The last time I was counting, I spent more than 400 hours playing Mass Effect games. I wasn’t chasing every single achievement, but you won’t find a non-playable character I haven’t talked to while playing. If you ask me, the Mass Effect trilogy is the best action RPG franchise I had the chance to play. Yes, the end ruined the things a bit, but it doesn’t change how amazing the journey was. Despite my opinion, I approached the newest installment in the series with great caution. I wanted…no, I expected from this game to be better than its predecessors and improve each segment of the play.
It Was What I expected…Sort Of
Mass Effect Andromeda takes place six centuries after the original trilogy. Andromeda Initiative is an organization that gathered around 20,000 people of different races from our galaxy with one goal – exploring Andromeda. The journey to the neighboring galaxy lasted for exactly 600 years, meaning that the recruits started their trip before the events in the previous game installments occurred. Therefore, they are not aware of Saren, Sovereign, Harbinger or Reapers.
The game mentions that they also used two Mass Effect Relay jumps before their journey. So, they certainly don’t know anything about what happened in the Milky Way. After landing your starship on one of the planets in Andromeda, the main protagonists realize that the place doesn’t have the potential of being their new home. The options to choose from now are to rebuild the planet or find another one that we could inhabit.
Respect Me; I’m a Pathfinder!
I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but keep in mind that you might encounter a couple of them if you continue reading. You will be playing as a brother or a sister Rider, siblings that are both Pathfinders. Their task is to succeed in the colonization of the Andromeda. Here lies one of the biggest problems of the game. In the original Mass Effect trilogy, you spent the first part proving yourself, while here you are already a valuable asset to the society who earned the respect of others simply because you are a Pathfinder.
The main villain didn’t exactly leave a big impression. I noticed that Andromeda is often compared with the first part of the Mass Effect series. If we do that with villains, we quickly realize that the bad guy in the new installment isn’t even close to Saren, whom I loved despite the fact that he was my enemy. Overall, the story seems to be lacking a bit of depth. However, the impression is that Andromeda is just laying the foundation for the games to come.
Welcome to Nexus
Your central hub will be Nexus, a space station that reminds me of Citadel, which had the same function in the trilogy. You can move between planets by using a starship called Tempest. Compared to Normandy, the new ship fails miserably. There is no crew on Tempest apart from your allies and a couple of engineers, while the ship reminds of a luxury plane for rich people. Furthermore, the lack of events on it led me to think that the time spent there is time lost. The problem is that the game forces you to keep coming back to continue the story arcs of your allies and move from one planet to another.
While we are on the topic of transport, let’s mention that the game will make you watch the animations of taking off, arriving, slowing down and landing each and every time. Believe it or not, there is no way of skipping them. I understand that these animations are how they cover up the loading screens, but it goes beyond me why I have to wait for the sequence to finish even after the loading is done.
The Role-Play Factor
I regret to say that the role-playing element seems to be the worst of all Mass Effect games so far. The game rarely offers you more than two possible answers, most of which come down to being “serious” or “funny.” The problem is that I didn’t feel the freedom to play the game the way I want to, but I had to stick to the trajectory the creators intended. I tried to play it safe at the beginning, considering that I didn’t know any of the non-playable characters. However, when I figured out that some of them aren’t exactly on my side the game didn’t allow me to react in a proper way. Instead, the only time I felt I had a negative (or evil) reaction was when I rejected a side quest.
Every time you head for an adventure outside of your starship, you have the option to choose the companions you will bring with you. That is the concept Mass Effect Andromeda didn’t change compared to its predecessors. It’s a shame that the originality of your compatriots also remained the same. More often than not, your squad will seem dull, which is primarily a trait of your human companions – Liam and Cora. You will meet new partners along the way, and they will be a bit more original, but they also won’t have the charm of Legion or Wrex.
The LGBT Issue
Let’s dig into controversy and discuss the presence of the LGBT population in the game. While there is nothing bad with implementing persons of various sexual orientations in the game, Mass Effect Andromeda does this in an entirely wrong way. Everyone will be upfront about their orientation from the moment you meet them, despite the fact that that kind of information is something you share once you get to know someone. Dragon Age: Inquisition is an excellent example of how this should be done. The same goes for flirting, which is also available from the first conversation. It just kills the wish to connect with someone and try to develop a romance.
Behold the Amazing Gameplay
I know that I have been mostly criticizing the game so far, so let’s focus on good things for a bit. The greatest selling point of Mass Effect Andromeda is its highly addictive gameplay. It might seem that the game is more of a third-person shooter than an RPG, but I wouldn’t say so.
Each planet is a semi-open world, so you will have freedom to move around. Naturally, this might lead to occasional encounters with enemy patrols. Fortunately, the combat system is fantastic. The controls are responsive, and you can feel the difference when shooting with different weapons. Pistols, automatic rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles are all at your disposal, and you can upgrade each of them to make them even more unique. Overall, the battles are incredibly diverse and exciting, and they are a great combo of bullets, lasers, and blood.
Play Mass Effect Andromeda your way!
The enemies you take down will drop weapons and equipment that you can collect. You can also find supply boxes throughout the game. There is a “research and development” system that enables you to craft your weapons. It might be a bit tricky to learn how the system works, but once you get the hang of it, you will see that it’s a great addition.
Upgrade the character
You also have a bunch of options to upgrade your character. The beauty of the process is that you can do it any way you want. Do you prefer to play as a Soldier, but you would like to have biotics? Well, you can do that in Mass Effect Andromeda. Instead of a class system, the game features Profiles which you can change whenever you feel like it. There are seven different profiles, including three pure ones (Soldier, Adept, Engineer), three hybrid ones that combine various skills and a special profile which I’ll leave for you to discover. Aside from upgrading your character, you can also use and upgrade your vehicle. You might know Mako from the original Mass Effect game, but this time it looks better than ever.
While we are on the subject of the looks, let’s mention that Andromeda has amazing graphics. It’s nothing less you should expect from a next-gen game. There are a couple of glitches here and there, but nothing that will spoil the fun. The animations are great, and the scenery, weapons and other equipment were designed with great detail. The only drawback is that the lips often seem to be out of sync with what the character says.
Once you get tired of the single-player campaign, you can try yourself in multiplayer mode. It is just what you would expect from online PvE gaming, but it is a good way to gain resources.
The fact is – Mass Effect Andromeda is different than the previous installments. While the strongest suit of its predecessors was the plot, the selling point of the new game lies in its gameplay. The battle system is excellent, and you have a lot of options for upgrading your character and weapons, which should keep the game going for hours.
In the end, it seems that you might be at an advantage if you haven’t played the original trilogy. The hardcore fans will hope that Bioware will listen to the feedback and make the next game better for everybody. Until then, we can still have our share of fun with Mass Effect Andromeda on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.