Mass Effect: Andromeda delivers on every level (Review)
Mass Effect is a series that’s been near and dear to my heart for many years now. To say I’m a fan is an understatement. I’ve played the first game 4 times, ME2 8 times, and ME3 twice. Needless to say, when Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced, I was more than thrilled with anticipation. In starting a brand new trilogy, I felt like BioWare had some pretty big shoes to fill. Especially with how good the past 3 titles were (not counting the ending from ME3).
Jumping into Mass Effect: Andromeda, you encounter a character customization that seems lackluster compared to prior titles. It really felt like a “dumbed down” version with not a lot of options. Not only that, but the character models (for humans at least) just look a bit off. I’ll get into more of that later on though. Once you get through 3 hours of creating your character and your twin sibling (massive exaggeration as I take forever to do that sort of stuff), it’s time to dive into the world of Andromeda.
Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Story
We start off 600 years into the future, with all of the species from the Milky Way galaxy searching for a new home. As part of the human delegation, your father is the Pathfinder tasked with locating a life-sustaining planet to find humanity a new place to reside and flourish. Through a series of events, your father sacrifices himself, but not before granting you the title of Pathfinder. As the story courses, you run into new alien races like the Angarans. Then there is the new enemy called the kett.
At first everything seems slightly convoluted, but as you progress, the ball of yarn seems to unravel fairly well. As the cohesive bond between you and your team grows, you get a better sense that what you’re doing in Andromeda is impactful on so many levels. The deeper the rabbit hole went, the more intrigued I became. One thing that did irk me from time to time was the dialogue. In previous titles, I found myself wanting to dig further and further into conversations, to get as much story and info as possible.
In Mass Effect: Andromeda though, it was a bit different. There was a number of times I found myself struggling to get through conversation bits that didn’t feel interesting or important at all. Not to say that they weren’t, but the delivery felt a bit flat. For the most part, the voice acting is on par, except in those instances where it feels like someone is reading off a sheet rather than having an actual conversation. It was like being pulled out of the Matrix, detaching the connection from my brain. When you have a story-driven narrative on a scale as large as this, you want every piece (even down to the minute details) to feel like it fits in some way, as it adds to the immersion.
Which takes us into another important factor for the game, the audio. You’re in this living, breathing environment that’s ever-changing, and the sound must reflect that. The best indicator (for me) is being able to sit in a particular place in the game, close my eyes and visualize my surroundings based on what I’m hearing. EA and BioWare have always been at the top of their game with integrating the best possible audio for their games, and they certainly didn’t skimp on it with Andromeda. From the ambient sounds of a lush jungle to the ear-blasting explosion of a biotic detonation amidst a large battle, there’s no expense spared in ensuring you’re encompassed in an unparalleled audio experience.
One other thing I do want to note regarding audio is the amazing soundtrack to the game. The music has been such an integral part of the Mass Effect series, so it’s good to see that they’ve kept the bar high. The first two games (ME1 & ME2) were brilliantly scored by composer Jack Wall, and Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, Ghost in the Shell ) took the reigns for ME3, delivering a stellar performance. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, newcomer John Paesano (Maze Runner series, Daredevil Netflix series, Pacific Rim: Uprising) puts his touch on the soundtrack.
To accompany the top-notch sound, you’d want the visuals to be equally as pleasurable. This is where BioWare decided to opt for the Frosbite engine; the same one used to power Battlefield 1 (which looks amazing as well). Environments are visually stunning, whether it’s a world that looks like a flourishing paradise or one that is a barren and icy wasteland, it’s all just beautiful to look at and take in. Overall, I think my favorite visual aspect of the game comes from the newly revamped Galaxy Map. From an art perspective, it’s just absolutely fantastic to sit and stare at it whilst traversing the different systems.
There is one thing from a visual perspective that I had an issue with. I did mention it briefly earlier, and that would be the human characters. All the other alien characters look great except for humans for some reason. Now this isn’t just a complaint of mine, as many other gamers have stated the same. Luckily, BioWare has answered the call and at the time of this writing, have already pushed through two updates to help correct the issue. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% corrected, but it sure as hell looks better than the initial release version.
So with a thrilling story, awesome visuals and great audio, the last piece of the puzzle definitely has to be the gameplay. With as much story as BioWare throws at you, they have more than enough action to back it up. I’d say out of the previous titles, Andromeda plays most similarly to ME3. This is the especially the case with updated mechanics (which I’ll touch on the important ones). You’re still in a third-person perspective like before, as well you have your weapons and abilities accessibility.
There is a new system where you don’t necessarily have to stick with one profile. (This is something you chose at the beginning of prior titles and it was the only one you could use through the entirety of the game.) When I say profile, I’m referring to what your character specializes in like Soldier, Adept, Engineer, etc. At any point throughout the game, you have the freedom to switch between these profiles which not only gives your character added effectiveness but also doesn’t restrict you to only using one skill set.
Another newly added feature is the inclusion of a jet pack system to your character. I really like that they added this, as environments are no longer confined to a horizontal plane. There is a platforming element that creates more depth to your experience. They’ve also updated the cover system to be more “natural” so to speak. The previous games had you taking cover by pressing a button. But now you just walk up to a cover (wall, rock, etc.) and your character will automatically go into cover.
Another new feature is Research & Development, which allows you to research other weapons, armors and mods from either Milky Way, the new alien species or the ancient Remnant. There’s also a brand new vehicle you get to ride around in called the Nomad. I am absolutely loving this thing, and I feel it’s more than worthy successor to the previous Mako. Lastly, there’s a new system that lets you deploy “Strike Teams” on missions to scout, liberate or whatever else the Andromeda Initiative needs. As you level up these Strike Teams, you can send them on more difficult missions. These, in turn, earn you different rewards. It is worth noting that there are certain missions that require an Apex Team. They are the elite of the elite.
This takes us into another part of where Mass Effect: Andromeda really excels, the multiplayer. These Apex Teams are actually you and three other players. Your group will carry out objectives at different locations against multiple waves of enemies. It’s almost the exact same as it was in ME3, just with a lot more customization and tweaks. If you haven’t played the multiplayer in that game, then the closest thing I’d say it resembles is Horde mode on Gears of War.
Aside from the standard Quickmatch and Custom Match (where you set the parameters of difficulty, enemy type, etc.), there are also Apex missions you can select from that you can play through. These missions do yield rewards for your single-player campaign, so they’re definitely worth playing. The matchmaking system is great too, as you can find other players fairly quickly to take on these challenges. The only thing I don’t like is that there isn’t an online lobby to add friends in. You kind of just have to create a private custom match and invite them in. Once the mission is over, it splits everyone up again, and that tends to get annoying if you’re trying to play more than one mission.
Character-wise, you have an eclectic selection of different races and profiles (Soldier, Sentinel, etc.) to choose from. Obviously, not everything is unlocked at the beginning and the more you play, the more credits you earn. With those credits, you can open up different tiered supply packs. The more expensive the pack, the better and rarer the gear. Also not to mention unlocking other characters to use as well.
Mass Effect: Andromeda definitely lives up to the high expectations its predecessors left before it. With the culmination of all the elements needed to make a great game, Andromeda sets the bar for BioWare and the new Mass Effect trilogy. It’s also worth mentioning that all DLC for this game is absolutely free! You can’t go wrong with that, especially combined with an enthralling story of space exploration and discovery. Despite its nuances here and there, Mass Effect: Andromeda delivers on every level. And there’s not much more you can ask of after that.
Rating – 4/5 Atoms