As a huge Mass Effect fan, it was a little difficult to report on Andromeda's litany of bugs, painfully-dull side missions, and its bland, practically-empty open world maps. But as my time with Andromeda's campaign came to an end, I found myself more than satisfied with the overall experience. There is a lot to love about Mass Effect: Andromeda ... but it's far from perfect.
For those who want a more detailed take on Andromeda, check out our huge, comprehensive review. This article is more of a bite-size post mortem, for those still wondering whether or not they should take the plunge across dark space.
Here's everything that's good (and bad) in Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Good: The story
I've read some reviews that claimed Mass Effect: Andromeda has bad writing, but I disagree.
Considering the legacy it had to live up to, Mass Effect: Andromeda does a great job of introducing new characters, races and enemies, through the lens of the Pathfinder, the main character whose job it is to find the Milky Way aliens a new home.
Mass Effect: Andromeda follows the story of tens of thousands of colonists, who left the Milky Way in search of a new beginning.
Andromeda by and large lives up to the franchise's legacy for character development, malevolent enemies and maddening mysteries.
The Andromeda Initiative, spearheaded by the main character's father, Alec Ryder, finds itself in peril almost as soon as the travelers arrive in the new galaxy. The presence of a strange field of destructive dark energy collides with the Hyperion space ship, leaving the colonization effort in disarray.
The story hinges on Ryder finding a new home for humanity and the other Milky Way aliens while dealing with the local civilizations. It's generally far lighter in tone than Mass Effect 2 and 3, and it features an entirely new cast, making it accessible for newcomers to the series.
There are a few hiccups, naturally, but Andromeda by and large lives up to the franchise's legacy for character development, malevolent enemies and maddening mysteries. As you progress further through the game, it throws plenty of twists and turns into the mix, and fans of the series may find themselves wide-eyed with shock at some of the story's implications. (Do the SAM Node memory unlocking quest chain. Trust me.)
However, some of that wonderful storytelling is hindered by systemic issues with the game's delivery.
Bad: The polish
As of this writing, Mass Effect: Andromeda remains one of the buggiest "AAA" game I've played so far in this console generation. Issues with duplicate characters in conversations, strange graphical anomalies, and persistent frame rate issues on Xbox One really, really hurt the experience.
Considering Mass Effect: Andromeda is an introductory title for, presumably, a new series, the bugs do a huge disservice to the game's writing and character acting. Several times a poignant moment or epic climax was ruined by some sort of weird in-engine problem, ripping me out of the immersion like atmospheric decompression.
This game definitely needed a few more months in incubation. As seen by its early access, the internet was quick to label it a failure before it even launched.
Good: The combat
Mass Effect: Andromeda features the best combat in the entire series. Thankfully, BioWare Montreal didn't skimp on polishing Andromeda's infectiously addictive battle systems, which are as impressive as ever.
You can lift an enemy in the air with a physics-warping biotic pull, then punch him into orbit with a biotic, Jedi-like throw. Or you can summon robotic drones to torment your adversaries, and go all-in with technological enhancements to your defenses, complete with deployable shields and stealth camouflage.
You can ield the makeshift weapons of exiled outlaws, or research the biotechnical plasma weapons of the Kett. And then impale your enemies with a shard from your wrist-mounted Omni-tool, or pound them into dust with a Krogan hammer.
There is simply no end to the combinations and play styles Andromeda accounts for. Play as a stealthy sniper, a front-line run-and-gunner, or a space-bending tech wizard. The Frostbite engine provides some incredibly-satisfying ragdoll physics, giving combat the impact and dynamism it needs to remain fun throughout Andromeda's 100-plus-hour adventure. Thank the Protheans it does, because a huge percentage of those 100 hours are crammed with drab filler.
Bad: The open-world gameplay
There is a deluge of open-world games on the market right now. From Ghost Recon: Wildlands, to Watch Dogs 2, Sniper Elite 4, Final Fantasy XV, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Considering BioWare was comparing Mass Effect: Andromeda to The Witcher 3 in prerelease interviews, many people had high hopes that its open world would adhere to some of the highest standards set by modern open-world games. Sadly, it doesn't.
It gets even more annoying further into the game, as some side missions expect you to travel between planets simply to have a brief conversation.
Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place across six large open-world maps, based on some of the planets present in Andromeda's Heleus star cluster. The vast majority of the missions found on these planets are the same old, dull-as-hell, "go here, fetch this, scan that" sort of quests with feeble context.
It gets even more annoying further into the game, as some side missions expect you to travel between planets simply to have a brief conversation, only to move on to another objective off-world, loading screens and all. This is in spite of the fact that your ship has a futuristic Skype deck built into it.
It stands at a stark contrast to the game's highly choreographed "priority" ops, which actually deliver on those classic Mass Effect expectations. It's a good thing Mass Effect: Andromeda has amazing combat, because otherwise doing the whole Ubisoft "unlock these towers" open-world gameplay would be all the more painful.
It's almost like the open world was put together and written by a completely different team.
Good: Those true 'Mass Effect moments'
Despite how droning Andromeda's open-world gameplay might be, the game's primary missions are consistently brilliant. Each of your six squad mates has a unique quest chain — some of which require open world trivialities, sadly — but they always culminate in a highly-tailored experience, usually set up in their own, bespoke areas.
Liam Kosta's mission, in particular, had me laughing out loud with some fitting Star Wars references, while Jaal's was suitably emotional, complete with a difficult choice to finish it off.
Now and then, a gorgeous interstellar sunset comes into view. The game has more than a few surprising plot twists, and the game's romantic scenes are better than ever.
Andromeda should have stuck to Mass Effect's tried-and-tested formula, because the switch to open-world format only dilutes the mix. Finding the great content in Andromeda can be a journey in and of itself, but when you do, it's so satisfying.
Bad: The aliens (or lack thereof)
So you're 600 years out of cryo-sleep in an all-new galaxy, but everything feels so familiar. Mass Effect: Andromeda only introduces two new alien races, while cutting several series staples. There are no Elcor, Hanar, Volus, or Quarians in Mass Effect: Andromeda, save for the occasional references. That wouldn't be so bad if Heleus itself wasn't woefully lacking in biodiversity.
You will encounter the same five or so color-swapped alien animals repeatedly as you traverse the game's various open world environments, most of which are essentially color-swapped desert wastelands. Eos is a radioactive desert, Elaaden is an exceptionally hot desert. Voeld is an ice desert. You get the idea. Some spurious plot points attempt to explain away why some of the game's beasts appear on seemingly every planet, but it really takes the wind out of the game's exploration.
Even beyond animals, the game's enemies form part of the repetition. Owing to hazy plot reasons, thousands of Andromeda Initiative human colonists have decided to become criminals and anarchists, conveniently. A huge portion of the baddies you will fight in Andromeda won't be from the galaxy at all, and that feels more like corner cutting than good design.
Once you've finished the first planet, the game's battlefields won't work too hard to surprise you for the remainder of the game. Even the Deluxe Edition's pet Pyjak couldn't cheer me up about this.
While there are flickers of creative brilliance scattered throughout Andromeda, primarily in those more tailored, linear sequences, most of the game's main locations, cities and enemies, suffer from an uncharacteristic lack of depth.
Good: The multiplayer
It should come as no surprise that Mass Effect: Andromeda has a solid multiplayer, considering the studio behind the game, BioWare Montreal, was solely responsible for Mass Effect 3's online modes as well.
Mass Effect: Andromeda's multiplayer is essentially Gears of War's Horde Mode, albeit with Mass Effect's rich combat and upgrade system. Just like in single player, you can level up characters, build and choose skills, and kit yourself out with stat-boosting equipment. It also gives you the opportunity to play as some of the game's more interesting aliens. (Humans are such a bore.)
Mass Effect: Andromeda's combat system translates perfectly to cooperative multiplayer, which allows teams of up to four players to battle against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. You can even gain crafting resources and credits from playing multiplayer for use in the single-player campaign, which makes it all the more rewarding.
Bad: The branching narrative compromises
One of the most interesting things about the earlier Mass Effect was its Paragon/Renegade system, which allowed you to shape the kinds of characters you wanted to play as. It's gone in Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Instead, Andromeda allows you to choose from four fairly "safe" response types throughout the game's conversations: sarcastic, passionate, analytical, and professional. And they have almost no bearing on gameplay whatsoever, save for a psychological profile codex text-entry from Dr. Lexi.
The decision to drop the Paragon/Renegade system not only makes Mass Effect: Andromeda's choices feel stunted, but it reduces the game's replayability. Going through Andromeda again a second time will be nowhere near as exciting as it was in the previous trilogy, where you could experience the game from the other perspective. Andromeda only really offers one perspective, which is a shame.
There are some major decisions to make throughout the game, though, which do impact the ending and will likely affect any sequels Andromeda picks up in the future. But they rarely relate to your character's personality and are mostly circumstantial. Very few of Andromeda's decisions are painful to make.
I recall reading years ago that the vast majority of players chose "for-the-greater-good" Paragon dialogue options over the more reckless "get-the-job-done, no-matter-what" Renegade options. But even still, they were your decisions. In Andromeda, your dialogue choices simply don't matter, and it really shows.
Good: Andromeda is a tremendous game
All things considered, Mass Effect: Andromeda is not only one of the best space opera RPGs out there, but it's also one of the best third-person shooters available. With its wide array of abilities, reactive, agile combat, and satisfying gunplay, there are many reasons to love Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Despite all the bugs and scanning, every now and then, Mass Effect: Andromeda will take your breath away. pic.twitter.com/8qMlS3qRIy— Jez 🎮🦂 (@JezCorden) 23 March 2017
There's well over a hundred hours of gameplay in Mass Effect: Andromeda, and while a lot of it feels like filler, if you're a fan of modern open-world games you probably won't mind too much. It's painful to think what could have been, but hopefully EA will respond to the feedback and give the franchise the love it deserves in future installments.
The bugs and polish can be fixed with subsequent patches, and BioWare already pledged to support the game post-launch. The characters are fun, the story keeps you going throughout, and there are truly classic Mass Effect moments scattered across Andromeda's sizable world.
I think fans of the franchise and open-world shooters will forgive Mass Effect: Andromeda for its shortcomings, and will easily enjoy it for what it's worth.
See below for our in-depth review, and let us know if you're enjoying Mass Effect: Andromeda in the comments. I'm eager to hear what you think.
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