I’m starting to feel a little bit like Clark Griswold.
In the classic comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold wants to take his charming family on a cross-country vacation to visit the best amusement park in the country, Walley World.
After many hijinks and difficulty, the family finally reaches their destination, only to find that it’s closed for repairs. Clark is devastated.
I am Clark. Mass Effect Andromeda is Walley World.
I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose
Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game ever. The trilogy is my favorite series from last generation. I loved those games and the entire universe. I’ve been looking forward to the next chapter for at least three years, and my personal hype train has been steadily building since the game was officially announced sometime last year.
I devoured everything about Andromeda in the lead up to its launch. I was surprised by the early impressions, but wasn’t put off by them. Who cares if the game is a little janky? As long as it has the great conversations, relationships and interesting story, along with solid gameplay, I thought everything would be fine.
But I was wrong.
The world’s largest pile of mud
I’m not sure I’ve ever been so profoundly disappointed in a game — and I was extremely excited for No Man’s Sky.
The biggest issue? Andromeda is boring. The initial world is restrictive, funneling you down a specific path and severely discouraging experimentation. Coming out of playing Zelda immediately into Andromeda, these restrictions were especially pronounced.
I loathe “exploring” the empty planets. When moving from one waypoint to the next, occasional fights will spring up. They aren’t particularly rewarding fights, and only serve to deplete my resources while I’m on the way. I spent 20 minutes the other day trying to get to the top of a mountain to place some kind of beacon; I tried driving around it; I tried jetpacking up the mountain. I couldn’t get to the waypoint, and finally just left the planet and went to do another mission.
I couldn’t help but think, “If I was Link, I’d be able to climb that mountain.”
Because I’m bored, the technical issues stick out to me more. Ryder’s movements are jerky. I’ve gotten caught between characters and trapped by a wall. The first time I confronted an Architect, I failed and had to reload — which is fine — but the next time I tried to start the fight, the Architect never showed and I had to shut the entire game down and relaunch.
The menus are a mess to navigate, and while I enjoy the idea of having total freedom in building my Ryder’s stats, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I also still don’t know how to change my skill loadouts. Mining for resources is boring and takes too long.
Loading in general takes too long. I was on the Nexus trying to kickstart a loyalty mission for Drack, the resident Krogan. Each step in the conversation took me to a different area of the Nexus; to talk to each person, I had to get on the shuttle and sit through a loading area, find the person, talk, then hop back on the shuttle. The thing is, I liked the story and the conversations, but getting to each step was tedious.
We’re not really violent people. This is our first gun.
There are, however, parts of the game that I enjoy. The story is interesting. I like the relationship building early on, and even like the Angara. The Kett are interesting, and I look forward to learning more of the back story and what they are after. I like Ryder, and I like the way the conversation engine works.
The combat is solid and the jetpack adds a neat vertical element to gameplay. My AI companions seem to be pretty competent. This may be the best combat of any Mass Effect game, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface in my 12 hours.
When sitting still, Andromeda is gorgeous — at least when textures aren’t flickering in and out. As annoying as the interstellar travel is, the planets and stars look great. Eos has pretty views; the Angaran home world of Havarl has a great jungle environment, and I just landed on Kadara, which also has a distinct look.
One of my favorite moments of the game so far happened on Havarl: I was sprinting on my way to another waypoint when I came across a battle already in-progress between the Kett and a friendly race. I helped ward off the Kett and began helping my newfound friends. Even though the event was scripted, it was the first time that I really felt some agency in the game: Do I ignore the fight or jump in and help out?
And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun
After 12 hours, things are starting to get a bit better in Andromeda. As I get to know the characters more, I’m growing to like them — not at the same level as Garrus, Tali, Liara or Wrex, but I like Cora and Drack. I just kicked back with Liam and shared a beer. I still hope to love this game, and am giving it a shot. It’s just different — I fell in love with the original games immediately.
Andromeda is not a terrible game. It is merely a good game that has fallen short of my (and many others’) expectations. It might be different if it had come out at a different time, but 2017 is turning into an all-time great year for games. Many of these games are behemoths. In a world with objectively great games like Horizon, Nioh, Zelda, Persona 5, and Nier, Andromeda couldn’t be merely good.
Back to Vacation, now. (Spoilers for a 30-plus year old movie) After that initial disappointment with Walley World, Clark goes nuts and forces his family’s way into the park. The SWAT team is called, as well as the owner. In the end, the family is allowed to stay in the park and have a grand time.
It isn’t the vacation that Clark envisioned, but it’s still memorable.
In the end, when I’m finished with Andromeda, that’s what I’m hoping for. It isn’t the game I envisioned — a mashup of No Man’s Sky’s exploration with Mass Effect’s everything else — but I’m hoping for some memorable moments and a little bit of fun along the way.