Title: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Where To Buy: PSN Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, Origin, Local Retailer
During my first five hours playing Andromeda, I had several people ask what I thought of it so far. Each time my response was the same: “I’m still looking for anything I actually like about this game.” After a solid 80+ hours spent in the Andromeda Galaxy, I’m happy to say that I found some things that I really like; I just had to fight through all of the things that I really didn’t.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is the newest addition to the franchise developed by Bioware. This time around we’re no longer behind the wheel of Commander Shepard in the Milky Way but are instead following the Ryder family as they wake up aboard the Hyperion after a 600-year cryo-sleep to explore the Andromeda galaxy in search of a new home.
The game lets you pick whether you play as Sara or Scott Ryder, leaving whoever you didn’t choose (your twin) in a comatose state. You wake up and join your father, Alec Ryder, the pathfinder and head of the human initiative, on a journey to the first viable planet you discover. Here you meet one of the primary hostiles in the game, the kett, a species particularly interested in the ancient technology left behind by a strange entity known as the Remnant. These Remnant are still present in robotic beings on many planets that protect some of the ancient locations. Unfortunately, after interacting with one of these consoles, your helmet becomes cracked, and your father decides to sacrifice himself for you to live.
This decision makes you the new pathfinder, and your role is to explore this new galaxy, resolve some of the many problems that arose while others were waiting for your arrival, find habitable planets to settle, and make peace with the different species you find in the new territory. And oh boy, are there a lot of things to do.
The story of this game makes you feel less like Lewis and Clarke discovering a new land, and more like a legal mediator. The majority of my missions had less to do with exploring new worlds and meeting new species, and more to do with ending the constant bickering between races, forming connections not between new races and mine but the same old races that came along aboard the Nexus, the central station, and making sure that people weren’t trying to sabotage the people on the station.
The opportunities I did get to follow the usual Mass Effect trends were fairly enjoyable. Exploring strange “vaults” that helped terraform worlds to my liking through the solving of Sudoku-like puzzles was fun every time. Meeting new species and setting up diplomatic relations between us and them felt like the job I expected when given the title “pathfinder”. Fighting off some of the Architects (giant Remnant squid monsters), piecing together what happened to first settler camps, and making choices that inevitably make half of the Initiative hate you. All of these things feel like the game I want to play.
Here’s where my problem is. The game is so full problems that I haven’t seen since the last generation of consoles that getting to these enjoyable moments means trudging through the sludge of strange systems, technical glitches, and “come on, seriously” moments. So much so that when I got to the end of the game, which is amazing by the way, I was left with a feeling of confusion at how the whole game didn’t reflect that feeling.
The game is full of systems that have little to no explanation as to what they do or how they work. Upgrading, researching and developing technology, picking a class, solving puzzles, modding weapons, using consumables; the list goes on. I’m not asking for full-fledged tutorials, but in a game where every time I pass by ANYTHING one of my team or my built in AI feels a need to repeat the same 4 or 5 lines about it, it seemed like the priorities were out of balance.
A number of technical glitches in the game are the main source of my problems. The character creation is fairly simple, but the bigger issue is that the facial animations of characters. In a day where motion capture is being used in a significant number of games and is clearly the best way to portray animation in games, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s version should be a place of embarrassment. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this looks like it came from Mass Effect 2 over five years ago, and any search of this problem will surely come up with some disappointing, if not fairly humorous, results.
Also, while on planets, a number of severe problems occur: massive framerate drops, game breaking bugs that crashed my own game at least three times, technical issues galore that require the player to reload saves, and a number of strange moments like characters just walking away from a conversation you have with them leaving you talking to an empty screens. All of these problems are consistent enough to need mentioning not just as a here or there moment, but a reality that players need to accommodate while playing. And each time it happens, you just have to sigh and then fix the problem yourself.
I find Mass Effect: Andromeda to be a good game, but not for lack of trying to be bad. Each problem I encountered, I had to fix myself or just bear with. I hated the facial animations of my character, so I forced her to wear a helmet. The strange instances that happen in the dialogue were distracting, so enabled subtitles to skip through those moments. Each time the game glitched or broke, I had to be the one to reload saves and make my way back to where I was hoping it was fixed. These issues aren’t forgivable, the same way Assassin’s Creed Unity’s issues were unforgivable. All of this is a damper on the beloved series, and they all take away from the overall experience.
Since I’ve finished the game fully, including the task quests which may be some of the worst quests design I’ve ever been apart of, there has been an update fixing some of these issues, with more coming in the future. So congratulations to those of you picking the game up weeks after launch, as you won’t have to struggle as much as the early adopters like myself. But for those who did pick the game up at launch, these patches don’t fix the experience we had with the game or the game I’m reviewing.
- Gameplay: Interesting story, great combat, a collection of moderate to severe bugs
- Graphics: Poor facial animations and rendering, occasionally beautiful
- Sound: Great sound design and FX
- Presentation: A good story with some of the best combat tied to an outdated and often broken game