Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

Mass Effect: Andromeda Review Darryl Linington
Storyline
Gameplay
Graphics
Sound
Lasting Appeal
8
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For several years, Bioware has been at the forefront of RPG development. They have made it their mission to bring to fans, not one, but two wildly popular franchises. From slaying dragons in the Dragon Age series to exploring galaxies and shooting aliens in the face in Mass Effect. With this latest outing of the latter series, Bioware has once again introduced gamers to a unique perspective on the sci-fi genre. But does it find its path in the midst of the asteroid field? Let’s find out!

From the outset, players are thrown into this strange and alien galaxy, which kinda jars you to your core. Gone are the familiar set pieces of the original three Mass Effect games and in is a brand new explorable galaxy. As you enter this new chapter of Mass Effect, the very first feeling you get is that of danger and hopelessness as your ship (containing a couple of thousand colonists from the Milky Way) enters the region of Andromeda that was designated to be their home…or Golden World as it is referred to.

This ship, or Ark as it is referred to, gets caught in a strange cosmic substance called the scourge, which damages it, causing several cryo pods to be damaged…your sibling included. Fortunately, your character manages to escape due to being woken up before the big crash. In the following moments, you are then transported down to this Golden World, along with several team members, where the scourge once again causes several shuttles to crash, leaving you and your companions even more scattered and lost. You eventually find your way back to your companions and what follows is somewhat of a spoiler, but in a nutshell, you find out that the planet’s ecosystem has been damaged and the only way to set it right is to complete a bunch of activities to restore viability to the planet. Suffice to say, you end up as Pathfinder and your mission is clear. You are to track down other Golden Worlds and restore them to their habitable state.

As you progress you are introduced to your new ship, the Tempest, which unlike the Normandy has no Mass Effect drive, instead relying on a different technology to traverse Andromeda. Along with the Tempest, you are also joined by a brand new crew, representing each race that traversed the dark space to get to Andromeda with you. Joining you is Vetra, a hard as nails female Turian. Peebee, a fun loving (very flirtatious) Asari. Jaal, a very stoic and pensive Angaran. Cora, the once-thought successor to the Pathfinder and now second-in-command to Ryder. Dreck, the headstrong, 1000-year-old Krogan (he was there during the Krogan uprisings!) and lastly the ever-shirtless ex-cop Liam. The thing is, none of the characters, aside from Peebee, particularly stood out for me as I spent the vast majority of the time taking a combination of Peebee and one of the other teammates with me.

Notable flaws include questionable writing, especially for the side missions as well as the fact that your companion characters have very limited interaction options during combat. I particularly missed the ability to time my own combos, instead, I was forced to hope for a combo to occur when you tell your companions to attack an enemy.

Other missions include finding the other Arks. You can also further develop your teammates, just like in the previous games, by doing their own unique story threads. Of course, there is more than one way to do missions, however, a renegade type system is notably missing from the game and “press RT to do action” sequences are far and few in between in the game.

During the course of the game, players are introduced a few new alien races, namely the Kett (or as I like to call them – pseudo-hive – think Destiny), the Angara, which reminded me a lot of the Draenor from World of Warcraft, and Jardaan. Not really a race, but still having a presence in Andromeda are the Remnant, which forms a large part of the main story, so I won’t go into too much detail.

Character creation is very similar to that introduced in the previous titles, however with the key difference of having a sibling, which forms a part of your game. So if you choose the male Ryder, the female Ryder will be right there as a part of your story, which adds an interesting element to the game. Another addition to Andromeda is the fact that you are not bound to one class. If you start the game as an Adept, never fear, with the help of your Ark’s handy onboard AI, you can easily change to another class.

Andromeda introduces players to a fantastic new innovation in the form of a jump boost mechanic. It adds an entirely new dimension to how you play. Gone is the snap cover system, with an automatic snap system in its stead while in combat, which feels a little more fluent. Combat feels slightly more fast paced, without the need to constantly hide behind cover. Instead, the player can rather jump boost and fire while floating down towards the ground slowly. This to me was very reminiscent to Halo Reach, which was not entirely unwelcome.

The majority of Andromeda’s worlds can be traversed using the new 6-wheeled off-road vehicle – the Nomad, which is itself also fully customisable. Stock-standard it has two traversal modes. Straight forward driving, and 6-wheel drive mode, which allows you to scale sheer walls (not vertical as that would be ridiculous). This brings us to the new way of mining on planets. Find a mineral-rich area, and call down a mining drone from orbit from within your Nomad, to earn instant gratification.

Also new is a crafting system which uses your well-earned resources. Craft weapons, armour and mods to assist you in your path through Andromeda. However interesting Bioware tried to make the crafting system in terms of variety, I still felt like it was a complete wasted effort as I played through my game using mostly just items that I picked up as I progressed through the story. As an example, I had my hopes set on some pretty sweet-looking N7 Armour, which turned out to be completely useless by the time I played another mission or two since I picked up mark IV armour that was far more effective against the enemies I now faced.

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s XP system is not unlike those from the original trilogy in that you pick up the experience by killing enemies, progressing the story or participating in the countless activities across the several worlds and areas in the game. And boy, are there a lot of explorable maps in Andromeda. From several yet-to-be-restored Golden Worlds to a brand new Citadel-like area called the Nexus, which serves as the hub of all Initiative operations. Of course, strewn through the Nexus and other habitats across the world are commerce areas in which you can buy and sell items, including salvage, which was very welcome.

Speaking of the worlds, each world is unique in the way that it is presented. There exists an ice-like planet, not unlike Hoth from the Star Wars series, a jungle planet, filled with alien ruins, an explorable asteroid, and a desert planet and much more. Each with its own unique hazards. Of course, each world’s map varies and expands as you increase its viability to be inhabited. Some of the activities on the worlds including your standard fare fetch or destroy/kill missions and then, of course, there are your puzzles, laid in place by the before-mentioned Remnant. Personally, I found these sudoku-like puzzles to be tedious at the best of times and were wholly unnecessary as finding the glyphs were challenging enough as it was. Fortunately, not all of these puzzles requires you to solve the sudoku-like interfaces in order to progress.

In addition to levelling you and your companions, you can also level the Nexus, through viability points. These points are earned by making planets more viable. Once you level up you are awarded cryo pod points, which you use to unfreeze colonists in specific professional fields. These fields include science, commerce and military. A point to make here is the fact that all your actions in viability matter as it impacts how the citizens of the Nexus react and adapt.

Worth noting as well is the simply stellar soundtrack, with each world having its own ambient flavouring added to the mix. I must mention, however, that barring the occasional notes, there was a distinct lack of Mass Effect music as it has become known throughout the series. A positive though is the fact that the annoying “death sound” is gone that was prevalent in the previous titles.

Voice acting is as always excellent, with particular favour lying in the banter between your team mates while on missions. Peebee, in particular, had some fantastic lines with several other companions that had me in stitches throughout my journey.

Multiplayer, barring the addition of the jump boost mechanic, feels largely the same, considering it’s the same Horde-Mode mechanic that we were introduced to in Mass Effect 3. I have some problems with it, however. Firstly, the connectivity is horrendous. I battled for up to an hour to connect to a game, whether hosting or joining, the first time around, with the servers kicking me off most of the time. When I did find a game and managed to connect to it, it was plagued by lag and this was detrimental to my experience. I did not have this issue with Mass Effect 3, so I don’t know why it would start now with Andromeda.

Secondly, and most importantly, the balancing felt completely off. I played with 3 seasoned players, and even on Bronze, I got it handed to me by the AI. I am willing to admit that I haven’t played Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer in a while, but even that, when I went back to it was quite easy to adapt to.

In a positive light though, Bioware has introduced players to a brand new Apex system, with which players can send AI teams to participate in these multiplayer missions on your behalf. Should they be successful you reap massive rewards and some epic loot boxes containing money, minerals or weapons/armour, which can be very useful. Of course, you can unlock new races and weapons/armour by just playing the single player campaign. As an added bonus, you can monitor and play the Apex missions using a mobile app, keeping your Mass Effect Andromeda experience going, even when you are not near your console.

Conclusion:
In closing, I have to say that Mass Effect Andromeda has not been at all what I expected it to be, and that is a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, Andromeda is fresh and different, with just the right amount of lore and atmosphere thrown in to make it feel like a Mass Effect game, however, and I stress this, it has some pretty glaring technical issues that could have made it a better game, truer to the original, had Bioware paid more attention to them. Despite these flaws, it is still a solid sci-fi RPG and deserves a shot, even if you are not a Mass Effect fanboy.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was reviewed by Jonathan Bester on the Xbox One

Edited By: Darryl Linington
Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za
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Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter

Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Cliffcentral.com. Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za or via +27788021400.