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Mass Effect: Andromeda Review - Welcome to the Initiative

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While I have loved the past Mass Effect games, I unfortunately never actually got to finish them. I played Mass Effect 2, and then the sequel, but the story and characters felt all over the place to me, seeing as I played the series in broken pieces. For me, Mass Effect Andromeda felt like a new hope, and a new way to get into the series without having to be so clued up on the past events.

Andromeda is not a sequel to Mass Effect 3, but it is set in the same timeline. A few hundred years have passed and a collection of humans and alien have made the jump to the Andromeda galaxy in search for new life. Mass Effect: Andromeda lives in the same family as the original trilogy, but feels like something new at the same time.

About that Multiplayer

  • Tested on: 30mbps download | 25mbps upload internet connection

As much as I hate to say it, the multiplayer was not necessary at all for the game, but after I played it I realized that it was just another cash cow for EA. The mode follows the same route as Mass Effect 3, whereas you and three friends face off against waves of enemies in different locations. The character that you chose, will determine the abilities you have, and these "supply boxes" which you unlock, or buy with real money, give you new characters, ammo refills, and health packs. Yes, you need to find these health packs in supply boxes that you buy for real money. 

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While I enjoyed a few rounds of the multiplayer, the matchmaking was not up to par. We entered a lobby where we relied on finding two other players, and when they joined we lagged out. This happened a few times over, which obviously left a sour taste in my mouth. The game mode is also extremely tough, and I would not recommend you try and solo even the bronze difficulty. I do hope to play more of it if I can find three other friends to join me, but I will not be relying on that atrocious matchmaking at all.

Becoming the Pathfinder

In Mass Effect: Andromeda you take on the role of the Pathfinder, a humanoid that is tasked with exploring the Andromeda galaxy and finding Earth II, or a similar planet that humans and other species can call home. After a series of unfortunate events on the first planet you explore, it is revealed that an aggressive alien race known as the Kett have been up to no good across the galaxy, trying to master the ancient technology known as Remnant. The peaceful search for a new home turns into a cat and dog chase between the Pathfinder and the Kett, as they want access to this Remnant tech, of which the Pathfinder can grant them.

It is a Bioware game, so there are layers of lore behind it all. Past events have taken place that you need to try to make sense of, and characters that you meet will need some time to get to know. Most of my first few hours of the game were spent talking to the members of the Andromeda Initiative, the group of people responsible for the warp into the new galaxy. 

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Everyone I met was interesting to some degree, and Bioware did a great job introducing them into the series. The same cannot be said about the crew I spent my time with in the game. Past Mass Effect games had great relationships to build up, possible romances, and lovable teammates that you began to care for after your time with them.

Andromeda's selection of characters felt a bit bland, with cliche personalities, poorly written companion quests, and the conversations feel robotic due to the technical issues surrounding the facial animations. As much as I tried to relate to these crew members, it as just not working at all for me, and I just followed the pre-determined path in their quests just to get it over and done with. There was no crew member I wanted to get to know, and after a while, they just became AI that fought alongside me in battle. 

Exploration is where the party's at

Andromeda has expanded the planets beyond all games in the past. Bigger worlds to explore, more to find, and all this adds to the great exploration feature in the game. Starting off on the bridge, choosing a sector to fly to, and slowly visiting each planet in the planet view mode was extremely enjoyable. Every planet and there are dozens, offer a detailed 3D model of it to view, and details on it like its day cycle, what substance is found there, and a general description of each one. It was here that the game truly felt like a Mass Effect experience and the sheer magnitude of the galaxy set in. 

After searching for the planet that our main objective was on, landing on it was always exciting as you never knew what you were going to get. Exploring each one, be it for a quest to help a new species, or just to scavenge for materials was enjoyable. The Nomad, a 6-wheeled moon buggy, made getting around easy, and the new character boost like the jetpack, or in my case biotic dash due to my skill path, makes climbing up cliffs and getting across chasms very quick. The past Mass Effect games lacked this character movement freedom, and Andromeda feels so much more seamless thanks to it. 

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The new movements also come in handy in combat, which is both an improvement in some areas, but also a step back from past games. Combat in Andromeda feels less stiff thanks to the ability to dash and boost in the air. You can even boost and hover for a few seconds while you shoot enemies in the distance. Why I say it is a step down, is that it lacked the polish found in the past games. The new "openness" of the combat eliminates the precision you had in both your abilities and weapons, and often I would miss shots due to the boost in speed, and even miss a grenade throw or push kill because, just like me, the enemies are also now all over the place. 

Pew pew. Die aliens! 

The combat is still very good, though, and it takes a while to adapt to the new difficulty of it. You cannot just slunk against a wall now and shoot, you need to use all your movement abilities, as well as character abilities to get the most out of the combat, and to succeed in turn. I have always loved the skills in the game, but in previous titles, you were limited to what class you chose at the start of the game. In Andromeda the barrier has now been shattered, and you can level up skills and abilities across all fields of mastery. I went with a bit of Tech, which gave me the Incinerate ability, as well as leveled up my biotics for the infamous singularity attack, and I even went into combat for a frag grenade. These multiple routes then also unlocked profiles for me to choose from, which gave me boosts in different areas of my character skills. These profiles all depend on your choice of skills, and the more you focus on one tree, the better the profiles that are unlocked to further boost your character. 

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It would not be an RPG without a deep inventory and research system, and Andromeda has it all. Focusing on a new sniper rifle to research, and then gathering enough resources to build it, was a drag, but naturally, as I played the game, it all slowly unlocked, and the material required were easy enough to find. There is not a wide range of armour and weapons to choose from, but it is enough to set your mind on unlocking a specific weapon you want to use, and collecting the materials to make it either by scanning planets, or mining them in your Nomad. 

Technical disaster

Mass Effect: Andromeda does suffer from a severe lack of polish. All these issues mainly revolve around technical things. No checkpoints during tough and long missions, visual bugs, and just all-around nasty unpolished engine issues. The facial animations are poorly executed and contributed greatly to my dislike of the crew members, and the visuals have some great moments, and then some utterly revolting ones. One, in particular, was in the Tempest where there was a simple image stuck on the glass that was supposed to look like the Nomad's reflection. It was an eyesore and a disgrace to the power of the Frostbite engine.

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It was very hard at times to forgive the technical problems in the game, but saying that, the core gameplay of Andromeda was never affected by these issues. Sure the facial animations made me want to punch everyone in the face, but I still got what was going on in their lives. The game still delivered a Mass Effect experience, which might not be the best one but it is still the biggest one. The way I looked at it after my playthrough, was that I had no other options to choose from. I either played a good Mass Effect game that has these issues or let these few problems stop me from experiencing a game that I have been so waiting for. 

On the story note, there are some hiccups every now and then with regards to characters and how well they are written, but in the end, the Andromeda story and the "search for hope" element remained the strongest aspect of the story. Besides the odd poor script here and there, the general storyline, and emphasis on the Andromeda Initiative was simply brilliant. 

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Mass Effect Andromeda is in a strange spot. In one way it is a fantastic Mass Effect experience, but then again some hardcore fans might not enjoy it due to these technical issues, and the bland crew members that accompany you on your journey. If you ever remotely enjoyed a Mass Effect game, then you will find Andromeda somewhat appealing to some degree. Sure you will have to put up with some nasty technical issues, but all in all, it is an experience that you don't want to miss. New people, new places to explore, and a new foundation for the series, makes Andromeda a very attractive game, bar the "my face is tired" issues you will have to deal with. 

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