Bioware released their latest Mass Effect adventure recently. Does this game live up to the original trilogy? Find out in our Mass Effect: Andromeda Review!
Mass Effect is a series that is near and dear to many hearts. It’s one of the most critically-acclaimed space RPGs of all-time. It’s one of those rare series that you just don’t hear bad things about. I didn’t play any games in the series until 2013, well after the original trilogy had already been released. I played each one back to back to back and I couldn’t believe I had missed out on these games all that time. The story, the characters, and their relationships drew me in like very few games ever have. That brings us to Mass Effect: Andromeda which has received some mixed reviews. I held off on reviewing this game until a patch was released to resolve the issues. So, is this a good return for the series? Let’s find out!
Mass Effect: Andromeda starts off with the human colony ship hitting a bit of a snag in space as a new alien race starts to attack without warning. The main objective of this story is then revealed. You must find a home for thousands upon thousands of frozen colonists that’s safe and sustainable. The difference in this game is that you’re working with Salarians, Turians, Krogans, and Asari to form a governing body. It’s an interesting premise and I liked the way that it created a lot of new interactions. There is another ancient race that left so advanced technology behind in this game too. That felt all too familiar to me, but I’m willing to forgive that point.
Andromeda is a brand-new story in a different galaxy and with that, we’ve been given a new protagonist named, Ryder. As with the first set of games, you can choose which gender this character is and what their first name is. Mine was a male named Dean Ryder as I try to put myself in the game as much as possible. Ryder ends up being thrust into the role of Pathfinder unexpectedly and commands The Tempest which takes the place of The Normandy. Ryder is a very likable character and I’d put him on a similar level to Commander Shepard from the original trilogy. The wrinkle in this story is that you have a twin who is the opposite gender of you who plays a role in the story. I thought this was a really cool addition, it’s not often that you have a twin in the game.
The dialogue choices in Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t feel like they held as much weight in this game. There were times when I’d be a complete jerk to someone only to be able to flirt with them the next moment like nothing happened. Most of your choices are going to be between what’s ideal and what’s sensible. There isn’t as much contrast between your choices and they just don’t feel like they alter the story as much as they did in the original trilogy which is somewhat of a disappointment. That’s not to say that the dialogue is pointless, it just doesn’t feel as though you are as in control of the story.
Your crew is a lively, yet familiar group of different species. Each crew member has a very detailed backstory and you can easily spend upwards of an hour in between missions talking to each of these people. I really enjoyed learning about the different reasons that brought them there. One of my favourite parts of Mass Effect is the comradery between your allies. There’s little tensions between the crew members besides the two Asari (Peebee and Lexi) members aboard your ship. Some people might find that boring, but I liked the fact that your crew acted like a team and I felt like they all had distinct personalities that made them special. Romance options made their return in Andromeda, and let’s just say that they’re more R-rated than ever before.
Let’s attack the elephant in the room. The facial animations are spotty at best. Patches have improved those animations immensely, but they’re still not perfect and there’s still some odd texture pop-in. The hair is equally as bad and it looks more like something you’d give a Lego character rather than a game that’s going for a realistic look. I also feel like the humans look decidedly worse than the alien species which I really don’t understand. It is what it is and if this is going to diminish your enjoyment, by all means, don’t buy it. I didn’t even notice the issues after the first little bit. The voice-acting is so solid that I was more interested in what they were saying than how they looked.
The tough thing about Mass Effect: Andromeda is that for every good mission that impacts the story, there are 5 missions that simply involve you going to grab something or kill someone. It becomes a pain after a while to do these little missions that are there almost solely to fill your viability percentages for each planet. Speaking of planet viability, scanning for resources makes its return and is just as annoying as you remember it. The saving grace is that it’s a really easy process and you don’t have to search, you just hit a button and you know when a planet has something valuable.
One of the most annoying things about the original Mass Effect was the Mako vehicle. Andromeda decided to bring back this vehicle and improve it calling it the Nomad. This vehicle can jump and you can upgrade certain aspects of it. You can even shift gears to get up hills. You’ll use this vehicle to explore planets in the galaxy and each of these planets has distinct characteristics and environmental hazards to watch out for. On some planets, there’s extreme heat, others cold, others radiation, and so on. This gives you a time limit on how long you can explore the planet outside of the safe zone. I hated this mechanic and felt that it was pointless. It just discouraged me from exploring which is a big part of the game.
I didn’t enjoy exploring the planets, that was my least favourite thing about the first Mass Effect game and it’s even worse in this one. There just isn’t a lot to see on these planets. There are some enemy camps and random side-missions that don’t offer much to the narrative. The biggest thing you’ll see here is the alien structures that must be activated to make the planet habitable to colonists. There are usually a few of these on each planet and they require you to complete a puzzle to activate them. It’s a cool change of pace here and there and the puzzles are never too difficult to be frustrating. There are jumping puzzles in these structures as well, but they’re pretty simple because Ryder is so much more agile than Shepard. You even have a jump jet at your disposal. You can even hover in the air to shoot enemies behind cover and dash at enemies with the jet. It’s a small, but welcome addition to the series.
As good as the jump jet is, the automatic cover system takes some getting used to. There were countless times that I would try to get to cover quickly only to lose half my health trying to get in position. Even more annoying is that you have to manually control whether you’re on oriented on the left or right side of the screen. It’s just not what I expect from a cover system and it feels really cumbersome when it should feel responsive. It’s fine and it does the job when you need it, but it could be much better.
The combat powers are the best thing about Mass Effect: Andromeda from a customization standpoint to me. You’re no longer restricted to certain things. You can pour points into anything you want in in the skill tree in tech, biotics, or combat and create the character you truly want. One of my favourite powers was the combat drone that follows you around to offer some auxiliary fire and act as another target for enemies to attack. There are plenty of great powers beyond that to make your character as powerful as you’d like. Only three can be equipped at one time, but you can swap them out and change your class profile right in the middle of a battle. There is a cooldown penalty, but it’s still extremely effective if, for some reason, your powers just aren’t cutting it at that moment. You can even respec your character in between missions on your ship. Oddly, you can’t just swap out your guns at any time. I don’t really understand that choice at all and I really thought I was just missing something at first.
Battles in Andromeda are what you’d expect, it’s your 3 person team versus the enemy. Your ally AI is actually pretty impressive and they hold their own quite well. The one issue that I had was that you can only command them to stay in one spot or attack something. There’s no regroup option that I could find which led me to just let them do their own thing. It’s just annoying that you can’t tell them to do a specific power to do a power combo, you’re pretty much solely relying on yourself to do any high damage combos.
Andromeda allows you to craft gear and weapons using your research and development labs on the Tempest and various facilities on colonized planets. I love this system and it allows for a lot of different combinations depending on what resources you find. Unfortunately, you can’t equip your allies with any gear which really takes away from the importance and fun of crafting. Your left to just swap out one character for another with only their powers and guns defining them. It’s still cool to get the added effects to your armor and weapons, but it would have been even better to be able to customize everyone on your team to your liking.
There’s a good variety of enemies to shoot at here and there’s enough variety where it doesn’t feel repetitive. They do take a lot of bullets to kill and that can be frustrating at times, but it’s generally what you’d expect from this series.There are mini-bosses throughout the game and the final battle is as good as you’d expect. There are certainly some surprises and it’s worthwhile to play through the game to see the story unfold. I don’t think this game will be all that different depending on your choices from person to person. It seems a lot more linear than the original trilogy and that’s a shame to me because that’s the identity of the series.
I didn’t spend much time in multiplayer, but it’s basically the same as Mass Effect 3. The only thing I didn’t like was having to buy things like health packs with in-game currency. When you run out, you need to buy it with real money which is shady, to say the least. I didn’t encounter the need for that, but it’s worth noting.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game, but it’s not the great game everyone expected. It’s a fun game and the core is what you would remember about the series, but questionable mechanics like the elemental effects on planets, automatic cover, and numerous search and kill missions really annoyed me personally. I love this series, and I think that anyone who does should grab this game. The patch certainly made things much better. I definitely did enjoy it despite its shortcomings and I think that if you temper your expectations you will too.