Back in the days of the PS3 and Xbox 360, BioWare released the Mass Effect Trilogy which was considered as one of the best RPG series, despite the lackluster ending of the third game. Since 2012, many were clamoring for the next game in the series. Sadly, it’s no longer the continuation of Commander Shepard’s adventure, as Mass Effect Andromeda introduces fans to new characters, a new galaxy, and a new adventure that may very well expand to another trilogy. With expectations so high, will Mass Effect Andromeda receive the same reception the original trilogy did?
Mass Effect Andromeda takes place about 600 years following the events of the original trilogy. The player now assumes the role of either a male or female Ryder, a Pathfinder, who is tasked to explore new planets in the Andromeda galaxy in hopes of finding a place to colonize. In Ryder’s quest to find a new habitable planet, he or she must solve the mystery of the Andromeda galaxy and face the threat of the new species called Kett. Compared to the first Mass Effect game, the pacing and direction of where Andromeda is going in terms of storytelling is quite similar. It’s quite slow but as the story sets in about five to six hours into the game, the plot picks up and gets interesting.
What makes the Mass Effect series touted as the best RPG series is the way BioWare conveys the plot with cinematic storytelling. While Mass Effect Andromeda has quite an interesting plot as soon as you get into the galaxy and start visiting other planets, there’s the downside to all of this and that’s the poor dialogue exchanges between Ryder and the characters. Unlike in past games where the dialogue options that you pick matters, that is not the case in Mass Effect Andromeda. Sure, the people react in different ways towards Ryder depending on the options you pick in the dialogue wheel but for some reason, there’s that loose connection between Ryder and the characters, especially with the Paragon and Renegade system being removed. It maybe due to the new characters that are introduced and getting an emotional attachment with them can take some time or it’s simply the poor writing this time around. Don’t get me wrong, Mass Effect Andromeda has a great storyline and all, it’s just I can’t get connected with the new characters.
For fans of the series, many may have been looking for something new in Andromeda in terms of its gameplay, or how the game will tackle a new storyline. Unfortunately, everything about the game has striking resemblances to the original trilogy, which is obvious that BioWare wanted to play it safe this time around. Them not taking risk on this one makes Mass Effect Andromeda struggle in having its own identity. It’s not a bad thing but after playing three Mass Effect games, I’m sure many are looking for something fresh.
In terms of length, Mass Effect Andromeda seems rather huge compared to the past Mass Effect games. By just doing the priority missions alone, the game can take you anywhere from 20-30 hours to complete depending on the difficulty you are playing. That is not counting the plethora of sidequests that you can do in each planet. With each planet offering a somewhat open-world type of environment, it will be wise for everyone to take their time in exploring every corner of the map as there might be a hidden quest or item that can be useful to Ryder and his/her crew. One annoying thing however in doing a sidequest is how linear and boring it gets at some point in time, especially when you are tasked to go to one place and to the next for the most part. There are other quests however that reveal interesting things like a mini side story that you will be interested in finishing just to see how it will end up. Pretty much, the sidequests are varied but expect most of them feel like like you’re an errand boy/girl.
With your job of being a Pathfinder is to find a planet for colonies to live in, it’s also your job to decide which type of people you would like to awaken from their cryo sleep and experience life on the new planet. The people that you awaken should contribute something big to your cause whether it’d be military personnel, or scientists that can help you in research and development. You’ll eventually awaken everyone if you were to do every quest but at the beginning, learn to prioritize and see what would be more beneficial to you. Also, there will be other things that you can do whenever you find a new planet and that is to establish new outposts, or simply mine for resources using a new vehicle called the Nomad.
Combat-wise, it feels much better and solid compared to its predecessors. The shooting aspects feels more responsive and there is a lot of variety this time around to powers that Ryder can use. Unlike in previous games where Shepard is only limited to one class, Ryder can have multiple classes ranging from Solider, Engineer, Biotic, and more. Ryder can use any powers during combat which is great, though Ryder is only limited to only three abilities at a time. In my build, Ryder is a biotic solider that can use Throw, Cloak, and Slam enemies, which makes him very deadly in combat. It’s fun to mix and max Ryders abilities and it’s one of the best things I really enjoyed in Mass Effect Andromeda that I felt lacking in the original trilogy.
One downside that I find in Mass Effect Andromeda’s combat is the crafting system. Unfortunately, crafting is the only way to get new weapons and armors, and doing that can take quite some time. Using Ryder’s scanner, you must scan pretty much everything you that is interesting to rack up research points. Once you get enough points, you can start researching for its blueprints or if you have the blueprints already, have them develop it. It’s quite troublesome to do these things as it takes a lot of time gathering those research points. Also, the UI is annoying as comparing weapon stats are nearly impossible.
There a few technical issues in Mass Effect Andromeda that I encountered in my playthrough. The most common ones that I find is the weird facial animations. Since BioWare is not strong when it comes to having perfect facial animations, it’s quite understandable. It just takes some time to get used to it, especially if you have played games with near-perfect animations. For those who are playing on PS4, you might encounter some audio loss or frame rate drops. In my case, there’s a few that I encountered, though when playing the game on PS4 Pro, the visuals are simply breath taking. To date, Mass Effect Andromeda has one of the most beautiful environments that I have seen. For those who are worried about the technical aspects of the game, don’t worry about it as it doesn’t make the game unplayable.
Mass Effect Andromeda is far from the perfect game people expect from BioWare. In fact, BioWare played it too safe with Mass Effect Andromeda. From the start, Mass Effect Andromeda struggles to find its own identity. For fans of the series, Mass Effect Andromeda will be a familiar territory. There are several striking resemblances to its past predecessors’ story. With that being said, the combat shines in this installment. While some people might find the facial animations lackluster, it’s BioWare – they may suck at facial animations, but they’re still amazing when it comes to cinematic storytelling and that’s where Mass Effect Andromeda stands out. Just don’t expect it to be on par with the original trilogy, as it’s far from it
[Editor’s Note: Mass Effect Andromeda was reviewed on the PS4 Pro and was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Mass Effect Andromeda Review,