Mass Effect Andromeda was a game I had looked forward to for years. I loved the original trilogy, even the poor ending choices were not enough to spoil what was ultimately an excellent adventure which I put a lot of hours into completing. Andromeda had big shoes to fill.
After putting in a meagre 6 hours of game time I had encountered more dodgy animations, terrible dialogue, uninteresting side quests than I had in the entire original trilogy, but thankfully Bioware have released patches to set things right. From the very beginning Andromeda sets itself apart from the original trilogy. Set over six hundred years after the first games was not enough distance from Commander Shepard so they also moved the story to another galaxy. Four Arks, massive colony ships filled with passengers in cryo sleep, have made the journey to Andromeda but only one arrives at its destination.
After you create your character or choose one of the base models, you will then play as either Sara or Scott Ryder. Within the first hour or so you inherit the role of Pathfinder and then your mission to colonise the Andromeda galaxy truly begins.
As the Pathfinder you will quickly be overwhelmed by everything the game throws at you. You must deal with the mystery of the missing arks, politics issues aboard the Nexus – Andromeda’s version of the Citadel, alongside the pesky problem of planets being uninhabitable for colonies – so no pressure there.
All of the challenges listed above have the makings of a very interesting game but this is where the first issue begins to rear its head. Fantastic as it is that Andromeda is filled to the brim with things to do, it’s the large amount of side quests that appear everywhere that becomes quite jarring. With so many extra missions lumped on your lap it is hard to know where is the best place to start.
On top of flood of side quests, is an avalanche of information about galaxy, the races who inhabit it and the true nature of your mission. It’s all thrown at you so soon into the game that it can be tough to take it all in. Even an information overload combined with countless missions appearing everywhere you go could be viewed in a positive light, if it were not for the fact that a lot of the missions seem so uninteresting. Too many missions involved speaking to an NPC to start mission, travel to designated location, pick up item/drop item/press button, then return to NPC.
Now don’t misunderstand; there are many great missions available to play, and when you have put in twenty or more hours into things really do start to come together. Once you have played enough to have Ryder’s stats developed to your liking, the weapons and armour matching your style of play and your squad favourites chosen, it does feel like another great Mass Effect game. It’s just a let-down that you need to put so much time in before Andromeda can stand on its own two feet.
Andromeda locations are clearly superior to the previous games from the very first minute. The Frostbite engine does an impeccable job in rendering the most beautiful looking Alien planets. A desert covered world soaking in radiation, a planet so cold that ice feels warm and plenty of others make for a varied and interesting galaxy.
Combat is also much improved in Andromeda. While the new cover system does take time getting used to, I can’t quite say I prefer it to the old way; the combat here is far more fluid and fun. Ryder is a far more agile character than Shepard ever was and his jump jets let him navigate a battlefield with ease. Battles never feel too drawn out with an energetic pace and, at times, a frantic feeling to them, fights with even minor enemies consistently have the right mix of challenge and fun.
Mass Effect Andromeda is at times quite a fun RPG but can also be a bit of a slog. Characters can feel a little underdeveloped but there is also enough interesting moments to make them worth getting to know. There is certainly room for improvement in a lot of Andromeda but there are also signs that a great story is about to unfold. More games are sure to follow which will reveal if Bioware still have a good story up their sleeves. It’s a game well worth playing and hopefully the start of something great.