Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
I find myself enjoying Mass Effect Andromeda despite the game having a copious amount of “rough edges”. Yes, we’ve all seen the animation gifs, the backward gun shooting, and admittedly, the opening hours of the game aren’t that great. But somewhere around the point where you complete the first big mission on Eos, the game comes together in a way that manages to effectively evoke the Mass Effect feeling I was looking for early on.
The basic backdrop for Mass Effect Andromeda, for those that know little going in, is that humanity and the major species of the Milky Way Galaxy have decided to expand their horizons. Through a new initiative, a series of potentially habitable planets were found, and arks for each major group (Human, Asari, Krogan, etc.), set out on a 600 year journey to see what’s up. You play the role of the son/daughter of the initiative’s Pathfinder, meant to be the position that spearheads the development and discovery of these potentially habitable worlds.
Of course, that doesn’t exactly pan out as planned, and quickly you’ll find yourself tasked with making ends meet in a completely foreign galaxy. It’s a decent enough setup that distances itself properly from the first three games, allowing newcomers a chance to jump on board with little to no baggage. There’s still plenty of lore and background references to the previous games, but nothing that makes you feel like you’re missing out if you haven’t played them.
Unfortunately, the story, more specifically the script, doesn’t always live up to its potential. The voice acting can be pretty hit or miss, further damaged by wooden animations or dead-eye, expressionless faces. The early squadmates you’re stuck with aren’t particularly inventive or exciting. And that tutorial planet is, quite frankly, boring. This is just a smattering of the issues you’ll likely encounter with the game early on. There are other little bugs, framerate issues (playing on a regular PS4), and a clunky menu/inventory system that’ll definitely impede your enjoyment. But still, I can’t quite put the damn game down.
Combat is surprisingly fun, even if takes a while to introduce you to battles where you’ll get to really make use of your diverse skill set. Your player controlled character, Ryder, can essentially pour skill points into any ability. Putting enough points into your abilities allows you to unlock classes, which will grant further bonuses. You can only slot three special abilities at once, but the whole concept of combining powers that prime an effect, and then trigger that primer with another ability, is a lot of fun to play with. Your squad of AI controlled characters also do pretty good in a fight, with little need to babysit their position.
I also enjoy the ability to explore the much more expansive worlds via vehicle and on-foot, but I wish they were populated with more things to do. I’ve been spoiled by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Mass Effect Andromeda doesn’t compare favorably in that regard. There’s still surprises scattered throughout the various environments, they’re just a little more spread out.
I also enjoy the aspect of research and crafting that the game employs. While on foot, Ryder can scan a number of objects that’ll add them to his/her compendium for lore stuff, while at the same time granting research points that can be spent on armor/weapon/mod development. You can create blueprints for new gear, and then use resources gathered to build said gear. You can also break down your gear for more parts, or just purchase things outright from a variety of store fronts scattered throughout the game. Again, the only thing that really bogs this down a bit is the clunky menu design, but there’s very little wasted in the way of materials or currency in Mass Effect Andromeda.
But how about the multiplayer? Much like Mass Effect 3, the focus here is on 4 player co-op against waves of enemies. You can either dive right into MP from the main menu, or you can visit a Strike Team terminal in single player and opt to send your purchased Strike Teams into battle, or join the battle directly, switching into the multiplayer mode of the game right away. The servers have been a little touch or go during the time I’ve had the game for review, and I expect we’ll see some launch day trouble in that regard, but overall the transition from single player to multiplayer works fairly well.
There’s a fair number of character types/looks to choose from right from the start, but you’ll unlock more via packs of unlockable cards that can be purchased with in-game currency or real-world money. Yes, the model here is very much like Mass Effect 3, with various rarities for unlockable characters, weapons, mods and so on. You can customize colors to some degree, switch out weapons, and spend skill points on character abilities as you earn experience and level up. Each character also represents a special overall skill, which carries over to all characters once you build up enough experience.
On one hand, the multiplayer isn’t necessarily new or amazing. But I really enjoyed Mass Effect 3’s take for the most part, and Andromeda feels similar in execution and design. Maybe that’s a tad disappointing for a new entry, but I’ve had enough fun with it so far, and certainly plan on playing more.
So while I doubt that anyone will be classifying Mass Effect Andromeda as their favorite entry in the series, I’ve still enjoyed what I’ve played for the most part. Ideally, patches can iron out some of the rough spots, but if you’re planning on getting this day one, well, you’re bound to encounter an issue or two based on my week or so with the game. But if you’re willing to overcome some technical problems, and get past the somewhat boring opening hours of the game, I think you’ll get some enjoyment out of this return to the Mass Effect universe.