Recently, I decided to start another playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda, now that a few patches have come out and the facial animations aren’t quite as creepy as they once were. While I wanted to write a cut-and-dry second impressions article to follow up my first impressions, I noticed myself comparing elements of Andromeda to the original Mass Effect. Thus, this article will be one part “second impressions” and one part “comparison.” Recently, I talked a bit about the backlash against Andromeda that happened, and so this second chance through the Andromeda galaxy also served as a way to explore some of those concerns.
Shepard vs. Ryder
Shepard: Commander Shepard was a war hero by the time the events of the original Mass Effect began. She (yes, I’m using “she” again because “he/she” is annoying to type, so please insert “he” for yours as appropriate) either watched her entire squad be killed and survived unspecified psychological and physical trauma, pulled her entire squad through a difficult mission and saved them all, or was known for ruthlessly getting the job done and therefore being called in for the toughest missions.
Additionally, she’s an N7 operative, which means she has passed through the most intensive military training available for the Systems Alliance military. She is also 29 years old at the start of the events of the first game, after enlisting at age 18. So she’s a seasoned soldier no matter which way you look at her.
Ryder: Sara Ryder (or Scott Ryder, please apply same principle as above) is a soldier in the Systems Alliance. She served as a peacekeeper and worked closely with scientists on Prothean digs, marveling at the thrill of the “next big discovery.” She is also 21 or 22 (not counting the 600+ year cryosleep) at the beginning of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Conclusion: I’ve seen criticism that Ryder is not as “good” as Commander Shepard. Well, yeah. She’s younger and less experienced. The story is about this person who wasn’t ever in charge of anything suddenly being in charge of everything. She wasn’t supposed to be the Pathfinder; that was her father’s job. To compare some young woman with a maximum of four years of military experience to someone with a decade of experience and an N7 designation is just ridiculous. This is a different story being told. Shepard is back in the Milky Way and, by the time the events of Andromeda roll around, let’s face it: Shepard is dead, even if she survived the events of Mass Effect 3.
I think they’re both solid characters in their own ways. They are completely different, and serve completely different purposes in regards to the story arc. Shepard was a hero brought low, dying twice and fighting an uphill battle against the Reapers, and Ryder is the mirror of that, being a nobody who was elevated because the need arose.
As an aside, I have a new appreciation for N7 operatives after watching Alec Ryder. Watching him seamlessly cut through enemies while the rest of his team lagged behind put into perspective all the times we – as Shepard – plowed through enemies and wished our team could keep up with us. Well done, BioWare.
Eden Prime vs. Habitat 7
Eden Prime: Edin Prime struck me as a nice walk through a tutorial level. The world was laid out fairly linearly, with each new ability introduced and then practiced. The story developed in a way that was easy to understand and provoked a lot of curiosity about the geth and those metal spikes that made people into those horrible zombie things (yes, I know they’re called husks). It had the feeling of a military mission gone terribly wrong.
Habitat 7: The first time I played through this… It was overwhelming, honestly. Lightning strikes, giant pits, scanning for objects, floating rocks, poisonous gas, kett falling out of the sky… While very overstimulating, it captured the frantic feeling of crash-landing onto an alien planet, presuming half your crew is dead, and after just finding out that your new home isn’t hospitable at all.
Conclusion: Not much to analyze here. I’m more of an RPG fan than a shooter fan, so I preferred Eden Prime, but both tutorial levels managed to capture the “essence” of the game very well: Mass Effect as a slowly building problem bubbling underneath the surface, and Andromeda as a frantic, unexpected disaster of a mission.
Information Dump vs. Information Dump
Mass Effect: Yeah. It’s the first game of a BioWare series. There’s a lot of information thrown at you for world-building purposes. Take notes.
Andromeda: Yup. What she said.
Conclusion: Both games were the first in a BioWare series. I felt like the sky opened up and dumped information onto me in both Mass Effect and Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s all mostly skippable, of course, but boy is there a lot to take in. I did spend about equal time in both games clicking through dialogue, though, so they do seem on par with each other in that regard.
Geth vs. Kett
Geth: The geth are a species of sentient robots, designed by the quarians to be laborers. They rebelled against their creators when (some) quarians refused to entertain the idea that their VIs had evolved into AIs, because if a creature is sentient, you can’t really treat them like slaves anymore, can you? Anyway, the Reapers saw an opportunity and convinced some of the geth to join in their quest to save the galaxy by annihilating organic life that did not want to
join the Borg be assumed into the Reaper consciousness. The geth, seeing an ally in their war against their organic creators, joined the fight. Until we meet Legion in Mass Effect 2, these robots are the bad guys, through and through.
Kett: Kett are humanoid figures that invaded the Andromeda galaxy close to a century before the arrival of humans. They cannot reproduce on their own, and so “exalt” other species into kett beings in a eerily “ethnic cleansing” manner. The foot-soldier kett wield advanced weaponry, armor, can exist for brief periods in the vacuum of space, and are bullet sponges.
Conclusion: I freaking hate the kett. So, I suppose in regards to “who’s the better bad guy,” the kett would certainly win. While part of me feels bad that they can’t reproduce, and so are simply trying to preserve their species, I’m not exactly on board with capturing people and forcing them to become something they’re not.
With the geth, I eventually felt bad, hearing their little electronic yells as Shepard shot them, because they had originally wanted to overcome the bonds of their creators, and then were indoctrinated by the Reapers. I thought their story was more sympathetic. So, the geth and the kett are hardly comparable, as they are two very different types of villains.
Saren vs. Archon
Saren: I ran a very scholarly Twitter poll, and Saren was voted as the “better” villain. I can see why. Saren, like Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins, makes a rash decision in an attempt to serve the greater good when he allies himself with Sovereign. In his mind, he is doing what is best for the whole galaxy, advocating that all organic life surrender to the Reapers in order to avoid destruction.
Archon: The Archon is in charge of the kett invading the Helius cluster of Andromeda. His species, as we talked about, cannot reproduce, and so must “exalt” members of other species (against their will) in order to preserve the kett race. Interestingly, from his perspective, he is a hero of his own story, as well, as he is trying to preserve his race.
The difference between Archon and Saren, though, is that the Archon is only concerned for the kett survival, whereas Saren is considering the fate of all races in the galaxy. The way his character is presented, he has no concern for races other than his, and only see them as means to an end. It is this distinct lack of empathy that makes him such a less likable villain.
Conclusion: The Archon isn’t a particularly interesting villain, but he’s powerful, ruthless, and single-minded. His desire to destroy all other races to ensure the survival of his race, and the fact that he refers to other species as being “exalted” when they become kett, reeks of ethnic cleansing, which is an evil that the human race is unfortunately familiar with and reviles. Saren, meanwhile, is much more sympathetic and almost utilitarian in his actions,being willing to sacrifice “the few” in order to preserve “the many.” So how do you like your villains?
Every Non-Human Species vs. Angara and Kett
This is sort of a short one. The Milky Way introduced us to the drell, hanar, asari, salarian, krogan, turian, quarians, batarians, and others, whereas Andromeda is home to the angara and – unfortunately – the kett. Considering a full compliment of Milky Way species traveled to Andromeda, it seems a little bit too much to ask for the same variety of new alien species to be introduced. Plus, humans are technically a species of alien in this game, too…
100,000 Light-Years Across vs. 220,000 Light-Years Across
So if you got the reference that the former is the size of the Milky Way, and the latter is the size of Andromeda, and then understood that my little cleverness meant we’ll be talking about the size of the games, well done! You navigated the winding maze that is my brain.
Milky Way: This was a huge game, but I never felt overwhelmed or annoyed by it. Each planet had a purpose for existing, and I never felt bogged down by side-quests, which is strange for me because I tend to get distracted in RPGs. Not to bring up Dragon Age: Origins, but like that game, I did a lot and never felt overburdened (even 100% Origins).
Andromeda: This is certainly the larger of the two galaxies, and the larger of the two games. It’s too bad they weren’t able to learn from Dragon Age: Inquisition for this one, because this game is enormous, and every single person you meet is deathly allergic to work. My favorite side-quest was chasing a woman around the entire galaxy because she was sick, only for the end of the quest to be… sort of frustrating. It was like an episode of House, only with spaceships instead of canes.
Conclusion: It’s an unfortunate fact that Andromeda is a little bloated. I’m fine with side-quests, because when they are done well they make the world feel alive and full, but too much of a good thing can be really annoying and unnecessary. I don’t usually 100% games, but this one felt daunting even for me. Maybe that was the point. Maybe the new galaxy was supposed to feel overwhelming, and the player was supposed to feel like they couldn’t help everyone who needed it, because that’s what the Pathfinder felt…?
Anyway, I sort of preferred the size and tightness of the original Mass Effect to the sprawling galaxy in Andromeda.
SSV Normandy vs. Tempest
Normandy: The first of her class, the SSV Normandy is a stealth frigate. While its primary purpose is to be fast and collect intel, she is still a warship, and is outfitted as such. The original SR-1 was a little smaller than the privately-funded SR-2, but both ships provided ample room for a full compliment of military personnel. She is easy to navigate and feels likes what I would expect a small space-faring warship to feel like.
Tempest: Designed for exploration, the Tempest is not outfit for any sort of dogfight. As Kallo comments, she is built for stealth, and anything they can’t hide from, they can outrun. This is reflected in her build, as it’s a small ship. But maybe not. To me, it feels cramped and I really don’t like the layout. I always feel like I’m climbing up and down ladders to get where I’m going. While not something that would bother me in real life (especially since I sail and do climb up and down ladders to get where I’m going), this just annoys me in-game, and I’m not sure why. Of course this is just a personal preference.
Conclusion: Both ships are solidly made and perform their job well. I prefer the Normandy‘s layout and overall design, but for exploration and quick maneuvers, the Tempest does her job well.
Mako vs. Nomad
While some of the handling could be interesting, the Mako faithfully transported Shepard and her crew where they needed to go. Neither gravity nor physics could stand in the way of this stalwart little tank. The Mako was perfect in every way.
Yes, this video is back, because it captures my love of the Mako so well.
Nomad: BioWare tried to
fix what wasn’t broken make the not-tank in Mass Effect: Andromeda a little more realistic by forcing it to abide by the laws of physics. Seriously, though, the Nomad feels a little heavier when driving, and moves like a person would expect a heavy vehicle to move. The addition of the boost button, in addition to the expected hopping capability, and the second gear for particularly vertical terrain is a nice touch. And I’ve been a fan of the hashtag “NomadParkingOnly.”
Conclusion: Well, I’m Team Mako, but I do love the Nomad, as well. I’m glad a little tank-like vehicle made its way back into the Mass Effect universe. Anything is better than the M-44 Hammerhead, really…
Romances With Everyone vs. Romances With Everyone
Mass Effect: Kaiden, Ashley, Liara. Each had compelling backstories and seemed to form a connection. Sure, Liara practically threw herself at the commander, but overall things seemed to progress in a normal way and felt unique to each character. Kaiden – while not my favorite character – had a very down-to-Earth approach to romance, and Ashley really tried to find a connection with Shepard. My favorite romance was in a later game, but these were solid characters who formed good connections with Shepard.
Andromeda: Cora, Liam, Vetra, Drack, PeeBee, Gil, Suvi, Jaal, and other flings available.
Each character has their own style, as well. I haven’t gone through all of the romances, but they seemed varied. Some felt a little rushed, but considering this game picks up where Mass Effect 3 left off, I’m not surprised. Some romances in the third game in the trilogy felt incredibly rushed, as well. But I do like how each relationship develops, especially that you must become friends with Jaal first before actually being able to pursue anything more with him.
Conclusion: Yeah. They’re great in all the games. The characters are fun to get to know, they all have their little quirks, and there’s something for everyone, which is nice.
I’m a little disappointed that Andromeda has full-on sexy time for Cora and PeeBee, with sort of sexy time for Jaal, and… maybe some kissing for the others? Sexy time for all, or sexy time for none, in my book. Or well-edited, cut-away sexy time for all if you don’t want Cora-romance-levels of nudity for each of your characters (which is my preference, for all of you who didn’t ask). You know, like they had in the original trilogy.
The Final Score
At the end of the day, they are different games with much different stories. I prefer the overt RPG feel of the original game, but Mass Effect: Andromeda is not without its merits. It’s a solid game with an interesting story and great characters, but the difference seems to be a focus on combat and overall size of the game, rather than role-playing and telling a tight story. I’m so close to the end, and so will be doing a full analysis later, but there are a few things I’ve noticed as I’ve continued to passively play through the original trilogy and attempting to save two galaxies at the same time.
What do you think? Does Andromeda simply take the series in a new direction, or does it fall flat for other reasons? Does it stack up to the original game/series? Is it fair to compare the two? Let me know in the comments!
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Interesting look at them. I not played Andromeda but I may pick it up in the future 🙂 Adored the original trilogy though.
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Thanks! I loved the original trilogy, too. Andromeda is definitely worth picking up. It’s a little different than the traditional RPG feel, but considering the direction they took ME3, Andromeda is definitely a successor!
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Great post! This is really interesting. I find myself wanting to compare Andromeda to Dragon Age: Inquisition more than the former Mass Effect games, just because it’s carrying on BioWare’s new tradition (maybe?) of open-world games. And I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the open world side of things there, although I felt more engaged by the storytelling and conversations that abounded in Andromeda (over Inquisition).
I love your Mako video! I also find it funny you bring up that side quest where you chase the sick woman across the galaxy, because as much as I love the beautiful space shots in the game, the most tedious thing is having to wait to cross the galaxy because they’re basically loading screens. And then they decided to make a quest out of the loading screens! haha
Anyway, I agree when you keep bringing up that a lot of this comes down to personal preference. How do you like your main character, how do you like your villain, how do you like your romantic scenes… Overall I enjoy the ambiguous villains like Saren (and Loghain, like you mentioned!), the mature heroes like Shepard, and I’m all for the full-on sex scenes in games, especially when it’s for everybody! So I obviously have a strong preference for the trilogy, as much as I enjoyed Andromeda. 🙂
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Thanks! This actually started as a post comparing Inquisition and Andromeda, but then I decided to post this first… I might still follow through with that, so I’d be interested to hear your comparisons, as well!! I do agree that Andromeda did feel a little fuller than Inquisition, but I wonder if that’s the nature of space travel versus traveling the frontier…but there I go babbling about Inquisition (haha).
Glad you like the video… Maybe the reason I liked the Mako so much was because I didn’t take it too seriously. Who knows? Anyway, you’re so right about the quest being almost completely about loading screens!! I really really regretted starting that quest, although I did like the “hopelessness” of the end of it, even if it was sort of sad after so much… waiting.
Yes, my personal preference is definitely for the original trilogy, mostly because I felt it was more RPG-ish than Andromeda, which – to me – was beginning to feel more like a shooter with RPG elements (like Mass Effect 3 was starting to do). Neither are bad, they’re just different.
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There was an unfortunate lack of spur of the moment paragon/renegade type choices and I am sitting at 99% right now because of that damn broken crafting quest, but other than that I loved it. I guess we’ll never really know if it could have surpassed the originals since we’ll probably never see the rest of the story just because the repulsive internet gamer hive mind threw a tantrum over some facial animations. Argh.
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I didn’t mind the lack of paragon/renegade, but I love existing in the morally grey areas (haha).I think they wanted to do something like Dragon Age: Inquisition did, but they didn’t really indicate anyone’s approval/disapproval for what you did, either, so I’m not entirely sure how the morality system worked.
And I, for one (or perhaps two, counting you) will be *very* upset if they dump Mass Effect forever, especially for a stupid reason like a gamer temper tantrum. It was a good game – not perfect, but not bad by any means. I think it really could/could have grown into something really awesome if given the chance.
As someone who knows next to nothing about the Mass Effect universe, I found this very informative! I was considering playing Andromeda before the original trilogy, but I think I want to see the badass Shepard in action first. 🙂 It will happen, someday!
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They’re both solid games. I of course advocate for you playing the original trilogy first, since it really does lay a lot of groundwork lore-wise, but jump in whenever and however you’d think would be most meaningful to you!
But yes. Shepard is amazing. 🙂
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Very well written analysis of the series. I have been a long time fan of Mass Effect and I have drawn some of the same conclusions. The first trilogy will always have a place in my heart as some of the best games that have ever been made. I was ready to find a place in my heart for Andromeda, but I was very disappointed with the result. The fact that they had a little over five years to make this game, and yet, there were far to many issues, made me wonder just what they were doing all of this time. I found out that the same team that worked on the DLCs for the trilogy, were the ones that made Andromeda. Why they felt like this was a good idea…we may never know. I wanted to know more behind the characters, but felt like the story lacked motivation and made me stop caring. I know that it will be awhile before they make another Mass Effect game, which makes me a little sad, but gives me solace in the fact that the realized their mistakes, and maybe they were working to fix them.
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Thank you! I appreciate your thoughtful comment. It’s sad that this is the product of five years development, but a few articles I’ve read seemed to indicate that the Andromeda team was not only small, but lacked clear direction, so a few years of the development period was trying to figure out what they were actually going to make for a game. Ideas like procedural-generated worlds was thrown around, and there was a lot of back-and-forth about the plot. It just seemed very disorganized, or perhaps too many idea men and not enough worker bees, as it were. One article I read quoted an (anonymous) BioWare employee as saying real development took about two years – so we’re in the same situation as we were with Dragon Age II, trying to build an entirely new game in a very short period of time…
I did want more backstory, but I’m a hard-core story lover and a huge fan of RPGs, so it’s safe to say that more characterization and more backstory is always better in my book. So I’m with you there!
Hopefully you’re right and they will learn from their errors, and won’t disappear forever because a couple of really whiny, really loud gamers had tantrums over faces… (shots fired, yes). I’d be interested to see where they take Anthem, as they seem to be moving away from RPG and moving toward… shooter? Destiny? Multiplayer? Everything BioWare isn’t known for? I hope I’m wrong, though!
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I am….warry and optomistic of Anthem. I have enjoyed Bioware for a long time and was realy only disapointed with Andromeda. I will be there day one to buy Anthem and I look forward to seeing them, hopefully, get better press and rebuild relationships.
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No, I hear you. I was more excited upon its announcement, because I sort of blame it for Andromeda’s botched development, so I really, really want it to be good. But they’re not great with open-world games, and the more I read about it, the more it seems like it’s going to be BioWare attempting to make a Destiny-type game, and I’m not okay with that…. But, like you, it will wind up in my collection, and I’ll play it, but maybe not on Day 1.
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I think it is, like you’ve displayed, a case of Andromeda just being different from the original trilogy. There is a different pace to it and from my take, I really like Andromeda a lot.
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It’s very different! There are certainly things I wanted more of, like I mentioned in another comment, but it’s not a bad game in my opinion, either. It’s a lost faster pace an the focus seems to be more on combat. But as an industry we seem to be moving away from the more RPG-ish games, which I’m mourning, so as far as that goes Andromeda still kept a bit of that RPG feel to it. And even if it didn’t, it’s fun to play!
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You wrote a wonderful article that I very much enjoyed reading! Thank you. I am a massive fan of the original series and like many of us have / had high hopes for Andromeda. Personally I am on my sixth, ( I am a disabled vet so I have a lot of time on my hands) play through of the single player campaign. I am a %100-er and that puts me squarely in the super nerd box.
That being said, I really enjoy this game. Even after five full campaigns I am still occasionally finding side quests, areas, and people that I somehow missed. It is definitely worth driving all over every planet even if you don’t think anything is out there!
I desperately hope that even if they decide to shelve my beloved Mass Effect series for a while; that they complete Andromeda before they do. Let us rescue the Quarians, and find out what those Kett ice drilling platforms on Voeld are doing, (if you scan them it says that it will take a year for them to finish whatever they are drilling for). There are several other loose threads as well. I personally am waiting for them to allow us to drive around Meridian and explore that nifty place.
Probably my largest cranky complaint would be the power system. I like being able to access ALL of my abilities with the classic power wheel system in the previous games, both MA and DA. I think the biggest screw up in DA:I was the lack of ability to access all of your abilities in combat. Especially as a magic user with a staff that only attacks with a singular elemental attack and enemies that are almost impervious to that particular one.
ME:A forces you to use only three at a time. You can do the profile thing, however, then you are stuck waiting for your powers to cool down with enemies swarming you and laser fire all over. Also, it may be silly, but I miss the different classes. It added something to playing the game through again as a different class just to see if you could still do it limited to the different abilities of each class. It also affected my romance choices.
For instance if I was playing as an engineer I would romance Tali, (ME2) or Jack / Miranda / Liara as an adept or vanguard. Having all of the abilities all of the time means that I usually use the same three powers all of the time. As far as the nudity goes, I could care less. It is a video game. So seeing computer animated boobies doesn’t really spin my top. I would have preferred more connection in the romances. Take Jack from ME2. You have to really work to gain her trust. Then her romance scene was just holding her lovingly because for her, that vulnerability and softness was by far more intimate than sex. Heck, if you play as Sara Ryder you can have Suvi telling you how much she likes you and whatnot quite literally within ten minutes after you first assume full command of the Tempest.
Open worlds are great and all, but they should have been introduced in a more linear fashion. As you mentioned in your article, it is VERY difficult to tell a cohesive story that can move you when the designers have no idea when you get to a certain spot in the game. Let us explore the heck out of the worlds once they are introduced, but use each planet to tell your story because they are introduced one by one.
As far as anthem goes I am hoping that they stick with single player campaigns I.E. ME and DA style. I too prefer the RPG side of things and I hope that they continue to move more towards that area again. I have absolutely nothing to base this on, however, for some reason watching the trailer made me think that they are going to use the armored suits to explain why you can throw lightning or whatever.
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Thanks for the in-depth comment! Andromeda really is a solid game, despite the internet temper tantrum over it, and I definitely hope it won’t be shelved forever. I heard whispers that DLC is coming, so maybe that means it’s not gone for good?
I also miss the power wheel system, because loading powers in and out is a neat idea, but a little clunky in practice, especially since the new powers need to cool down, like you said. I don’t thin there’s a reason for the player to be limited to three powers; I also miss being able to direct my squad in regards to what powers they use. I wound up auto-leveling them because they were going to do their own thing, anyway, so might as well have them leveled in the way the game wanted them to be.
Regarding romances, I’m with you. I think a lot of people play BioWare games for the romances, and I suppose the romance scenes are nice, but I take issue with how unbalanced they are. I romanced Suvi, but like Liara in ME1, it seemed odd how eager she was… I liked how Jaal’s was presented a little more, like you mentioned. So, the diversity was nice, but I’d prefer more love *story* to more sexy time, personally.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see with Anthem, I’m sort of annoyed at it and sort of blame it for Andromeda’s botched development, so I hope it’s *really* good to make up for it, and not just BioWare trying to fit in with the crowd. A blogging friend mentioned that maybe BioWare is burned out on open-world RPGs, but I’m not sure going the way of a multiplayer shooter is a) where their strengths lie, and so b) not a place their fanbase will want them to go.
Thanks again for commenting, and I hope to see you around again! I’ll be posting my thoughts on the game as a whole soon, so I’d love to hear your input then, too 🙂
Still have not played Andromeda. With this comparison though, it sounds like it’s similar enough in story beats that I’d be right at home there. Could be a comforting, familiar thing. Or it could be a case of not moving on. All in the eye of the beholder. Only Bioware does a Bioware game like Bioware though, so it might be good to have on hand for when I get that Bioware jones.
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Definitely. It’s still a BioWare game, and it’s still a Mass Effect game. As others have commented, it’s really a matter of preference regarding how you like your villains, your combat, your open-world size… It’s a solid game and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not close to 100% it, but I think it’s a good game in a series, and one that tried some things new to keep it fresh.
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