“Murder, it seems, isn’t exclusive to the Milky Way.” Yea neither is plot.
So Mass Effect Andromeda reviews are pouring in since the UK release. Being a meme before release takes talent. Chances are you’ve heard the issues and questions raised with this title. Chances are the Mass Effect fanbase will buy it anyway. I’m a huge Mass Effect Fan, not Fanboy. Allow me to explain the difference. Fans want the title to succeed, flaws and all based on a tradition of excellence. Fanboys will love the game anyway ignoring the state of the game and/or content. As a fan I’m here to tell you my impression of the game, flaws and all. The good thing about hearing these rumors and expecting the worst is when that doesn’t come to fruition, that in itself becomes a positive. But I digress…
Mass Effect Andromeda starts out with a vision. The Andromeda Initiative. For a better understanding of what that is (and a free terrain rover Nomad skin) go here. Jien Garson and the protagonists father Alec Ryder spearhead a civilian project so that the known species won’t be exclusive to the Milky Way galaxy. This is setup in 2176 and launched in 2185, between the second and third games in the series. Perhaps they were clairvoyant? To this end four “Arks” are sent to a Nexus in the Andromeda galaxy, which is to be the equivalent of the Citadel before the 600 year journey through cryo-sleep and dark space. There are to be 7 “Golden Worlds”, which are detected on probes to be diverse, lush civilizations full of life waiting to be settled. But as we know, things can change in 600 years.
Krogans are still getting the short end of the stick, not getting their own ark, but riding along with the predominantly Human, Asari, Salarian and Turian arks. (No Quarians!?! Blasphemy!) Each ark is led by a pathfinder (as well as an integrated learning AI), and the predominantly human ark is led by Alec Ryder. As you might imagine when you arrive in Andromeda things are not as the were supposed to be. That is for the ones who even arrived in the first place. You come face first with an unknown dark energy cloud known as the Scurge, which tries to rip you apart. Then you find your “golden world” isn’t so golden. Also the only race you make contact with wants to kill you. So much for first contact. On to the Nexus, which is barely built, and you are the first ark to arrive. The only ark to arrive. Sounds bleak right? It gets worse. NONE of the golden worlds panned out. After a semi-formal staff meeting with rejects and power hungry fill-ins you leave to earn your title as Pathfinder. It’s given to you after some turmoil after all, and you are untested. Here is where the game starts to shine. You are thrown at the planet told to make do, and the tens of thousands of beings still in cryo-sleep in the Andromeda galaxy are depending on you as their only hope. Atleast they give you a capable ship in the Tempest and the Nomad to give you a fighting chance.
Getting your feet wet in the game hurts, literally. The worlds house several pits and pitfalls, from acidic water, live volcanoes, freezing temperatures, to the new race the Kett who want to kill you. Unless you want to kill yourself first. The games flaws are apparent at the beginning. No I’m not talking about the facial expressions or animations I’m talking about the inventory management system (the animations aren’t nearly as hard to get over. Except maybe Foster Addison) Inventory management is a pile of poo and weapons/armors have that cursed I through VI grading system again. You can craft them yourself with the required elements, or research them in R&D, which points are given based on scans from your omnitool. Oh you can’t change weapons mid mission, only on your ship, or beside a forward station (friendly pod, usually about 5 per map). Moving your ship from planet to planet looks nice at first, all cinematic and beautiful, but after that first trip you wish you had all precious time back in favor of scanning more planets. On the planet, your Nomad moves like a 7th grade robot project gone awry. I’d recommend upgrading this ASAP. There are a few obvious bugs, such as dialogue disappearing or getting stuck in a certain spot, which I’m sure will be patched out. Controlling your teammates wasn’t thought about either. You can tell them where to go and what enemy to focus on, but that’s it. They use their powers at will and will frustrate you to no end. Oh but wait,
Redemption! Your team. If Bioware can do anything it can make people who entertain us and really get invested in. There is no shortage of that in this game. Every time you think the game will stumble into mediocrity it picks itself up again, like water in the desert of Eos. After seeing this game at first impression and face value (the graphics are good but lets be honest, when years are spent developing a game this will be a little shy of “new-gen”) I wondered where did Bioware spend their time. Well in the people, of course. And planets. The settlements and people you meet will instantly give you a distinct impression. From Director Tan to a crewmate of the newest discovered species (which i won’t spoil), to your first settlements mayor, almost everyone you can have a conversation with feels alive and meaty. The planets have sprawling geography, diverse with life and color. I was simply amazed in the number of quests I had available to me at the 10-15 hour mark. I mean this game is HUGE. Not your typical RPG fetch quests either. Some spanning several locations or even multiple planets! The freedom I had to do whatever whenever really excited me. I love the non-linear open world-ness of Andromeda. The paths you can take with crewmates and peers alike feel unique, like you are making a difference. And you really are. I usually run two playthroughs of any game, acting one way and then another, to see differences. (Storytime. I also play male and female, named Caboose and Alma as is my tradition. Looking back Caboose Ryder wasn’t exactly ideal when I said it together) I failed quests on purpose to see what consequences, if any, are had. I came to the conclusion I could play both playthroughs and still not see all Andromeda had to offer.
Then comes the Kett. The guys that will be shooting at you on site. Again, to me Andromeda stumbled. They seemed to familiar to me. Finally early on in the main story I found out why.
Minor spoiler. Don’t click if you would like to find out for yourself.
They looked like Collectors, and when they repurposed enemies to add to the species they ACTED like Collectors.
Repurposing old technology left by an ancient civilization. They’ve been here before. I would have liked to see the current races create something like this, not just find it.
Stumble time again! One friend told me it sounded like lazy story writing, and in a way he is right. But the way its done is definitely gripping, and I found myself never tiring of the story. The crew and loyalty missions make a return, but don’t feel stale. Instead you don’t have to worry as much about saying the right or wrong thing, as there is so much dialogue and quest related action what starts as a feud can turn into a beautiful unique relationship. They seemed to take life themselves, both with quests involving those crewman and quests you take with the crewman. Please do yourself a favor and take turns with combinations of crewmen on your journey. Bioware has reportedly made dialogue between your crewmen more than the original Shepards total line count! (ME1 elevator scenes YAY) I believe you could spend over 30 hours alone on these sidequests that improve morale, improve planet viability, and improve your insight on what exactly is going on with your protagonist and the story. While a Shepardless Mass Effect is a challenge, this game does a superb job of conveying a great responsibility to the player, and all eyes are on you. Choices and repercussions are perhaps the greatest feat of this game. And if you ever feel yourself stumbling, I urge you to pick yourself up and carry on. Because whats around the next corner will do it for you.
EDIT: So apparently ALOT of people are having ALOT of problems with this game. I saw almost none of these problems, except an invisible wall a couple times that was fixed by reloading, as well as a dialogue halt fixed by reloading. But here is a montage of some of the best fails so far
I still stand by my review. As I’m writing from my own personal experience with the game. I also think the content and side quests make up for the seemingly common opinion of a weak story. It does a great job of building on itself. Your choices in game, and completing the side quests build up a larger world and story. The changes based on your male or female character, and your decisions in game, have a direct impact on the planets and people you encounter in the story. I think the people who couldn’t get past the animations or slow start didn’t experience this. So is this game for you? I recommend picking it up on sale and deciding for yourself.