An important facet during most of my reviews is how much does the game appeal to someone who is watching you play. During my excursions in Mass Effect Andromeda, my younger brother saw me go through the motions of getting my RPG bearing. He asked me questions about the various species I met, and I shared a few anecdotes about the Mass Effect world with him too. By the end when I asked him if he was bored just watching me walk from one end to the other, he replied that he rather enjoyed the conversations I had been having, and would love to know more about the world than do some sensless shooting. This in a nutshell is what Mass Effect Andromeda is all about. The world building trumps gameplay, and gameplay trumps animations (though that is not saying a lot).
Mass Effect Andromeda
By now it must be common knowledge, but it maybe worth it to go over it again. You are part of the Andromeda Initiative, an exploration team which was dispatched to the Andromeda galaxy soon after the events of Mass Effect 2. You arrive at Andromeda 600 years later way after the events of Mass Effect 3 to find the Nexus (think Andromeda’s Citadel) in tatters and all the habitable worlds that you had planned on colonizing terraformed beyond survival. With no planets to colonize the population of the Nexus is cracking under its own pressure and has even suffered a revolution and a subsequent exile of the rebels. Though internal strife is not the only problem, as another hostile alien species, The Kett are in conflict with the Andromeda Initiative over the planets and various ancient ruins that seem about 400 years old developed by another yet in-encountered alien species dubbed the Remnants.
Your job is to be the pathfinder, responsible for finding a planet suitable for colonization while you fill your father’s shoes, search for other arks that should have arrived at the nexus, decode the Remnant’s secret while holding off The Kett, keep a symbiotic AI which gives you freak powers contained and try to sleep with as many of your colleagues as possible.
If all that seems too much and daunting, it’s because its supposed too. Mass effect swaps out Defender for Explorers and the emphasis is now on survival rather than retaliation. Rarely a quest in the game involves you laying siege to an enemy camp, but almost all end up increasing the viability of a planet and you establishing outposts for the Andromeda Initiative. The entire narrative is based on exploring the unknown, a theme which is echoed by many of your colleagues during your first interactions with them, re-enforcing it further.
Of course there is the staple deep knitted world of Bioware. Fleshed out histories which lead to deep rooted discrimination and varied characters who exhibit varied emotions and motives (albeit easily extracted). If there is anything that Mass Effect Andromeda does right, its world building.
Gameplay And Mechanics
While there are lots of issues with Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware Montreal have definitely succeeded in creating the best combat system found in a Mass Effect game to date. The dash and jet pack introduce a new measure of maneuverability to your character which makes combat flow significantly better than in the past. Charging in to unleash a Nova Strike, before quickly dashing out before your enemy can retaliate is incredibly satisfying and fun. The freedom to freely select the abilities you learn as you level up, instead of being hemmed in by your class choice, brings out the best in the combat because you can build your character to fit your preferred style.
This flows through into the horde-based multiplayer in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Much was said about the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and it continues to be an engaging and fun experience in Andromeda. You’ll combine with other players in a fire-team of four, as you complete a variety of objectives while holding off waves of enemy combatants. These objectives can range from simply wiping out your enemies to holding points while you upload data and more, creating a varied experience that changes from game to game. It can get frantic as you can quickly become overwhelmed in later waves, but your stack of consumable rockets are never too far away to get you out of trouble. These consumables and characters are both locked behind random card packs that you purchase using in-game currency within the game. While I never felt those to be limiting factors, in fact they’re significantly fairer than other similar multiplayer modes, some may be frustrated with not being able to play their preferred character type. While the mode was certainly fun, I ran into multiple instances of lag which negatively affected my matches and also found myself losing connection on occasion and losing my progress.
The Nomad (your ground vehicle) too feels like what the Mako should have been, with responsive controls that make it a joy to take for a spin. Having to manually between the ‘fast’ mode and the ‘six-wheel drive’ mode to climb inclines can be frustrating, but it doesn’t break the experience.
Mass Effect Andromeda also said good-bye to the Renegade-Paragon dialog system but has replaced it with a larger variety of responses like emotional, rational, confused, witty, professional or flirty. The implications of these choices is much more subtle, but you can see how the game profiles you by checking the journal after important missions.
Finally, let’s talk about the relationships. This time as Ryder, you have a much larger roster to make love too, while in my first playthrough I am focused on just 1 character, I fully plan to go back and get as far as possible with everyone on my ship (Thank you manual saves). Its worth mentioning though that choosing which partner to pick does not have a significant impact on most of the game.
Graphics Sound and Performance
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The Mass Effect Andromeda animations. I bought the game day 1, and a patch for the game came out the following week. That one fixed most of the facial animations. Before that however, it was weird watching the Pathfinder speaking a dead serious line with a goofy look on his face, or delivering his lines without even moving his lips.
On the glitches front, you would be happy to hear that my experience was even better. Sure I ran into some, where I was able to pass through some objects which I shouldn’t have, but they never became game breaking, and I quietly brushed them under the Open World rug and went about my pioneering business.
Next up are the planets themselves. The first one that I landed on, was full of colors, and jaw dropping vistas which almost made me believe that the time of bland single palette planets was finally over. The second planet however was where most of my time was spent and that was mostly a desert with little to no fauna around. It was a while before the variety came back, but I honestly thought some more cooked up visions like the one I first encountered on Habitat 7 were in order. This is not to say Mass Effect Andromeda does not provide visual fidelity. A beautiful vista is almost always around the corner and you would find yourself going for the share buttons quite a few times.
Loading times surprisingly are actually quite bearable especially when I am moving to and fro in the Nexus. There is an irritating traveling animation that you have to go through every time you move from planet to planet, but the latest patch this week has removed that as well. +1 for post release patches. All in all for an open world Mass Effect holds itself well enough.
For anyone who has played the Mass Effect games, I guarantee that you will have fun. The conversations, the dynamics, the gameplay, the exploration will all came rushing back to you within the first hour of the game. I played the game on the easiest difficulty so that I spent more time talking to various NPC rather than re-trying my next encounter over and over again. I wonder whether that’s the best way to play the game and the most enjoyable. Bioware might have been sloppy when it came to everything else, which might cost them new and returning gamers alike, but if you are able to sit through those irritating but bearable moments you might get your hands on new story springing from a familiar lore.UPVOTE