Mass Effect: Andromeda comes to us just over five years after the release of Mass Effect 3. Does it live up to the original trilogy?
The first three Mass Effect games are classics of the X360/PS3 generation. Consistently high review scores, excellent sales and fond memories for a lot of gamers – Mass Effect: Andromeda has a lot to live up to, especially now that technology has evolved towards a new generation of hardware. But even though Mass Effect fans will recognize and enjoy plenty of what’s on offer here, Andromeda doesn’t blow us away like the previous games did.
In somewhat of a bold move, Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t a direct sequel to the first game(s). Its main protagonists have all been replaced and we’ve fast forwarded in time about six hundred or so years. Technology (for space travel) has evolved, and exploring a brand new galaxy (Andromeda) plays a major role in the story for the game – in which you play the role of a ‘pathfinder’ called Ryder.
The notion of exploration is important to the game, yet ‘conquest’ would perhaps have been a more fitting concept seeing as how combat seems like the default way to ‘explore’ new areas. Because of this, more philosophical aspects like a sense of being, identity and relationships take a back seat during much of the story campaign – even though it’s clear that that was not the developer’s intention.
Of course this is a still a story-driven adventure, so you’re not just randomly exploring planets and discovering new races. The story is formulaic but fun in a Star Trek kind of way, with an race of aliens threatening stability in the region and putting you in a position to do something about it amidst your own attempts at colonization.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is also brimming with “filler” content. That perhaps doesn’t sound too nice, but I’m calling it that for a reason. A lot of the side quests have very little impact on the main story or your development, and usually revolve around a general task you have to complete in order to get a reward. After having played CD Projekt Red’s recent games and expansions, it feels like there’s more that could have been done with this.
Developing your character also feels needlessly complex and elaborate. In order to get everything out of the experience, you’re constantly scanning your environment for research points, gathering resources to aid you with your crafting goals, and comparing items and weapons with each other and what you already have through a multitude of stats. It’s a tad overwhelming, especially when my main draw to the Mass Effect series has always been to enjoy a sci-fi action adventure with an emphasis on story development.
Luckily, there is still plenty of action to be had – and it’s good. Since technology has moved forward, aerial combat is now an important part of the action – with mid-air dashes and jet boosters playing big roles. The full extent of Andromeda’s combat is introduced to you slowly over the course of the campaign – adding new abilities as you progress from something that’s familiar to the full-on combat experience that Andromeda can offer. This is extremely well done both in terms of balance and in terms of how progression and diversity of the combat is handled – and probably my favorite part of the game.
My least favorite part is probably something that can be fixed, because it’s the various technical issues that plague the game upon its release. I can’t judge the console versions, but on PC I saw plenty of clipping issues where body parts vanished into the scenery or characters glitched mid-animation. The landscapes in Mass Effect: Andromeda look absolutely wonderful, but things seem to fall apart a little when you’re up close. This is also true for cutscenes and person-to-person interactions. The facial animation can seem off (of wooden) and lip-synching definitely needs some work.
I would not hesitate to recommend Mass Effect: Andromeda to fans of the original trilogy – despite these issues I’ve mentioned. It still looks and feels like Mass Effect and they’re not likely to be disappointed. If they can muster up the patience then they might want to watch for a few patches to arrive first though – it’ll maximize their enjoyment and you can add about half a point to the score below in that case. If you were never into Mass Effect to begin with, then this is unlikely to sway you.