Mass Effect Andromeda is the latest entry in the critically acclaimed and beloved Mass Effect Franchise by BioWare. Now we are leaving the Milky Way Galaxy and heading into a new frontier, into the Andromeda Galaxy. New worlds to chart and explore, new aliens to build relationships with, new ship, new crew, a fresh start for Mass Effect. Welcome to Andromeda.
Mass Effect Andromeda takes place over 600 years after the events of the original Mass Effect Trilogy. You awake in the Helios Cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy, searching the several Golden Worlds for a now viable home for Humanity and the Milky Way races. The Kett Empire is searching the Remnant technology that was left behind by whoever built these structures and machines. You and a new alien race called the Angara, who has formed a Resistance against the Kett Empire, you must fight for a new home. As the Pathfinder you must interface with the Remnant technology, trying to find the secret behind this technology and forge your place in Andromeda.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a true call back to the sense of exploration that the first game provided in 2007. As the game provides several worlds, 6 of them that you can explore large portions of, and the rest being registered to missions in the mainquest and sidequest. The first world you go to, is called Eos, a wasteland that used to be a lush green planet, but in the 600 years in took you to get to Andromeda something has happened to Eos. This makes things hazardous, not being able to go outside of boundaries or you’ll be hurt by radiation, unless your in the game’s new vehicle the Nomad. The Nomad is similar to the Mako from Mass Effect, but with the ability to be upgraded, featuring different driving modes, paint jobs, being easier to control, and no gun. The Nomad you use to get from place to place on the various worlds, especially the more hazardous worlds. You don’t spend the bulk of your time in this vehicle thankfully and the bulk of the gameplay is boots on the ground.
The game features all of classes from the older titles, Solider, Adept, Engineer, Sentinel, Vanguard, and Infiltrator. Along with the new class of explorer which is a hybrid of combat, biotics, and tech powers. The twist here is you can switch up your powers and class at will, more akin to how you build your character in Skyrim, but always letting you change to adapt to scenarios, regardless if you are fighting Kett, Remnant, or Raiders. You can say this decreases playthroughs based on how different the classes played in the old games, but here it allows you to change things up. You can put all of your points into tech abilities and strictly play the Engineer class if you so desire, it’s more about options here, letting players truly make the type of character they want to make. Personally I would switch things up based on what type of combat scenario I was in. But I found myself usually leaning towards the Vanguard style of play, usually having the charge ability equipped. The gameplay has evolved from Mass Effect 3, no featuring the ability to jump and to hover. Getting into cover is also more dynamic as all you have to is walk up to a wall or cover to go into cover instead of tapping a button or key. You can even change which angle you are firing from, left or right. You have five weapon slots, one dedicated to melee weapons such as an omni tool, then of course Assault Rifles, Snipers, Pistols, SMGs, and shotguns remaining. The game consist of Milky Way weapons, which is filled with classic weapons all fans will be familiar with, Helios weapons which are either Angara or Kett weapons, being more charge or explosive types. Then the Remnant weapons, which are like the guns from Mass Effect, no need for reload, they just overheat. All of these tools for combat allow for a more dynamic style for the player to approach combat, in whatever way they see fit.
Every world features Remnant Monoliths you must activate to gain access to the worlds vault. The Vaults contain a secret within them that help you with your mission of building homes in Andromeda. The Vaults usually contain tons of Remnant enemies, puzzles to accomplish, platforming sections, and a chase sequence at the end of each Vault. These Vaults will usually put a worlds viability over 40%, which will allow you to put an outpost on the world, so the Milky Way races can gain a foothold and begin colonizing. Every world features it’s own story and set of sidequest to partake in, the more of these you do, the closer you get to 100% viability on the planet. When you are near 100% a super boss will be available to fight on most worlds. These bosses are known as the Architect. Giant Remnant machines that provide a big challenge to you. You fight them by shooting openings on their legs, the big spot on their head, and taking out the waves of Remnant it throws at you. After wearing it down you must interface with it, and usually this means you will have 100% viability on the world. You don’t need to do every quest to get 100% but some things like activating the Vault, settling an outpost, and fighting the Architect are required for this.
The best part of Mass Effect Andromeda is what was strongest in the original trilogy, the characters. Andromeda’s main cast consist of Cora, Liam, Vetra, Drack, Peebee, and Jaal, being your squad mates. Along with Suvi, Gil, Kallow, and Dr. Lexi being apart of your crew abroad the Tempest. Every character has their own story to tell and arc to progress through. The loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2 make a return for all the squad mates, completing these are necessary to gain all skill tree unlocks for them, and even the potential of romancing these characters. For example Drack’s loyalty mission is about getting a Krogan colony ship back. His mission is how most of the loyalty missions are set up. Taking place in a unique location, featuring characters tied into Drack, and the ending of the mission featuring a choice that’s importance in the overall plot ranging. Some of the game’s best writing takes place in these loyalty missions. Liam’s feels like an episode of Firefly, while Jaal’s is darker and more serious. Every loyalty mission in the game is good, likely due to the cast of 6 squad mates to focus on, with additional crew members.
Completing their loyalty missions isn’t the end for the characters, as they even may have smaller assignments for you, or they can ask you out to do things, which depending on the character can lead to romance. For example Vetra ask you to go climbing on the planet called Kadara. If you have flirted with her constantly over the course of the game she will ask you “Is this real” which will lead you to either lock in the relationship with her or decline her. Sadly Drack is not a romance option but I can get past that. Andromeda features other assignments that are considered more important sidequest, such as finding the other arks or the main stories of the worlds you explore, these can have impact on the ending and who appears in it so do keep that in mind. Then there are smaller task, some of these feel like actual sidequest with a payoff, one of these is called “The Path of a Hero”. Others are standard RPG collectathon quests that can range from being fun, something you gradually do, or plain boring and repetitive. Dialogue has been improved, showing players the various emotions their decisions can have, responses that can come off casual or professional. Gone is the Paragon and Renegade system, allowing you to craft a more unique character that has mixed traits, without being punished.
You can either play as a Male or Female Ryder, you can even keep their default names of Scott and Sara and people will call them that from time to time. I have played both of these possibilities, creating my own Male Ryder, then playing as the default Sara Ryder. The voice acting from both of them is great, especially when they are being humorous, clearly the actors strong suit. But when the emotional moments come, especially in the romances they both shine. Their names are Tom Taylorson and Fryda Wolff, both worthy successors to Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, I hope this Andromeda saga continues from their perspective as I want to see, well hear more of them as Ryder. Other actors I’d like to say shined in this were Danielle Rayne as Vetra, Christine Lakin as Peebee, Nyasha Hatendi as Jaal, Katy Townsend as Suvi, and Stanley Townsend as Drack. I personally think everyone in the main cast did a great job and I hope to see more of their work in the future.
Mass Effect Andromeda brings back the Horde wave based mode from Mass Effect 3. There isn’t too much to say here as it is very similar to how it worked in Mass Effect 3. You unlock characters from boxes, you have waves where you fight enemies, and waves where you do objectives. Bronze, Silver, and Gold difficulty make a return, hopefully Platinum will return in the future. The maps have good to decent designs, taking full advantage of the new abilities Andromeda offers for combat, differing from race to character. The new big addition is the APEX system which are special missions that have daily and weekly events. They are tied to the singleplayer, allowing players to get weapons, resources, and credits from these, while ranking up their strike teams. It mainly helps tie into the crafting and AVP system, which are all about collecting resources, for development and research. Which allows you to craft various armor, weapons, Nomad upgrades, and various other items. This system can be tricky to get down at first due to lack of tutorial but once you figure it out, it’s simple enough.
Mass Effect Andromeda’s story takes a balance between dark and serious, and more lighthearted humorous feel. It surprisingly blends together well, having those moments that remind me of Firefly, then others that feel like an episode of Star Trek Next Gen. It feels like a true adventure of exploration and discovery. Mass Effect has always had that feeling, but in those games all the races and worlds were mostly established. This time you can make first contact with the Angara and choose how you are going to forge your galaxies relationships. It invokes that feeling of finding something new, going somewhere where no one has gone before, and after the linear fashion of Mass Effect 3, Andromeda is a breath of fresh air with everything being open and feeling new, but still being Mass Effect. I will admit that I don’t think the writing is as strong in the game’s main plot as it is in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
The plot is good but due to less focus on the villain and the Kett themselves, setting up how their society works either for the sequel or potential DLC, it just leaves something to be desired. Even the final boss was disappointing, what was happening narrative I was into it, just wish it was something more unique. Sure final bosses have always been a bit iffy in this series, at least they tried unlike Mass Effect 3, I just desire more. The Archon is a decent villain, he reminds me of a more emotional, imperial Harbinger, but not as good. As I said this is due to less focus on the Kett in favor of exploration and the main cast of characters. Which I am glad those elements are so good, but Mass Effect balanced all these out, and Saren to me is one of the greatest villains in video game history, hopefully they take this criticism into the future when creating a villain for the sequel. But the main story, while lacking in some areas compared to previous games, is held up by it’s characters and the feeling of discovery it gives you. The ending is touching, and the credits gives me the same feeling I experienced in 2007 when M4 PT2 by Faunts played.
The score for this game is amazing keeping up the tradition of amazing Mass Effect music. It goes back to more of the style of the first game with ambient scores riddled all over the galaxy. The romance theme, which is criminally unreleased right now, is perfect. It invokes a reflection within while remaining ambient and building up to a sort of chant at the end. The combat themes also keep things pumping as well with plenty of beating sci-fi synth to keep you going. The main menu music helps set the tone, that feeling of adventure you know is ahead of you. BioWare has dropped the Unreal engine in favor of Frostbite 3, as they did for Dragon Age Inquisition. Frostbite is designed to help with large open areas, as all you need to do is look at Battlefield 1’s multiplayer maps for an example of that, while also featuring top notch graphics. Andromeda’s environments and worlds look amazing, some of the best art direction I have ever seen. The game does suffer when it comes to the character models, as the animations do suffer, as is the trend is with games of this nature. In a game where you spend a great deal of time talking to people it does get distracting when characters make odd expressions or no expressions at all. Thankfully they will be patching these issues so by the time this review goes live these will probably have changed, but they are issues that do get in the way of player immersion. The PlayStation 4 version runs at 1080p 30 fps with PS4 PRO options, and the Xbox One version runs at a 1080p/900p divide at 30 fps, with of course the PC version varying for user. You won’t notice too much a difference between the PS4 and Xbox One version so if you play console it doesn’t matter too much which system you play it on. The technical issues don’t usually get in the way of the game but can distract you, I had the game crash on me once, and one time had a odd filter placed over gameplay during first contact with the Kett at the start of the game. I looked and I could not find anyone else who had this issue, but it did bother me, since I was only 30 minutes into the game at that point.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a bold new direction for the Mass Effect franchise. It’s a world where I want to build a home in, and technical issues, I can look past that, likely due to being used to it. It brings me back to those days of sitting in my room playing Mass Effect exploring the Milky Way and trying to stop Saren. Except now we are the aliens in Andromeda fighting for a new home, it really does feel like I am coming home to a universe I love, despite some issues. I give Mass Effect Andromeda a 7.5 out of 10. See you in 600 years.
Rating: 7.5 / 10
RGN Rating: Bronze Game
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Release Date: March 21st, 2017
Review Copy Info: A physical copy of this game was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.