To say Mass Effect: Andromeda was "divisive" would be putting it lightly. Many people, including this very site, were let down by the series' first foray beyond the Milky Way. I'm one of those critics.
With the recent confirmation of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, a Shepard Trilogy remaster (which, by the way, owns), came a tidbit of somewhat-new information: BioWare is also currently working on the next iteration of the Mass Effect franchise. It would be easy to think, given the lack of Andromeda in this remaster and the general reception to the first Andromeda game, that BioWare would leave it behind.
Well, I'm here, a noted Mass Effect: Andromeda detractor, to tell you why they shouldn't.
Mass Effect: Andromeda had the burden of an entire trilogy on its shoulders, and not one that ended on good terms. Despite the warm reception of the Citadel DLC, Mass Effect 3's original endings caused a pretty significant rift in the series' following. It didn't just leave some players with a sour aftertaste of the series, but it reaffirmed how deep their attachment is to Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. Anything that came after would have lofty expectations.
When we started retracing over the legacy of Mass Effect on a BioWare retrospective podcast I co-host (shameless self-promo plug here), I was expecting to dislike Mass Effect: Andromeda for the same reasons that caused me to never finish it the first time around. And I wasn't wrong; many of the same issues were still there, from a more floaty feeling to combat and overly open worlds more akin to Assassin's Creed than Mass Effect, to an overall lack of forward narrative momentum until the game's final hours. Seriously, for how big the game is, its main story is surprisingly short.
What did surprise me was how much I enjoyed the world—galaxy, I suppose—of Andromeda. Characters like Vetra, Suvi, and Jaal had some really great storylines. Different worlds offered new issues to solve, and forced me to cope with some tough choices. I wasn't a freewheeling space supersoldier above the rules; more often, I was a stranded explorer, the lead scout of a team that didn't know what tomorrow held.
It's easy, I think, to forget large swathes of the first Mass Effect game. It cuts a few ways; its often-derided combat doesn't deserve all the flak it gets, and it makes the most of its load times by inserting some wonderful party banter. The sense of discovery and exploration akin to Star Trek isn't ever really matched again until Andromeda.
What people really forget is where Mass Effect 1 stood in relation to its characters. The crew of the first Mass Effect—Ashley, Kaidan, Liara, Garrus, Tali, and Wrex—would become stars in their own right, some of the most beloved characters in the entire series and a bar every subsequent Normandy crewmate would have to clear. But like I wrote for Mass Effect 2's 10th anniversary earlier this year, characters like Garrus weren't immediately beloved the way they are today.
Garrus is a perfect example of a character that needed some time and space to develop, grow on their own apart from Shepard, then return as a more interesting character in the interim between Mass Effect games. In the first game, he was a reliable sniper with a mild penchant for vigilantism. When he shows up, rifle in tow, cocky as hell in Mass Effect 2 as the enigmatic "Archangel?" I was hollering. By Mass Effect 3, Garrus' final words to my Shepard were that there's no Shepard without Vakarian, and a truer statement has never been said.
That doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen in a single game. I'm the first to admit to Mass Effect: Andromeda's flaws—I literally did a podcast about all of them—but that's also why I want to see this galaxy given a second shot. There are hanging threads left to explore, beyond just "where the heck are the other arks." Entire character arcs are left open to more, potentially much more than they were given in Andromeda, and can stand to grow in their own right.
When I first beat Mass Effect 1, I remember the anticipation I felt over the Reapers. The threat of the day was finished, but there was still a galaxy at stake, and entire worlds to explore in my quest to stop the imminent destruction of all life in the galaxy. Mass Effect: Andromeda leaves a lot on the table, while by comparison, we've had our time with Shepard and the Milky Way.
It might be easy to shift the focus back there, to explore some sort of prequel or far-flung sequel, however BioWare deals with the question of which ending you got in Mass Effect 3. That warm, fuzzy nostalgia won't get far on its own, though, and I'm really hoping that BioWare isn't done with Andromeda yet. Given the choice between a safe return to familiar territory or a deeper dive into the unknown, I know which I'd prefer.
Major Game Releases: November 9 to November 13
Here are the major releases for the week of November 9 to November 13. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Xbox Series X|S [Nov. 10]: Boy, I really drew the Starting Screen short straw this week. "Write about Mass Effect," they said, "it'll be fun," they told you, not mentioning the sheer flood of new games. (Deep breaths, Eric.) Alright, let's start with the big one: new consoles. Xbox Series X and S hit on Tuesday, offering two levels of Xbox power to fuel all your game-playing for the next generation. Kat seemed impressed with the hardware, though the catalog of shiny new games might be lacking. If you're looking for those hot new exclusives, your better bet is the…
- PlayStation 5 [Nov. 12]: Both Sony and Microsoft are missing some big launch games (Ratchet for the former, Halo for the latter), but the PlayStation still has some notable exclusives. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales seems like a standout launch game, while the Demon's Souls remake is one of the very few next-gen console exclusives. We don't have anything about Bluepoint's Souls remake just yet, but Mike's impressions of the new Sony box seem positive.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon [Xbox Series X|S, XB1, PS4, PC on Nov. 10]: The new Yakuza veers into RPG territory and y'all, it works. New series lead Ichiban is an instant winner, the story is fantastic, and it retains the heart of why Yakuza is good even when the action feels more akin to Dragon Quest than the Dragon of Dojima. I took over 1300 screenshots in the course of playing this game, there are just that many golden moments. Check out some further thoughts in our review here.
- Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales [PS4, PS5 on Nov. 12]: Miles gets his own Spider-Man game, where you do good through a special app and shock people with your electric venom. Mike seemed to really enjoy this fresh take on the 2018 Marvel's Spider-Man formula, and chances are you're probably picking this up if you have a PS5 pre-order on deck.
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla [Xbox Series X|S, XB1, PS4, PC on Nov. 10, PS5 on Nov. 12]: It's a Viking life for thee, as Assassin's Creed heads to colder weather for its next installment. Valhalla retains a similar formula to Odyssey and Origins, but with seemingly even more combat. Our reviewer found it a beautiful game with a great cast, though the real-world tie-ins and a bland lead didn't help much.
- Bugsnax [PS4, PS5, PC on Nov. 12]: That's right, everyone's talkin' 'bout Bugsnax. The new game from Octodad developer Young Horses seems cute, charming, and utterly horrifying, though our reviewer Mat Olson found it to be more charming that abject horror. Mike would also like me to point out that you eat creatures to become the thing you ate, which raises the question, "what are you?" Find the answers to this and more in Bugsnax.
- Tetris Effect: Connected [Xbox Series X|S, XB1, PC on Nov. 10]: There are many ways to showcase your new console's power, but Tetris Effect might be one of the most effective. There is something euphoric in the way Tetris Effect transforms descending tetrominoes into a synesthetic alternate reality free of what we'll just refer to as The Year 2020, and Connected is looking to enhance the Effect with some very anticipated multiplayer. Heck yes.
- Destiny 2: Beyond Light [Xbox Series X|S, PS4, XB1, PC on Nov. 10, PS5 on Nov. 12]: It's time to go beyond the light with the new Destiny expansion. For a lot of lapsed Destiny players, this is probably the right time to hop back on; given that the player base will see a resurgence due to new consoles that need games to play, Destiny 2 could certainly fill the void. And on the subject of loot games....
- Godfall [PS5, PC on Nov. 12]: Gearbox and Counterplay Games launch their own next-gen loot game alongside the PS5. It's mostly looked like an odd mix between action-RPG slashing and the current, modern lineup of looter games. Still, if you need to burn hours on a new console, a loot game should be good for at least a few.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War[PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, XB1, PC on Nov. 13]: Hot off the success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its extremely popular Warzone multiplayer, the Black Ops franchise returns for a trip to the Cold War. It will have a virtual Ronald Reagan, for some god-forsaken reason, and will tread the line with real-world conspiracies. Even if that's not your cup of tea, the good news is Warzone will still carry on.
At this point, it's worth simply noting that a number of games are getting day-one updates on the new next-gen consoles, either via forward compatible enhancements or new versions. Borderlands 3, Fortnite, Devil May Cry 5, and more will get some next-gen upgrades.
There are also a few games launching that aren't, specifically, next-gen games this week that I wanted to quickly highlight. On Nov. 10, farming simulator and Metroidvania mash-up Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin launches, as well as Harmonix's return to the DJ stage with Fuser, a seemingly spiritual successor to Dropmix. And at the tail end of the week, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory will launch into an epic stanza on Nov. 13 for PS4, XB1, and Nintendo Switch.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This week In Gaming
- Holy Odin, the games are here. Seriously, if you just skimmed the giant list of games that I painstakingly typed out above, please scroll back up and appreciate just how many games are launching this week. The combination of next-gen console launches and a number of long-standing November franchises means that this week is absolutely packed.
- Mass Effect is back, baby. Alongside the news of a new Mass Effect in the works, the Shepard Trilogy is getting a touch-up via the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. It's aiming for higher resolution and framerates, and will also "modernize the experience" for players. (They're probably, definitely talking about Mass Effect 1.) It arrives in spring 2021, and though it's only coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC at the moment, BioWare has said it will have more to say in the future about enhancements for next-gen backward compatibility.
- The next-gen may be all about backward compatibility, but it looks like P.T. isn't making the cut for PS5. Early reviewers tested it out and while it at one point ran on a PlayStation 5, the console as it stands cannot run the game. It was a pipe dream at best, but those with P.T. still on a hard drive should cherish it at this point.
- PS5 downloads won't take an eternity. If you owned a PS4 and bought digital, you know the pain of eternal PSN downloads. It sounds like those days are gone, however, as our own Mike Williams reports that he saw dramatically improved download times on the new Sony console.
- Microsoft might be eyeing some more acquisitions. A new Bloomberg report indicates the company has approached several Japan-based studios, big and small, about buying their business. It doesn't name any names or give any indication of the success of these talks, but it seems like Microsoft could be looking to continue bolstering its first-party lineup, even after the earth-shattering purchase of Bethesda.
Axe of the Blood God for November 9, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
It's the week of new consoles, and that means a Blood God console launch extravaganza! Kat and Nadia are joined by Mike and Eric to chat about their opinions on Sony and Microsoft's new systems, as well as pick apart Yakuza: Like a Dragon and discuss the Mass Effect remaster news. Listen here!