Review: Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a vast open-world RPG with so much to do and explore, but it's almost too much at times and without deeper content.

It has been around a month since the release of BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda and since my first impression article of the game I have experienced a lot of what Andromeda has to offer. As someone who has been new to Mass Effect, I had high expectations from previous things I have read and heard from fans of the series. I however, like many others have mixed opinions of the game and despite taking five years to develop, I just think the game itself just wasn’t quite ready (I’m sure everyone has seen the variety of bugs in the game). That said there are still aspects that make this a good game.

The journey begins exploring a supposed “golden world” (habitable) as part of your Father’s (Alec Ryder) pathfinder team set out to explore, coming across strange advanced ancient structures. Complications however, mean that your father doesn’t make it back and declares you the new Pathfinder. As the Pathfinder it is now your job to search for hospitable worlds for your people with the help of an AI, SAM. Your Ark, the Hyperion, arrives at the meeting point, the Nexus Ark, and this is where the journey really begins. Just how much there is to do and explore sets in here. The amount of quests there are means that you will never be doing nothing.

Your quests from the Nexus, mainly via the main story, take you to various planets (the first being Eos) each with varying landscapes. In this respect one of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s main strengths is its storyline, and there are definitely a few shocking moments and twists. The quests encourage you to explore whole planets by taking you to places of interest and enemy bases. The main structures you explore are structures built by an ancient civilisation called the Remnant and these structures play a key role in making planets viable for habitation. This is because they control the atmosphere.

I did spend a lot of time on my first couple of planets, although I think there are too many quests but most are optional though. Although there were good quests, many felt disengaged from the storyline and had no impact on the overall picture. This is particularly so with quests where you just had to scan stuff; there’s only so much scanning of areas one can find interesting. Even quests in which you had to make a difficult choice ended up meaning nothing when I really thought they could have gone deeper. As a strong element of the Mass Effect series, I was disappointed to find that really only one choice I made had a noticeable impact later in the game. It’s not a spoiler, but, although the main story is strong, the actual ending I found rather disappointing for the sole reason in that it made me think that a lot of the time I actually spent on each planet making it viable, was pretty much pointless (I’d love to know if anyone agrees).

The strongest aspects of the game though are combat, the landscape graphics and soundtrack. As I said in my first impression, I really wasn’t sure how combat would turn out. To start with it felt clunky and limited, but I have to say I was proved significantly wrong. The combat is so much fun and the variety of play styles on offer was fantastic as certain profiles are better at dealing with certain situations than others. I myself focused on Tech and Combat, I particularly like Tech as it gives you extra turrets to place which are mightily useful in large fights to take agro off you. I also loved performing fire combos which would explode enemies. Mixing this with a variety of commanding your team, your weapons of choice and your jet pack provides for some intense and fun fights.

Graphically, in terms of the planets themselves, it’s pretty stunning and my review is based off an Xbox One. Mixed with the soundtrack, some cool cut scenes of your spaceship, the Tempest, flying into new areas and landing or relaying into a new solar system, it does show that they really have put a lot of effort into giving the worlds beautiful detail. When it comes to actual characters and NPCs though, it’s very mixed. I have to agree that facial animations are not the best, but they are not as shocking as some have made out. Although sometimes characters’ eyes seem to randomly dart about, or don’t look like they are looking at you. Your crew members themselves look fantastic, one being Peebee who has great detail, a character you meet on Eos at a Remnant site, but Ryder (the male one anyway) himself doesn’t always seem to have that polished look a main character should have. In particular the Angara, a species native to Andromeda, look somewhat unfinished and not as sleek as others.

This also brings me to character depth and conversation. I felt instead of having really memorable characters, most are unimportant and do not have any real impact on the game. Dialogue, although at times interesting, largely didn’t get me to feel a connection to anyone in game and want to explore all options. Having played the early Dragon Age series, I felt that this was an area which Andromeda would excel. Although you can of course still romance all of the members of your crew which is an interesting challenge. Conversation itself is also very jolty and stop start. There were many times where for example Ryder is interrupted in his dialogue mid-sentence, but there is such a pause between the next character actually saying anything that it seems to lessen any importance of what they are talking about. It’s also quite funny how Ryder’s father’s death is just brushed over by the captain of the Nexus.

An area I didn’t explore much at all however, was crafting; I felt I didn’t need it and it wasn’t worth the hassle, but others will find it another area to get deeper into the game. Essentially guns I found seemed to be better than ones I could craft but didn’t have resources yet for. I was also disappointed to find no PvP option in multiplayer, only co-op wave clearing of which there’s only so much you can do. I feel some capture the flag or team death-match options would have gone a long way. It didn’t add to the game in the way I had hoped.

All this said, however, I really do think it still is a very ambitious and good game. For those who like open world RPGs there is plenty of content and it really is a beautiful game to explore (I imagine it runs far better on PC or the latest consoles). If you want to lose yourself for several days in other worlds and truly get deep into the game and Mass Effect lore there is so much information you can read and so much you can do. Overall I think I was disappointed due to the hype, but with DLCs and what felt an unfinished story with bigger enemies out there, I am looking forward to the prospect of new content.

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