In the month and a bit since Mass Effect Andromeda released, you will have heard a lot about it. You will have been told how the game is a buggy mess; how many of the characters seem like lifeless and soulless husks; and how it absolutely fails to live up to the legacy of the original Mass Effect trilogy. Some of this is true, but don’t be fooled. Mass Effect Andromeda is still a pretty damn good game.
The story of Andromeda is a clear highlight of the game. Set 600 years after the original series, and in a completely different galaxy (so as to avoid having to deal with any thorny issues produced by the universally loved ending of Mass Effect 3), the game focuses upon Ryder, a Pathfinder, who is tasked with finding humanity a place to live in this new galaxy. Whilst this may all seem a bit humdrum at first, it quickly becomes a galaxy wide adventure dealing with war, aliens, and, because it’s Mass Effect, mysterious ancient beings.
Throughout the ten plus hour story campaign, there is a multitude of twists and turns that, at times, are genuinely shocking and interesting. The wider lore introduced is something that I personally found to be fascinating, and left me wanting more, especially in the way of answers. Although the ending falls a bit flat in terms of achieving a sense of climax, the story was still generally satisfying for its length.
Of course, a Mass Effect game lives and dies on the quality of its supporting cast. We all have fond memories of the squadmates from the original trilogy, and it is hard not to compare the new set presented here with the originals. Unfortunately, most of these squadmates fail to live up to the immense legacy of the first trilogy. Most of the characters fail to leave much of an impact, and pretty much all fail to escape from the shadow of characters like Liara and Jack. It doesn’t help that, with the exception of one character who is entirely different from any other in the series, they all seem like rehashes of things that have come before. There’s the uptight human female; the grizzled veteran Krogan; the Asari that is interested in ancient tech, and so on. Although you will be spending hours upon hours of gameplay with these characters, it was hard to feel much of a connection with most of them.
Gameplay is where this entry into the series truly shines. Combat feels fresh and unique, something that the series has never achieved before. Its use of movement and powers makes combat constantly feel exciting, with the player allowed to zip around the battlefield with ease. It truly allows you to feel like the powered-up badass that you have always wanted to be. Even the guns feel impactful here. Whilst it still fails to match the quality of true shooters, it still feels like it is reaching a high-point for the series.
When not in combat, the game focuses upon exploring several open world environments, a first for the series. Each world is filled with side-quests for the player to engage in, and places to explore. Let’s be clear. There are A LOT of side-quests here. As a result, a lot of them feel like filler, being inconsequential tasks that involve collecting things, or scanning items in the world. However, there are still a fair few that have a bit more meat to them (hint: these are the ones that usually have a bit more in the way of voice-acting). I found many of these quests to be fairly entertaining, and when some presented me with a moral quandary at the end, I genuinely struggled with which option to choose. Could the game have done with less side quests? Sure, but it never reaches the horrific levels of Dragon Age Inquisition’s side quest lunacy.
Making a return to the series for the first time since the original is a vehicle used to traverse the open worlds, but fear not. This is not the much-maligned Mako. The Nomad controls feel a lot better than before, and this meant that I actually enjoyed driving it, something that could never be said about the Mako. It feels just like a space car should, with the right amount of heft and boost, which meant I never begrudged its existence.
It’s not all rosy in terms of gameplay and game design however. Some of the decisions made by the designers for the title are bewildering and extremely frustrating. The menu system is an absolute mess, with the system to select quests being obfuscating for such a long time. It’s so bad that, at times, it can be difficult to find where the most recent quest you picked up has gone. Furthermore, the crafting system is plain awful. In order to survive in combat, crafting superior weapons and armour is a must, but, thanks to the long-winded and irritating system in place here, this is easier said than done. The UI decisions taken here largely serve to annoy the player rather than help, and that can be said for a lot of these systems in the game.
However, now the space elephant in the room must be addressed. In terms of the technical, Mass Effect Andromeda is a bit of a mess. Visually, it looks nice, thanks to the power of the Frostbite engine, but the engine still struggles with what it is trying to achieve. On the Xbox One, the game suffers from an insane amount of pop-in and stuttering. Plants appear on the ground mere inches away from you. You can’t escape the pop-in here, no matter how hard you try.
It’s also really, really buggy. Truthfully, I haven’t experienced as many bugs as others on the internet seem to have, with the game having only crashed completely once over the course of 80 hours. However, there are plenty of bugs elsewhere. Characters disappear or refuse to let you talk to them; the Nomad will suddenly halt to a stop and not move from its spot for some time (as well as on one occasion shooting to the other side of the map, leaving me and my squadmates stranded in its original position); the AI character in the game would keep telling me that I have new email when this was not the case; and of course, some of the animations were now infamously wonky. These bugs cannot be ignored. Some become huge annoyances, and I would understand if they drove people away from the game. The amount of bugs and glitches on display here rivals a Bethesda game, and that is just a damn shame.
Let’s be clear, Mass Effect Andromeda is not a perfect game. It is an unrefined, and often messy game that struggles to escape its bugs and some of its poor game design decisions. However, if you manage to get past these issues, you’ll find a flawed gem of a game. Over the course of 80 hours or so, I became heavily invested in the world crafted by Bioware, thanks to its genuinely entertaining story, as well as its largely fun gameplay. Once you accept that the game is not perfect, and let yourself relax, you will be taken on a fun galaxy wide romp that should not be discarded because of its faults.
Version Played: Xbox One
Time Played : 80 hours.
Value for Money score: 8/10 (Good playtime with lots to do, but some of the quests feel like unimportant filler)
Overall score: 8.5/10