Another Galaxy, Another Review – A Mass Effect: Andromeda Review
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far aw…wait, wrong universe, my apologies. Still, a long time ago, the gaming community witnessed what–at the time–would be the end of one of the most popular trilogies in gaming history. Until now, fans of the Mass Effect trilogy have waited with bated breath for a successor. Now, we have one. Now, we finally have our Pathfinder.
Warning: there may be possible spoilers contained in the featured screenshots. Gaze at your own risk.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is your typical ME game. As a disclaimer, I won’t discuss the typical Mass Effect staples that have carried influence from the previous titles, like team skills and loadout and planet scanning. However, how it operates, to menu functionality, the game borrows the best from the original trilogy, and leaves the worst behind in the Milky Way.
That is not to say it is a “perfect” game. It has its flaws, but they are very small grains of sand in the ocean that is Mass Effect: Andromeda. Cosmetic bugs like wacky facial animations and less-than-believable voice acting crop up from time to time, however, throughout my own journey, I have experienced very little of the aforementioned negatives and the only thing I found lacking, was the absence of photo mode; there are too many beautiful vistas to screenshot, and there’s no true way to do so outside of my PS4’s Share functionality.
Some would say these types of errors should not occur in a AAA game, and perhaps they are correct. I am of the mind, however, that software will be software. Code is code, and no matter how many times a team may test one string of code, others may fail. Countless hours are spent creating and animating even just one character, so I can forgive the few errors that may come to pass.
That being said, the team at BioWare once again captured and encapsulated what life would be like exploring the cosmos like no other. Stepping onto the galaxy map platform (on the bridge of the ship this time, with a gorgeous view of deep space) and zooming through brand new galaxy, searching for wild, new planets to settle is extremely exhilarating. I really feel like I am one of the first lifeforms to discover–and sometimes rediscover–these places. The final frontier, for real.
As most are aware by now, the new installment takes place between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3 and consists of a completely separate team from Commander Sheppard’s. This is–for me–possibly the best thing the developer could have done to counteract the massive cop out that was the end to the original trilogy. By splitting the narrative into an entire initiative to find a new home in the face of imminent destruction from the Reaper threat, with a brand new set of characters to learn about, care for, and possibly love, BioWare essentially circumnavigated the disaster that was the end of the trilogy.
I couldn’t be happier with the new team. Their dynamic is possibly more inspiring and…well, dynamic than its predecessor. I will say it: Sarah Ryder is a much more personable character than Sheppard ever was and I really feel connected to the choices I have made for her. The fact that the Paragon and Renegade systems are gone makes it feel so much more real, not having to adhere to a strict good versus evil option (thank you CDPR, for your contributions to truly gray morality in video games).
This makes for a truly believable character path, and that is something RPG’s this size and scale absolutely require. Otherwise players do not become invested. Relatable and believable characters are the cornerstones of good (the ones that leave a mark) narrative. If characters aren’t invested in their cause, neither will players.
Another attribute of effective narrative is setting. Setting can affect nearly every other aspect of your narrative. If the world isn’t believable, rife with its own history, flaws and lush panoramas, then everything else seems to have less meaning. Those believable characters become flat because their motivations become less apparent. “You want to save this world? Why? There’s nothing here.”
In Andromeda, this is absolutely not the case. Par for the course with BioWare, each planet has deep history, along with intriguing inhabitants and issues of its own. There are lush, jungle worlds, harsh and arid desert planets, both with sand and snow, and more I haven’t even visited. And man, they are absolutely beautiful. Take a look for yourself!
Each planet offers a personality of their own and players should plan their loadouts accordingly. For instance, Eos is an arid desert and its atmosphere is quite thin. As such, radiation levels are off the charts and if you do not monitor your life support, you will very likely die. Voeld, the icy world of the Angara, is also a desert climate, but literally the opposite of Eos, snowy and blustery cold, temperatures dropping to even more than -5o Celsius. These attributes may seem minor, but they aide in the lore of each planet as well as add just a little something to differentiate your playthrough.
The inhabitants of these worlds offer both tragic and noble stories, rife with their own trials, successes, and sorrows, thus adding to the validity of the universe (no pun intended) BioWare has created.
Your interactions with these species interplay with the turn of events, as Mass Effect standard goes, nothing new there. What is new, is how Andromeda tackles combat. While shooting mechanics themselves are pretty standard fare, it is combat traversal (and on-foot traversal in general) and the addition of combat profiles that has a leg up with this title.
The additions of the jump jet and dodge (that also change with each profile, but more on that later) really animate the combat landscape. Players aren’t pigeon-holed into the cover –> shoot formula. Maneuverability is an absolute key to successful battle, because AI will overwhelm you if you remain stagnant.
That brings me to combat profiles. Profiles are unlocked by your choice of skill set. For example, if you choose a complete biotic build, the Adept profile will unlock and give you specific boosts to biotic abilities. This includes how the jump jet operates. The Adept profile turns the jump jet and dodge to a biotic dash that surrounds and propels Ryder with biotic energy. Conversely, if you want an all-tech build, additional tech buffs are added and the jump jet remains its default. However, you may also load points evenly into all skill sets, unlocking the Explorer profile. This buffs all skills evenly and turns the dash evade into a cloaking evade.
One of my favorite profiles is [insert profile name]. It combines tech and biotic skills and trades the typical dash with a biotic blink, allowing you to move through certain solid objects around the battlefield. No matter which profile or skill you select however, you will always remain effective on the battlefield, provided your team complements your skills (also typical Mass Effect fashion).
All this being said Mass Effect: Andromeda has ensnared me and allowed me to feel like a true space explorer and scientist and that’s something I will never be able to feel in my lifetime. Fast-paced, updated combat and skill sets, along with dynamic and deep characters and races, as well as planet lore truly make the game what it is and for me, those outweigh any negative that the majority of the community may have experienced.
I give this game a