Mass Effect: Andromeda is about humanity’s most daring act: an attempt to colonize another galaxy by sending 100,000 people in cryo sleep for 600 years. But the beginning of the new game from Electronic Arts’ BioWare division isn’t all that dramatic. These are my impressions so far, and you can see videos of my gameplay below.
It starts out kind of slow as you awaken from cryogenic sleep. You choose whether you want to be Scott Ryder or Sarah, who are twin siblings. I chose Sarah. I liked her voice, which felt empathetic. Sarah awakens from this long slumber only to find the journey to the promised “golden world” has been interrupted by some gigantic Dark Matter obstacle known as the Scourge.
Editor’s note: Beware of some spoilers, both in the text and the videos. See our full review by Jeff Grubb here.
The collision with the Scourge causes a number of the cryo tanks to malfunction, including Sarah’s brother’s. So her father, the leader of the Pathfinder team, has to do a recon of the planet they were targeting, a place called Habitat 7. You try to land on the planet, but the Scourge causes extreme weather, with lightning all over the place. Lightning strikes your landing ship, and you fall to the planet. So far, the narrative is that everything that can possibly go wrong with this mission is going wrong.
You are separated from your father, but you have one companion and a nifty spacesuit that lets you jump for short distances. You get to test your weapons on an enemy known as the Kett. I thought the Kett were particularly ugly as they have triangle-shaped heads. They earned my disdain, not fear. And I thought, “Who designed these aliens? They just kind of look dumb, not fearsome.” The planet was interesting, with lush vegetation getting destroyed by lightning. But it was pretty clear that there was an initial path I had to follow at first.
Then, once I reached the center of the world, it got a little confusing. The map wasn’t that good at telling me where to go as there were multiple missions to undertake. I was supposed to find a colleague named Greer, but I couldn’t get up to the place where he was supposed to be. I found that the map was particularly bad at conveying 3D locations with its 2D landscape. Early on, that was OK. But later, it became pretty messy.
As I explored the area with my companions, we found there was another alien race that must have created the artifacts in the world that the Kett were after. We found Sarah’s father, Alec Ryder. He was an impressive figure with a deep voice, and he liked saying big things like, “These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.” But in the dialogue choices, Sarah could respond to him either in a professional or casual way, but not so much emotionally. That told me that they didn’t really get along.
In any case, the relationship between Sarah and her father is supposed to be the emotional hook. But I wasn’t really feeling it. And when a really big moment comes early in the game, you have to decide whether Sarah feels detached or emotional about her dad. In any case, the remainder of the first act deals with this particular story within the larger epic. And Sarah learns what it means to have a responsibility, not just for herself and immediate companions, but the whole human race.
Much rides on whether the gamer feels any closeness to Sarah (or Scott) and her new mission in this brave new galaxy. It’s not a bad story, and it is very characteristic of BioWare to set it all up at the beginning. Now I’ll have to figure out if the rest of the game and its narrative really takes the thread where it should go. It’s a tight beginning, but it gets less compelling over time as the open world pulls you away from the straight path through the story.
Here are the opening cinematic and narrative for the game.
Here are the first 25 minutes of gameplay.
And here’s the closing of Act I in Mass Effect: Andromeda.