I am going to be honest. I know I don't remember the original Mass Effect trilogy with the same voracity as some others do. So forgive me if I can't give the lowdown on how different the shooting was in each game or if I cannot list what lovely RPG goodness was added following on from the first instalment. The point is, I remember the Mass Effect trilogy as a solid space opera with some firearms and biotic powers thrown in for good measure. I laughed, I cried (how predictably feminine of me) and my heart nearly gave out when I heard the bloodcurdling screech of a banshee.
By the time I was happy to wrap up Mass Effect 3, people were already in meltdown over it on the internet. Thankfully I did not see too much of this before I got to experience it myself. It was fine. I had a certain expectation that it would be near impossible to end it in a way that would fully satisfy all individual choices made in the games. However, as people discussed it more, I was left a bad taste in my mouth.
The newest game, Andromeda had no chance. The fandom were hungry and this new part of the Mass Effect universe was meant to fix the betrayal they felt they experienced at the hands of BioWare. Again, I was bombarded with review upon board upon tweet about how Andromeda was the worst thing to happen to humanity (and probably whatever is floating around up in space). Despite this, I paid €69.99 of my own money in order to check it out. I mean, how bad could it really be?
Not that bad actually.
If you don't play a BioWare RPG partly because you get to customise the appearance of your main character (in this case Ryder plus sibling) then we may not have our priorities lined up. I was very happy with how my Ryder turned out. I have to give credit to the best range of female hair options in a BioWare game to date. I did feel that I could not make the face too different from the templates given, but sliders are always awkward when you play on console.
Customisation is available for your armour also. I had Ryder running around the galaxy in millennial pink. Who needs realism when you might be kissing aliens in space? Other than changing the colour you can build your own armour based on research you acquire exploring around. It took me longer than I would like to get comfortable with this. The development screens were far too fussy. I eventually got there and managed to even craft some interesting weapons. I did like that you had the option of making armour and weapons either from the Milky Way (Ryder's home galaxy) or from new alien tech you discover.
In terms of plot, Ryder leaves the Milky Way when Commander Shepard of the original trilogy is doing his/her thing. The mission is to find planets viable for life to house the many other volunteers who left along with Ryder. However, you wake up 600 years later and there are big problems. Most of these come in the form of insectoid aliens called the Kett who are determined to make the galaxy a home for just them. In terms of design and overall motive, the Kett are not going to blow you over. They are a familiar villain. Much of the main story also has you go into vaults where you solve a few puzzles and shoot a few things in order to re-calibrate a particular planet's atmosphere. Thankfully they don't take a long time to complete. Many know how soul destroying those Dwarven ruins in Skyrim are…but maybe that was just me.
Speaking of exploring, Andromeda's open world-ness did not feel too overwhelming. When you were out in the Nomad (your car essentially), quests were marked very clearly and the map had visible pathways to and from most points of interest. Unlike BioWare's other attempt at open world, Inquisition, travelling distances felt more purposeful. Where the game let me down however was when quests were running thin. Believe me, moving from the ship, into the galaxy map, into a cluster, into a planet, then going to the planet, walking to your objective, getting a small dialogue, being told the next part of the quest is on another planet, reversing the steps and then starting them again was not fun. At the beginning this was not an issue because you would to have a few things to complete on one planet which made the journey worthwhile.
Of course the worst offence Andromeda committed was apparently having more bugs than stars in the galaxy. I did get the famed funny faces albeit quite rarely and a few smaller quests did not complete for me. The latter annoyed me the most because I made the effort and got no rewards for my time. I also experienced some crashing and enemies stuck in walls and all that fun stuff. Luckily since a fateful day when my sister spent many hours working on a house in the Sims only to have her laptop die, I have been a serial saver. Some might construe it as making a game easier but if it meant I didn't have to dive into the galaxy map again, I was going to do it.
Overall do I regret biting the bullet and spending €69.99 on Andromeda? Not at all. I put a lot of time into the game and despite a few annoyances, found myself very entertained. If you are unsure about it still, there is definitely no harm in waiting until it goes down in price. Ryder's story has benefited from the lack of Shepard level fanaticism, spoilers are few and far between.
As I played Mass Effect Andromeda on the Xbox One, all screenshots here have come from there (if you were curious).