Developer: Bioware Corp.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action RPG with some open world elements, and exploration. Andromeda takes place in the Mass Effect universe, but it introduces a fresh story with new characters and races. You wake up from cryosleep in the unfamiliar Andromeda galaxy after travelling over 600 years from The Milky Way. You play as one of the Ryder twins, and assume the role of pathfinder with the ultimate goal of protecting your people, and paving the way for them to discover a habitable world to call home. Unlocking alien technology, and forming new relationships lie at the core of the game, and as you struggle to find your foothold in Andromeda, you’ll battle the against the Khet that seek to control the galaxy.
Gameplay wise, Andromeda has almost everything I liked about the previous games, and then several improvements on top of it. The most notable improvements to the gameplay revolve around combat. The jump-jets and access to a whole lot of unique skills makes the encounters thoroughly enjoyable. You choose two squad members to accompany you, and I think it’s great that you don’t need to micro-manage them. Just tell them what to attack, or where you want them to take covers, and they use their abilities on their own. There’s a wide range of combat, tech, and biotic abilities to choose from, and a good selection of weapons as well.
Exploring the surface of different planets is gratifying, and each one is unique with a different biome and distinct landscape. Driving around in the Nomad is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than that damn rover from the first Mass Effect. The boosters, thrusters, and 6-wheel drive allowed me to climb some pretty steep terrain, and I never once got stuck.
As expected from a Bioware game, a large chunk of the gameplay revolves around character dialog and interactions between one another, as well as player-made choices that help to shape the game. The biggest flaw with Andromeda, and my biggest complaint about the game is that I just didn’t feel as much of a connection to the characters as I did in the other Mass Effect games. It’s extremely hard to feel immersed in the dialog when the characters faces are almost completely devoid of emotion.
Completing missions, and other encounters earns xp, and as you level up you earn skill points to learn abilities. I love the flexible combat and skill system. Beyond the weapon and skill selections, you can also customize your equipment with different mods and colours, as well as research and develop completely new mods and gear. While on your ship, you can also dispatch strike teams of AI to fight on missions and earn rewards similar to garrison missions in World of Warcraft. There are special APEX missions that are available that you can actually send yourself on and participate in multiplayer PvE.
While playing in multiplayer, you choose your character from among several pre-made character profiles that are only used in the multiplayer mode. Each character levels up individually, and you can customize the skills within the available abilities each has. The multiplayer requires you defend against the increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
- decent, and enjoyable story (despite the animation issues)
- fun combat with a wide range of abilities and weapons to choose from: whether you want to shoot safely from afar, or teleport in and crush your enemies with biotic powers, you’re bound to find a playstyle that suits you
- multiple character profiles that allow you to be flexible, and change anytime you want, even while in combat
- single player character progression is paced well, and learning new skills or improving current ones is rewarding (if for some reason you want to completely respec, you can, but the cost to do so increases each time)
- multiplayer PvE is a neat addition to the campagin; it The multiplayer also adds replay value, and requires your squad to communicate and work together
- the environments in Andromeda look great, and the unique biomes make each planet feel fresh
- sound effects and music are done well, and the voice acting is mostly good
- lots of content available, including side missions, and colonizing more planets – it’s easy to dump a whole lot more hours into the game (the main campaign took me about 17 hours, but there is still a ton left to do)
- the controls are fully customizable and there is full controller support
- the dialog felt a bit off at some points
- character animations, and unusual facial expressions are pretty bad, not to mention the other glitches (i.e. bugeyes or other goofy unnatural animations, hair twitching, items appearing/disappearing randomly, etc.)
- the characters feel so wooden, and they don’t live up to what one would expect from a Bioware game
- voice communication in multiplayer is buggy: every match had everyone’s mics spamming static until muting them
- (nitpick) some grainy cutscenes, and some minor texture popping
- (nitpick) in multiplayer, revive timers are too short – it would be nice if you could safely clear the immediate area before running out of time
- (nitpick) the process of activating Remnant artifacts to open the vault to cleanse each planet before being able to colonize it is repetitive; scanning planets from orbit gets tedious because it takes too long to change from the different planetary and map views (but colonizing all the planets and scanning everything isn’t mandatory)
Mass Effect Andromeda doesn’t quite live up to my expectations with strong character development, and feeling a connection with said characters. However, behind all the horrible facial animations, and some of the other goofy/glitchy animations lies a pretty enjoyable game with great gameplay. Andromeda builds on most of the things that I liked in the earlier Mass Effect games, and exceeds at creating even more satisfying gameplay mechanics. It’s a real shame that the game didn’t get much more polish in the character animation department, but if you can look past the issues, there is still plenty of fun to be had with it.