I am not going to beat around the bush. This is a very bad game compared to the previous Mass Effect entries. There are glaring design problems that are completely inexcusable from a team of this caliber. Make sure to watch my first impressions video below in which I go over most of these problems. No I am not going to harp on the shitty facial animations. That is NOTHING compared to the real design and technical problems. Much time has passed since my first impression and now I am ready to give you guys some more.
Gladly, I can say with no fanboyism, that there is plenty of fun to be had while playing Mass Effect Andromeda. The problem is the game is riddled with fun-sucking landmines which you need to avoid in order to reach the fun. You heard that right, Mass Effect Andromeda doesn’t just lack fun, it actively attempts to ruin your experience through very backward gameplay design. Here are three great examples of BioWare “admitting” to and fixing horrible design choices:
- They released a patch which doubled your stupid fun-crushing item limit from 50 to 100, and now it upgrades all the way up to 200 instead of just 80. I am very pleased with this change. Thanks BioWare for realizing how fucking stupid you were for putting this tiny 50 item limit here.
- This game utilizes these sudoku-like puzzles to unlock vaults on planets. There is an item which will automatically solve the puzzle for you, but it was originally rare and prohibitively expensive. The same patch reduced the price to something trivial and made them available at more merchants. Sorry I lack details as I actually quite enjoyed these puzzles and never used this item. However I completely understand people who didn’t and they must have had a very frustrating time with these puzzles.
- Scanning planets, everyone’s favorite activity from previous games, makes another appearance. Except this time you need to spend ~10 seconds traveling from one planet to another, even inside the same system. Honestly, I thought this was a “hidden” loading screen at first. The idea that this un-skippable cutscene of traveling from planet to planet just to harvest 13 iron was superfluous didn’t even cross my mind. Never underestimate your enemy. This patch also added a skip button to these animations.
Anyway. Here is the best advice I can give you for maximizing your enjoyment of the game. Spoiler Free.
Don’t Play on Insanity
The start of the game is nearly impossible and frustrating… But I did it to myself. I asked for hard, I got it. I’m not mad, however there is CERTAINLY a problem with how the game scales early.
Once you get out of the prologue the trouble really starts. At least half the game’s combat takes place on hazard planets. This means you have a life support meter that depletes while you are exposed to radiation/cold/heat/cancer. The fights on insanity last SO LONG that it is very likely you will need to retreat just to replenish your life support. This involves sitting in your car for 5 minutes to get it back… Yawn. On some battles I had to go back to my car SEVERAL TIMES just to get my life support back.
Then you have to contend with the auto save system, which is spotty at best. You probably expect to die a lot on insanity. But do you expect to die 3 minutes travel time from the battle? Because that is going to happen. Getting burned out early from the frustrating combat is pretty much guaranteed.
It is important to point out that the achievement for beating the game on insanity can be claimed either by beating the game on insanity, or extracting on gold difficulty four times in multiplayer. If you plan on going hard on multiplayer, this achievement is pretty meaningless.
I would encourage you to start on hardcore if you are seeking a challenge and go from there.
Do Planets in Order of Fun
This game primarily takes place on 5 planets, the Golden Worlds. If you want to avoid frustration it is important to save the bad/annoying planets for last. They are much easier to manage when you have better skills, armor, guns, car and experience. Here are all of the planets from most fun to least fun:
- Havarl (Fun!)
- Voeld (9th Circle of Hell)
The first planet you explore is Eos. You will notice that I put Eos second to last… A mind-boggling choice for the player’s first experience with open world travel. Suffer through this shit planet and soon you will get the choice to go to Havarl or Voeld.
This is the most important decision you will make in this game. Make sure to go to Havarl first. Because if you go to Voeld first there is a 10% chance you are going to break your fucking console, and a 100% chance that you want to play a different game. Once you harvest Havarl for all of its goods and deck out your car you should be able to handle any planet you want. But I recommend you use my order.
When Offered the First AVP Reward, Take Hidden Caches
When you start settling planets, you get to wake people up from cryo sleep. You are given a long list of groups to wake up and they give you various rewards. It’s pretty overwhelming at first and you might be temped to get something like cash or minerals.
The first one you want to do is the one which reveals hidden caches. It puts treasure chest indicators on the map on all the planets you are going to go to for the rest of the game. These chests are full of plenty of good loot like guns, armor, consumables, and rare materials (remnant cores). Your life much easier, and you will have more fun. It has considerably more value than the other pods, and it will make your exploration experience better. You will unlock around 20 total pods over the course of the game so don’t worry about missing something.
Purchase All Car Mobility Upgrades First
You are going to spend a ton of time in your car driving around mountainous hazardous planets in this game. You want to make this experience as easy as possible so you can have fun actually doing your various quests. Giving the car all of these upgrades will ensure you can travel over hills and jump-boost over gaps without worry. Getting to where you want quickly is very helpful.
Additionally, because of the horrible design of open-world encounters, your car is going to be your sole source of cover for many battles. This is why some of the defensive upgrades are also helpful, especially advanced life support.
Tag All Forward Stations
Speaking of making travel easy, here is a tip I didn’t fully realize until halfway through the game. When looking at your map on planets you will see these icons resembling a lunar lander. These are forward stations, they provide a safe environment for you to: go back your the Tempest, change squad mates, change load outs and call your car. What I didn’t know for a long time is that clicking on an active forward station FROM the map allows you to fast travel to it!
The first thing you should do when coming to a new planet is immediately zig zag to all of the forward stations. Then you can teleport to any location on the planets without wasting time driving around and running into stupid Kett dropships at every mile marker. This will probably shave 10+ hours off your gametime.
Don’t Worry About Crafting Until About 30% Into the Game
- You don’t know what is good
- You don’t know what you want
- You don’t have enough materials
- Crafting is frustrating
Those are just some of the reason you shouldn’t worry about it until you are good and comfortable. No sense pulling your hair out dealing with the crafting interface just to make a gun you are only going to use for a few missions. A much better idea is to collect junk while experimenting with all the guns you find. Around level 25-35 you will start to understand what you need, at which point you will have enough augmentations, materials and research points to deck yourself out.
Don’t Waste Your Time, Do Story/Loyalty Missions
This game can boast being a 100+ hour game, but 80% of that is not gameplay they should be proud of. All of the fun is hidden inside the story-progressing missions and loyalty missions. The loyalty missions also unlock the 6th rank of your squadmates’ abilities. This makes them better in combat, which makes combat more fun for you.
When you start moving forward into the game you will see like 25 quest indicators on a planet! Look at all these amazing missions! Don’t kid yourself, they are almost all complete garbage, and it’s actually hard to tell what is real and what is a useless waste of time. Learn to navigate your journal and pick out the important stuff before you find yourself 25 hours deep with nothing to show for it.