Time flies when you’re having fun and April has been a great month of video gaming ever since Mass Effect: Andromeda came out. As April draws to a close this week, it’s time to start the first of many special edition video game challenge progress reports (spoiler-free unless stated otherwise) for Andromeda.
I’ve gotten much further in Andromeda since I wrote my first impressions post, but I’m still a bit behind compared to other fans who may have finished their first playthroughs of the game. I have no intention of rushing through this game and I’ve been diligently going through all the sidequests I gather along the way. It’s one of the few games, along with Dragon Age, where I’ll actually take the time to read the new codex entries I gain. You can imagine how many hours I’m clocking into this game with all the additional detours I’m making. I might have said it before, but I’ll say it again, BioWare games are like a fine wine for me.
Due to some tragic circumstances that happen in the very beginning of the game, your Ryder becomes Pathfinder, the one everyone is looking up to and counting on to find everyone on the Nexus (the new Citadel in this game) a new home. It sounds like a lot of pressure to live up to and it is. As Pathfinder, it’s your job to find habitable worlds for people to settle in. Like the previous Mass Effect games, your Ryder is presented with some tough choices, except I find the choices in this game a lot harder than the ones Shepard had to make. For instance, when you successfully set up your first outpost on Eos, Ryder has to decide what that outpost should focus on––scientific research or military training. There are pros and cons for choosing one over the other, and you’ll hear other people’s reactions to your choice. In another decision making moment that takes the form of a sidequest, Ryder has to break up a group of angry protestors demonstrating in one corner of the Nexus in the Hydroponics sector, a garden oasis that’s responsible for the food and oxygen on the ship. The protestors are upset that it’s taking too long to have their families get woken up from cryo-sleep, being bumped down the line of citizens to be woken up in favor of vital personnel to help with the settlement efforts. Ryder has to decide, after consulting with the main governing body of the Andromeda Initiative, if it’s wise to wake up these protestors’ family members to appease them or insist they have to wait a little longer until there’s enough resources to accommodate non-vital humans, turians, and krogans. It’s moments like this one that really push you, as a player, to really think about what’s best for the Andromeda Initiative and the work your Ryder is trying to accomplish as a Pathfinder.
Andromeda may start off a bit slow, mostly to encourage exploration in all the planets you will be encountering, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Even if you decide not to complete every sidequest you get in the game, the new worlds are truly breathtaking to behold and distinctive enough to want to at least spend maybe a few hours on each planet to get a good feel for them. From the hot, dry sandy landscape of Eos to the beautifully lush and otherworldly jungle of Havarl, there’s plenty of strange creatures and plant life you’ll want to discover. Naturally, staying on any of these planets brings their own set of dangers and hazards but it’s worth it to get the most out of playing Mass Effect.
You just about meet and get all the principle crew members of the Tempest fairly early on, those who you can take with you on missions (Liam, Cora, Vetra, Peebee, Drack, and Jaal) and those you can’t (Lexi, Gil, Suvi, and Kallo). Each have their own unique set of personalities and some will get along better than others on your ship. For instance, Lexi, the Tempest’s onboard doctor, and Peebee, a Remnant expert you meet on Eos, have a tense relationship. Clearly, both being asari doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be besties. Or Kallo, the Tempest’s salarian pilot, and Gil, the tech officer of the ship, have a downright volatile working relationship from the start. It’s these different interactions you’ll see throughout the game that make it known that you may have to work with each other but you don’t have to like each other. The elimination of Paragon or Renegade dialogue marker choices give conversation with anyone Ryder talks to a more natural feel to how actual conversations and interactions happen in real life. You really don’t know if choosing one response over the other will offend someone. When Ryder was talking to Gil on the ship, I chose an option that sounded more joking, but Gil’s initial reaction almost sounded like I may have offended him. I was relieved to see he was game for joking right back, as the conversation continued. I actually enjoy these unexpected reactions with the dialogue choices. I’ve been playing my Ryder as a high empathy Pathfinder who mostly likes to crack jokes and uses logical responses when certain situations call for it. I also think my Ryder is more of a flirt than my Shepard ever was.
Romancing characters have always been a staple of BioWare games and I can never resist not pairing off my playable characters with someone. However, choosing who will have Ryder’s heart is a lot difficult than I imagined. As Shepard, I immediately went for Kaidan Alenko, even though I didn’t really think he was very interesting in the first Mass Effect. Luckily, I’m glad I stuck out the Kaidan romance in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 because his character development and romance just gets better as the games progressed. Because of my indecision in locking down who I think would be appealing to Vera Ryder in this playthrough, I may have unintentionally made her into a woman who will flirt with anything that moves. I don’t know why, but I have yet to romance any of the alien options in any of the Mass Effect games. At least when it comes to my first run with them. I tend to go for the human options first. Maybe because it feels familiar? At the moment, I’m gravitating towards Liam except he’s feeling just as vanilla as Kaidan was in the first Mass Effect game. Not to mention that Liam screams more like a best bud you have a few beers with than someone you romance. It’s possible it could change as I get further into Andromeda. I didn’t think Kaidan was a standout romance until I was proven wrong by the time I played Mass Effect 3. Oh, Kaidan, how I miss and love you. You’ll always be my OTP space boyfriend. Er…make that Shepard’s hot space boyfriend.
As of the writing of this progress report, I have just acquired the last of my Tempest crew, Jaal, an angaran who accompanies you to help Ryder gain the trust of his people while also helping them eliminate a problem they have been dealing with for a long time. I’m currently exploring and completing the sidequests for Havarl. Andromeda is a massive, and at times, overwhelming game to play. There’s still so much to say about Andromeda, but these are the highlights that currently stick out in my mind. I have encountered some things I haven’t liked about the game, but I’ll save that discussion for the next progress report. Either way, I’m having a grand old time with this new game. Check back with me next month as I continue my Andromeda journey!
How far have you gotten with Andromeda? What are your favorite highlights of the game so far?