Since the original Mass Effect was released in 2007, BioWare have gathered a devoted fanbase through the franchise—the original trilogy is typically considered one of the best gaming universes ever created, and not for no reason. By putting you on the frontlines of an intergalactic war, BioWare intricately weaves narrative, character development, intimacy, and action from many different angles throughout. This has put a lot of pressure on Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth and latest installment in the franchise. In this Mass Effect: Andromeda review, we’ll be taking a close look at the game to decide whether or not it’s worth your money.
|Type of game:||Action RPG|
|Total Play Time:||19 – 65.5 hours|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel Core i5 3570 or AMD FX-6350
GPU: Nvidia GTX 660 2GB, AMD Radeon 7850 2GB
RAM: 8 GB
OS: Windows 7/8/10
HDD Space: 55 GB
The World of Mass Effect: Andromeda
As always, the world of Mass Effect games is comprised of many different facets. For those unfamiliar to the franchise, Kotaku provides a good introduction to the universe that prepares you for the context surrounding Andromeda. We’ve tried to knock it down to the essentials, though, and will be providing you with just those: the Atmosphere & Location, the Main Characters, Storyline, and the DLC & Expansion packs.
Atmosphere & Location
The world of Mass Effect is big and illustrious as always. The graphics in this game are up-to-par with previous games and have no real deviation from the already developed, quintessential style. What does seem uncharacteristic of the series, though, is the overall design of the worlds. Though they look stunning and great, throughout the game you’ll quickly find that some of the worlds feel repetitive. Glitches and framerate drops make aspects of the game appear unfinished and seem out-of-place for the quality BioWare is usually heralded for.
The planets are big, but feel very empty, and usually filled with similar enemy patterns. Even the attempts on the game’s part to vary this seem to feel like filler and don’t contribute to the actual storyline. What is interesting, though, are the alien monoliths that can be found on each planet. They consist of puzzles that must be solved which are usually fun and engaging. Sometimes they can come off as tedious, but the potential enjoyment you can get from them far outweighs any frustration.
In this game you’re able to design your own protagonist, choosing between a male or female character with the name Scott Ryder or Sara Ryder, respectively. Allowing players to put themselves directly in the environment is fun and adds more of an RPG element to the gameplay. With your character you can select from a large collection of class distinctions and special abilities, but because you’re able to switch these at any time, it doesn’t feel like a strong RPG element. If BioWare were to force you to pick decisions and then formulate consequences and gameplay elements around that, that might provide a stronger experience with more replay value.
The characters on your crew also seem filled with conflict and depth like in usual Mass Effect stories, but they appear to lack the confidence of previous characters. I don’t find this to be a massive fault on the part of the game, as it doesn’t affect the story drastically, but may cause boredom in people who are used to the constant action on internal and external levels from previous games.
That being said, the feel of the protagonist and the crew is better than in previous games and worse in other aspects. For example, the control of the main character makes navigating the world much more intuitive than before, and removing the somewhat sluggish design of Shepard (from previous games) makes it feel like you’re able to move faster within the worlds. However, it seems this is at the cost of mobility as a team, with your options regarding your crewmates more limited.
The storyline for Andromeda takes place in an unfamiliar universe, giving players a plethora of new planets and alien races to discover. However, the idea of creating another universe to buy room in the story for expansion seems like a bit of a cop-out, especially after the ending of the third game, it seems to feel out of place. Given that this is the basis for the overall story, that makes the overall game seem somewhat unnecssary. Re-treading over character and civilization archetypes from the original trilogy also makes the storyline feel re-hashed and redundant for those familiar with the structure and story of the original games.
There are also elements of the story that make you feel as though the game is trying to pace out the main quests with unnecessary ones. By this I’m referring to the parts of the game where you are sent on seemingly meaningless side quests that relate to the main story more as filler than anything else. While having less significant objectives and “fetching” quests does flesh out the universe in some ways, perhaps it would be more efficient to forego the meandering in favor of having a more concentrated, fulfilling experience.
Both of these elements of the story combined make for an underwhelming experience, one that frequently had me confused as to the purpose of many of my actions. Thankfully the drive to explore new places keeps the perpetual motion so integral to the series going, but after a while the feeling of it being fruitlessness begins to slightly outweigh any potential enjoyment.
DLC & Expansion Packs
Mass Effect: Andromeda has no DLC, so this section is a bit sparse. I’m keeping it in the review, though, to highlight the many patches that were required to fix the bugs, framerate issues, and other issues that had plagued the game since launch. BioWare was definitely aware of this, keeping on top of their responsibilities to make sure it eventually got to where it needed to be, but it makes sense that after a while of calibrating a game after launch that they decided to leave the game at a working copy. Only 5 months after the game had come out BioWare decided to have no DLC, announcing that the final update for playability would be the last update the game received.
Mass Effect: Andromeda had a tough crowd to please after the critical and financial success of the original trilogy of games. Perhaps that’s the root of this game’s uneasiness—on its own it stands as an enjoyable (albeit glitchy) game, but in the context of the franchise it comes off as more out-of-place and awkward. By trying to live up to previous expectations while also developing something new, it seems that BioWare didn’t quite please everyone.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. In fact, fans of the original series will likely enjoy it for the new gameplay features, if not the extended lore that is added to the Mass Effect universe. I don’t quite see new fans of the series liking it, though, and casual gamers may feel surprisingly underwhelmed if they’ve played elements of the original games at all.
What do you think, though? What would you like to see mentioned in this Mass Effect: Andromeda review? Where does this game rank in your list of the best Mass Effect games?