Mass Effect: Andromeda is widely known as the black sheep of the franchise, and as a game that simply couldn’t live up to the standards BioWare had set. Years of development trouble are evident in the final product, but in truth, it gets a bit of a bad rap. Five years after its initial release, Andromeda still has some good ideas at its core, including the best combat the franchise has ever seen. While it doesn’t hit the absolute heights that the Mass Effect trilogy does, Andromeda still has a unique personality that even manages to exceed the trilogy in one vital aspect.
Mass Effect: Andromeda’s biggest advantage is actually being separated from the trilogy, allowing it to build a new galaxy populated with fresh faces. This lends the game an air of mystery that the series simply hasn’t had since the first game.
You’re an intrepid explorer, forging a path for the very survival of civilization, and because of that, you need to forge alliances with both new races and factions within the Andromeda Initiative.
You can quibble about the overall quality of the game’s writing all day, but the actual execution of Andromeda’s finale is exceptional. After boarding the main villain’s flagship, Ryder learns the location of Meridian, the hub of the vault network that can make countless planets in the Andromeda system inhabitable.
The stakes of the ending shoot through the roof when the Kett launch an attack on the Andromeda Initiative’s flagship, the Hyperion. Suddenly, it becomes a race against time to gain control of Meridian, with a final battle that truly feels like it brings together all the plotlines in Andromeda. The scope of the final mission really makes it feel like everyone in the galaxy is helping you fight the Kett.
When you land on Meridian, there’s a thrilling vehicle section where you blaze across the gorgeous landscape as your allies engage in dogfights with the Kett above. As you methodically make your way to the core of Meridian, countless allies will show up and help you. Based on the choices you make, you can see a variety of people show up during the battle, including the other Pathfinders, Reyes or Sloane from the Katara underworld, the Angara, and more.
Every major story beat feels like it matters in the finale, as all the allies you made play their part. Much like with Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission, every single party member also appears to aid your main squad in ground battles, and the game also throws in a handful of other NPCs. There’s even a section where you control the other Ryder twin, on another side of the battle.
Andromeda’s ending isn’t as complex as Mass Effect 2, as there aren’t underlying mechanics that can change the outcome. In terms of the actual presentation, however, it does a fantastic job of making the finale feel like it's do or die — and everyone in the galaxy knows it. The section after the final battle expands on this idea even more, letting you talk to each party member and major character as you learn about their plans for the future.
The finale doesn’t limit its scope, which is something that Mass Effect 3’s conclusion suffers from.
After a sprawling space battle cinematic, you control Shepard and his party making a very focused final push on the ground instead of everyone in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Battles earlier in the game, like Tuchanka, feel more climactic than the ending because of a bigger scale. The stakes may be more personal, but it feels far less grand in execution.
Mass Effect: Andromeda had a whole host of technical issues at launch, and there are some core issues in the game’s design that hurt it as well. Still, there are things the game does well and its incredible ending is, sadly, something that most players have never seen.