The Final Frontier
Mass Effect is undoubtedly one of the most influential series of the last generation, and for good reason. Bioware poured their heart and soul into making a truly excellent trilogy of games, and while they tripped up a little bit towards the end, Mass Effect’s legacy is one that will forever be present in the gaming industry. People got naturally excited when a 4th entry into the series was announced, although it wasn’t what people were expecting. Mass Effect: Andromeda marks the return of Mass Effect, and while it’s gotten off to a rocky start, fans and newcomers alike can enjoy what Andromeda has to offer, despite its shortcomings.
The Andromeda Initiative
Andromeda’s narrative is a far cry from anything related to the original trilogy. It’s very loosely connected to the adventures of Commander Shepard and the rest of his merry crew, which makes for a very easy access point for newcomers to the series. Mass Effect: Andromeda is set in between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, where earth is looking for new planets to populate with new life in the Andromeda Galaxy as a part of the Andromeda Initiative. You play as one of two twins, Scott or Sara Ryder (i’ll be referencing to Ryder as a him because I chose to play as Scott), and due to unforeseen circumstances, you’re forced to take a leadership role within the Andromeda Initiative as a Pathfinder. The stakes are high as you and your crew must find new Golden Worlds to populate in order to ensure the Andromeda Initiative isn’t for nothing, and in the process, deal with a greater threat to the galaxy. Andromeda’s narrative doesn’t do a terribly good job at pulling you into its struggles and conflicts. The first half of the game feels like a few missions were thrown together with loose ties to one-another, making for an initially incoherent and slow plot. However, the more I played Andromeda, the more I got pulled into its characters, world, and plot, and by the time I reached the halfway mark, Andromeda really got going, even if it doesn’t reach the storytelling heights of the original trilogy. Overall, Andromeda’s tone is a lot more lighthearted than the previous games, which I didn’t mind, but there are certainly a few darker moments within the campaign that harken back to the previous entries in the series. I found most of the characters varied and extremely likeable, although dialogue options didn’t really feel as impactful as they have been in the past, but it still provides a sense of character development for Ryder and his buddies. It’s all tied together with a very intimidating villain, whose motives are never made clear until later on, creating an air of mystery about him that I enjoyed quite a bit. Andromeda’s narrative starts on unstable ground, but if you take the time to invest yourself in it, eventually you’ll find a plot that holds a candle to that of the original trilogy.
Fight for a New Home
Mass Effect: Andromeda plays fairly similarly to Mass Effect 3, but there are some key elements that make it unique, fresh, and fun to play. Andromeda offers 4 distinct and varied planets to explore, engage in combat on, and most importantly, make viable for settlement. Each planet has their own little quirk, whether it be a radioactive atmosphere, extreme levels of cold, or extremely dangerous storms. They all felt like their own environments, and driving across Andromeda’s vast worlds was quite the spectacle, and truly a treat. As you explore, you can scan tech, wildlife, fauna, alien structures and more to gather research points that can be spent to research new weapons. Scanning is something you’ll be doing all the time in Andromeda, and you’ll either love it or hate it, but I personally never found it infringed upon my enjoyment of the game. Each world hosts a plethora of quests and loyalty missions to complete, hubs to visit, merchants to trade with and most importantly, Vaults to explore. Vaults act as the main way to increase planet viability in Andromeda, and they act almost as little dungeons within the game, and that’s not even taking into account the Sudoku like puzzles you need to solve to open them up. The first few were interesting and generally fun to complete, but by the end of it all I found myself getting a bit tired of the process. As you play Andromeda, you’ll be fostering your relationships with the people on your crew, whether that be by completing side missions for them or just having general conversation. I felt like I was getting something out of the effort I was putting in to know each character, and every one on my team had some back story or driving force behind them that I wanted to get to know. The Tempest is Andromeda’s version of the Normandy, essentially serving the same function. Through it, you can travel to different planets, research and develop weapons, exchange with the on-board shop, and interact with your crew. When on the surface of planets your main mode of transportation comes in the form of the Nomad, which is a rover designed for travelling hazardous planets. It’s fun to control, and fans of the Mako from Mass Effect will certainly enjoy its inclusion. That might seem like a lot to take in but I haven’t even gotten into the real meat of Andromeda yet, the combat. The star of Andromeda is by far its combat systems and all the elements that come into play when you enter a firefight. Ryder is equipped with a number of weapons, a range of biotic, tech, and combat abilities to choose from, and perhaps most importantly, a jump jet. With the press of a button (or two if you wanna dash in the air) Ryder can zip around the battlefield through the use of his jump jet. It seems like a simple addition, but once you get the hang of it, Andromeda’s combat turns into a fast, fluid and frenetic third person shooter that is extremely satisfying to play. Hovering in mid-air to shoot at an enemy cowering behind cover, only to land back on the ground and zip away at a moments notice is truly exhilarating and certainly never got old. The cover system also makes combat very fluid, as Ryder automatically clicks to anything he can use as cover, creating for a less sticky cover based system. Andromeda’s entertaining combat can mostly be accredited to the varied abilities and skills that you can invest in along throughout Andromeda’s plot. The three main trees from the original trilogy are back, those being tech, biotic, and combat. The main difference here, is that Ryder isn’t locked into the skills you choose from the start, which means Andromeda caters to multiple play-styles no matter the situation. Want to have a loadout where you solely focus on biotic abilities and mid-range weapons and another that focuses on tactical cloaking and sniping? Well you can, and it’s made extremely accessible through Andromeda’s favourites system, which lets you assign a loadout of skills to a shortcut you can access with the press of a button. Weapons come in various types, from assault rifles and shotguns, to snipers and pistols. There’s even an entire category for melee weapons, all of which are varied and unique. Like I mentioned earlier, you can research and develop weapons you haven’t found in the field through the use of research points and materials. It never really properly explains itself however, and it’s quite confusing at first, and collecting the necessary materials to craft one weapon can be a drag, but once you find a loadout that suits you, it feels very worth it. No matter what you craft or choose to use in Andromeda, each weapon sounds excellent and provides a satisfying amount of feedback with each shot. I played Andromeda on normal, which I never found to be overly difficult, but I did get caught out once or twice, and I had to make good use of my abilities if I wanted to get through a tough encounter. Andromeda’s enemies are fairly repetitive early on, mostly consisting of the Kett (the main evil force in the campaign), the Remnant, and wildlife found on the various planets. I did find that it opened up a bit more toward the latter half of the game, with more enemy types and factions coming into play. The final part of Andromeda’s gameplay, is its multiplayer mode. Much like Mass Effect 3, Andromeda’s multiplayer suite consist of a cooperative online wave based survival mode, where objectives must be complete in order to succeed. It gets pretty tough, and playing with friends is definitely recommended. If you enjoyed what Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer had to offer, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it here, because it builds on everything that made it great in the first place, and it undoubtedly has a number of hours you can put into it.
A Bug-Riddled Galaxy
If there’s one thing that Andromeda has certainly been criticised for, it’s the presence of bugs that plague the game. I’m not going to sugar coat it, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a very buggy game, and Bioware need to iron it out as soon as possible. Its nothing game breaking, but bad facial animations, disturbing walking animations, inconsistent lip syncing, and visual glitches really do hinder the experience when they’re as prevalent as they are in Andromeda. It honestly made me laugh more than it did upset, but it’s still unacceptable for a triple A game to be this buggy at launch. Aside from all the technical bugs, Andromeda looked beautiful at 4K on my PS4 Pro, and for the most part ran smoothly at 30FPS. Environments are beautifully designed and alien character models look excellent. Notice I said alien character models, because humans look absolutely atrocious in Andromeda, and it honestly seems like they’ve been ripped straight out of a 360 or PS3 game. It’s disappointing to see that a series that was generally pretty good with the technical side of things have a downfall such as this.
Despite all of its shortcomings, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game, worth your time and investment once the many bugs have been ironed out. While its narrative takes a while to get going, it has excellent gameplay and worlds to explore. It’s a deep and complex RPG that you can sink hours and hours into if you get into it, and that’s without even dipping into its multiplayer component. It looks gorgeous and runs well enough, it’s just a damn shame that the game is as plagued with bugs as it is.
-Second half of the plot gets you hooked
-Excellent sense of exploration and discovery
-Fast, frenetic, fluid combat
-Character + relationship development
-Enaging, longlasting multiplayer suite
-Gets off to a slow, incoherent start
-Confusing and dull crafting systems
-Choices feel meaningless
-Some repetitive elements
-Numerous bugs and technical issues
-Visual glitches and human character models
Thanks for reading guys, up next is Dark Souls III: The Ringed City.
Thanks again, Harry.