I really enjoyed the original Mass Effect Trilogy. Each game had a rich story, memorable characters and some damn nifty game. I remember the first time I saw the Citadel and met the Asari, Salarians and Turians and thought ‘Damn, I wish this was real!’ Then, as each game was released and your major choices carried over the the sequel, with the consequences of that choice plain to see, my enjoyment of the series just grew and grew. I began to really agonize over each decision, wondering how it would affect my universe.
So, to say I was excited for Mass Effect Andromeda might be a little bit of an understatement.
Mass Effect Andromeda is the latest release in Bioware’s action role-playing, third person shooter Space adventure. Released in late March of this year, Andromeda centers around the search for a new home in the distant Andromeda Galaxy. You play as one of the Ryder twins, members of the Andromeda Initiative, and wake up from Cryo sleep 600 years after your departure from the Milky Way Galaxy. As they always seem to do on these big trips, everything goes horribly wrong and it is left to you to fix it.
As someone that plays games like this mainly for the story and lore behind it, I found Andromeda really difficult to follow. As you play through the game, there seems to be these instances of story jumps just happening. Suddenly enemies and planets have names and they are talking about this thing and you are left wondering where all this knowledge came from. Without ruining anything, what I will say is that if you decide to pick up Andromeda, give the story line a chance. You really need to push through the first few hours of the game before it starts to actually feel like a game. It was around this time that I actually started to give a shit about the rest of the team as well.
Now, what I’m about to say next has been covered by a large number of publications much more eloquently than I can here, but what the actual fuck is wrong with the graphics in this game. Seriously. How can you make the worlds and environments you visit look so stunning and realistic, yet fuck up character graphics and animations so badly?
So for those of you not in the know, Andromeda had some real issues on release. No matter how long you spent in the character creator, your version of Ryder was going to come out a hot mess. Skin tone and hair colour would be slightly different in game when compared to the creator, as would placement and sizing of things like your mouth, eyes and nose. You could spend an easy hour putting together Prince Charming, only to load into the game and be staring at fucking Frankenstein. Then there were the facial animations, or lack of them. You would be in a conversation with a NPC, but your eyes would be rolling around in your head and your face would look like it had ten too many Botox injections. It was a nightmare.
Granted, Bioware have since released a patch for the game that seems to have corrected most of these errors. Yet, on close up the characters faces all just seem to still be missing that little something. They still look remarkably unreal, in a game that strives to make everything else look believable. It can be very jarring.
One of the things that kept me picking this game back up was the combat. Oh man I loved the combat in this game. Unlike the previous games in the series where you have to pick a class and stick with it, Andromeda gives you the ability to change your class and skills on the fly. This makes for some seriously amazing moments. I found myself opting to follow the Biotics skill tree more often than not. There really is nothing quite like using your Biotics to lift an enemy into the air only to smash him into the face of his allies.
The other aspect of this game I really enjoyed was the exploration. Without giving away any spoilers, each of the planets you visit are their own, self contained open world explore. You might be on a world of sand and desert, or a world long frozen over. Each has their own dangers and layout, and while the majority of the enemies are the same, certain fauna and flora are unique to each environment. Not to mention they look stunning. Seriously, these world’s look amazing. As usual, there are also a number of planets that you cannot land on, but are there more for resource hunting. Thankfully, with the latest patch, you now have an option to skip the cinematic as you travel between planets in each system.
Surprisingly, Andromeda also has a fairly in-depth crafting system. Equipped with a scanner, it is imperative that you are constantly checking to see if there is something nearby you haven’t seen before. Each new find grants you ‘Research Points’ under one of three distinct trees. Once you have enough Points, you can research better weapons, armour and augmentations to make your battles just that little bit easier. Once researched, jump across to the development page where you can spend those resources to craft what you need.
I really wanted Mass Effect Andromeda to be amazing. It should have been amazing. But it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good game, really. I have enjoyed my time in the Andromeda Galaxy and I really hope there is a second game. I think that the guys really hit it on the head in the podcast a few weeks ago though. It’s a good game, but it’s not a good Mass Effect game.
The Good: Fun combat, stunning worlds, some memorable characters
The Bad: Character facial animations, sometimes disjointed story line, character facial animations
The Final Verdict: I really wanted this game to be amazing. Being released in the same month as games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it needed to be. But sadly, the game is just plagued by a few too many issues and mediocracies. I really hope they do a sequel and we get the Mass Effect game this should have been.