First impressions are important, but if I based my review of Mass Effect: Andromeda on my initial opinion, then I’d be doing the game a disservice. Its release has been plagued by technical issues and from the offset, Andromeda has largely underwhelmed critics. Thankfully, I ended up enjoying my time more than most critics due to the fact that it’s already received a wealth of post-launch fixes.
Andromeda marks the beginning of a brand new chapter for Mass Effect. It focuses on humanity’s journey to find new planets that support life and after awakening from 600 years in stasis you choose to play as one of two siblings: Scott or Sara Ryder. Their father, Alec Ryder, is the lead Pathfinder in the initiative to find viable planets and you’re given the opportunity to asses each one.
Unlike previous instalments which have focused on the transition between linear levels, objectives are now scattered across multiple open-ended environments. Every planet houses a variety of quests and hidden trinkets to discover, and you can travel to each one with the help of your very own ship, called The Tempest. This is the first time that its developer (Bioware) has introduced open world elements to help place an emphasis on exploration. After the first few hours you also get to control the Nomad, a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle which makes traversing each planet a little easier, oh, and quite a lot of fun. Many planets will initially stand out as uninhabitable, but through the discovery of ancient Remnant Vaults you can initiate a procedure to terraform them and make a more habitual environment.
Andromeda’s combat takes place in real-time and removes the ability to pause gameplay and plan out attacks. Hiding behind cover isn’t as much of a focus this time and instead, you’re encouraged to use your jetpack to dart around enemies or execute devastating aerial attacks. Alongside an array of weapons, you can also pick three skills for quick access during combat. There are 36 to choose from and each one requires you to invest one skill point before it is unlocked. Rather than frittering your skill points away it’s generally a better idea to focus on levelling up a handful for maximum effect, however, you can reassign all your points for a small price. In addition, Pathfinder profiles make a return and allow you to gain gameplay bonuses that include more ammunition, a higher amount of health and increased weapon accuracy. Instead of being forced to pick one for your entire play through, this time you can experiment and switch between profiles on-the-go.
Exploration and combat are both great but Andromeda presents a whole lot more, as you’d expect. There are countless people to engage with in conversation and a ton of optional side-quests to discover. Amongst many other activities, you can opt to partake in a bit of research and development to acquire new gear or weapons, read emails whilst you peel back the many layers of its multiple story threads, or focus your attention on that special someone for some, ahem, space fondling. Despite the amount of flack that critics have given this game, (some of which I’d agree with), I wouldn’t go as far to say that it isn’t a step in the right direction. There’s no denying that it has problems with animation and other technical issues (all of which is steadily being patched) and even I have a few concerns with its handling of the Ryder family’s storyline, or lack thereof. I’m also just as disappointed when it comes to the lacklustre portrayal of romantic relationships and its subdued intimacy. There are lessons to be learned, no doubt about it, but overall I’m very happy with Andromeda’s outcome. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned its decent multiplayer component, but that’s because I’ll always see this game as a solo venture. It’s good, but nothing to write home about.
Overall, it’s an ambitious game that gets a lot of things right, but its execution is shameful. The animation of its characters looks outdated and when you spend most of your time engaged in conversation, shoddy acting detracts from the overall experience. Post-launch fixes have ironed out a few of its glaring problems, but when you look at its patch notes you’ll ask yourself why this wasn’t fixed during quality assurance. Even smaller glitches relating to erratic character placement and frame rate issues still persist. It all boils down to a lack of integrity, either on the studio’s part or the publisher’s. If they recognised that the game needed two major patches after its release then it needed to be delayed. It would have left a better first impression and therefore, lead to better reviews.
I’ve only touched the surface of what Andromeda has to offer, but if I explained everything then I’d be here for all eternity. It’s enormous.