Mass Effect: Andromeda is a third person shooter with RPG elements, developed by BioWare and published by EA Games. The fourth in the series, Andromeda sought to avoid the troublesome ending of third game by setting it in an entirely new galaxy. Core gameplay revolves around making planets habitable for life while occasionally dealing with a new, galaxy-wide menace. This new game came out a whopping 5 years after the last entry, and did it do a good job?
No, it didn’t. You would think that for a game hyping up a 4K display optimization might mean some pretty mind blowing graphics, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. You may have seen some of the memes online about the trouble with the facial animations, and they are truly a disaster. Occasionally, some of the textures look decent at best, but there wasn’t a single moment in my time with the game where anything blew my mind. At no point did I have to pause and look at the scenery because on top of being not that technically impressive, a lot of the designs for the colonies and locations you spend your time at define the term “bland”.
Possibly the only thing that really keeps the game going is it’s attention to the plot. Many characters can be talked to, even if they don’t have a quest to give you, making it feel like you’re doing more than just running errands for people who aren’t doing anything (though that does still happen). A lot of the plot threads lead to some very interesting conclusions and for the most part, if you give yourself the time to get to know your ship crew, you may be able to like about half of them. Yes, it is true that it has a slew of characters who are neither compelling or interesting, but it’s outweighed by the sheer scale of people you can meet in your travels. Additionally, and this is becoming common in today’s jumbo-sized games, a majority of the side quests yield more interesting stories than the main campaign offers.
The original score for this game is largely forgettable and sometimes irritating. There’s this sort of screechy tone that finds its way into some of the more ambient tracks in the game while you are on the ship or a hub location. But that said, the weapons all sound unique enough to make them not only feel diverse, but also very powerful. Also, something should be said of the galaxy map. The traveling noise you get when you select a planet and hear a loud, bass heavy roar as your fly across the stars never gets old. If they had made exploring the galaxy more compelling, I’d be doing it all the time.
It’s popular now for games to allow the player to “play it your way” and that’s fine. But when you design a game to do so, you have to make sure all the elements work. Andromeda doesn’t quite grasp this, as it seems combat and inventory have been largely downgraded back to the system from the first Mass Effect game, which is mistakes 1-10 of this shipwreck. If you want to play the game like other titles and stick to cover shooting, the spotty auto-cover system is unsatisfying at best and a waste of time at its worst. Stealth is sometimes offered for certain enemy types but feels completely impossible to actually execute. For the most part you have to stick to a frenetic run and gun approach, and that would be fine if that too wasn’t also full of issues, primarily including input lag. It’s hard to make a game with jump jets boring, but the lack of interesting locations and overuse of the equally boring nomad ATV really turn this game into a snooze fest.
As I got further and further into the game, I got more and more frustrated. You can start doing quests on one planet and go to another, but the sheer amount of quests that have you go from location to location and the confusing layout of the journal eventually wear down on you. Yet I kept coming back to this game and did roughly 90% of everything on offer, and that’s only because it is still a Mass Effect game. It’s just unfortunate that many elements stand in the way of your enjoyment. Enemy #1 of your enjoyment is the extremely numerous amount of bugs and glitches that hamper your immersion. Bethesda gets a bad rap for having bugs you can encounter roughly every hour after launch, but with Andromeda, it was almost as if they were trying to be competitive for “buggiest game” with glitches galore, practically every TEN MINUTES.
This game feels unfinished and rushed out the door. From a design standpoint, Mass Effect: Andromeda has regressed back to Mass Effect 1 with garbage combat, inventory, and quest tracking. It’s only the story and how much you can tolerate the amount of filler in between doing interesting things that will keep you playing this title. That’s a real shame, as I was looking forward to this, and to say that this game is a critical failure is the biggest understatement in gaming for 2017 so far. Galaxy map traveling was on point though, can we just have an exploration only game? I’d play that.