Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda has been 5 years in the making a product of the Mass Effect series most of us have grown to love. The series has evolved from the linear RPG elements and space exploration to building characters that are as diverse as space itself, Mass Effect 3 finished with a three coloured button choice which left fans enraged with Bioware essentially throwing those multitude of choices from 3 ME games out the window giving diehard fans no closure no matter how they played the game.

The reviews I was unlucky to come across before putting in my ME copy to install a 700 meg update have not been pretty. The first 2 hours of gameplay for Mass Effect were not pretty, my first post about ME was not pretty to the point a fan even said “if you look past the visuals it’s a great game”…

My reply? sorry a flag ship title from a AAA gaming company should be much better than that. For the fans who lived through the 3 coloured button ending of ME3 to the those who thought Commander Shepard’s choices actually mattered, well in Andromeda they sort of do lost among new enemies, ancient civilisations and the usual side quest busy work.

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s first two hours left me enraged, throwing my popcorn among poorly polished characters which you could be forgiven to think were the usual NPCS found in any standard RPG but also forget this is Mass Effect not some indie title pumped out at $20 on steam. Please, wait it out as ME:A gets better…. Among combat and the Nomad vehicle exploration the game reminds fans that it is not simply you vs the world but a space exploration game first with RPG elements on the side, you are the Pathfinder, the universe awaits.

Gameplay

ME:A takes place in the Andromeda galaxy, Mankind sets out from Earth between ME2 and ME3 seeking to expand to a universe eventually 600 years away. A lot can happen in 600 years which sets the foundation to all the drama and issues of “planning” to expand arks into golden worlds only to find they are not so golden when you arrive.

The first 2 hours of ME:A left me disappointed, the poor dialogue and character profiles left me annoyed as most of the first 2 hours is simply filling you in on what happened while you were in cryosleep. You are part of a twin that arrive with your dad who was the guy behind the first contact in ME1 setting up first contact protocols and everything the Alliance is based on. Andromeda feels a certain level of similarity to every ME game previously, the aliens seem similar, the combat seems the same and you get this feeling you have visited most of the worlds before.

How ME:A differs is taking elements from each ME title that worked and trying to fill in the parts that failed. The Nomad elements are awesome, the vast planets you will explore and the improvements to the quest design make this the best part of the game. Secondly, combat takes how you would fight in previous titles and knocks it up ten gears, flawlessly throwing out tactics to your group while launching power combo’s at your enemies while flying through the air doing sniper head shots. Combat is fast and frantic making you feel like the wrong move could be your last but also feeling that Bioware definitely got this part of the game 100 percent right. ME:A still consists of Tech/Biotic abilities mixed in with soldier skills, the melee system has improved with different weapons being utilised (Krogan hammer, Ice Remnant melee weapon and a few cool swords) make customisation of your Pathfinder something refreshing allowing you to definitely build on your combat style (Rambo, Sniper ect..). These parts alone give new life to the multiplayer elements of Mass Effect.

Exploration is another element that Bioware got correct, essentially ME:A is more a explorer type game rather than RPG. I had more fun doing side quests and exploring dark caves then I did talking to NPCS and living out story lines. This probably had much to do with driving the Nomad around then simply following linear pathways through hallways with 2-3 directions to get to the quest indicator. Setting off the terraforming process and creating a golden world felt like an accomplishment, setting up outposts and watching them thrive is what ME:A is all about. You are a Pathfinder who has 20,000 colonists needing a place to live as they sleep in Cryostatus. Between Kett and ancient remnant robots nothing seems fresh in regards to enemies as we have all seen the “Collector” type enemies and the ancient robots (Geth) before. Other Arks had set off to attempt to colonise worlds only to meet with foul play. As a Pathfinder you must set out to find those who are lost, bring back exiled colonists, battle enemies which just so happen to have similar weaponry and make that one small step for Humanity (with some Asari, Salarians and Krogans).

ME:A has thrown out the Paragon system replacing it with a mix of logic/heart/sarcastic choices, you still have the odd renegade moment (shoot the enemy who has surrendered) or choice between good, bad and gray yet unlike previous titles there will be no indicator and you will simply have this recorded in the codex as what you have done so far (which be sure of it will have consequences in the future). Most worlds will have new missions as you progress in other worlds meaning you will continue to visit viable worlds and improve their viability as you progress, a nice touch was when I revisited Eos to get an update on how the population was going (after I cleared out a Kett threat previously). This leads to rewards and points which can be used to get you items, materials and tech as you go about usual Pathfinder business. Some of the quests felt a bit errand boy like with me sometimes refusing to accept them as I felt “geez does this guy know I’m the Pathfinder? No I will not go take this data pad to your love interest”.

Visuals and Sound

Yep I would fire whomever was in charge of character portraits as even the most important person in-game seemed to be glitch and look like a standard NPC. That being said the planets and space itself was a vast comparison looking on a different level as I sped around in my Nomad launching off mountains into a seamless blend of ground and sky among the ice dessert plains of Eos. This is a Mass Effect game and from a company such as Bioware I would expect more as proved in previous title, that being said expect a few patches to improve this (or simply graphics were reduced to improve gameplay and load speeds) which seem to be agreed by many of AAG followers could have been the point of reduced focus on visuals. Sound wise voice cast is standard Bioware with quality across the board yet many names I had not come across in previous games with the exception of Fryda Wolff (XCom/Fallout). That being said the writing and dialogue was uneven with awesome quests and banter lost between moments of “what are they on about” and “are you really the best Pathfinder we could find?” which can put a dampener on awesome group chemistry.

Value

$59 bucks at the local EB with trade in and 25 hours in and I’ve only saved 2 planets, I feel it will definitely be worth it in the long run and as most EA games go some form of DLC will definitely be on offer. The multiplayer elements are bloody awesome as combat by far was one of the best elements of ME:A with plenty of modes that link in with the single player campaign through rewards. Please do not see this review as a rant against Bioware I am simply a fan of the games they make and see parts of it rushed among those that nail what Mass Effect is all about.

Conclusion

Get this game, it is Mass Effect after all. With the short comings of visual character quality, it performs well above any previous title on the Playstation 4 Pro. Load times are non-existent and once allowed to take the Tempest and explore the open galaxy I am a much happier Pathfinder for it. With the mixed bag of fast combat and vast exploration it is let down with poor writing (in some elements) and short comings visually ME:A is value for money. If you are a fan of good RPGS, a fan of the Mass Effect series or a fan of Bioware. I hope for some future patches to improve the issues I have mentioned in this review but I can see that reducing visual quality could have an impact on game performance. The first 2 hours left me annoyed yet the next 18 have improved both my experience and my score as I write this review. I nearly took the game back but I’m glad it locked itself away in my console safely as I continue to expand Humanity, long live the Initiative.

Pros

  • Combat
  • Exploration
  • Game performance

Cons

  • Character portraits
  • Dialogue
  • Not quite a new galaxy

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