Here it is, the moment we have been preparing ourselves for the last 5 years. We are finally able to see what lies beyond our solar system in Bioware’s brand new entry into the beloved Mass Effect franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda. Players need not worry if they haven’t played the previous instalments, since this title is a stand-alone entry, branching a new story arc in the Andromeda galaxy.
Early on, players are introduced to twins Scott and Sara Ryder, who are a part of the Pathfinder team, a special ops team who lead an ark of humans to the new galaxy of Andromeda, hoping to settle and continue the expansion of the multiple species of the milky way. Mass Effect: Andromeda also sees the returns of the Asari, Salarians, and Krogen from the past entries, as well as a new species, the Angara.
Along the way, you clash with two main antagonists, the Kett, a race of beings bent on the assimilation of all lesser races, and the Remnant, a sentient race of machines who maintain the vaults and seem to have some history in the galaxy.
In past entries you could build your character around three distinct classes; combat, biotics, or tech. These choices would put your character in a preset class, based on where you invest your skill points. Now, all three skill trees are available throughout the game and allow you to spend points freely. As you put your points into the three trees, profiles will be unlocked that give you additional bonuses for the various abilities you’ve chosen. These profiles allow you to change on the fly from a combat and tech-focused strike to an array of biotic attacks, as well as a blend of all three classes. With these options, no two battles are alike. Creating your character had a decent amount of options, but it didn’t set itself apart from other games offering the same thing. similar parameters can be found in Skyrim, Fallout, or WWE, but lacking the same depth the other franchises offer.
In the first three Mass Effect titles, we got to see what the edges of our galaxy had to offer, this time around we are roughly 2.5 billion light years away, making home in Heleus, a cluster located in the Andromeda galaxy, home to dozens of different planets, from lush jungles, barren deserts, and frozen tundras. The environments play a large part to the gameplay. Spend too much time in any of these extreme zones, and watch your life support slowly drain. Once it’s gone, your shields and health take the hit, so make sure you keep your Nomad rover nearby.
In-game combat was well crafted. Each group of enemies has a good variance in enemy types and is able to keep the challenge high. Combat was made to feel more adaptive and fluid and is able to refrain from becoming too repetitive. Rather than having to press a button, your character will snap to cover when you are near. Three abilities can be saved to a hot bar, with four “favorite” profiles you can change to. This lets you completely change your tactics mid-firefight and be able to refrain from becoming too repetitive.
Players became accustomed to the Paragon/Renegade system from the first three titles, where during dialog sequences throughout the series would prompt you with, among various neutral choices, a good and bad choice that will influence your personality, as well as the opinions of those around you and even at times, your appearance. This time around, the system was replaced with a more natural system, where you are given four different emotional prompts. Your choices, among the general speech options, can be either emotional, logical, casual and professional. This lets you make more personal choices that you yourself would make, rather than once side or the other. Strike teams allow you to send teams to complete missions for rewards or complete specific “apex” missions yourself in multiplayer. Earn loot chests that contain either crafting ingredients, credits or weapons. Each successful mission earns you mission credits that you can spend on new strike teams or items for multiplayer. On average, strikes can take up to a couple hours or so to complete, afterward you can collect your rewards aboard the Tempest.
Research and Development is a new crafting mechanic that allows you to discover and craft new weapons, armor, and consumable items. Scanning various items on the different planets with your omni-tool will earn you research points that you can spend on blueprints for new armor and weapons. once the blueprint is in your database, you can move to the development section and craft them. The bottom of the screen will display your amounts of minerals, you need to craft each item. Weapon and armor blueprints are a one-time purchase that can be upgraded, some up to ten times, while consumable items need to be researched each time, but increase the odds of finding them in the field.
Multiplayer makes its anticipated return to the franchise. Choosing from a long list of pre-built characters, you and three other players go up against seven waves of enemies on a variety of levels. Waves will consist of either straight survival or objectives such as killing specific targets or finding and holding a location on the map for a predetermined amount of time. All these objectives will give you a rating out of 3 stars, which will go towards your final rank and XP, leveling your characters up. while you can unlock new weapons, each character has a preset skill list that cannot be changed, so don’t feel like you’re stuck to just a human adept. Feel free to change it up and play different classes and even different species. It is very similar to the multiplayer seen in Mass Effect 3, but with various tweaks to better the flow of gameplay. Supply drops can be purchased with mission credits or Andromeda points, which in turn can either be earned or purchased with micro transactions.
One of the first things you experience with this game is the score, and I must say it is incredible. the tone shapes the initial experience quite well. The score was composed by John Paesano, who was previously best known for his work on The Maze Runner films and Netflix series, Daredevil.
With a game of this scale, it is not surprising to see a few glitches here and there at launch, yet it’s still something we shouldn’t see with an AAA title such as this. From missions simply not completing, to character animations simply crashing, this is something that simply shouldn’t happen. During one character’s loyalty mission, it took me three attempts to complete, due to glitches. First, the waypoint never spawned after defeating the enemies and once it did on the second attempt, I was met with a fixed camera on a still model with a spinning head, rather than the cinematic I was expecting. Another major issue with the title that fans have taken notice to is the facial animations. I have noticed a common issue that is bordering on the uncanny valley, where the faces don’t seem as human-like as they should. Whether it be a clipping of the face on the neck or armor or the mouth doesn’t quite shape the words like it should, it felt like something that could be seen in the first or second game, not something we would see in the next-gen instalment. Luckily, Bioware have been hard at work on patching the many issues plaguing the game since launch, with which can definitely be considered a cause for a break in immersion to some.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is only Biowares second next-gen title and you can be sure they hit it out of the park. The sheer scope of the explorable galaxy is breathtaking. How traveling from planet to planet is an experience rather than a loading screen. Both combat and dialog have been revamped for the new series and feel crisp and polished. Some of the choices you have to make genuinely weigh on you and impact the of the campaign, in that it really has a way of allowing yourself to become the pathfinder. It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran to the franchise or a brand new player picking it up for the first time, this is an adventure that everyone should experience.