As a disclaimer, this review was based on the Playstation 4 version of Mass Effect; Andromeda, Deluxe Edition.
Mass Effect has been one of my favorite series of all time. When the first one released in 2007, there was nothing like it. The open dialogue options, immersive planets and galaxies, as well as the interesting characters and races. Immediately, I fell in love, as it reminded me of universe(s) of the Star Wars Saga; I was hooked! 10 years later with three other games added to the list, Andromeda has once again rekindled my spirit for the beloved sci-fi RPG goodness.
STORY (Taken from EA Directly) — YASS EFFECT
In 2185 humans discovered Prothean ruins on Mars, catapulting our understanding of science and technology forward hundreds of years. Within a handful of years space travel became routine, and humans were utilizing Mass Relays to leap across the Milky Way. While some dreamt of traveling to the far reaches of the Milky Way, for other their ultimate goal lies beyond anything anyone’s ever known, and in 2186 the Andromeda Initiative is founded. For these brave adventurers, their new lives begin in Andromeda. After a 600-year journey the inhabitants of Ark Hyperion arrive in the Heleus Cluster of Andromeda, and Pathfinder Alec Ryder quickly sets his team in motion to find a place for the Ark’s inhabitants to live.
As a side note, there’s no real benefit to having played the previous Mass Effect(s), other than being on the up and up on some conversations. While it may help in the lore, and understanding some conversational pieces, the player will be able to easily follow, and comprehend what is going on. Ultimately, think of Andromeda as a side story to Mass Effect 1 – 3.
All-in-all, not mandatory.
GRAPHICS & PERFORMANCE 8/10 — WHAT’S ON YOUR FACE?
My goodness… The graphics in this game are absolutely beautiful. You quickly realize the detail of each armor scuff and astronomical glint, which has been carefully structured and put well into consideration. You’ll immediately start to see the amount of detail on the skins and faces of various alien races, which blew my mind. The cut-scenes are the most obvious areas where the graphical elements really shine, and EA/BioWare didn’t disappoint. The way the lighting hits certain species skin, is unreal. Overall, I didn’t ever notice any clipping issues, frame rate drops, or glitches. The game played smoothly, running at the traditional 30 frames per second. There have also been some reports of XBOX One users saying that the framerate has been dropping, and it has been a bit more glitchy at certain points in the game. Never once did I run into any major performance issues on the PS4.
While the amount of detail looks amazing, it seems that EA/BioWare didn’t take much time into the facial animations of the characters. You’ll start to notice that the facial expressions seem “dry”, and that the movements of the eyes aren’t as realistic as they should be for a next generation console. It really does look like the developers copy and pasted the character facial models from Mass Effect 3, but with all said and done, that’s just me being nit-picky. I may have made it sound like it was a bit ridiculous, but it’s bearable. It wasn’t a hindrance at all when progressing through the game.
AUDIO — SOUNDTRACK TO THE GALAXY 8.5/10
Just as you would expect from a Mass Effect game; great! The series has a very distinguishable soundtrack, combining orchestral bands and futuristic synths. If I were to describe to a friend what I think space would sound like in a musical form, I’d easily recommend the Mass Effect OST. However, while it may not be a nuisance to some, I found that there were times multiple characters would overlap dialogue, on top of an NPC (non-playable character). This often became frustrating, as I wanted to hear what input my party was saying, but couldn’t decipher with all of the droned-out verbal assaults my ears were taking.
Developers created over 1200 characters, each with different voices, personalities, and lines of dialogue. This was something that was easily heard, and could also get quite stressful. On a positive note, it really did make me feel as if I was part of the Andromeda Initiative exploring with my brotherhood of extraterrestrial misfits among the Milky Way. Characters in the party weren’t shy on speaking what was on them or their current mood. This, in turn, gave a sense of realism and personality among the party. Ultimately, if you’re a person who loves the lore and dialogue immersion, you’ll really enjoy the aspect of this game. Either way, it can get overburdened with the amounts of options to choose from when in the dialogue options, but can also be a nice touch for the player who wants to explore more on character development.
GAMEPLAY — RUNNING & GUNNING? JUMPING & GUNNING. 7.5/10
Ahh, yes. The bread and butter of this game. You’ll quickly notice very common controls all across the board, and those are familiar with previous installments will feel right at home. For those who play with controls that are non-traditional (IE, Southpaw), Andromeda has options for you as well. Exploration is a huge aspect for Andromeda, and EA/BioWare has done a great job of letting the player do so. First off, the planets are HUGE. It actually has been confirmed from a developer that the size of one planet is bigger than Dragon Age: Inquisition’s entire map! However, a lot of it is dead space, but still, that’s impressive on any gamer’s standards.
The maps weren’t the only thing that was immense. The content within the game itself! Within the first two hours, I was bombarded with missions, dialogue, mining, base management, etc. The game really puts a toll on the players, and sometimes won’t give a great enough explanation on how to complete some things; for example, the research and development phase(s) of the game). Later, I found out how to work around with each feature the game offers, but it really was like drinking through a fire hose within the first couple of hours.
This time around, gamers will be able to take the reigns of a new ship called the Tempest, which is the smaller, and more agile equivalent of the Normandy. You’ll quickly become accustomed to the traditional departments for any military exploration; Research & Development, weaponry, Captain’s Quarters etc. Further along, you’ll be able to drive around the Nomad, a 6×6 offroad beast, capable of jumping and boosting when in landed/grounded situations. This is absolutely crucial for ground transportation and mobility, as it also protects the party from any hazardous elements from planetary environments. You’re even able to customize it with different paint jobs and performance upgrades, something that players weren’t able to do in previous installments.
Combat has been upgraded dramatically and takes a little getting used to. The newly added jetpack and dashing abilities make combat a bit more interesting, as it adds tactical verticality to the mix. At first, combat may seem like it’s a flop, but once you start getting in the rhythm of the fast-paced action, it’s a blast mixing biotics with human weaponry! You’ll also start to see that there isn’t a class system. In a way, it was nice to be strictly an engineer or adept, but now I can live my dream as a sniping vanguard with biotic abilities. This gives the player a full range of freedom, as well as the ability to experiment with different setups to suit your play style. I really enjoyed this feature. I will say that if you’re looking for a stealth shooter, this game is not for it. You could try to play stealth, but this game was intended for strategic, on-the-fly thinking. Think of it as an elaborate version of rock, paper scissors.
The multiplayer aspect of this game has been beefed up. Rather than being a standalone portion of the game, the MP in ME:A can actually tie into the game. Players will have to conduct Strike Missions, small objective-based missions which can have very high rewards. Some of them can be done by sending out a team, while others can be done by you. It’s a nice feature to add if you’re getting too tired of the single player campaign, or just want to try something a bit different. For the most part, the players will complete missions with three other individuals through a survival/wave system. Once completed, you’ll gain experience, which will be used towards leveling up your characters and getting better equipment for future missions. All-in-all, this was great! I can see myself spending countless hours on this section of the game.
REPLAYABILITY — LET’S DO THAT ONE AGAIN.
Mass Effect Andromeda is one of those games that I can see myself playing multiple times. With various degrees of difficulties, different playstyles, and dialogue options, that still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the craving of this epic sci-fi RPG. Regardless of if you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer, there’s plenty of content to explore among Andromeda. Just when you think you saw everything, you didn’t. Furthermore, if EA/BioWare releases future story DLC, this game will kill plenty of hours.
VERDICT — 8
The beginning of 2017 was an awesome time for gaming; Zelda, Horizon, Ghost Recon and now Mass Effect. If you’ve been waiting for this game since previous Mass Effects, go for it! If you’re currently playing one of the games I listed previously, I’d wait this one out. This isn’t a game that you can buy and beat over a weekend. No, this will take a few weeks, maybe months to complete if you’re a perfectionist like I am. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a game for a different kind of gamer. Those who can appreciate the lore and immense depth of stories upon stories, upon stories. However, if you’re a newcomer and are interested in the content that this game brings, I encourage you, it is a wonderful ride. The universe, characters, tone, the music… EVERYTHING plays a part in this game and melds together in a way that feels like this could be where our technology heads towards in 600 years.