With breath-taking landscapes, fun combat, new species and a less serious plot, Mass Effect: Andromeda does a good job at telling a new story after a 600-year journey to the Andromeda galaxy to find a golden world for humanity.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Writer: John Dombrow; Cathleen Rootsaert; Chris Schlerf
Series: Mass Effect
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (tested)
Mass Effect: Andromeda is the first installment after the original trilogy ended in a quite controversial way with the Reaper threat five years ago. It comes with a new story and many, many changes, some of them for the better, and many of them showing the array of problems the game has.
The story starts with a new crew. After a 600-year long journey to the Andromeda galaxy, as the crew begins searching for a new home for humanity. As you can expect, problem start to arise sooner than later and what was believed to be paradises are instead wastelands full of new enemies. One would hope for the plot to move away from the ancient alien tech, but it is not the case. While it goes out of the way to warp you 600 years into the future, the problems you find in Andromeda are pretty similar to those in the Milky Way. You happen to be one of the few able to interact with ancient alien tech, again, and by doing so you receive little explanation of what is going on. Away from the Citadel, the main hub now will be the Nexus, some sort of space station where you will find humans, turians, salarians and krogans. It is happily parked in the Heleus cluster, in the Andromeda galaxy, and this is where this title takes place.
While several races have been completely forgotten, like the quarians, volus, geth, elcor and hanar, we will find 2 new species to interact with. The first one are the hangarans. Scattered and oppressed humanoids threaten by the Scourge, some sort of dark energy that even after you beat the game you won’t fully understand exactly what it is. And then there are the kett, a religious-cult and the bad ones in this story. They are doing research in the very same alien tech you are interested in, and they will do their best to understand and dominate this technology first.
The combat system and progressions feels more open than ever in the series. It completely removes class restrictions and encourages you to use whatever you want. The game features most of the already known mechanics, like Biotics, Tech and some power based skills like concussive shot. Leveling up will earn us skill points to improve our abilities, each of them with some degree of customization to better improve our own combat style. You can further improve them with profiles, which will buff the categories you have invested in. On the other hand, we lose the ability to pause time to issue orders to our squad. We also gain a few new moves, like a jump jet to boost ourselves into the air and the ability to dash around. This seems minor, but the game makes use of it by featuring several maps with a fair amount of verticality.
This game is powered by the Frostbite engine. It was developed by EA DICE for the Battlefield series and then used by good amount of games with more than impressive graphics, like Battlefront. Unfortunately, Mass Effect: Andromeda was not able to make most out of the engine, or at least not initially. While landscapes and planets look gorgeous, there has been plenty of uproar about the clunky and half baked animations. Many of these flaws has been fixed by now. Patch 1.05 fixed most of the facial and walking animations, or at least the most notorious ones, but there is something that can’t be fixed, and that is the writing.
The main plot is introduced vaguely. The crew will do a huge amount of guessing, probably to make room for at least 2 more games. This would be fine if the side quests and loyalty missions had enough meat to chew, but they don’t. There is a huge amount of boring and forgettable side quests where you will be going to one or more places the quest givers tells you, scanning, picking up or killing something, and then returning to complete the quest for some additional forgettable dialogue and some experience points as a reward. I remember doing as many quests in the original series as I could, since most of them added something to the universe, but this is not the case. Sure, there are a few that I won’t spoil and will give you some sort of immersion in Andromeda, a touchy feeling or perhaps a fun moment, but they can be counted with just a few fingers.
One of the most interesting things in Mass Effect: Andromeda are the little extras. For instance, solving quests in different planets will allow you to establish outposts. This interacts directly with a perk system that will generate extra resources and unlock passive skills. You are also able to send strike teams to complete missions, and for the most interesting ones, you can go yourself. The game also features a separate team-based online multiplayer mode where players can work together to kill different waves of enemies while completing objectives and earning skill points and weapons. The only thing I regret is the obvious missing opportunities that leave a feeling of unfinished game. Apparently critical choices, like building scientific facility or a military outpost for the very first time, never reflect any meaningful changes.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a fantastic game despite a bunch of problems. There is a lot to improve, and the technical issues will hopefully get patched. If you can look beyond that, you will experience a polished combat, explore several planets and get to meet a new crew.