Ryder? But I hardly know her!
The Mass Effect series places second (beaten by the Elder Scrolls series) on my list of all-time favourite but I write this with a semi-broken heart – A single tear has taken the long walk down the side of my face. I want to tell you all that Mass Effect: Andromeda is flawless and it’s the best game on the market / that you will ever play, but I’d be lying. It’s got its flaws. It’s not perfect. Alas, that’s part of the job, right? – Never fear, it’s not all bad!
The story of Mass Effect: Andromeda follows of a fleet of ships (known as Arks) sent from the Milky Way Galaxy with the intent to colonise new “golden worlds” in the Andromeda Galaxy (specifically the Helius Cluster). A fresh start – considering the world went to pot in the first three games after the Reaper attacks. The player controls one of the Ryder siblings (male or female) and is awoken from cryostasis about six hundred or so years into the future, to find out that things have inevitably gone pair shaped. The promised golden worlds are uninhabitable, the other Arks are nowhere to be found and first-contact with an alien race didn’t go as well as humanity hoped. Whilst out on a mission, an accident claims Daddy (Alec) Ryder’s life and you are forced to take his place as the Pathfinder. Time to figure out what the hell has gone wrong, where the hell are the other arks and what the hell are these fancy alien relics scattered across Andromeda?
The first two to three hours introduce quite a few different characters and if I am being honest, most of them lacked a personality – and sadly this does continue throughout the game. Characters will rarely respond to events that happen and pretty much just stare emotionlessly at the others around them. This includes events like finding out that their father is dead or that they were being exiled for crimes they didn’t commit. This had a major impact on allowing me to fully immerse myself in the game and it’s a real shame.
If you enjoy the Mass Effect series for gameplay (rather than the narrative) then you’ll get on well with Andromeda. Andromeda dramatically builds on the combat style from its predecessor, Mass Effect 3. As I mentioned, you’ve got direct control over one character and then minimal control over your two (of six in total) companions. You personally, your companions and even the enemy have the use of special powers/abilities/defences making combat more strategic and more difficult. Your enemies have a standard health bar and can either have a shield bar or armour bar – meaning you’re going to have to get creative to strip their defences and take them down. Depending on your play style, you can use Combat abilities like Flak Cannon to fire Krogan-designed shells that burst into shrapnel upon impact, Biotic powers like Pull to lift an unshielded or unarmoured enemy into the air or Tech abilities like Overload to unleash an electrostatic discharge upon a target to inflict high damage to shielded enemies.
Andromeda’s coolest new feature within combat is the increase in mobility. Ryder has a combat suit that enables him or her to artfully dodge enemies or make jumps that Commander Shepard would never have been able to. Fights feel more in-depth and dynamic. For me, Andromeda’s fast paced and flexible combat is defiantly its high point. In my playthrough, I rolled a full Tech build and only put points in the combat build to raise my proficiency with certain weapons and unlock the 3rd holster. If it’s your thing, however – Rather than being stuck with one class, Ryder can now essentially be a Jack of all Trades as you can mix and match skills from different specialities. I only found out towards the end of the game that you can actually re-spec your character by visiting the medical bay on your ship – so play around with the skills/skill points until you find a playstyle you like!
Andromeda has some truly excellent missions but the game is at its best when Ryder is balls deep in trouble, surrounded by hostiles and the odds are against you. The more casual “go here, scan this, collect that” missions tend to be a bit long and a not as interesting but it all does add up. You’ve got yourself a new-fangled scanner that does play a major role in the game – it allows Ryder to scan objects, rocks, plant life, people and other things in the universe to learn more about them and earn EXP that goes towards Ryder becoming (in my case) an unstoppable Tech God and research points to unlock/craft new items, armour, weapons and augmentations.
There is an Ark-load to do outside of missions too. Andromeda challenges you to raise a planet’s viability level and establish outposts for your people. Strike Teams, give the player the option to send soldiers out on missions to complete specific tasks (which are also the games cooperative horde mode multiplayer missions). Finding “Memory Triggers” are an essential way of revealing secrets that were left by Daddy Ryder and then the general space/planet exploration. Andromeda isn’t necessarily open-world, but exploration is immensely fun. The increased mobility allows you to explore most nook and crannies that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach. Some of the planets are tremendously hazardous, but with the addition of the Nomad land vehicle (similarish to Mass Effect 1’s Mako) it makes navigating the sometimes poisonous, sometimes overly cold/warm planets of the Helius Cluster somewhat easier. Leaving the vehicle is required but can be deadly, so do take the best of care. From the vehicle, you can the much-needed resources (you can also pick these up manually) to craft the aforementioned items, armour and so on.
Overall, I did have an immense amount of fun whilst playing Mass Effect: Andromeda. It is filled with exciting moments and engaging combat and at its best, I was willing to forgive most of the things that let it down because I was having a good time. The aforementioned multiplayer mode adds a new level enjoyment to the game and players are tasked with gunning down hordes of enemies whilst completing ever-increasingly difficult objectives to unlock boxes of loot.
Now here is the sad part – Unfortunately, even though I was playing Andromeda on the PlayStation Pro, I suffered an awful lot of graphical errors – this really is the largest disappointment for me. Forget about the facial animation errors or the emotionless characters; I’m talking about severe framerate drops to the point where the game completely freezes for a second or two. This did not happen very often but when it did – it was both mid fight and just space hopping across the planet’s surface. I encountered several occasions where audio would loop/play over old lines from about 5 hours ago and issues where some lines were not even spoken. In many ways, it seems like a step back from Mass Effect 3.
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts.