Mass Effect: Andromeda is a Bioware game, and if you’ve played other tiles by them, you would know that often, their games require an immense amount of player time investment. The latest Mass Effect installment is no different.
The allure of travelling through space, reaching other galaxies, encountering new forms of alien life both hostile and non-hostile creates a natural allure for yours truly. That is why I was ever so excited when Bioware first announced that they would be continuing series with Mass Effect: Andromeda.
But has it been worth the wait?
Bioware games like this one, thrive on relationships that you help your main protagonist create with the rest of the cast. You are given the freedom to respond as you see fit, whether you’d prefer to be a gentleman, always willing to please or a dickhead, always trying to test the patience of others. Whatever decisions you make, the game will react accordingly and lead you to different story lines, and possibly even different endings.
You enter the world as a mortal space explorer, going by the name of “Ryder”. In your day and age, space travel is so advanced that you are able to travel through space at faster than light speed. your objective is simple: to go out and find new places in which to establish your colony, guaranteeing the survival of your species. You are part of the “Andromeda Initiative” and your journey will require you to travel 600 years.
Sounds pretty damn interesting doesn’t it?
It’s probably a good time to point out that despite Mass Effect: Andromeda being the 4th installment, with returning characters and aliens from previous games, it is by no means unfriendly to new fans of the game. So don’t start hating on the game thinking you need to play the first 3 Mass Effects games because you won’t be required to do so, but I do highly recommend doing so.
These games are highly acclaimed for a reason and to not play them for any reason whatsoever would be a complete waste. Let’s get back to the review of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
The whole point of the “Andromeda Initiative” began when the humans on your home planet have identified several “golden worlds” which are deemed to be highly inhabitable. Of course, life is a bitch and throws you a curve ball when you least expect it. When Ryder and the team arrive on these so called “lands of opportunity”, they find that things are not what they seem.
Firstly, everything that could go wrong, does. Different ships carrying other animals and humans are lost entirely. Different ships arrive at different times, leaving you in a state of helplessness, and to top it all of, the entire planet is overruled by a hostile alien species known as the “Kett” who makes it clear they are not there to be your friend upon first contact.
You Are The Pathfinder
Believe it or not, the role of “Pathfinder”, literally translated to “one who will rescue us or die trying” lies squarely on your shoulders. Ryder is not a leader by any means so you might be thinking, “well didn’t they have anyone else who was more qualified to lead?” We may never know the answer but in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the overall theme leads one to believe that leaders are created, not born. And you must earn the respect of your colleagues and team mates if you are to survive.
In previous Mass Effect games, players aren’t always given the freedom to do whatever the hell they want. Instead, situations are kept in a close “sandbox” where there are a limited number of NPCs to talk to, things to do, etc. Mass Effect: Andromeda does things very differently, this time around they give the player plenty of choices on what they want to do, who they want to talk to, etc. on every planet.
“But that sounds overwhelming” you think to yourself…
You’re right, and it can feel that way. New locations often introduce you to a staggering amount of new locals to talk to and while Bioware has always been great an giving players enough lore to chew on, Me : Andromeda’s writing can seem a bit lackluster at times. Instead of giving players newer information each time, the same point is reiterated over and over again.
Beware the Conversation Wheel
The true essence of Mass Effect: Andromeda lies in how the characters in the universe interact with one another. That is why it is integral that lines are delivered effortlessly, with enough realism to make it all sound completely cohesive. When Bioware first introduced the conversation wheel, the part of the game where characters stand awkwardly staring at you, waiting for you to pick your response, is outdated and should have been revamped.
At times, lines are stifled and character expressions are not what they are supposed to be (watch the video below to understand what I’m talking about), it can make the overall player experience seem a tad bit lacking, especially from an AAA title as this.
Dialogue wise, the system mechanics has expanded beyond earning positive or negative points towards the “Paragon” a.k.a goody-two-shoes or “Renegade” a.k.a just a dickhead. In Mass Effect: Andromeda you are constantly tested on what you stand for, what choices you make in different circumstances. Will you be the greatest leader to them and lead them to glory or point them towards certain doom? The choice isn’t always that obvious.
Take Things Slowly
Hoarding is never a good thing and collecting as many quests as you can will often overwhelm you quite easily. The problem actually lies in the way the game tracks quests, it is a complete nightmare! For starters, quests are automatically categorized under different areas. There isn’t a single “Available Quests” menu but instead, quests are divided into often very confusing sections like “Allies”/ “Priority Ops”, etc.
You get the idea.
Unfortunately, there is no real workaround for this and you’re just going to have to thumb through all of the different sections each and every time you obtain a new quest. There is definitely a certain kind of OCD-like joy to be found in hoarding quests and then completing them one by one at your own leisure. However, when things are this muddy, the process is often sapped of all enjoyment, leaving players with a bad taste in their mouths.
Being the Pathfinder You Were Meant to Be
Ryder’s main task is to find new areas and colonize them. While there aren’t that many planets in Mass Effect: Andromeda for you to land in and clear the vermin out of, the ones that are available are huge! To explore these new areas, you will able to drive one of the coolest looking vehicles in a video game thus far, the Nomad.
Isn’t it cool? The only way to properly terraform these harsh planets is to reach the monoliths that were left behind by an ancient civilizations known only as the “Remnant”. The Nomad will take you across great distances on land and naturally, being the ever curious player I have spent plenty of hours trying to cross great chasms and climb mountains. It is simply so much fun!
So what happens when you do find these monoliths? Well, you will be required to do some platform jumping to look for glyphs, which are then used to unlock consoles that eventually lead you to the inner chamber where the goodies are located. Despite being a fan of puzzles, I can’t say I enjoy the way the decryption puzzles were designed. They seemed repetitive after a while and quickly became a minor annoyance.
When You Need To Shoot Up The Place
The one thing that Mass Effect: Andromeda definitely gets right is in how the combat works. This is definitely a good thing as you will be doing plenty of it! In other previous Mass Effect games, you really only have to pick a certain class and said class comes with a predetermined set of abilities and skill trees. Now, you pick from several different profiles that come with different affinities.
You can turn the profiles on and off to toggle between the boons that they would normally provide such as extra firepower, additional armor, etc. This allows you to have more to experiment with and you will want to mix and match to see what build will suit your play style the most. Ryder’s basic combat movements involve strafing and automatically sticking to cover. He can also leap up into the air and hover with his jetpack, allowing you to have height advantage over your enemies.
Here’s a video highlighting the combat:
Unfortunately you cannot pause your combat midway to tell your companions what they should do, like in previous games but this doesn’t meant hat there is a lack of strategy. Andromeda actually turns into a fast paced shooter in combat and demands the player think of their feet, using their reflexes to doge bullets, use the best ability for every situation, etc.
The real strategy lies in crafting weapons that fit how character’s build. You are free to choose between special barrels, different scopes, stocks, etc.
The Final Verdict
Mass Effect: Andromeda may not be perfect but it is definitely a great 4th entry into the series. It is welcomed and fans both new and old will definitely have a blast playing through the game as Ryder. The real stars of the show would be all of the other characters aside from Ryder and Bioware illustrates this supremely well.
In most RPGs the entire game world revolves around you, the player as well as the main character. In Andromeda, you often see just how well you can get to know your allies and maybe even some enemies, in the many conversations you will be having with them. They don’t just talk to you however, they also talk to themselves. You will find on your ship, a public message board and you will find that the characters leave messages to one another, creating plans that really doesn’t involve you. This shows how animated the entire game really can be and it is fantastic.