Mass Effect: Andromeda seems determined to kill the completionist in me.
I mean this as lofty praise indeed: the game is both staggeringly huge and remarkably engaging. I keep returning to the main quest not because I finally exhaust my ability to explore, but because I realize after much glorious wandering that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available. The setting and story are so interesting though that I don’t want to postpone them for what might very well be weeks while I dig through every available nook and cranny.
A Whole New World
I can’t say this enough; Mass Effect: Andromeda is vast. I keep saying it to my friends, and chuckling with delight as I think about it, but I keep wanting to tell them again. I thought I was doing a good job on Eos, the first major planet, exploring a big map—I already thought the world was impressive in size—then I realized that it was at least three times bigger than I thought it was.
It’s an experience with which I’m growing pleasantly familiar: finding out that what I already appreciated about the game was even better than I knew.
The vastness is well filled, too. I remember when I used to play World of Warcraft, I would explore and find mostly nothing. It was always disheartening to spend time wandering through so much wasted space, or to see something with promise only to discover it was nothing but decoration. Most of the time I would explore, then wish I hadn’t bothered.
That’s never once been my experience in Andromeda. Everywhere I’ve looked, no matter how stubborn or inventive I’ve been in getting there, I’ve found some reason to be glad I looked. I don’t mean that the game is showering me with treasures and loot, either. Sometimes I find treasures, sure. But sometimes I find monsters. Sometimes I find quests. Sometimes I find interesting information about the game’s backstory. Sometimes I trigger conversations with my companions that add depth and richness to the world. The variety itself is one of the things I find too. The game makes me feel like I’m exploring a new world; it always leaves me wanting more, wanting to look over the next hill, and there’s always a next hill.
Everything is more expansive than I expect. When I got far enough in the main quest to dive underground into the mysterious ancient vault on the planet, I had a certain intuitive guess of how big it would be. If nothing else I’ve played other Mass Effect games, and I know how big the structures typically are at the end of a quest chain. Instead, my little team and I kept delving deeper and further. And it never felt like meaningless length. The whole way I was interested in looking around, and there were always new features to see and wonder about, new clues to find, new conversations to have.
The size and variety in the game isn’t limited to the map though. Huge describes almost every aspect of it. I get to mix and match skills however I want, choosing from a bigger variety than any other Mass Effect had. I get to choose my equipment too, both its features and appearance. I get to research and design new items, then I can modify the base items while I build them to give them unique qualities, all before adding modifications to them. I get to make choices at every scale, from small things like which way to travel, to large things like what sort of settlements to build in the galaxy. And I get to do it all with an interesting group of companions. The number is smaller than in some past games, but their variety is greater, and their unique personalities have been more richly implemented. They have interesting relationships with each other, the environment, and the NPCs, not just my character.
My time on Eos was a blast as I began to discover all of this. None of these were my favorite part though.