Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

Mass Effect: Andromeda is the latest game in Bioware’s beloved Mass Effect series.  While the original trilogy of Mass Effect followed the adventures of Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre, multiple saviour of the galaxy and all around amazing human being, Andromeda purposely breaks away from that.  This new foray into the unknown is set roughly 600 years after the times of Shepard and follows a new protagonist, Ryder.  As is now standard in Mass Effect games, you can choose to be one of two siblings, a male or female, along with a limited character customisation, but more on that later.  The game is based around the Andromeda Initiative, shortened to the Initiative in conversation, which took thousands of each of the major species in the Milky Way, Humans, Krogans, Turians, Salarians and Asari.  They were all spread over species specific Arks, huge ships carrying tens of thousands of beings ready to settle and colonise new planets in the Andromeda Galaxy after a 600 year trek in cryo sleep across ‘Dark Space’.  The Arks were then supposed to reconvene when they all reached Andromeda, connecting up to the Nexus an even bigger ship, made to house the returning Arks and act as an orbital base of operations for the Initiative.

Each Ark chose a Pathfinder before they entered into their centuries-long journey into the void, a member of their species that is tasked with discovering new planets for the Initiative to colonise.  At the start of MEA, your father Alec Ryder, an ex-N7 member (the Human Special Forces that Commander Shepard was a part of) is the original Human Pathfinder when the first of the Human Ark, Ark Hyperion, are taken out of cryo sleep.  At the start of your journey across Dark Space, Golden Worlds were discovered, planets with the best potential environment for settlers from the Milky Way.  These were designated as Habitats, the planet the Human Ark ended up near was deemed Habitat 7, but was already deemed inhospitable by an uncontrollable space anomaly nicknamed the Scourge.  The Pathfinder team are the first boots on the ground, and long story short, the role of Pathfinder falls to you as the player.  It is now your role to discover viable planets, the weight of your whole civilisation is now resting squarely on your shoulders.

I loved the planetary exploration in Mass Effect 2. using Mass Effect relays to travel between systems and how varied the planets were, the interesting side missions like dealing with the Krogan Genophage (a virus made to reduce the Krogan birthrate to a success rate of 1:1000), or discovering mercenary research facilities hidden away on desolate space rocks was always a great and refreshing experience, allowing you to break away from the campaign.  MEA has the same system of planetary exploration and side missions, although it doesn’t seem as organised as previous titles.  You have a journal you can use to look through all of your current missions.  They are broken into Main Missions, Heleus Missions, Companion Missions and Additional Missions.  The reason this feels messy and unintuitive to me is because there is no way to determine which planets these missions belong to.  I feel it would be a lot smoother if there were separate sections for each planet so you can do all of the missions belonging to that area in one go as opposed to moving on to another planet, then realising you have more to do on the one you just left.

In my opinion, the combat feels great.  I remember there being quite a lot of debate on whether the on-the-fly cover system will work well, with the potential to be janky and altogether a tacked on, worthless addition.  Now the game is out, I have to say it feels extremely fluid, power combinations feel intense, the gunplay feels like it has evolved from ME 2 into ME 3 which I thought was a little bit odd.  The enemies were bullet sponges, the weapons seemed to lack impetus, and the cover system didn’t seem to work well at all.  MEA however, seems to have evolved beautifully and it now feels very gratifying moving from cover to cover, or training up to be a biotic god, ripping apart 6 enemies at once with biotic combos.  Even after 47 hours worth of gameplay, I’m still invested in advancing my biotic potential and coming up with new power combos to oust enemies from cover and send them hurtling across the scorching sands of Eladaan or Eos.  I’m still enjoying crafting a new all-powerful shotgun that carves through enemies, and looks and feels like I’m firing small suns at those who oppose me.  I don’t have a bad word to say about the combat, it feels like it’s been given a fresh coat of paint, and I love it.  I’m looking forward to trying out an engineer/sniper hybrid class on my next play through.

The biggest problems I’ve heard of from other players, oddly, is the facial animations, and occasionally the walking animations.  I haven’t heard anyone complain about the core gameplay, however, and yet the game is getting slated for some reason.  I personally have found none of these problems to be true, I saw the pre-release footage with the hideous facial contortions, but in the release version?  Nothing, at least not for me.  Everything looks (mostly) fine, the odd grimace where a smile should be but it’s hardly game-breaking.  Every negative opinion of the game I’ve yet to see focuses on the poor animation work.  Even if you have experienced that, the pretty damn solid core gameplay should overrule that in my opinion.  The combat feels fresh, the missions are somewhat interesting, the storyline might not be the most interesting and masterfully crafted story in existence, but it’s far from the worst.

In all, I personally am really enjoying Mass Effect: Andromeda, it might have some minor problems, but I’ve never had a crash, never been stuck progression wise, never hit any game breaking bugs, or any bugs come to think of it. The game feels fluid and enjoyable.  The combat feels complete and allows you to chain together different playstyles, meaning it’s more versatile and enjoyable than the combat from the previous games in the series.  You can also change your playstyle up, investing in new powers and abilities, new proficiencies so you can change from a standard gunner with the odd tech power, to a sniper wielding biotic powerhouse, with tech powers on the side to carve through armour, for example.  The story is somewhat engaging, each new planet does feel like a new discovery, the only problem I have with planets is that maybe they’re a bit too quick, an entire planet maybe runs you for 6-10 hours of gameplay, but maybe I’m just being too expectant.  I am enjoying the characters, I’m enjoying seeing a Krogan colony (best species in Mass Effect) and a Krogan companion (best companion in MEA), I’m enjoying exploring planets and creating new alliances, becoming a space faring psychic and tearing scavengers, aliens, and wildlife apart with my mind is fantastic.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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