Gaming

Don’t Get Caught Up In The Negative Hype: ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ Is A Fine Addition To The Series


Let me get this out of the way right now: I love the Mass Effect trilogy. I’ve replayed the trilogy three times, and own all three titles on my 360 (my paragon playthrough), PS3 (renegade), and PC (just to see the graphical difference). I’m also a Mass Effect apologist. I know as many people who love the series as hate it. Mass Effect 1 is a messy slog to get through at times, I can admit. It’s probably the least-optimized game in the 360’s lengthy lifespan, has horrible driving segments that feel tacked on, and its pace seems out of whack compared to the next two games in the series. But, for the time, it was gorgeous and groundbreaking. A lot has changed in gaming over the last ten years, including the ability to threaten the lives of game developers directly!

It shouldn’t be that way. It feels like Mass Effect: Andromeda is getting bashed because the original Mass Effect trilogy had some bloated, gushing reviews. Mass Effect 2 was a masterpiece, yes, but Mass Effect 1 is barely playable in retrospect and is averaging a near-perfect Metacritic score, while “some framerate drops” and clunky animations (amongst other things) have tanked Andromeda‘s ratings to the mid-70s. I’m here to tell you that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a fine addition to the series. It’s fun. It’s a natural progression of the Mass Effect universe, with welcome, focused improvements to the open world genre.

So from one Mass Effect apologist to perhaps another, here’s what you need to know about the game, on this weekend of launch.


First off, the Andromeda has pacing issues. The first few hours are a tight path to kick start the story and get you into the groove of things, which has lead to some pushback according to the Internet. This, and the fact that there are so many systems in Andromeda (side missions, people to talk to, upgrades, crafting) and so on, that I can see how it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the banality of learning how to do stuff for the first five to ten hours.

After maybe ten hours logged, the game almost opens up and becomes what, I think, the Mass Effect games were always supposed to be — space missions to go get space plans and or do space things.Andromeda does this well. If you played Mass Effect 1, you remember the awful Mako mission; in Andromeda, you want to be out exploring, looking for a home and unearthing secrets about these alien planets.

Yes, the game is buggy. It’s really, really buggy. But it’s not as bad as the internet boo birds made it, but it’s still really buggy.

Artistic Achievement

But don’t worry — the animations are fine for the most part. The tech hasn’t improved much over the last five years, and there will be times when you’ll think the game looks like it could’ve run on last-gen hardware, but it’s also stunningly beautiful (with a nice framerate) throughout. I’ve had a couple funky animations here and there, and conversations get started with the person you’re talking to off-screen, but the frequency (to me) haven’t been alarming. Maybe I’ve been lucky. Exiting your vehicle is ugly as hell, though, (it must be mentioned) and this game should be better, but the glitches didn’t affect my experience horribly.

The facial animations do look better than this:

There are gripes about the cast. To some, they’re dull and uninteresting. Obviously, there’s no Garrus, which immediately makes Andromeda inferior. But characters like, Garrus, Tali and Mordin are hard to top. But still, it’s a joy getting to know your crew as their personalities really shine later in the game. The new personalities make this unique adventure fascinating, especially with the player character. Ryder is no Shephard, but he/she isn’t supposed to be. You’re a goofy, unqualified Pathfinder because you’re a goofy, unqualified Pathfinder.

That said, there is no Garrus. Can’t be stressed enough. Garrus should be in every game. He’ll always make it better. However, the best Krogan is in this game. I refuse to hear otherwise.


Which leads us to the writing. Your crew isn’t as memorable for at least the first half of the game, and everything lacks a sense of urgency, but the original Mass Effect, for the most part, dealt in relatively accessible and perhaps even cliche archetypes. Everyone was dealing with the impending doom of the galaxy. This is a little more subtle. Everyone you know back home is dead. Commander Shepard is dead. Everyone’s family, unless they came on the trip, is dead. We’re 600 years into the future in Andromeda, and the characters are dealing with that solemn fact as professionals. They knew what they were signing up for. That leads to characters and motivations that are a little different than reactions to the immediate threat the Reapers brought in the original trilogy. Give these people time, and the characters will bloom. Bring along Pee Bee and Drack in your squad and enjoy the hilarity.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people.

Innovation

The game’s strongest aspect, the combat, also encompasses its greatest shortcoming — not being able to control your squadmates in battle. Andromeda has a ton of micro-managing (almost Mass Effect 1-level micromanaging) when it comes to gear and upgrades, but outfitting your crew is strangely absent. In an RPG, gearing a teammate brings you closer to the character. You know what they’recarrying into battle next to you because you handed them the weapon.

But, the gameplay lives up to every ounce of hype the trailer puts on its shoulders.

Execution

Even looking at all of this as a whole, all of these faults, from my perspective, don’t add up to the lopsidedly poor scores the game seems to be getting. Maybe reviewers, or gamers, have higher expectations for their $60 game. I absolutely get that. But does that mean gamers ten years ago were so thirsty for a next-gen Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic they had to hold Mass Effect 1 up as a classic? What are the weighted grades here if Mass Effect, which played like it was held together by duct tape, got near-perfect reviews and a few wonky animations for Andromeda give it mediocre scores?

Staying Power

The game should run you 60+ hours, with multiplayer missions that are optional, but fun. It’s almost exactly like Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer — defend against the waves!

Microtransactions And DLC

You can buy packs of cards which lead to weapons, characters and powers for the multiplayer segment of the game, but you don’t need to drop cash.

Final Thoughts

It simply comes down to this: If you enjoyed the Mass Effect games, you’ll love this expansion of the universe. Amidst all of the bugs, uneven writing, and sometimes wonky graphics, an epic tale worthy of your time awaits. If you don’t like Mass Effect, you probably won’t like this. And if you’re new to the series, there’s no better place than here to jump in. Unless, there was a remaster of the original trilogy. Please get on that, EA.

Verdict: Worth A Chance

Reviewed with PS4 review code provided by the publisher

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