You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. – Johnny Cash
Mass Effect Andromeda comes in five years following the last chapter of the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect 3. It is set to take place after Shepard’s saga; it proposed a whole array of new characters, as well as an entirely new mission.
Building on Cash’s quote above, building on failure and using it a stepping stone is a good way to saying that it is important to evolve and use what you have learned from the past to prevent you from doing the same mistakes. This will be explored a little later in the review, but for now, let us focus on the new game backed by Bioware and EA, Mass Effect Andromeda.
From the dawn of time, we have always looked up to the starry skies and were fascinated by space and its overwhelming nothingness filled with mysteries and the unknown. As a leading series for the western action-RPG genre, Mass Effect was able to capture our hearts with its deep narrative and well-executed space exploration theme. Now, Andromeda must live up to the franchise with a new protagonist at its feet, as well as a new mission. A new galaxy is being explored and Andromeda takes you there in person. Can this title live up to the Mass Effect series and use past games as stepping stones for a better future? What kind of new and exciting things does Andromeda offer?
Andromeda is in fact the name of an important initiative, one that will expand the human race by living on new planets. The initiative invites the Pathfinder, a leader in this quest to finding the promised land (or lands). Of course, while the search seems simple on paper, things are bound to get wrong, and fast. Suddenly, when everything seemed to run so smoothly, there is a change in leadership, a large number of losses, and a brand new extra-terrestrial menace pops out of nowhere. Now we have some action going on!
Now leading the Pathfinder, it is your mission to deal with the new enemy while being short-staffed, and take control of the entire situation at hand. Just like past titles of the series, Andromeda puts a lot of effort in its space exploration. It is, after all, your main mission – to find the promise land that is! Another similarity is the work done on its narration element. A lot resembles Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3, but in its own way, it feels slightly different. Unfortunately, Andromeda doesn’t set itself apart from the other games of the series – there isn’t any fresh air.
Although the script and overall presentation appears to be nothing more than a mere recycling of the Mass Effect series, what sets Andromeda apart from the rest lies in the gameplay. In this title, the rhythm is a lot more exciting and fluid compared to Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3. One of the striking differences comes from the number of options players have in terms of abilities while on the battlefield. Now, players have a lot more mobility with their jetpacks; you can jump and air dash in various directions, thus adding an interesting movement mechanics to encounters. This, of course, adds a lot more dynamic to the classic combat we were used to in past iterations. Yes, a lot of the abilities made a comeback, but thanks to the newly added ones, mixed with the jetpack mobility, encounters turned from a chore to a personalized and exciting fight. Special abilities are separated into three major groups: Combat, Biotics and Tech. Each one offers both active and passive move sets, so make sure you use the one you are most comfortable with to fully appreciate what the game has to offer.
Let’s look at Tech real quick. If you are the type that enjoys projectiles and disrupting your opponent, then this branch suits you. As the player behind the controller and in charge of everything, you can use up to three abilities from the three available branches. Additionally, you gain access to a custom combat profile that lets you chose one of seven existing profiles. From the get go, you don’t have everything unlocked, but as you play along, you will be awarded with ability points you can spend to level up your combat skills. In time, it will be possible to gain cool perks and moves, such as the ability to become invisible when dashing. Of course, there are a lot more unlocks you can achieve.
If gameplay is so solid and encounters are so much fun, why is everyone making fun of the game online?
Unfortunately, the online reception of the game isn’t at its top form. As it turns out, a lot of fans are making and releasing memes and gifs making fun of the game’s technical issues. The worst part…they are right. Mass Effect Andromeda is filled with technical problems worth making fun of. A quick run of the game will be enough for you to notice numerous faulty character animations, bad transitions in between cinematics and gameplay, loads of framerate drops, texture-popping, aliasing…the list goes on. It is unfortunate to call it, but when it comes to those visual issues, there are way too many of them to even be able to call it tolerable. How can you stick to a story when characters and animations break in the middle of a cinematic?
Fortunately for the technical issues caused by everything animation and visual, the audio element of Andromeda comes to the rescue. Narration is on point and very much entertaining. Although it fails to deliver any new per say, the voice acting and structure of the script hold everything in place. As for the backdrop music and the rest of the score, it is lively and sounds superb. A bonus goes to how immersive the combat becomes thanks to all the well-executed special effects.
As a game that focuses on exploration, Mass Effect Andromeda offers numerous extra missions that wants you to explore, or sometimes revisit, planets and systems for scavenging specific resources. Those will be used to create weapons and various equipment that are required and/or can be of use for your expeditions. There isn’t much grinding per say – it is a standard way to make you spend more time outside the main story and focus on exploring the vast world BioWare created for Andromeda.
In addition to the exploration element and the numerous extra missions available, Mass Effect Andromeda features a simple, yet interesting multiplayer mode. Just like traditional horde modes, players must work together to take on wave after wave of enemies, all while working together to complete a set mission. There is a card system that grants you different type of buffs and perks, and a difficulty setting that ranges from bronze to gold. Nothing fancy really, but a good way to drop from the main mission and use this mode to polish your shooting skills.
Going back to Johnny Cash’s famous quote, Mass Effect Andromeda should have been built using Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 as a stepping stone. Unfortunately, the game feels like it was released way to early, without undergoing a thorough debugging session. While gameplay brings a fresh air to regulars of the series, the countless visual issues fail to make Andromeda worth calling the best Mass Effect game. Fans have been expecting a lot more from the title, and the result is sad to say the least.
Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t a bad game. It has some great moments. Unfortunately, there are so many bugs that in my opinion, it isn’t even worth owning the game. It isn’t anywhere near as bad as No Man’s Sky – actually, you can’t even compare the two – but as someone who enjoys playing video games and admiring the wonderful work developer do on some of those titles, I was greatly displeased with Andromeda.
The fact of the matter is, the game should have been polished further before launching. This is another example of a game that was rushed to release and it is sad because it had the potential to being one of the best Mass Effect games ever made. If there were half less visual issues with it, it would have been easy to defend the game. Sadly, Mass Effect Andromeda will end up (if it hasn’t already) at the mercy of critics and online active fans.