Mass Effect: The Next Generation.
The original Mass Effect trilogy is considered one of the most memorable series from the past generation of consoles. Even barring the controversial ending the third game, most that have played it still hold it in extremely high regard. So when a sequel was announced, expectations were high. Not only is this a new chapter in the series, it also brings with it brand new characters, new adventures, and even a new galaxy. The big question on everyone’s mind though, is can it really recapture the magic of the original trilogy?
Mass Effect Andromeda takes place 600 years after the events of the original games. In fact the crew aboard the ships left before ME3 even took place, so they have no idea how it all went down. Players now assume the role of Ryder, who is a Pathfinder, which is someone who explores new planets in hopes of bringing their people to colonize them. Players have a choice this time around of which Ryder to control. The Ryders are twins, and at the outset I was able to pick which one I wanted to play, and customize their look (and their twin) before embarking on my journey.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Without diving into spoilers the game thrusts players into the role rather quickly, and it makes sense that I am still learning the duties and responsibilities of the role.
Conversations once again play a large role in Andromeda. The dialogue wheel returns, with a smattering of various responses for each situation. The Paragon/Renegade system has been removed, and instead my Ryder was simply defined by her actions and responses. The medical personnel keep a record on the ship of my choices and attitude, but none of it actually feels like it matters, it is almost all window dressing. Sure people reacted differently to me, but I was still able to carry out missions even if a character wasn’t exactly happy. It feels more limited than the original in that regard.
My biggest problem with the story and characters is that it feels almost too safe. My crew on the ship bears a striking resemblance to previous games. There is a lot of familiarity within everything. I get it, after the backlash of the ending it was obvious that BioWare would play it safe when crafting this new game, but it feels like they took it a little too far. The game struggles to create its own identity, and feels simply like more Mass Effect. Of course that isn’t a bad thing, I loved the previous games, I was just hoping for more distinction considering the new setting and plotline.
Combat feels on par with the previous entries, most notably ME2 and ME3. The biggest changes are that Ryder is not tied down to one specific class. Instead, classes can now be switched once unlocked, and leveling up allows players to put points into anything they want. The classes simply dictate which bonuses Ryder has, and can be leveled up as well by putting points into powers in their class. It is a versatile system.
As with previous games, Ryder can take two companions on missions, and sometimes that leads to interesting mission conversation. Companions can be leveled up by the player, but that is really the extent of my control. I am no longer able to pause time and setup attacks, and instead am limited to telling them to go to a certain place or attack. I am also not able to change up their gear at all. It feels dialed back from previous games.
Loyalty missions return though, and are fantastic. Some of them even overlap into each other and span multiple threads. Finishing them unlocks the companions’ ultimate skill, which is cool, even if I don’t have control over it. Crafting also returns, as do the clunky menus that serve it. There are so many blueprints and things to create it is extremely overwhelming. I ended up using gear I found and spent most of my crafting budget on upgrading the Nomad, the actually functional version of the Mako.
Andromeda feels like a much larger game than past entries. It can easily hit 40-80 hours depending on how much side content players choose to take on. Each planet is fun to explore, and there is plenty to see and do on all of them. The main story is interesting, and pays off at the end, but if there is one side mission I cannot recommend engaging in enough, it is the memories. Find these, unlock these stories, they are some of the most interesting parts of this new narrative.
Of course, I cannot talk about Andromeda without addressing the elephant in the room. This game is buggy and glitchy, and while I didn’t experience nearly as many problems as others have, it is still there. Characters have wonky animations, sometimes NPCs get stuck in weird positions, faces are peculiar, and those dead eyes…they are distracting. This game screams open world of old, and with titles like Horizon and Zelda showcasing better examples of the genre so recently, these issues are hard to ignore.
When the game works though, it is stunning. The planets are interesting and varied, and the space traversal (while excessive and needless at times) looks fantastic. Sometimes the game just looks outstanding, which makes the weird glitches and bugs stand out even more.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a great game with some serious side effects. The bugs and glitches take me out of the experience at times, and some of the story falls apart, but the exploration and characters constantly drag me back in. It is a rough start for sure. I wondered a few hours in if I was going to keep going, but it finally sucked me in and never looked back. It feels safe, it feels like Mass Effect, but that is also what makes it worth playing.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.