REVIEW: Mass Effect: Andromeda aims for the stars, too often shoots blanks

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore… or rather, the Milky Way.

Andromeda is a hostile and fractured galaxy with new races, new enemies, and new adventures. Taking place over 600 years after Commander Shepard took down the Reapers – or turned everyone into organic-synthetic hybrids (face palm) – Mass Effect: Andromeda follows the Ryder twins as they travel across dark space and into the Andromeda galaxy in search of a new home. I have been hyped about this game ever since it was announced a few years ago. The Mass Effect series has always been my favorite of the Action-RPG genre because of its story, gameplay, characters, and setting. Andromeda is no different, though it doesn’t quite live up to the perfection of Mass Effect 2.

Out of all of the games in the Mass Effect series, nothing could beat the utter perfection that was Mass Effect 2. ME2 ticked all of the boxes: better graphics, better story, memorable characters, improved combat system, and a thrilling soundtrack. While Andromeda does give players a lot to do, there are a few things it could have done better. That being said, the main development team that created the first three games had no involvement in Andromeda so I wasn’t expecting to be blown away.

ARKS transport thousands of colonists across dark space to their new home.

The story felt a little familiar. While there were some original plot points – terraforming planets to make them habitable for colonists was one of the more interesting aspects – the main overarching narrative involves a race of malevolent aliens Hell-bent on controlling the galaxy and wiping out all other forms of intelligent life. No, it’s not the Reapers; it’s a new race called the Kett. They even share the same characteristics of their Milky Way counterparts. I won’t spoil anything but prepare for a massive eyeroll when you find out. The Kett, while certainly evil, didn’t feel like they were as much of a threat as the Reapers were in Mass Effect 3. They are more like the Geth… although there are also synthetic lifeforms known as the Remnant that fill that role already. It seems very been there, done that to me.

While the main story may be uninspired, the plethora of side missions that you can undertake make up for it. Andromeda takes a page out of ME2’s playbook and has squad loyalty missions make a return. While a couple of them are forgettable, most of them bring you closer to your companions and get a deeper understanding of their backstories and motivations. Liam’s mission in-particular made me chuckle – it had the same humor that ME3’s Citadel DLC had. Bravo, Bioware on the Star Wars reference. A few squadmates seem like carbon copies of previous ones (looking at you, Drack) but most of the classic squad was awesome so that isn’t an issue. What is an issue, for me at least, is how everyone could travel from system to system without Mass Effect relays. The technology was from when ME2 took place and everyone in the Milky Way couldn’t travel to different systems without using the relays (or fuel). Were they hiding these self sufficient starships from the galaxy? Were these ships only for the Initiative? These ships could have come in handy against the Reapers. Come to think of it, the ending of ME3 would be rendered moot if the relays weren’t needed for warp travel. I suppose I’m overthinking it.

The Tempest and the Nomad are like the little cousins of the Normandy and the Mako… without any guns.

The visuals looked great but not spectacular. I didn’t feel like the graphical quality was as good as it could have been. I had to remind myself that I was playing it on my PS4 and not PS3. Texture popping, clipping, inconsistent character models, static facial animations, and the occasional glitch kept Andromeda from being a true next gen game. Landing on a new world and watching each texture palette load one by one was annoying. Especially since the load times were long enough to keep that from happening. The main character models looked fine, but there were a few that seemed as though they belonged in Mass Effect 1. I laughed out loud when I was being scolded by someone and they had no emotion on their face. I guess they just had a Botox injection and their nerves were still dead. There isn’t much detail to the textures, or at least not enough for a game made for current gen consoles. It’s not all bad though, the worlds you discover are very diverse and beautiful. Jungles, Deserts, Frozen Tundras, and even a low gravity asteroid make up Andromeda’s interstellar neighborhood. All in all, the graphics weren’t up to par with recent games like Horizon Zero Dawn, but it isn’t an ugly game.

#SquadGoals

I loved the new battle system. You aren’t locked into one playstyle. You can go from Soldier to Adept, or Infiltrator to Vanguard, or even mix and match your combat, tech, and biotic abilities with the new Explorer style. You can save different styles to your favorites menu and switch to them on the fly. The weapon weight is back from ME3 and so are the mods which were some of the few positive improvements that ME3 had over ME2. The new cover system is a welcome change to the franchise. You can take cover behind almost anything as long as you have a weapon drawn. The new and improved Mako makes a return – though now known as the Nomad – and it doesn’t handle like bathtub on wheels this time around… though it has no offensive capabilities. Exploring new worlds isn’t as tedious as it was in the original game as each world has a multitude of side quests, tasks, and secrets to discover. I got lost in the sea of side missions and forgot about the main quest for hours. That isn’t a bad thing though as it proves that the other missions aren’t boring or monotonous. Yes, there are fetch quests and lots of backtracking, but BioWare has crafted environments that you wouldn’t mind visiting multiple times.

The soundtrack to Andromeda isn’t quite as good as ME2, but it still made you feel like you were part of an epic sci-fi adventure. The effects, on the other hand, were spotty at best. There were many times when sound effects wouldn’t play, overlapped, or just sounded out of place. I remember driving the Nomad through the deserts of Elaaden and my engine sound would stop but I could still hear my tires. Other times I would be talking to my sister and I would say something but my voice would come out of her mouth. I have to admit, that one made me belly laugh because it was so ridiculous. The voice acting is phenomenal but I wasn’t expecting anything less because BioWare has yet to have a poorly voice acted game.

Architects are one of the bigger baddies to take down.

On the romance front, Andromeda has a lot of great choices but not enough for anyone of the LGBTQ community. There are very few squad mates that play for both teams and even fewer that play for the home team. Only your Asari companion Peebee can romance either Ryder twin and the rest only go for the opposite gender. The only gay and lesbian romance options options on your ship are your ops officer Suvi and your engineer Gil – neither are part of your ground team. You can find love off-ship with a few characters but it isn’t the same as going on missions with your bea. Perhaps BioWare will get in right in the next installment but I think the damage has already been done.

While Andromeda has its flaws – quite a few – it isn’t a bad game. It’s still an epic adventure that I will be coming back to for years to come. BioWare has given us a saga of memorable characters, interesting stories, and an ever expanding universe. If you’re a Mass Effect fan like I am, you can overlook the blemishes and enjoy a game worth 60+ hours of your life. Bioware has stated that they have a patch in the works that will fix all of the graphical issues, however, this game should not have been released in its current state. I guess we’ll have to wait for the patch to play Andromeda the way it was meant to be played. Until that happens, I’ll be playing Horizon… or Breath of the Wild… or Mass Effect 2.

SUMMARY & RESULTS

While it does have its flaws, it's still a fantastic journey across an alien galaxy.

7.8

It came out of cryo too early.

Story

7

Graphics

7

Gameplay

8

Sound

8

Replay

9

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  • J.W. Moore

    Editor/Columnist/Retro Game Afficianado

    J.W. has been gaming since he got his first NES on his 5th birthday. Since then, his love of video games has only gotten stronger. An avid collector of video games, he owns everything from the Atari to the Xbox One. With over 1000 console games and just as many PC games, his love for gaming continues to grow.

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