I think it says something that even after spending almost 100 hours on my first playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I was still left chomping at the bit for more.
At times I regretted doing it so soon, as the game was still quite fresh in my mind. It did feel like a bit of a grind at times.
But more often than not I continued to enjoy myself. Andromeda is a truly special game the likes of which we are rarely privileged to see. I still have trouble fully articulating in rational terms exactly what I love so much about it — most likely it’s a confluence of factors — but regardless it’s a game that clicks for me in a way few others do.
I made it easier on myself by skipping most optional content and focusing almost entirely on the essentials: main story, crew missions, finding Arks, and of course Ryder Family Secrets. It only took me about half as long as the original playthrough.
I tried to make a lot of different choices, which allowed me to examine just how much your choices actually matter in Andromeda. It seems to depend on the choice, sometimes unpredictably so.
It does seem to be well and truly impossible to permanently sour your relationship with any particular character. Having been buddies with Jaal the first time, I resolved to do everything in my power to piss him off this time, but while he spent a lot of the game giving me the silent treatment, he nonetheless ended the game by telling me I felt like family. In this context it seemed bizarrely out of the blue.
On the other hand, I did somehow get a totally new (to me) scene with Drack at the end of the game this time. I’m guessing this is because I made more choices he liked?
Also, be prepared for a surprising amount of heartbreak if you don’t convince Avitus to become a Pathfinder.
Overall, I’d say choices in Andromeda are more meaningful than they seemed to be the first time I played, but there’s still definitely room for improvement on that front.
On the subject of choices, I opted to romance Cora this time around. It’s much less of a disappointment than Suvi’s romance, though I have seen better. It’s a lot of flirting and very little actual relationship stuff, which is a bit strange, but on the plus side it does make Cora feel a lot more three-dimensional by allowing her to show a softer side, and I think that’s the best thing an in-game romance arc can accomplish.
I was going to complain that Scott feels rather flat as a character, but then I remembered I felt the same about Sara. I still think I’d prefer her a little, if only because she takes up a lot less screen space. Scott is surprisingly huge, and it was quite a jarring adjustment after playing exclusively female characters in my Mass Effect career to date.
One other thing I want to address is the new game plus mode in Andromeda. It’s fantastic.
The only thing of any significance that doesn’t carry over is AVP, and that hardly makes any difference anyhow. Your inventory, your skill choices, your credits, your strike teams, your Nomad upgrades, your research data… it’s all carried over.
You can continue with the same character, design an entirely new Ryder, or swap to the opposite Ryder twin while keeping the same custom appearances of both. The last is what I did this time, meaning my Sara from the original playthrough was an NPC this time. That felt a little strange at times.
This playthrough saw me hit the gear cap of level eighty. I farmed up a trove of crafting materials and proceeded to craft myself a final set of optimized gear.
Not only did I make all the items I need for my current build, but I constructed weapons and armour to support every build I can ever see myself attempting. On any subsequent playthroughs — and oh, there will be more — I won’t have to bother with crafting, or picking up mineral nodes, or scanning every little thing, or mining with the Nomad, or hunting down those stupid hidden caches, or even looting enemy corpses. I never have to worry about items or resources again. I can simply focus on the story.
My only complaint is that it took one and a half playthroughs to get to this point. This is how the game should have been from the start.