The Calming Influence of 600 Years of Cryosleep
I’m starting to believe that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a litmus test of sorts, separating those who want their games to aspire to “be more” from those who just want to really enjoy themselves. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here; people either can’t find a groove with the game or opt to steer clear of it, or they are really having a good time with it.
I admit to not having had any intentions of going anywhere near MEA only because my history with recent Bioware games has been spotty at best, and not because of the rampant shitposting about animations. I know several people who are gung-ho with both feet about the ME universe and I know I couldn’t even summon a fraction of that kind of loyalty. I even ducked out of Dragon Age: Inquisition, so my goal was to learn from past events and not even get near MEA.
Of course, I did. I don’t even regret it now. I always try to plant my flag firmly in the camp of “play to have fun”, and I am enjoying myself with MEA. I am looking past the eyeballs that have lives of their own, the tepid story, and the set pieces picked up at a HALO rummage sale. Those examples are not included here as sarcasm, but to illustrate that despite the kinds of things naysayers are holding against the game, I’m having fun with it.
I am not a completionist, but I don’t want to walk away from an obvious mission. I think I have done as much as I can do on Havarl for now, and while the next step is to move to Voeld, I went back to Nexus to clean up some lingering work there. Then I went back to Eos to clean up some ongoing work there. MEA is hell-bent to not let you forget where you’ve been by sending you back to those places over time. Technically, this should irritate me — I hate “repeating” content — but I think because the game provides reasons it makes sense. Not everything happens as soon as you expect it to with nothing but a bunch of narrative hand-waving to explain it: for example, Eos is heavily irradiated but should get better over time. Real time, not “oh, you’ve activated the Vault? Instant 100% better go out and have fun” that other game might opt for in order to maintain a rigid, linear narrative.
I’ve even gotten used to the combat after I upgraded my initial weapons. The starter stuff is utter crap and wouldn’t dent the side of an empty tin can, so I went straight to crafting the most bad-ass weapons I could at the time, and life has been much better since. I’ve been playing on Normal difficulty — a first for me in a long time — and things have been going well (except for the one time I set it to Narrative in the Havarl Vault because I hate timed events).
I’m even usually enjoying the conversations with NPCs, although there’s a lot of exposition that I tend to skip over. I occasionally chat with the crew when I get back onto the Tempest, especially if I’m informed that someone was looking for me. Naturally that sometimes leads to other missions, which puts me in an awkward spot: do I keep talking to people in case they do have a mission for me, or do I save myself the time and only talk to those who I’m told have a reason to speak to me and get on with the rest of the story? I’d hate to go somewhere for an existing mission only to find out later that one of the crew needs me to go back there for a personal reason.
MEA is relaxing, unlike the stress-terrors I experience with Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I do still love, don’t get me wrong. I think that right now I’m kind of in a place where I’m amenable to games with downtime. I’m still playing The Elder Scrolls Online, although not as frequently since MEA arrived, but both games provide me with lengthy periods where I can just sit back and explore or even fight with moderate confidence. Whether it’s crafting in TESO or random roaming in MEA, I can play these games right before bed and not wake up with shoulder and neck pain in the morning. I think that’s the kind of gameplay I need right now.