Mass Effect: Andromeda is the next release in the long standing and fan favourite franchise, moving away from the original trilogy to try something bold in a new galaxy. Ditching the Spectre armour, instead of solving crimes or saving the world your task now is to find a new world for your species, a Pathfinder searching for a golden world. With many returning mechanics, revamped old ones as well as entirely new ones, Andromeda aims to make a name for itself ahead of its older brother.
Andromeda starts you off on a clean slate, 600 years after Mass Effect 2 with some information pointing towards the past crew between ME2 and 3. You are Scott or Sara Ryder, twins of Alec Ryder an infamous N7 marine and scientist. Set off on the Ark Hyperion, your father is in charge of making sure the 20,000 people in cryosleep have a world to colonize. But with any Mass Effect game, it hasn’t started until your ship is attacked.
Warping into Andromeda is fraught with danger, from a weird magnetic shroud called the Scourge that disables and destroys your machines and the Kett, a race of “evil” aliens bent on killing or capturing you. If all this wasn’t bad enough your father Alec Ryder dies within 20 minutes of landing on the first planet, forcing you to become the new Pathfinder. With 7 golden worlds in your hands, it’s time to pathfind your way to new homes and new hope.
Mass Effect: Andromeda, like previous games, is a long RPG game with several choices and endings to view. While not as long as many JRPGS or Japanese inspired RPGS, ME:A comes in at around 20-40 hours for your first playthrough. This can easily jump closer to the 100 hour mark if you survey every world, collect all the items, level up to the max, complete all side missions, clear out the collectables on the planets etc. ME:A has potential for another playthrough, playing as the opposite sex on top of selecting other options during dialogue or choice events.
Following on from the gameplay of the Mass Effect Trilogy, Andromeda is 3rd person shooter RPG. Focusing a bit more on the action aspects of the game, Andromeda puts in more movement controls, less cover and a jetpack that boosts you around the battlefield. The gameplay is split up into 3 different segments, Travel, Dialogue and fighting. Travelling the galaxy is also split up into 3 parts, on-foot, your vehicle the nomad and the galaxy map.
As you travel the galaxy you will meet with new aliens, most coming in for the kill, while others enjoying a nice sit down and chat with you. While you did bring Humans, Asari, Krogan etc from the Milky Way, Andromeda is full of Kett looking to kill you as well as new species that inhabit dying planets or your own species finding their own home.
Ditching the Paragon/Renegade system of the first trilogy, Andromeda adopts a “personality” system, following you on 4 separate paths, heart, head, professional and casual, which is said to change your automatic responses. The Karma actions are also replaced with Impulse Actions that are merely reactions to outside events, like pushing someone off of you or blocking an in-conversation attack. While these changes aim to broaden your approach to situations, it just feels like a facade for underdeveloped systems, my character still said he was a “joker” when I went almost full on logical.
As you defeat enemies, collect important items or complete quests you will gain experience, improving your teams level and earning your skill points. Andromeda takes a classless approach to your character, allowing you all abilities at the start with no real lock keeping you to a specific one. If you do specialise in one of the trees, Combat, Biotic or Tech, you will gain a more focused Profile, which increases recharge rates and damage of your tree’s abilities.
There are too many mechanics in Andromeda to list, as it would become way too long-winded of a review, but suffice it to say the game is packed full of things to do. The multiplayer gives you single player materials, you can unlock upgrades as you colonise more planets and new characters are revealed as the story progresses. There are a multitude of quests on hand for each planet, ship and district, though they can feel too MMO centric rather than story focused.
Overall thoughts and feelings
Mass Effect has almost always had a stunning soundtrack, from synth tunes that suited the atmosphere and setting greatly to more action packed tracks for battle, bosses or important events. Andromeda follows this formula, if a bit lacklustre at times with some jarring breaks in track looping or silence in travel. No single track jumped out at me amongst the music, I was too focused on the sound effects at times which seem to have taken a backstep in many areas.
While the series has had plenty of load screens in the past, be it elevators or relay jumps but Andromeda takes the cake and the entire bakery in this aspect. Whenever you move between planets there is an animation sequence, if you want to survey one, move to another galaxy, zoom in on anomalies etc. It feels too drawn out and repetitive, surveying and mining never really flowed well before, but this approach to loading and immersion just dials that annoying feature from a 7 to a 10.
Besides the constant loading, Andromeda suffers from plenty of glitches, bugs and animation errors, as you no doubt have seen from the mems online. Setting aside the animation errors, that are plentiful, there have been plenty of times where my jetpack broke, characters talked to my back, I drunk from invisible glasses, models loaded in too late or in T poses, upgrades would not apply to my car, waypoints jumping around and more. You could argue that the open-world approach is what causes a lot of these glitches, but the first Mass Effect had traversable planets with battles and collectables, be it on a slightly smaller scale, and that had far less errors.
Overall Mass Effect: Andromeda gets a 7/10, it tries to revitalise the franchise with a new slap of paint, but sadly the play dough models and unrefined gameplay hold it back. The plethora of glitches hold back the immersion and the combat continues to devolve to cover-based action. The planets do look beautiful with some good voice acting from secondary characters, as well as the game being an overall enjoyable experience. It does plenty of things right, but too many things wrong that they become the highlight of your memories.