Mass Effect Andromeda is the fourth game in the Mass Effect franchise, but not a game that is a coninuation of the last three games in the trilogy. Andromeda takes place in the same unvierse as the the original games, but with all new characters, new planets and a completely different galaxy, Andromeda.
As a Mass Effect fan, particularly of the last two games in the series, I was looking forward to playing Andromeda and revisiting the universe I had spent so much time with. I don’t particularly enjoy too many spoilers, so other than seeing a few trailers and a bit of gameplay teases that their marketing people released, I didn’t look that much into the game. I wanted to be surprised with what they came up with, although what I had seen in the lead up to the release looked promising.
With the game being out for a few weeks now, I suppose it would be hard to find a gamer that hasn’t heard of the animation controversy this game has attracted. While not something I wish to cover in depth for this review as I’ve heard enough of it. It is an important area of the game. You see, most of Mass Effect, actually the majority of the game has you chatting to in-game NPC’s with your character. If the characters you are talking to have some crazy looking eyes or their animation seems a little off, it can take you way out of the experience. As a fan of Mass Effect, I knew we were going to get to know some interesting characters and I was looking forward to getting attached to them over time, but the animations did make that difficult, I just found everyone silly. A patch which was released not long ago, did fix quite a few issues the game had. But the character animations still are a bit odd for some reason.
With this game, I suppose the developers were looking to take the franchise into a new direction. One of the things I loved the most about the first 3 games, was I felt the tone of the game was serious and fit the situation the characters were in so well. It’s serious business leading a crew and Shepard was a serious person. But Andromeda’s tone is much lighter, characters are a bit funny and things aren’t taken as seriously. I suppose this makes things more ‘fun’ in a way, but the change of tone does impact the dialogue and how characters can act. I felt that with the light tone of Andromeda, it often seemed out of place when characters got all of a suddent “angry”, I often thought where such a reaction came from? Things were so lighthearted just a few moments ago…
In saying these things and not wanting to delve into the overall plot. These are really my only issues with Andromeda. While they are large and bothersome, they are not really gamebreaking or terribly awful to a point where I wouldn’t play. The game has a lot of advantages as well.
What’s most interesting about the Mass Effect universe is that there is a lot for a player to discover and get to know. There are a variety of Alien races for you to encounter as you play and you’ll also work with a variety of characters from different races who make up your team.
In the game you will play as Ryder (either male or female) who has the job of being a pathfinder. Your mission and everyone’s mission in Andromeda is to find liveable planets and settle them. Everyone has travelled many years to get to this galaxy and have done a lot of of research on where the liveable planets are so they can fly there while asleep for hundreds of years and settle them once they get there.
Not all is good in the Andromeda galaxy though. It seems some strange substance is spread throughout it which interferes with the ship’s ability to fly, there’s a hostile race of new aliens you will encounter which are a substantial threat to your colonisation initiative and one large issue, none of the planets there are liveable. Ryder eventually travels down to one, finds a structure left by an unknown ancient race known as a monolith, apparently turning on the monolith fixes the planet and makes it liveable. But the question is, where did these monoliths come from and why would the ancients want them to function like this? This question and discovering the origin story of the hostile alien race are some the big things the plot deals with.
As a story, the game holds up well enough. There are more than enough characters you can engage with throughout the game. You can chat to them, romance them or just ask them about things in the world. Slowly you can uncover quite a lot and it’ll take you hours and hours to get through all of it. There’s also quite a few datapads and journals scattered around various levels for you to read as well. As a narrative, things are grand and the game has a lot of depth to it.
Another good point about the game is it’s gameplay. It’s much improved compared to previous games in the series. Gun fights and abilities seem much more fluid than I remember for the series. There’s a variety of guns to choose from and ability customisation options you can pick to suit your playstyle. Your AI friends who accompany you on missions are however not always helpful and at times I wasn’t sure if they were even doing any damage to enemies at all.
While there are quite a few issues with some animations, the game is not without some nice looking visuals. I loved the way you are shown planets as you explore Andromeda in space while you are in your ship. Also when landing on a planet and undertaking missions, some have some interesting appearances and there was a decent variety of environments so things didn’t feel always the same.
Mass Effect Andromeda, while not a perfect game, is a decent enough mixed experience which is worthy of taking a look at. Fans of the franchise will always have their opinions about the game, but in my view what the developers have here is in a way a foundation for a continution of the story set up here, which they can build on in the future with an even better game down the line. Players will get a decent amount of playtime with this and an interesting enough story to keep hold their attention throughout that time. Those who enjoy science fiction will likely enjoy this game more than others.