Mass Effect Andromeda Review
"A Disappointing Galaxy"
Andromeda is the fresh take on the Mass Effect series taking players far away from the Milky Way and pushing them into a new galaxy of adventure. The Initiative is an extremely long term project where our explorers have been asleep for six hundred years as they drift towards bright horizons. Things take a bad turn as they are embraced by a storm cloud of dark energy and key personnel are awakened. Being part of the Pathfinder program you're part of this group and begin to explore this supposed golden world. Things don't go well and an enemy alien called the Kett are brought into the fold. After some horrifying events you take on the role of the Pathfinder and you need to find humanity a proper way to settle down. This has you building a crew like similar past games and attempting to colonize planets.
The main story follows your family, the Ryders as they help make the Initiative project work. You start off with customization which was decent though somewhat difficult to initially get a hold of with how it's setup. Once you do understand how the presets work there's actually some great options for a realistic look, but the facial animations don't exactly translate over during gameplay. Aside from taking time to create your character, you also edit a sister that has a smaller role within the narrative. The core story this time around is much shorter than the previous Mass Effect titles opting for less of a forced tale and allows players to freely choose what they do. This led to me personally having a rather short playthrough of the game as I typically just go through the important things and that was somewhat disappointing. It felt as though the tale wasn't fully woven together properly and that many exciting stories were pushed to the side. I also found the story to lack a certain spark retreading past waters with side characters that didn't entirely interest me.
The cooperative multiplayer in Mass Effect Andromeda was first introduced during Mass Effect 3 and the formula is the exact same. It would have been nice to see this mode get expanded upon or at least something new. On a small selection of levels you attempt to survive in a group of four across varying difficulties. These tiers offer better awards as it gets more difficult and you'll need to level an online character in order to be successful. Like in the main campaign you'll move through a miniature skill tree gaining abilities and unlocking new characters to use. It's somewhat odd that the character customization options from campaign aren't present as you just get to use templates.
The multiplayer has a focus on microtransactions for unlocks in order to gain consumables, better gear and characters. I didn't find this really forced as you can easily earn them just by playing. Each mission takes about 15-20 minutes to complete and are based around survival. You'll either just take out enemies during a wave, upload data or take out valued targets and escape. It's somewhat shallow, but hectic and fun.
The Mass Effect franchise was one that pushed graphics on the last generation and that's partially continued here. What's disappointing however are the many, many issues present. The worlds are beautiful being large in scale and featuring intense detail to make the alien flora come alive. The environments are seriously just such as sight to take in and it was a pleasure to see the various planets. This is where the first issue came from as the world would load slowly with some objects showing up while I was moving through the world. The problem showed up less while on foot, but was horrible while driving around and that killed the immersion. It's hard to get to everything into a review, but I'm also going to lightly touch upon skill trees and research. The skills are similar to past games with some tweaks into how you move through them and this also applies to your squad. Research and development is also available to craft new weapons or learn better technology.
The gameplay itself handles much better and more fluid than ever before. The jet system allows you to propel yourself into the air for ground attacks if you'd like or for a hovered shot if held. There's also the option to strafe to the side and move easily through cover without any button usage. It's also easy and intuitive to control your squad though the absence of Kinect control for abilities was slightly disappointing.
Mass Effect Andromeda was a disappointing start to what should have been an epic story. I still hold hope that improvements are made for the sequels. There were many bugs such as poor object loading, game freezing while playing multiplayer and during campaign at times. There were also very poor animations during cutscenes that didn't match up well and this was very apparent when playing through the story. The story also lacked the epic depth from the previous entries and while freedom is pushed for colonization, it would have been better to see it woven into the story. The characters ranged from exciting new personalities to rather boring and more species could have added a much needed spice.
The outline of the story was fine though strangely similar to Halo 2 specifically at times while also retreading a strangely close themes in Mass Effect 3. The worlds were beautiful with places I wanted to explore, yet the game couldn't keep up. The seamless design was amazing and there's little loading throughout its entirety. The multiplayer was the exact same as the previous game with a small pool of maps and it should have gotten expanded upon. Mass Effect Andromeda was a fine game though not to the standard of which I hold this franchise. I look forward to the next entry, but there are steps needed to bring Mass Effect back to its proper form.
Mass Effect Andromeda Review on Xbox One
Rating Overall: 7.0