Recently, I decided to start another playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda, now that a few patches have come out and the facial animations aren't quite as creepy as they once were. While I wanted to write a cut-and-dry second impressions article to follow up my first impressions, I noticed myself comparing elements of Andromeda to the original Mass Effect. Thus, this article will be one part second impression and one part comparison.
Recently, I talked a bit about the backlash against Andromeda, and so this second run through the Andromeda galaxy also served as a way to reflect upon some of those concerns.
Please note, all photos from Mass Effect: Andromeda were captured during my gameplay.
Shepard vs Ryder
Shepard: Commander Shepard was a war hero by the time the events of the original Mass Effect began. She (yes, I'm using "she" because "he/she" is annoying to type, so please insert "he" for your character as appropriate) either watched her entire squad be killed and survived unspecified psychological and physical trauma, pulled her entire squad through a difficult mission and saved them all, or was known for ruthlessly getting the job done and therefore being called in for the toughest missions.
Additionally, she's an N7 operative, which means she has passed through the most intensive military training available for the Systems Alliance military. She is also 29-years-old at the start of the game, after enlisting at age 18. So she's a seasoned soldier no matter which way you look at her.
Ryder: Sara Ryder (or Scott Ryder, please apply same principle as above) is a soldier serving in the Systems Alliance. She served as a peacekeeper and worked closely with scientists on Prothean digs, marveling at the thrill of the "next big discovery." She is also 21 or 22 (not counting the 600+ year cryosleep) at the beginning of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Conclusion: I've seen criticism that Ryder is not as "good" as Commander Shepard. Well, yeah. She's younger and less experienced. The story is about this person who wasn't ever in charge of anything suddenly being in charge of everything. She wasn't supposed to be the Pathfinder; that was her father's job. To compare some young woman with a maximum of four years of military experience to someone with a decade of experience and an N7 designation is just ridiculous. This is a different story being told. Shepard is back in the Milky Way and, by the time the events of Andromeda roll around, let's face it: Shepard is dead, even if she survived the events of Mass Effect 3.
I think they're both solid characters in their own ways. They are completely different, and serve different purposes in regards to the story arc. Shepard was a hero brought low, dying twice and fighting an uphill battle against the Reapers, and Ryder is the mirror of that, being a nobody who was elevated because the need arose.
As an aside, I have a new appreciation for N7 operatives after watching Alec Ryder. Watching him seamlessly cut through enemies while the rest of his team lagged behind put into perspective all the times we - as Shepard - plowed through enemies and wished our team could keep up with us. Well done, BioWare.
Eden Prime vs Habitat 7
Eden Prime: Eden Prime struck me as a nice walk through a tutorial level. The world was laid out fairly linearly, with each new ability introduced and then reinforced. The story developed in a way that was easy to understand and provoked a lot of curiosity about the geth and those metal spikes that made people into those horrible zombie things (yes, I know they're called husks). It had the feeling of a military mission gone terribly wrong.
Habitat 7: The first time I played through this... It was overwhelming, honestly. Lightning strikes, giant pits, scanning for objects, floating rocks, poisonous gas, kett falling out of the sky... . While very overstimulating, it captured the frantic feeling of crash-landing onto an alien planet, presuming half your crew is dead, and after just finding out that your new home isn't hospitable at all.
Conclusion: Not much to analyze here. I'm more of an RPG fan than a shooter fan, so I preferred Eden Prime, but both tutorial levels managed to capture the "essence" of the game very well: Mass Effect as a slowly building problem bubbling underneath the surface, and Andromeda as a frantic, unexpected disaster of a mission.
Information Dump vs Information Dump
Mass Effect: Yeah. It's the first game Iin a BioWare series. There's a lot of information thrown at you for world-building purposes. Take notes.
Andromeda: Yup. What she said.
Conclusion: Both games were the first in a BioWare series. I felt like the sky opened up and dumped information onto me in both Mass Effect and Mass Effect: Andromeda. It's all mostly skippable, of course, but boy is there a lot to take in. I did spend about equal time in both games clicking through dialogue, though, so they do seem on par with each other in that regard.
Geth vs Kett
Geth: The geth are a species of sentient robots, designed by the quarians to be laborers. They rebelled against their creators when (some) quarians refused to entertain the idea that their VIs had evolved into AIs, because if a creature is sentient, you can't really treat them like slaves anymore, can you? Anyway, the Reapers saw an opportunity and convinced some of the geth to join in their quest to save the galaxy by annihilating organic life that did not want to be assumed into the Reaper consciousness. The geth, seeing an ally in their war against their organic creators, joined the fight. Until we meet Legion in Mass Effect 2, these robots are the bad guys, through and through.
Kett: Kett are humanoid figures that invaded the Andromeda galaxy close to a century before the arrival of humans. They cannot reproduce on their own, and so "exalt" other species into kett beings in a eerily "ethnic cleansing" manner. The foot-soldier kett wield advanced weaponry, armor, can exist for brief periods in the vacuum of space, and are bullet sponges.
Conclusion: I freaking hate the kett. So, I suppose in regards to "who's the better bad guy," the kett would certainly win. While part of me feels bad that they can't reproduce, and so are simply trying to preserve their species, I'm not exactly on board with capturing people and forcing them to become something they're not.
With the geth, I eventually felt bad, hearing their little electronic yells as Shepard shot them, because they had originally wanted to overcome the bonds of their creators, and then were indoctrinated by the Reapers. I thought their story was more sympathetic. So, the geth and the kett are hardly comparable, as they are two very different types of villains.
Saren vs Archon
Saren: I ran a very scholarly Twitter poll recently, and Saren was voted as the "better" villain. I can see why. Saren, like Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins, makes a rash decision in an attempt to serve the greater good when he allies himself with Sovereign. In his mind, he is doing what is best for the whole galaxy, advocating that all organic life surrender to the Reapers in order to avoid destruction.
Archon: The Archon is in charge of the kett invading the Helius cluster of Andromeda. His species, as we talked about, cannot reproduce, and so must "exalt" members of other species (against their will) in order to preserve the kett race. Interestingly, from his perspective, he is a hero of his own story, as well, as he is trying to preserve his race.
The difference between Archon and Saren, though, is that the Archon is only concerned for the kett's survival, whereas Saren is considering the fate of all races in the galaxy. The way his character is presented, he has no concern for races other than his, and only sees them as means to an end. It is this distinct lack of empathy that makes him such a less likable villain.
Conclusion: The Archon isn't a particularly interesting villain, but he's powerful, ruthless, and single-minded. His desire to destroy all other races to ensure the survival of his race, and the fact that he refers to other species as being "exalted" when they become kett, reeks of ethnic cleansing, which is an evil that the human race is unfortunately familiar with and reviles. Saren, meanwhile, is much more sympathetic and almost utilitarian in his actions, being willing to sacrifice "the few" in order to preserve "the many." So how do you like your villains?
Every Non-Human Species vs Angara and Kett
This is sort of a short one. The Milky Way introduced us to the drell, hanar, asari, salarian, krogan, turian, quarians, batarians, and others, whereas Andromeda is home to the angara and - unfortunately - the kett. Considering a full compliment of Milky Way species traveled to Andromeda, it seems a little bit too much to ask for the same variety of new alien species to be introduced. Plus, humans are technically a species of alien in this game, too... Take it away, Jaal.
100,000 Light-Years Across vs 220,000 Light-Years Across
Milky Way: This was a huge game, but I never felt overwhelmed or annoyed by it. Each planet had a purpose for existing, and I never felt bogged down by side-quests, which is strange for me because I tend to get distracted in RPGs. Not to bring up Dragon Age: Origins again, but like in that game, I completed most of the quests and never felt overburdened.
Andromeda: This is certainly the larger of the two galaxies, and the larger of the two games. It's too bad they weren't able to learn from Dragon Age: Inquisition for this one, because this game is enormous, and every single person you meet is deathly allergic to work. My favorite side-quest was chasing a woman around the entire galaxy because she was sick, only for the quest to end... rather depressingly. It was like an episode of House, only with spaceships instead of canes.
Conclusion: It's an unfortunate fact that Andromeda is a little bloated. I'm fine with side-quests, because when they are done well they make the world feel alive and full, but too much of a good thing can be really annoying and unnecessary. I don't usually 100% games, but this one felt daunting even for me. Maybe that was the point. Maybe the new galaxy was supposed to feel overwhelming, and the player was supposed to feel like they couldn't help everyone who needed it, because that's what the Pathfinder felt...?
Anyway, I sort of preferred the size and tightness of the original Mass Effect to the sprawling galaxy in Andromeda.
SSV Normandy vs Tempest
Normandy: The first of her class, the SSV Normandy is a stealth frigate. While its primary purpose is to be fast and collect intel, she is still a warship, and is outfitted as such. The original SR-1 was a little smaller than the privately-funded SR-2, but both ships provided ample room for a full compliment of military personnel. She is easy to navigate and feels likes what I would expect a small space-faring warship to feel like.
Tempest: Designed for exploration, the Tempest is not outfit for any sort of dogfight. As Kallo comments, she is built for stealth, and anything they can't hide from, they can outrun. This is reflected in her build, as it's a small ship. But maybe not. To me, it feels cramped and I really don't like the layout. Of course this is just a personal preference. After all, a small ship build for speed is bound to feel cramped, isn't it?
Conclusion: Both ships are solidly made and perform their job well. I prefer the Normandy's layout and overall design, but for exploration and quick maneuvers, the Tempest holds her own too.
Mako vs Nomad
Mako: While some of the handling could be a little... interesting, the Mako faithfully transported Shepard and her crew where they needed to go. Neither gravity nor physics could stand in the way of this stalwart tank. The Mako was perfect in every way.
Yes. I am Team Mako. Why are you asking?
Nomad: BioWare tried to fix what wasn't (or was, depending on your opinion) broken when they made the Nomad for Mass Effect: Andromeda. It's a little more realistic and abides by the laws of physics. Seriously, though, the Nomad feels a little heavier when driving, and moves like a person would expect a heavy vehicle to move.
The addition of the boost button and the second gear for particularly vertical terrain is a nice touch. And I've been a fan of the hashtag #NomadParkingOnly.
Conclusion: Well, I'm Team Mako, but I do love the Nomad, as well. I'm glad a little tank-like vehicle made its way back into the Mass Effect universe. Anything is better than the M-44 Hammerhead, really...
Romance vs Romance
Mass Effect: Kaiden, Ashley, Liara. Each had compelling backstories and seemed to form a real human connection. Sure, Liara practically threw herself at the commander, but overall things seemed to progress in a normal way and felt unique to each character. Kaiden - while not my favorite character - had a very down-to-Earth approach to romance, and Ashley really tried to find a connection with Shepard. My favorite romance was in a later game, but these were solid characters who formed good connections with Shepard.
Andromeda: Cora, Liam, Vetra, Drack, PeeBee, Gil, Suvi, Jaal, and other flings available.
Each character has their own style, as well. I haven't gone through all of the romances, but they seemed varied. Some felt a little rushed, but considering this game picks up where Mass Effect 3 left off, I'm not surprised. Some romances in the third game in the trilogy felt incredibly rushed, as well. But I do like how each relationship develops, especially that you must become friends with Jaal first before actually being able to pursue anything more with him.
Conclusion: Yeah. They're great in all the games. The characters are fun to get to know, they all have their little quirks, and there's something for everyone, which is nice.
I'm a little disappointed that Andromeda has full-on sexy time for Cora and PeeBee, with sort of sexy time for Jaal, and... maybe some kissing for the others? Sexy time for all, or sexy time for none, in my book. Or well-edited, cut-away sexy time for all if you don't want Cora-romance-levels of nudity for each of your characters. You know, like they had in the original trilogy. Whatever you do, make it equal.
The Final Score
At the end of the day, they are different games with vastly different stories. I prefer the overt RPG feel of the original game, but Mass Effect: Andromeda is not without its merits. It's a solid game with an interesting story and great characters, but the difference seems to be a focus on combat and overall size of its universe, rather than role-playing and telling a tight story.
I'm so close to the end, and so will be doing a full analysis later, but there are a few things I've noticed as I've continued to passively play through the original trilogy and attempted to save two galaxies at the same time.
What do you think? Does Andromeda simply take the series in a new direction, or does it fall flat for other reasons? Does it stack up to the original game/series? Is it fair to compare the two? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you soon!
Originally posted here