Mass Effect is perhaps one of the most influential RPG series from developer Bioware. It was released on the Xbox 360 as an exclusive and then later made its way to multiplatform release with PC and PS3. It is also critically acclaimed series that concluded with a trilogy of games featuring the story of Shephard and his battle against the Reapers. Since the original Mass Effect trilogy ended with a conclusion that made it hard to create a successor, Bioware decided to go for an entirely new galaxy instead and the result is Mass Effect: Andromeda.
I have never seen a game get as much negative reception before release as it happened with Mass Effect: Andromeda. The main fault that was discussed to death before its release was the lack of proper animations for the lead characters that resulted in some hilariously animated scenes for the game. This is something that carries a huge risk in a game full of cinematic story dialogue and serious cutscenes, otherwise hampered by the goofy animations. Unfortunately after I played the game, I did find myself distracted often by these animations and this makes me sad, because I do see the potential of the game if it was not full of such simple flaws.
This is something that can be said for the whole game as almost every aspect of the game lacks polish and feels like it is part of a product that was rushed to meet a launch. The game as a whole is not bad, it really isn’t, and the negative reception that it has received so far is overplayed to say the least. But it is also true that there are certain faults in the game that could have been fixed given enough time and this is something that can’t be stressed enough.
The story in Mass Effect: Andromeda starts with the arrival to a new galaxy called Andromeda. This is a part of the Andromeda initiative by the four prominent Citadel Council races who send each of their 20,000 citizens on a giant vessel to look for new planets to populate. The game begins with the arrival to this new galaxy as the main character is introduced after waking from a hypersleep. The main character here depends on the choice of the player with either a male or female version of ‘Ryder’. Depending on their choice, the story has some changes although they are mostly related to the dialogue. It doesn’t take long when the Andromeda initiative tries to land on the first Earth-like planet only to find out that it is inhabitable due to some unforeseen events. The first planet is called the Habitat 7 and it will be one of many that you get to explore in the actual game.
While the beginning in Mass Effect: Andromeda bears a resemblance to the original Mass Effect, it is much more different in execution and the player is pitched right in the exploration and combat once the game starts. I was floored by the beautiful looking vistas and gorgeous visuals when I started exploring the first planet however I couldn’t help but notice that the gameplay had a kind of janky feel to it. The animations have already been mentioned but during exploration, when using the new jet-pack to jump up and grab ledges, it felt like there is something missing due to the movement feeling floaty. Even the collision detection had issues during some of the platforming sections when I was able to clip into walls. It is a weird thing to witness in a brand new big budget RPG and shows that the game could have done with a little more time in the oven.
Speaking of which, the game is immensely satisfying to explore as the featured planets are full of side content aside from the main quest. There are plenty of side quests to perform in Mass Effect: Andromeda and while the developers have tried to make them unique and memorable, I couldn’t help but get a deja vu feeling of Dragon Age Inquistion since the sidequests are designed in the same way. They need you to go from point A to B to perform some mundane tasks while offering little or no backstory. Still the exploration aspect is improved here thanks to the added mobility so it was not all that bad for me.
The dialogue system makes a return in Mass Effect: Andromeda and serves the purpose of expanding on the story and adding replay value to the game. There are four key ‘tone choices’ during the game’s scenarios that can alter the dialogue or story moments. Not all of these choices make the cut for every dialogue selection so it, ofcourse, also depends on the story. I can’t say the same for the writing, which is disappointing to say here considering how I loved the original Mass Effect trilogy. The issue with writing is that it doesn’t expand of a lot of the key story moments in the game which would have been served better if they were more fleshed out. One such example is right in the beginning of the story when one of the key character is killed but the game but the aftermath of his death is barely felt by others or exposed through the story, which is definitely not ideal here.
The combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda is its stronger part and makes the game much more fun. It is a standard third person shooter at its core with a dynamic cover based system, but it also tries to implement some RPG elements by giving us the ability to spend our skill points to either focus on improving certain aspects of the character or improve the ability of the squad mates. The skill point system doesn’t feel deep but offers more than enough that it serves its purpose without being needlessly complex. While I would have preferred a deeper system here, I also feel that the simplicity works well here. Meanwhile the commands that we can give to control our squad mates are limited and we can only order them to move to a certain location. There is no way to tell them to deal with a situation with offense or defense unfortunately.
Just like any Mass Effect game, it won’t be fair to close the review before we talk about the relationship system here. There is not a lot to offer here and the game also has a disappointing lack of new Alien species to discover. The relationships are pushed entirely as side-content to the main game but they do result in some hardcore sex scenes, which are very explicit to say the least. They are often made humorous thanks to the awkward animations though but it is good to have them here. One of our colleague was able to finish the game without dabbling into any relationship so it is fair to say that if you don’t prefer it, you can also entirely ignore it.
The game isn’t necessarily long and can take around 20 to 30 hours to complete if you mostly focus on the main story quests with the occasional side content. It is possible to finish it even earlier if you ignore the side content altogether but I wouldn’t recommend it since they make the experience more fun. This brings us to the other aspect of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which is the game’s inclusion of multiplayer.
Multiplayer in Mass Effect: Andromeda appears to be built on the foundation laid out in Mass Effect 3. The new mobility that is offered in the main story carries over to the multiplayer which improves the horde based multiplayer modes. However in our case, the matchmaking was terrible leading to some lag-fest in matches which definitely dampened our overall experience of the multiplayer. Still the multiplayer has its own set of characters to level up, skills to unlock and improve, and works well in co-op with friends, so those who are interested in such a mode should feel right at home with it. It is not a bad addition here and certainly adds some much needed replay value to the game.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a solid effort as the first project from BioWare Montreal. However it also feels like a product full of ideas that never reaches its full potential. I enjoyed my time with the game but I also felt that as a Mass Effect game, it never reaches the height of the franchise. Hopefully the sequel manages to improve on the flaws of its predecessor and returns the franchise to its glory days as we remember.
Mass Effect: Andromeda Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Mass Effect: Andromeda takes players to the Andromeda galaxy, far beyond the Milky Way. There, players will lead our fight for a new home in hostile territory as the Pathfinder-a leader of military-trained explorers. This is the story of humanity's next chapter, and player choices throughout the game will ultimately determine our survival.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is brimming with potential but is held back by its numerous flaws that could have been easily fixed, yet remain as a blemish on the overall quality of the game.