Mass Effect: Andromeda. From the strange facial animations, general ugliness of humans and the slew of bugs and glitches, this game got people talking, but is all that negativity warranted? As a fan of the franchise, I was looking forward to the game. I’ve played around 110 hours of the single-player. Here’s my review of Mass Effect Andromeda. As a side-note, yes, the facial animations do look bad and Bioware should feel bad. Patch 1.05 is certainly an improvement, but there’s still ways to go.
Let’s get this section out of the way first. Mass Effect Andromeda has bugs. While you’ll be able to find compilation videos out there showing you the bugs in all their ridiculous glory, I’ve personally experienced only a few of them. The most prevalent one was enemies constantly spawning and standing in mid-air. That’s not game-breaking, but one time a door remained locked while it was supposed to be open and several times I had to alt-F4 out of the game because death-by-Eiroch-executions would not automatically reload or allow me to access the menu. While these are quite bad and inexcusable, they are not what bothered me the most about the game. The biggest offender, for me, was that sometimes my Biotic Charge ability would find some perfectly exposed targets as ‘invalid targets’. This would often deny me of a much-needed shield recharge, often result in my character’s death.
Quests are separated into 4 categories: Priority Ops, Allies and Relationships, Heleus Assignments, and Additional Tasks. Priority Ops is where the main quests go, but your side-quests will be either in Heleus Assignments or Allies and Relationships. Additional Tasks contains all the collectathon quests that no one likes. While the side-quests in Andromeda are an improvement over games like Dragon Age Inquisition, they are a bit of a double-edged sword where they can disrupt the pacing of the game. It would have been nice if your map had different icons for each quest category so you knew what you could ignore or not at a glance. Otherwise, I think Additional Tasks should not have been in the game at all. All these menial time-wasters do is, well, waste your time, and offer nothing but mind-numbing content for the sake of content. Quantity over quality is not a standard to aspire to for a game like Andromeda. Just like you could send APEX teams to do random missions, I found myself wanting to do something similar just so these tasks would disappear off my quest list.
As far as the creativity behind the quests goes, don’t hold your breath. They’re all standard and uninspired.
I’ve heard the comparison that Andromeda is the Fallout 4 of Mass Effect, and I have to agree to a certain extent, particularly when it comes to conversation. Ryder has limited choice to his actions but more variation in the tone he employs. Moments of key decisions still exist, but you cannot, for instance, turn down a quest or be an evil bastard.
While on the topic of conversation, the habit that developers have in summarising a sentence (or paragraphs) into a few words is a practice that needs to die. Dragon Age Inquisition’s key decision moments informed you of the potential consequences of a choice before you made it by displaying text above the dialogue wheel – why this isn’t used to display normal speech is beyond me. A pre-defined morality for Ryder doesn’t bother me much – it’s the lack of clarity that really grinds my gears.
This will be somewhat spoilery in the sense that you can infer the story of the game from what I’m about to say, so if you wish to go in this game blind, skip to the next section. Timestamps in the description below.
As the Pathfinder, you need to establish outposts on viable worlds. You do that for most of the game. You very quickly encounter the ‘enemy race’, the Kett, and they do not feel particularly threatening or even interesting. The Angara, natives of the Heleus Cluster, have a similar problem in the sense that there is nothing novel about them. Having gone to a completely new galaxy, one would think that the aliens there might look or feel more… alien, but they, unfortunately, don’t. “Been there, done that,” is a saying I apply to a lot to this game.
The story itself is not compelling. After you are thrust into the action at the start of the game, you are told to go to a planet and see what’s what, but when you are done there is little direction to what follows next. You are placed in a sandbox and left to yourself to planet hop and claim land for outposts. The story itself unfolds at an irregular pace.
There are certainly some interesting bits to the game’s lore and a fair bit of reference to the original trilogy, but all Andromeda does is serve as a foundation upon which to build future Mass Effects games.
Honestly, I don’t know if Mass Effect is a genre that works with the open-world setting, particularly with an alien threat hanging over your head. There’s a lot of driving involved in the exploration of these planets and the occasional enemy encampment or Remnant ruins here and there to annoy you on the way to wherever you’re going, but I can’t say I came upon anything that made exploring a region worthwhile. While side-quests make you drive around a planet, you’re not doing it for the sake of exploring, but for the sake of completing the quest.
I remember on Kadara I would come across those empty outposts that exist solely for the purpose of a side-quest setting. As far as I remember, nothing I found on any world started anything significant to the exception of ‘scan five more of those for a navpoint’.
Space exploration, on the other hand, is not really exploration as it is a loading screen minigame. Beautiful, animated loading screens, but loading screens nonetheless. Since patch 1.05, you are now able to skip in-system transitions, but from one system to another or planetfall/takeoff, you’ll have to endure the cutscenes. I played the game entirely wpre-patch 1.05 and I think I have loading screen PTSD now.
While it’s better than nothing, I still think Bioware should have allowed the player to skip system-to-system transitions. When you’re playing a 100-hours-plus game, all those little instances that get in the way become progressively more annoying, just like the pick-up animation in Dragon Age Inquisition.
Finally, while not directly tied to exploration, just know that you cannot board the Tempest without it taking off, so if you wish to change the colour scheme of your armour or respecialise your character, you’ll have to sit through yet another cutscene.
Dashing, jumping and mantling were added to Andromeda, giving the player a very satisfying amount of freedom of movement, which made up-close and personal combat dynamic and fun. The edge-detection of mantling really needs an improvement (which I think they updated in patch 1.05), and inertia-based movement can be annoying at times, but it was otherwise ok.
Cover-based combat is still there, but the mechanics changed from sticky cover to automatic cover – not necessarily a bad thing, but the one drawback here is that auto cover doesn’t prevent you from accidentally leaving cover. Additionally, executing nearby enemies from cover with a melee attack is no longer possible.
Combat itself has shifted away from a tactical style to something more ‘actiony’ – as evidenced by the fact that you can no longer command your teammates’ power use. Their AI is just dumb and the sooner you learn to forget about them, the easier a time you will have with the game.
Andromeda no longer uses classes but instead has Profiles, which are like powerful passive abilities that grant you bonuses and a special power. For instance, the Vanguard will restore shields on inflicting melee damage; the Sentinel gains a Tech Armour that absorbs damage when her shields drop; the Explorer can teleport through obstacles. These additional features are independent of your selected abilities.
The best thing about Profiles is that you can switch them out whenever you like thanks to the Favourites system. That being said, that system works makes Favourites useless to me in combat as the Favourite you switch you puts all your skills on cooldown, making the 3-skill slot limit a real pain to deal with. This may work in your favour if you’re a weapons specialist, but for an ability-focused play-style like the Adept, the Favourites system will be your downfall on above-normal difficulties. It would have been better if the Favourite itself went on cooldown so you can’t switch and spam but still benefit from combo detonations or adapt to enemies with armour or shields.
As far as enemies go, the variety isn’t particularly impressive, but the fact that they cannot miss when they fire limits the way you play – you’d think a guy with a gattling energy gun that has a wild spread might miss if you dodge left and right, but alas, he has MVP tracking skills. This forces you to rely on cover, use Backlash to protect yourself, perform a Biotic Charge, etc. Simply using the enhanced mobility the game provides will get you killed. This may be a difficulty thing, but I found it pretty frustrating regardless.
Andromeda boasts a wide variety of weapons and abilities to choose from. What annoys me is that there is no testing playground for you to go and try these out, so unless you’re out in the field near a Loadout station and in range of some enemies, you can’t know if a Kett Soned or Angaran Isharay is good for you or not. The same thing applies for powers. Since you have an AI in your head, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that SAM could cook up a virtual arena where you can try out weapons and strategies.
In the grim darkness of the Andromeda galaxy, there is only UI. It’s bad and needs to be completely redesigned. Not only does it waste screen real estate, any action takes more clicks than is necessary and information is usually hidden in submenus after submenus. It took me a good sixty plus hours into the game for the UI to become less bothersome by sheer muscle memory. That should indicate how terrible it is.
While you are able to assign powers and Profiles or switch them out willy-nilly, doing the same with your equipment loadout is impossible. You can only equip weapons and armour at Loadout stations despite them being physically on you, in your inventory. Other than weapons and armour taking up inventory space, you have crafting materials and junk that you can pick up, using the former to make new weapons and armour and the latter to sell for space bucks. The annoying part here is that you have to physically loot the items from fallen enemies – a mechanic that becomes annoying the bigger a game is. Loot should be given the second the enemy dies – it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but neither is carrying 17 guns and 32 armour pieces and an assload of Uranium or Nickel and alien biomass on your person. It’s all about quality of life, and looting dead stuff is not that.
The quality of the loot from chests itself is plain and boring. You will never find a special weapon hidden somewhere in a Remnant vault or after a difficult mission but useless items that bloat up your inventory. Since patch 1.05, Inventory space went from starting at 50 to 100, and consequent Perks can increase that to 200, up from 80. It’s honestly great to have all that space, but since the UI is terrible, you’ll be spending time doing inventory management. Have fun scrolling long lists of items on limited display space and clicking through goddamned folders.
Crafting is split into research and development. You gain research points by scanning everything in your reach and then spend them to unlock new items to develop. This is a pointless step. Scanning itself would be less annoying if Ryder could do it when he’s running, so having to do it to accrue research points is already bothersome. It would have been better if new schematics became available directly from just scanning – or by buying them from merchants. At the end of the game I has so many credits I had no idea what to do with them.
Crafted items can be modified or improved with mods, which is fine, but the fact that the game doesn’t inform you of the drawbacks of certain mods is just heretical. Beam Emitter sounds really cool when you think of the laser-blasting shotgun you could make with it, but the game doesn’t tell you that it’s only effective against armoured enemies and weak against shields. It likewise does not tell you that Ricochet will make your bullets fire in an arc, so adding that to your Black Widow sniper rifle will make it unusable.
Do not let the ‘my face is tired’ bit fool you – the game’s writing is not nearly that bad. It’s nothing to win an Oscar over (or whatever is awarded for good writing) but that scene does not represent the rest of the game. It does have some spotty moment when, for instance, a jokey Ryder might say something weird, but again, nothing reaches the jarring level of ‘my face is tired’. The writing is passable.
As far as companions go, they’re alright. Cora has an interesting backstory and became one of my favourites by the end of the game, but that’s mostly because I love the Asari and that’s what she’s all about. I had a similar reaction to Peebee – she was painted as this ‘extra-super-duper-quirky-gurl’, but really, she’s quite well-written. Vetra is not Garrus, unfortunately, so I found her a lot less interesting. Liam, I don’t care. Jaal is… eh, the Angara are kinda boring as far as aliens go. Been there, done that, you know? Drack just reminds me of Wrex, and I never quite found the appeal of Wrex. He’s great in a fight though.
Overall, I really only care about Cora and Peebee (and Kallo, your Salarian pilot) and everybody else was just there. They’re certainly not badly-written characters, just not my cup of tea.
I miss Liara and Tali. I miss Quarians in general. I hope you get a Quarian team bro in the next game.
In the end, I had my share of fun with Andromeda, but certainly not 60 dollars worth of it. If you judge a game solely by the number of play hours it provides you, then I guess it can be said to meet the price, but the quality of the content is not quite there.
As far as multiplayer is concerned, I’ve had really poor experience with the incessant lag, worse than I had on Mass Effect 3 – and the kicker here is that I have much better internet since. I’ve been unable to test it for more than a few games, so who knows if it’s good or not?
And that concludes this review! If you found it informative, please leave a like, and for more videos feel free to subscribe and hit the little bell. I will see you in the next one. Thanks for watching.