Just play it when the full game’s out.
The Mass Effect games are known for presenting players with massive and epic sci-fi adventures. Shepard travels around the Milky Way galaxy, he shoots aliens and sometimes brokers a peace treaty with them, he punches reporters, and he flirts with all his squad allies. In the middle of this, he’ll also pick up side quests from random civilians scattered around the Citadel because this is an RPG, after all. It’s meant to be a gigantic, sprawling experience.
Mass Effect: Andromeda landed on EA and Origin Access this past weekend, allowing players to spend up to 10 hours with the game and progress through the story missions up to a certain point. At first glance, 10 hours sounds like barely enough time to spend with a huge game like Andromeda. Operating under the assumption that Andromeda is anything like its predecessors, it’s safe to say that there will be too much to see and do. How could 10 hours ever be enough for a game like this?
Well, as it turns out, 10 hours ended up being a little too much for a game with an incredibly weak opening.
Andromeda starts us off by picking between Scott and Sara Ryder. Whoever you choose will be the Pathfinder of the adventure. As EA only offered a demo version of the game during the 10-hour trial, players could only progress up to a certain point in the story. Ignoring the handful of side missions that we could pick up in those 10 hours, Andromeda essentially has us run around a tutorial planet, shooting aliens every now and then, and completing half-assed platforming-scanning-sudoku puzzles before gating our progress just as we open a really ominous and exciting looking door – almost as if the game’s saying, “Alright, this is where the game really gets good, but we’re sorry you only got to play through the boring bits and we have to cut you off now. See you at launch!”
Simply put, Andromeda’s opening and story missions are weak and tedious, and they honestly didn’t do that great a job of selling the game and leaving a good impression. Now, I understand that the bulk of the Mass Effect experience comes from talking to NPCs and running errands for them. However, the problem with offering an EA Access trial for a game as big as Mass Effect is that these games are traditionally meant to be a slow burn. On the story side of things, 10 hours was way too much for the shallow content that was on offer. However, those 10 hours can feel too short for a player trying to experience all of the side content available in the demo. Speaking of side content, would a player really feel compelled to sit through copious amounts of dialogue, knowing that their time with the trial is limited?
Mass Effect: Andromeda is also at a slight disadvantage in the sense that it’s a fresh start for the series. We don’t know these new characters at all, and Andromeda is meant to serve as a foundation for a completely new setting and cast – it’s only natural that things will start off slowly. Because of that, it’s difficult to get invested in both the story missions and the optional side quests that Ryder can take on. Just like the original Mass Effect, Andromeda is going to have a pretty slow start, and it’s going to take a lot more than a gated 10-hour trial to get players pumped for what’s to come.
Andromeda just isn’t the kind of game experience that you can make up your mind about in 10 hours, especially when you’re only locked to the tutorial bits of the story missions. Perhaps the game could’ve benefited from a more condensed and focused demo experience that gave us an idea of what the stakes were in this adventure, and maybe even end off with an exciting boss fight that leaves us wondering what comes next. Y’know, like a lot of demos do.
After spending about five hours with Andromeda this past weekend and making it to the end of the trial mission, I stopped. I didn’t pursue the remaining side missions on the Nexus, because why would I do that when I simply don’t care enough about Ryder and the Ark yet?
I have no doubt that Andromeda will offer us the epic space opera story we all signed up for, but letting players try it early in a gated trial that offers little substance was certainly not a good idea.