The Unfulfilled Promise of Andromeda

Let me get this out of the way up top: I don’t think Mass Effect: Andromeda is a terrible game. Is it great? No. But it’s not as bad as its reputation paints it.

I think it has a decent cast (except for Liam) and sets up a lot of interesting ideas that a potential sequel really could have delivered on. It’s a shame that we’ll probably never get that sequel, but that’s beside the point.

It’s undeniable, though, that the game has some serious flaws. Today, I want to talk a little bit about where Andromeda went wrong. To my mind, it all comes down to one thing: it doesn’t deliver on the promises made in the marketing.

The way Andromeda is presented is very evocative of a western. The Andromeda galaxy was sold to fans as a bold new frontier, unexplored and full of mystery. I mean, the main character is named Ryder, and the trailer used the Johnny Cash song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” This was clearly going to be a game about discovery and adventure in a brand new galaxy of possibilities.

What we got was… not that.

For me, the biggest problem in Andromeda was that it was too familiar. I wanted to see what fascinating new kinds of alien would be outside the Milky Way, but the only new races we meet are the angara and kett (who are, themselves, transformed angara). When you compare this to the huge diversity of the original trilogy, it feels shockingly incomplete.

For most of the game, you’re dealing primarily with Milky Way aliens, who have the same cultures and political agendas as they did in the previous three games. The angara culture is explored fairly well, but again, when you compare it to the complexities of the original games’ Council and Spectres and all that, it’s just… not as interesting.

Oh, and of course, no sci-fi story is complete without an ancient, mysterious precursor race… because naturally, Andromeda has its own version of the protheans, meaning we get what is largely a retread of that plot, too.

I wanted something new. I wanted an adventure that felt different; that took me to different places and built strange new worlds for me to explore. That’s what I loved about Mass Effect in the first place–the intricacies of quarian culture, the enmity between turians and krogans, the tenuous position of humans in the wider galaxy. Those cultures and relationships, that worldbuilding, is what made those games shine. Andromeda was supposed to do all of that again.

That’s the real missed opportunity here. Graphical glitches can be patched out; corny dialogue, I can live with. The real disappointment of Andromeda was that it didn’t live up to its premise.

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