” It’s natural to want additional time with favorite characters or dance to a familiar beat, but lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice and creators can’t help but grow and change. Sophomore albums, Star Wars prequels, Andromeda—these things all fall victim to the inability of anything to repeat the past, when it was fresh and new. There’s a difference between finding a piece of entertainment personally disappointing and it being objectively bad. It’s OK to decide something isn’t what you wanted and therefore isn’t for you; it’s something else entirely to tell a person they’re wrong for liking taht which didn’t meet your personal expectations. Being a fan of something doesn’t entitle you to dictate the course of its life forevermore.

For those who don’t know or haven’t played, Andromeda is set approximately 600 years after the conclusion of the original trilogy in a different galaxy. Between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, a group of people left the Milky Way in cryo-stasis and made the centuries-long journey to the Andromeda galaxy. Of course, things went wrong and now it’s up to your character, Ryder, to help your struggling people find a way to survive. It’s not a terrible premise, but for gamers clinging to the original saga, it was hard to forgive Andromeda for not being a sequel to Mass Effect 3. Everyone, it seemed, was still hung up on their ex.

Following the release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, and on the heels of news that the next installment of the series might be a sequel to the original trilogy along with Andromeda, I decided to revisit that ill-fated title. Turns out, it’s pretty fantastic.


Part of this, of course, is due to the fact that BioWare has ironed out many of the game’s early kinks. There are still bugs, to be sure, but the gameplay is enjoyable. The voice cast is amazing (Natalie Dormer and Kumail Nanjiani!), and the crew you recruit over the course of the game are solid, from Jaal, who is part of an alien species you have to win over, to Vetra, a Turian mercenary who raised her sister. (Let’s not talk about Cora, whose fantastic haircut shows a lot of promise, but she turns out to be an Asari appropriation horror story.)

If you didn’t give the game a fair chance when you first played it, it’s worth revisiting. When you do, try to remember why Andromeda was so reviled in the first place. Was it objectively bad, or was it just not what some fans wanted?

I’m not saying people need to shut up and like what they get—especially when that thing is genuinely crap (I do not blame people for being upset about Cyberpunk 2077, as long as their complaints weren’t delivered in the form of harassment, abuse, or death threats aimed at the studio or its employees). But sometimes it’s important to step back and evaluate whether something just isn’t for you—in which case, take a deep breath and let go of your preconceptions and try again. (Or move on! No one is forcing you to play or care about this game! Literally, no one! You can play something you like instead!)

Mass Effect: Andromeda wasn’t what I wanted when it came out. I certainly wasn’t alone in that feeling. But revisiting it now, it wasn’t terrible, and I’m a little bit sad I didn’t get to see more of Andromeda in other games and DLC. Maybe that’ll come in Mass Effect 5. If not, I’ll be disappointed.

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