The Mass Effect series is one of the biggest franchises to date in this industry and thus has a large, passionate and vocal community; just ask those that weren’t too happy with the ending of Mass Effect 3. So when Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced some years back, a game that was set to launch a new trilogy if you will, it had huge shoes to fill and a very tough audience to please (one of those being me).
The year is 2785, roughly 600 years after the great Reaper Wars. Much has changed since we last ventured into the universe of Mass Effect and nothing more so then our protagonists, the Ryder siblings. After waking from a Cryo-Sleep, you the Pathfinder are tasked with exploring the galaxy and beyond to find a new home for the human race. The Ryder siblings (a brother and sister twin duo) has the weight of our race upon their shoulders, because if they don’t find a suitable and hospitable planet, and soon, our kind could be no more. So no pressure then?
As you might imagine, finding a new home planet won’t be an easy task, not just by finding somewhere suitable, but also because of the new big bad race known as the Kett. I won’t go into too much details here, as I want this review to remain spoiler free. But the Kett feel they are doing good, something holy and they will stop at nothing to impose their beliefs and their way of life. Possibly the worst evil often feel they are doing good, without fear, without remorse.
At the beginning of the game you’ll have the choice of playing as either the male or female Ryder, before being prompted as to whether you want the default versions or to create your own. While I am happy with the look of my customised female Ryder, I was a little disappointed to find the options to be quite minimal in comparison to other games that offer a similar feature. Granted it seems you have more variety then the three previous games, but I expected more for a title of this generation. However, there will be an update later down the line to offer more variety; it’s just a shame that this wasn’t the case for those that opted to buy this game at launch. But one cool feature that I did really appreciate with the character creation, is that depending on how your Ryder’s look (you can customise both, even though you play as one), your father’s appearance will be relevant to your the two siblings.
Andromeda has undergone a fair few changes; one of those main changes is the removal of the Paragon/Renegade element that featured in previous games. The reason for this from BioWare was that they believed that once players followed one good/bad path, they tend to stick by that throughout the playthrough to stay face, regardless of whether they believed in the choices they made or not. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone else, but that is something that I can relate to as whether my Sheppard character was good or bad, I liked them to stay consistent until the end. Now in Andromeda, choices are far more subtle and are purely directed by dialogue choices and tone (which are indicated by symbols alongside the choices). This did take me some getting used to, but I can see BioWare’s logic and after a few hours or so, it’s something that I got used to and dare I say it, I prefer. The only issue I found here was that it was sometimes unclear what choice you are making, with some of the dialogue coming across differently as to what the dialogue text might suggest after the choice is made.
The levelling-up has also gone under somewhat of an overhaul, with what seems to be a greater choice and depth of skills, Biotics and abilities to choose from. A little overwhelming at first and there will be many attributes that you might miss out entirely in favour of others, but in the long run, it could offer more variety with multiple playthrough’s, offering potentially totally different Ryder siblings from one playthrough to the next. One issue that I had with so much choice and a reason why it possible felt a little overwhelming was the very small in-game menu text. So much so that made it difficult at times to make clear choices as I struggled to read fully what was on offer. The same can be said for any documents and data pads that you might find in game, if you’re sat a little way from your TV, it could be a struggle. It may seem like a nitpick, but I personally would have appreciated an option to increase the text size (if there is one, I’ve not found it yet).
The weapon/ability select wheel was also been removed somewhat. Ok, you can still select weapons by hold down the Touch Pad panel (on PS4), but you can also select weapons by holding down Square (X on Xbox One). However, your powers are now selected by using the shoulder buttons. You can only have a select few, so you must choose your powers wisely in the Loadout screen (as with your weapons). This may make you feel a little less powerful by not having them all at your disposal at once, but it does help make the gameplay a little more tactical with your choices at least and with the few powers that you do select, you can access them more quickly on the fly during battle by utilising the shoulder buttons. So with some of the changes made in Andromeda, it’s fair to say that most have their positives and negatives, but for the most part, I feel that the changes are for the better in my humble opinion.
While the combat of Mass Effect improved by the time we reached the third instalment, it was still far from perfect, though it was very competent by Mass Effect 3. Yet, one of the strongest aspects in my opinion is how the combat feels in Andromeda. There is a vast array of weaponry on offer, a lot more it seems than ever before and what impresses me the most here is that just about every firearm feels as uniquely satisfying from the last. It’s always hard to explain in words and in video form for that matter, but you know as a gamer when a shooter feels right as every bullet connects and your foe drops to their knees. Well, Andromeda has that satisfaction in abundance and is by far the most combat competent in the series yet.
Now here’s where Mass Effect: Andromeda gets a little sticky, a little inconsistent. At quick glance, Andromeda looks absolutely gorgeous. The worlds urge you to explore, to see what’s around the next corner. I love to explore and despite previous games having a wealth of planets in the solar system to explore, other than a few standout planets, much of them feel a tad bland and didn’t really make me feel like I’m exploring an alien world, futuristic yes, but even so, still a little bland.
Andromeda takes us to a new galaxy known as the Heleus Cluster, where you are the alien and the planets that I visited did a great job in making me feel like I was the imposer, like I shouldn’t really be there. This factor is furthered by the hostile reception that much of the other races greet you with, even much of the Angara race, and they’re mostly the good guys. Speaking of alien races, considering that Andromeda takes us to a new galaxy, I am a little disappointed that we only seem to have three new races. Them being the Kett, the Angara and the Remnant, which are a synthetic race tied to mysterious vaults, which seem to hold a secret power that can do unparalleled good in the hands of the noble, but devastation in the hands of those with sinister intentions and they appear to be the key in finding us a new home planet.
However, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have seen all the controversy regarding some very dodgy facial animations. Upon starting Andromeda, some of the facial animations and reactions to conversations were quite simply laughable and unacceptable in this day and age, especially with a game of this stature. It was clear that Andromeda released before it was truly ready, which is one of the many things wrong within today’s industry, the publishers pressure to release a game and patch it later is never consumer friendly. Thankfully since that time, Andromeda has received a vital patch that vastly improves on the animations, including eyes on humans and asari’s (which sounds more important than it does) and also when Ryder runs, he/she no longer looks like they are trying to hold back a turtle head. It seems that the animations are now as they should be, but in truth it should have been like this since day one.
Another improvement that has been made since launch, is when travelling from planet to planet. Pre-patch once you entered a new solar system, there would be a drawn out animation that has you travel to the planet, zoom in, and then zoom back out again. Although impressive at first, quickly this feature got very tedious, but now thankfully BioWare has implemented the option to skip that animation. In Andromeda’s defence, unlike the original shitty animations, this planet animation is more of a personal preference and responding to fan feedback, they’ve given us the option to skip it if we wish. Another improvement made in comparison t previous games is how you scan planets for much needed resources which all go towards Andromeda’s crafting system for weapons and gear. Now rather than attacking a planet with countless probes and worrying about fuel, you are simply able to gather resources from one of two planets in the system with one probe launch. This approach is streamlined, far less tedious and time consuming.
Much like Mass Effect 3, Andromeda’s multiplayer component comes in the form of a wave -based mode. Now I admit, I used to love a good wave-based mode with friends, with Gears of War remaining my favourite. However over the years it’s become one of the most generic modes in the industry, at times its seemed like its favoured as an easier choice to slap on, which is often very micro-transaction friendly for publishers. I’ve only played a small amount of Andromeda’s new wave-based mode known as APEX. Truth is told from what I’ve played so far, it was quite intense and dare I say it, fun, which can’t be said for many other wave-based modes. Each APEX mission will have a series of objectives to complete before you and your three co-op players are able to be extracted from the mission.
By completing each mission, you’ll earn valuable resources, items and credits to be used in the main game, so there is good reason to play this mode at least from time to time. If you want to gather valuable resources and credits, but are not always in the mood to play with others, then you can send out an AI team to complete missions in the background while you partake in the main campaign. Granted your rewards won’t be as great, but it’s an ideal alternative to gather resources if you’re feeling a little less sociable. Also, the more missions you take part in, you will earn XP, you will gain greater rewards and you’ll be able to customise your online avatar, from species, to armour, weapons and more. There are of course micro-transactions to give you a head start in some areas, but that’s something that I’ve not taken part in, so I’m not in a position to give a valid opinion on that aspect.
The troubles of Mass Effect: Andromeda since launch was the provider of endless memes, in my opinion, some of it justified and some of it perhaps a little overboard. At launch I encountered some of those problems such as odd glitches which include twitchy NPC’s, some appearing out of nowhere and some questionable voice-acting. Some of those issues still persist since the last big update, but not quite as frequent. However, some of the main issues were with character animations that included facial with a lack of emotion and reaction, and some odd movements. Thankfully since the last big update the vast majority of those issues have been corrected. Before the update, I found myself laughing at some of the issues and it drew me out from much of the immersion that Andromeda should have had in abundance. Which was a shame, because Mass Effect is one of my all-time favourite franchises and with the launch of a new story, a new saga, Andromeda and the series as a whole deserved so much better, not to be the butt of internet jokes.
That being said, much of those issues have been corrected, but there are still some fixes on the way (more details here). After the update, I have found the game to be much more immersive and I am now thoroughly enjoying it, however, these issues should not have happened in the first place and Andromeda was perhaps released six months before it should have done. Regardless of it being a decent game now, it’s just a shame that Mass Effect: Andromeda released in its original state, because it should have not only been one of the best RPG’s to release this year, but one of the best in recent years. However, if you’re one of those that are patient enough to hold out, now might be the time to pick-up Andromeda or perhaps a few months from now. But don’t rule out Mass Effect Andromeda entirely, as patience for the would-be Pathfinder just very well may be a virtue and regardless what many have said, Andromeda is still a good game in its own right, despite is flaws.
+ Given time, Andromeda has a decent story to tell
+ Feeling alien in alien worlds
+ APEX is a surprisingly tense wave-based mode
+ Some animations aside, at its best, Andromeda is a great looking game
+ Your father’s appearance depending on your creations
- Even after 1st big update, some glitches still occur
- Deserves better voice acting
- While fun eventually, Andromeda needed another 6 months dev time