Mass Effect: Andromeda (Review)

Played On: PlayStation 4

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

Genre: Action RPG

Developer: BioWare

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Released: March 21, 2017

With all the buzz of Mass Effect being remastered, I thought I would finally get around to playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, and with my expectation set firmly at cautiously optimistic, given all the backlash it got over the years, I prepared myself to jump to another galaxy!

The Mass Effect series holds a very special place in my heart as I was very fortunate to stumble onto the series by sheer chance and as I live under a rock, I honestly knew nothing about the series at the time, so I had no expectations, and just dived right in with Mass Effect 2.

This lasted all of 5 minutes as I quickly realised that they are all linked, and there are choices you make in each game that have large and small consequences to the sequels. I guess I had spoiled some of the first game, but honestly, I had no clue what was happening, so little damage to my expectations was done, the only thing I was sure about was the default choices from the first game sucked.

It was at this time my roommate at the time came in and just told me “Stop, don’t do it, go play the first one, it doesn’t look great now, but you will thank me.”

I took his advice, and I did very much thank him as that was the beginning of an incredible adventure and I always hoped we would get something like it for the next generation.

In a galaxy far far away…

Andromeda has a small connection to the original but stands firmly on its own feet, there are small elements and side quests that do reference the original series, so you have been warned.

You get a lot of what made the first game so special here, so all you Mako fans will be happy to have a clunky and strange land vehicle to traverse planets and a goofball squad made up of the usual suspects. It seemed to me that the plan was to start with a smaller crew like with ME1, and then hopefully we would see more crewmates as the series would expand.

After a bumpy start, Andromeda feels like a real breath of fresh air compared to the regular series, with the game built for the PS4 we get a lot of quality-of-life improvements and stunning visuals. The RPG side of things is fairly simple with a variety of skills you can level up and re-arrange whenever you are back on your ship. Your crewmates all level up at the same time as well, so there is no awkwardness where you feel like you must keep rotating members around in order to level them up evenly.

Brave new worlds, new life, and a single new civilization

The one thing that made Mass Effect truly inspiring was inhabiting a vibrant galaxy thriving in all manner of exotic species, from the Asari, Salarians, Turians, Quarian, Krogan, and more.

As you made your way through the story, you can truly appreciate the sheer amount of effort that went into crafting each alien race and its accompanying history. You learn quickly that humans are infants when it comes to Space travel, as all these aliens were here long before we came on to the scene.

In fact, humankind’s first contact with alien life turned into a war between the Turians, this little bit of history was a pretty brave idea for the developers to go with. We often have this idealistic notion of humankind reaching the stars and being part of some galaxy-wide coalition, so to see it start out spectacularly disastrous was an awesome idea in my eyes.

This is sadly my biggest gripe about Andromeda as we only get 2 alien races, the Kett and the Angara. Neil Pollner who was a senior writer on Mass Effect 3 and who contributed to Andromeda has mentioned previously the project was only budgeted for two new races of aliens, so Andromeda was always going to feel smaller than the Milky Way regardless of how many planets we would get to fly to.

I also remember reading some nonsense about the alien races that were dropped because the creative team wanted fans to be able to cosplay all the aliens that you could meet. Take it from me, never underestimate a cosplayer in what they can make, I have no doubt whatever crazy alien ideas they had, there would be troves of diehard Mass Effect fans down for that challenge!

You can be my wingman any day

The multiplayer side of the game while almost completely void of a player base now started off as a fun enough experience when I was able to get a game going. I had some trophies that could only be obtained by meeting certain criteria in multiplayer, so I grit my teeth and got to it, what I found started off fun but I could see I wouldn’t invest a huge amount of time in this side of the game.

The modes aren’t nearly varied enough though and it seems little effort went into improving this experience over the years, after a few games I thought I would try out the different class options only to realise you not only level up each class separately, but even the male/female alternative skins are treated as separate characters and are levelled independently as well.

With that said, it’s multiplayer and it’s a triple A game, so you guessed it, along comes the microtransaction store. I laughed when I realised that the loot boxes you could purchase had weapons, characters, and power boosts, and this game came along before Star Wars Battlefront 2.

A little history lesson for those unaware, when SW BF2 came out, gamers could pay real money for loot boxes that gave access to enhancements and major characters that would otherwise take dozens of hours to unlock by playing the game. This was on top of paying the 60 euro price tag for the game.

Both Andromeda and SW BF2 released in the same year, but the fact Andromeda flew under the radar of scrutiny for the large part is most likely down to the single-player game feeling like a full experience and the “don’t buy it if you don’t want it” mentality was enough for fans of the franchise.

Spaceships, alien crews, and breaking it all down

Andromeda still manages to be a wonderful self-contained piece of Mass Effect glory, the ship you get access to is pretty awesome. Space travel is simple enough and while the star charting part gets repetitive, it does help when you just want to take a break from the planetside explorations.

The UI is simple enough and moving about is a lot easier with the jump jets that allow you to bounce about the landscape with ease. I felt like although the crew had well-rounded personalities and engaging side quests, the actual mechanics of using them felt largely underused.

Unlike the pause and command type of action you get in Knight of the old republic, you can just leave your crew to chip away at the enemy with no real worry. It’s more likely that group composition matters more if you play the game in its hardest setting, but if you are happy to play in normal then this never really becomes an issue for you.

To Andromeda and beyond!

Overall, I feel like Andromeda is a very polished game, and looking back on past reviews it’s likely that a lot of its bad press came from the same early release bugs we see as almost commonplace now.

Everything that I loved about Mass Effect is here in this game, the awesome crew and their own stories and motivations, a big galaxy to explore, and strange new worlds to seek out. We get a lot of what made the milky way awesome, but I do wish Andromeda could have had more life to see.

It seems like Andromeda had such big shoes to fill and expectations to meet that it was hard for it to ever be the smash hit its predecessor was. I mentioned before that there are some very small spoilers to the original trilogy, so for first-timers, I am going to say wait for the Legendary collection.

Discovering the milky way and all its wonders for the first time has to be experienced first-hand, and if you can do it with the remastered version, you are in for a treat. That said, if you have played the trilogy and have been on the fence about Andromeda, it’s a great way to tide you over till you wait for the remaster.

Play this game if…

  • You have played the Mass Effect trilogy

  • You like space exploration

  • You enjoy breathtakingly beautiful diverse environments

  • You have ever wanted to go where no one has gone before

All images are taken from the Mass Effect Andromeda press kit here and the Mass Effect wiki

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