It’s been a year since Bioware unleashed the newest member of the Mass Effect world to the gaming community: Andromeda.
This review is also one year late. There’s a reason for that and we will dive into that as we go along.
First, all of the screenshots I am sharing with you today are courtesy of Falcon Game Reviews. I have been lax in taking screenshots myself and asked if I could borrow his.
Second, if you have not played the game in the year since it’s release, turn back now, this post will contain spoilers.
Without further ado, I bring you my one year late review of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
With Mass Effect: Andromeda one of the biggest changes Bioware made to the series was to make your abilities more customizable. Players are no longer restrained with choosing just one class but instead will be able to choose each various one as they level up in Combat, Biotics, or Tech. You’ll choose your main class that you wish to begin the game with, but, if you decide that’s not the class you would like to continue with, just throw some points in another category and choose a new one. It’s literally as easy as that.
Most games might make a skill system like that seem tedious to get into, but roaming around Andromeda gets you leveling up quickly. The player will find that it is easy to gain new skills and, if chosen, new classes within a short period of time based on how much exploration they do.
The new skills menu is not the only addition Bioware made when they were bringing Andromeda to life, there’s also the health and ammo buoys that periodically appear within the games locations. These buoys allow the player to heal and get more ammo instead of having to find spare clips left behind like they did in Mass Effect 2. The buoys assist players who are less strategically inclined and like to spray bullets as well as get in the thick of combat. Other players who conserve their ammo and health, won’t need the buoys as often.
Bioware also introduced the jet pack in Andromeda. The jet pack is attached the the players’ back unless you use biotics, then you use those biotics to move you. The jet pack allows the player to launch into the air several meters before coming back down. The player can also aim and shoot at enemies for a brief period of time while boosting, and also have the ability to dodge out of the way with the jet pack by quickly moving back or side-to-side.
The last notable change that Bioware brought to Andromeda was the change in player layout for weapons, armor, and party selection. In the trilogy, the player had to choose their companions in one screen and then choose their weapon and armor layout in another screen. With Andromeda, players get to use specific tabs to choose from in one screen when disembarking the ship. The layout allows players to choose party members, weapons and mods, armor and mods, etc.
Beyond the mechanics that have changed with this new addition, the overall feel of the game has changed. The Pathfinder doesn’t move as clunky as Shepard did in the original titles. There are also a lot less pauses in the game where it is trying to catch up, which allows combat to be more fluid and make room for more enemies on the field for the player to destroy with an array of biotic combos.
Andromeda is not lacking on the beauty scale when it comes to presentation. Time and time again Bioware proves that outer space is a beautiful place to behold. Traveling from system to system triggers several first person views that gives the player a look through The Pathfinders eyes at the worlds around him/her. The first person aspect comes into play when the player travels from planet-to-planet within a system and when the Tempest travels at FTL speed.
Bioware drew the short straw when it came to developing facial expressions for NPCs and the main character, Scott or Sara Ryder. No one has to go far to find the multitude of horrific faces the Ryders make throughout playing the game. If dumpy faces and unrealistic expressions bother you, sit this one out.
Combat movement mechanics are fluid but out of the suit movement can make the Pathfinder look like he/she needs to find the bathroom… STAT. It’s sad to see character creation turn out so poorly when everything else around the character looks so breathtaking. There are times where the beauty of Andromeda is quickly ruined by the frightening faces of the NPCs and the Pathfinder, which is incredibly unfortunate because it is a rather pretty game.
Obviously Andromeda isn’t that original considering that it takes place in a universe that has three other game titles created within it. It is clear that Bioware didn’t reach far out of their comfort when creating Andromeda, this is especially noticeable with the look of the Tempest, the ship sounds, the AI on the ship, and the party members.
It is stated in Mass Effect that the Normandy is a one of a kind flagship that was unique in many different ways. However, here is the Tempest, which is a ship that would’ve been built around the same time as the Normandy (at least) and it resembles the Normandy in several different ways. If the Normandy is such a unique ship, then why would it have a similar counterpart? The Tempest doesn’t have the stealth drives like the Normandy does, but it is pointed out, on more than one occasion, that the Tempest is “one hell of a ship.” You should’ve met her cousin.
As the Tempest flies through space traveling to the various planets and systems, it is noticeable that the ship sounds an awful like another ship we may have been introduced to back in 2007. Not only does the Tempest share physical similarities to her cousin, the Normandy, but also seems to have the same drives as her since they sound nearly identical. Seems as though the Normandy may not have been as unique as everyone thought.
An AI on board the ship was introduced to the series during Mass Effect 2 when Shepard gets onboard the Normandy SR2 and discovers E.D.I the ships artificial intelligence. Bioware must have thought this was such a great addition, that they just had to add SAM into the picture for Andromeda. SAM is a great companion for the Pathfinder, however he is basically E.D.I 2.0. Sorry, SAM.
When gamers first immersed themselves into the brilliant world of Mass Effect, they discovered how amazing and intricate each of Shepard’s companions were. Even Joker, the pilot for the Normandy, had a great backstory and engagement throughout the game. The companions added more to Shepard’s story, gave moral support, and their own opinions during particularly difficult decisions Shepard had to make. However, in Andromeda, the companions fall short of everything the original series had when it came to party members. Andromeda wants so desperately to have engaging, unique, and well thought out party members, but unfortunately this is not an achievable reality.
Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in space. I know, mind blowing.
The game starts off with the an Ark, Hyperion, racing through space toward the galaxy Andromeda on a mission to find habitable worlds to
conquer colonize. The Hyperion’s arrival to the Heleus Cluster is met with immediate fear when the Hyperion makes contact with a dark energy cloud called the Scourge. The contact causes partial power loss on the ship which damages some of the cryo pods full of the people who were to assist in populating the new worlds. Among many of the damaged pods, is one that the player’s twin sibling, Sara or Scott Ryder depending on if you choose to play a male or female, is in. The sibling lives, but is now in a coma.
The Hyperion’s first task was to find the closest planet that they had previously determined would make a great place to live, and colonize it. Ryder, Scott or Sara, follows their father, Alec Ryder the Pathfinder (one of the leaders), down to the world below with two other party members to determine why the planet is no longer viable for life. Nearly immediately upon landing on the planet, the player discovers alien life, the ever scary Kett. Upon further investigation of the planet, the Ryders (mostly Alec), reasoned that the aliens or alien tech was the cause behind the planet no longer being a viable planet. The Ryders, after having split at the beginning, come together again and venture inside the realms of the Kett’s base. Together, the team squashes the aliens and make it inside a structure within the mountain the base was built around. Inside, Alec Ryder messes with a few buttons and triggers the console to life, causing an explosion. In the moments following the explosion, Scott/Sara Ryder’s helmet cracks, causing the oxygen inside to leak out. In an act of
dadism heroism, Alec takes his helmet off and places it on your head, keeping you alive and thus ending his own life.
When Scott/Sara Ryder awake on board the Hyperion, they discover that they have been implanted with an AI called SAM, Alec Ryder’s AI, which means that Alec has made Scott/Sara Ryder the new Pathfinder.
As the new Pathfinder, it is your job to find the Nexus, the other Arks, and colonize as many viable planets as possible. During this daunting task, Scott/Sara Ryder stumbles across an alien tech called Remnant. They believe this Remnant tech is what is causing the planets that were once habitable to no longer support life, so the Pathfinder has to find ways to get the planets to sustain life for colonization.
The Pathfinder meets and befriends a new alien race called the Angara on a planet called Aya. Finding the Angarians leads the Pathfinder to one of the largest, of the many, plots of the game: finding the Archon, a Kett leader who wants to control all of the Remnant vaults. He’s kind of a jerk.
Aside from the main story, there is plenty more for the Pathfinder to do on his/her downtime. There are side quests to assist Ryder’s party members with their loyalty missions, numerous “go find this” quests on each planet, scanning for minerals, helping people who lose stuff in areas that they shouldn’t have been in the first place, and many other quests to occupy your time if you didn’t have any plans to go out with real human beings.
Some of these quests, main and side, require Ryder to find so many consoles just to have to activate even more consoles to accomplish one petty quest. So. Many. Consoles.
Andromeda has multiple main plots that the story takes you down, however, none of them come to a full circle. One would assume that’s because there will be more games to follow (or will there be?), but there should be at least some sense of accomplishment after you’ve spent hours playing a game. The biggest problem with Andromeda was its lack of focus when it came to the story. The writers had several great ideas, the Scourge, the Archon, helping with colonization, the Remnant… but they had no focus; the story is all over the place.
Along with an unfocused story, the character graphics are less than appealing to look at constantly. The dumpy faces make it difficult to take anyone serious and the dead eye look is just… too much. For a game that released on a new console generation, five years after its predecessor, you would’ve thought that the character graphics would’ve been better than they had been previously. I don’t expect every game to be on par with Horizon: Zero Dawn, but a little effort would’ve been nice.
This next complaint I have is one that I have seen people shrug their shoulders at, it’s the terrible dialogue. Writing dialogue is really difficult, trying to make character conversations sound real and believable isn’t easy, but the people writing Andromeda had more skill and experience under their belts than I do, and I could’ve written better dialogue. There were many moments, still are, where I would rather shove a pencil through my eyeball than listen to Liam attempt to flirt with Ryder. I think the conversations between NPCs and companions is what eventually did it for me and caused me to bench Andromeda for an entire year.
The last complaint I have is in regards to relationships and the party members you have with you. In the original trilogy, a relationship would develop over the course of the game with whomever you chose to get close to. In Mass Effect, it took me the entire game to gain Kaidain’s affection, which was hours of gameplay and going to talk to him after every little thing I did. In Andromeda, you get the option to flirt and bed anyone you like during the first conversation you have with them. I wouldn’t doubt that Ryder would flirt with an alien bug on Eos, provided they got the opportunity. Relationship development is non-existent in Andromeda and leads the player to not feeling connected to the party members in any way.
I’ve had more books than games I’ve played where I’ve read them and not felt any connection to the characters. If this happens, I don’t continue to torture myself with characters I can’t invest my time in (I do this with TV shows too). The same applies to Andromeda, the party members don’t add anything useful to the game. In the original games, Shepard’s team would offer their opinion when Shepard was making a particularly difficult decision or voice their concerns on a subject. They would offer input letting you know that they didn’t necessarily agree with the choices Shepard was making. Not to mention the most epic talk-down in all gaming history between Shepard and Wrex; sadly, you don’t get anything like that in Andromeda.
Mass Effect originally was about a deep story and characters that drew you into the game. What you did throughout the game, all of those decisions, good or bad, would have a consequence whether big or small. You would literally see your actions coming to life around you as you played the game. You saw progression and pain throughout all three of the games. Andromeda lacks any sort of connection or interest beyond just playing for the sake of beating the game. I loaded saves hours back in Mass Effect 2 just to make sure that I would save all of my people, I cried crocodile tears as Mordin rode the elevator up the tower on Tuchanka to his death in Mass Effect 3, and I cheered when Shepard rose up out of the rubble, after beating Saren and Soverign, in Mass Effect. Those games created emotions within their characters and throughout all of the stories that they told. You felt connected and part of the overall plot, Andromeda fell short of those emotions from the moment the Hyperion crashes into the Scourge.
I waited patiently for five years for this game’s release, so, imagine my absolute disappointment when I started playing and realized that it wouldn’t get much better than the first five hours. I spent well over 25 hours playing before I gave up and didn’t stick the disc back into my Xbox One until nearly a year later; literally just last weekend.
I have always had a deep desire to play and read about anything space. I always look to the stars, so it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. Andromeda did not fulfill my wishes of a Mass Effect game, and no, it wasn’t because I was looking for another Mass Effect like the previous ones.
Hopping back into Andromeda, I have realized that I am far less bitter than I originally was last year, however, there are still many, many flaws within the game that drive me to review it in a poor manner. Andromeda makes you feel like a badass and offers several qualities combat-wise that I thoroughly enjoy, however, the overall game continues to leave me asking more questions than what are being answered and a bad taste in my mouth.
I hope that the next edition of the Mass Effect series will attempt to be even half as excellent as the first one.
As always, thanks for reading.
Do you share my thoughts on Andromeda? Why or why not? What are some of your reasons for liking or disliking Andromeda? Did I miss anything that you would add to this review? Please comment below and let me know what your thoughts are.