Mass Effect Andromeda is Bioware’s latest game, touted as an epic, sci-fi action RPG, does it deliver on its promises? Or does it fall short of the lofty bar set by other games in the RPG genre? Read on to find out.
Set between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, Andromeda casts you as a young explorer searching for a new home for the human race. This begins with a fairly robust character creator and a lengthy prologue mission which sets you up as the new pathfinder, whilst getting to grips with the games mechanics. You’re quickly introduced to your squad mates and family, but with very little back story or exposition it’s hard to care about them in any meaningful way and is one of Andromeda’s biggest flaws. Almost all of the characters you come across are dull and wooden, with odd dialogue and wonky animations. They honestly feel like they’re just there as a box to tick on E.A’s checklist.
Thankfully the gameplay makes up for this somewhat.
There are hundreds of quests to get bogged down in, something that is sure to make a completionist very happy. These vary from fairly run of the mill “fetch quests” to murder mysteries, alien puzzles, and of course loyalty missions. Loyalty missions are key if you’re planning to romance any (or all) of your squad mates which results in a fairly graphic cut scene, similar to those found in The Witcher series. The user interface leaves a lot to be desired as there is no option to customise your squads appearance, and tracking quests proves to be a nightmare. For some reason quests are located in sub folders such as “Priority ops, Allies, additional tasks” but the game never tells you where each quest has been stored, leaving you to sift through several nested menus to find the quest you are looking for. Completing quests gives you xp which you can then dump into various skill trees to unlock new abilities or improve existing ones.
Combat is a fun affair in Andromeda, fast paced and fluid, but like the rest of the game has some flaws. Primarily made up of guns, biotic and tech skills, there is a wide variety on offer to help keep the experience fresh and exciting. Biotic skills are the highlight here, from freezing an enemy to picking them up and launching them into their allies, or dashing head first into the fray with a powerful charge attack, there is a wide range to complement the fairly standard arsenal of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns and snipers. You can even perform what’s called biotic combos where you prime an enemy for an attack then follow up with a different skill to detonate them, however this proves tricky without direct control of your squad mates. The squads AI is capable of holding their own in a firefight but with your options to control them limited to “go here” it seems like a missed opportunity, especially when you look at other Bioware games. The automatic cover system also proves to be a misstep for the franchise as it becomes very difficult to tell whether or not you’re truly covered, but I believe this just emphasises the fact that you need to move around fairly frequently.
Andromeda’s story is a grand affair and a roller coaster ride. After your arrival in the Andromeda galaxy you quickly realise that all of the golden worlds you are supposed to colonise are not as expected, and that the region is over run by the games main antagonists called The Kett, an alien race who have no interest in making peace. I won’t spoil the story but thankfully it is a lot better than the opening hours lead you to believe and is one of the better parts of this game, even if its mired slightly by poor dialogue in places. The themes running throughout Andromeda are also very interesting, constantly asking you to reflect on your beliefs and impart your values on a society desperate for direction. Are you there to make allies and forge new relationships, or is humanity a self-interested invader? The decision, as ever, is yours. Your primary task however is in terraforming planets so they are suitable to colonise. This involves discovering ancient alien monoliths, left behind by a mysterious race, which involves the series’ new land vehicle The Nomad. Driving across planets in The Nomad is a lot of fun and while there are only a handful of planets to explore these planets are huge so it becomes a necessity for travelling around. Once at the monolith you have a few puzzles to solve, nothing to taxing, but a welcome interruption from the combat.
Graphically Andromeda is very pretty, with a good variety of different planets from barren wastes to icy Hoth style planets. There are also a lot of other planets/moons to discover but, unfortunately these are limited to a lacklustre mini game of resource management. You fly to another planet from the bridge of your ship, perform a scan whilst rotating the planet, find a resource and press a button to collect it. Whilst the first person travel between planets is better than looking at a loading screen this mini game feels uninspired and is something that could have been omitted from the game entirely. What does cause problems is the sheer amount of pop in of textures, and sometimes full characters. When combined with wonky animations, bad lip syncing and some severe frame rate drops, technically speaking Andromeda falls short of what has come to be expected of a triple A release. Although it does break the immersion nothing here proved to be game breaking, and most of it should be addressed in future patches.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a good, enjoyable experience which unfortunately fails to deliver on the potential of all its ideas, and has some frustrating flaws on a technical level. It does have some stand out moments from interesting quests, to later story beats and by the end it feels like a fleshed out introduction to a new galaxy, which sets the stage for future games.
This game gets a Thumb Culture Silver award