I feel like this is becoming a bit of a panning, so let’s turn our attention to some of the good bits, because there is fun to be had in Andromeda. The combat is excellent with satisfying weapons and a wide range of spectacular abilities. The newly added jump-jet enables you to perform a nippy dodge in any direction and lets you hover in the air to shoot over cover. You can also perform powerful combos by following up environmental attacks with concussive abilities. My preferred tactic was to soften up enemies with concussive shots before combining my biotic charge and slam abilities for a devastating one-two punch. My sole gripe is your load-out only lets you equip three abilities at once, which discourages experimentation, especially later in the game.
Beyond the combat, there are some great missions hidden amongst all that open-world fluff. Nyx’s loyalty mission sees you exploring a planet which has been shattered into a cluster of asteroids by the Scourge, while investigating the fallen Remnant starship on Elaaden rekindles the eeriness of exploring those early terraforming vaults. In addition, following the breadcrumb trails of the three missing Arks is prime Mass Effect questing. There’s nothing quite like approaching a giant starship showing inconclusive lifeform readings to get the blood flowing.
Even here though, I can’t help but feel that Andromeda’s priorities are all wrong. What’s the point of setting the game in a new galaxy when half the time is spent looking for aliens we’ve already met? Indeed, Andromeda seems more concerned with transposing old political dilemmas onto a new galaxy than actually creating new ones. When I arrived at the colony of New Tchunka to deal with concerns about a potential Krogan rebellion, all I could think was I’ve heard all this before.
Alongside these wider issues are a few more specific problems I feel obliged to address. During play I encountered my fair share of bugs, primarily in combat. There were enemies getting stuck in the scenery, hovering in the sky, even a few instances of Kett “Chosen” soldiers turning completely invisible (there are Kett who have a cloaking ability, but these are a different class from the Chosen). None of them were game-breaking, but they were rather unsightly. Far more irritating, however, are the unskippable taking-off and landing cutscenes, which go on far too long and are especially annoying given since you must take off every time you return to your ship, even if it’s just to read an email. Oh, and you still can’t pause dialogue sequences, which, I mean, come on. When you’re playing a 60-70 hour RPG, sometimes, just sometimes a Life Thing happens that needs attending to, and not being able to pause the game is enormously inconvenient.
There's no getting away from it, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a mess. Systemically overwrought, inconsistently written and acted, and thematically wrong-headed. Most depressingly, it sacrifices the pace and focus of its predecessors in service of an open-world format which, in the face of competition from Zelda, The Witcher, and Metal Gear Solid, inevitably comes off as inferior. Mass Effect: Andromeda may frame itself as a giant leap for mankind, but for the series as a whole, it’s a big step backward.