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Review

Mass Effect Andromeda Review

Where no man has gone before.

There’s few games that will carry the same weight of expectation as Mass Effect Andromeda. The original trilogy remains one of the highlights of the last generation, despite the furore surrounding the third entry’s ending, and with Andromeda’s step into a new galaxy and onto a new console generation, gamers have been eagerly awaiting its arrival. While Mass Effect Andromeda is far from perfect, it’s still been worth the wait.

It’s 2819, and you awake aboard the Ark Hyperion, a craft carrying 20,000 colonists to the Andromeda Galaxy. At the end of a 600-year voyage, you’re amongst the first to awaken, but everything isn’t what it was supposed to be. The so-called “Golden Worlds” that were planned to become home turn out to be inhospitable, dying or dead. As you assume the role of Pathfinder, you’re the leader of the team tasked with finding the colonists a new home.

You’ll be performing reconnaissance, mapping unknown territories, mining, as well as undertaking more diplomatic missions and staging support efforts. You improve the viability for life on each world by completing missions, unlocking forward stations, or getting rid of pockets of alien resistance. All in all, you’re an intergalactic busy-body, just as you were in the previous games. Things definitely get off to a slow start, but the sense of exploration pervades the entire game, and the mystery surrounding your own family, and the drive to make Andromeda home in the face of adversity carries you along, even if it all feels a little too safe, and some of the writing is resoundingly pulpy.

You can make a quick start, taking either Sara or Scott Ryder as a ready-made option, or create your own vision of a Pathfinder. The character creation tools are solid enough, though even with a variety starting points, I struggled to make my character anywhere near as close to lifelike as the defaults. One nice touch is seeing your father’s appearance alter depending on how you customise the Ryder twins.

Rather than the Paragon or Renegade dichotomy, speech options now have four tonal choices covering Emotion, Logic, Casual and Professional. It means that there’s much more variety to the way conversation rolls on, and more nuance to your own character’s personality as you’ll no longer simply choose the good option or the evil one, but whatever fits best with your image of Ryder. It’s a welcome improvement, especially as you spend so much time talking to other characters, and your own character will start to reflect the personality traits you favour, even when they’re out of your control.

Despite the changes, conversations otherwise operate in the same way to the previous Mass Effect and Dragon Age games. Fans will be glad to know that you’ll be speaking to a number of well-loved races from the original trilogy, including the Asari, Krogan, Turian and Salarians, though this being a new galaxy there are some new races to encounter as well. The Kett are an aggressive, war-like race, with bony outcrops around their heads and bodies, while the Remnant are the technological leftovers of an ancient civilisation. The blue-skinned Angara, meanwhile, are a spiritual people who favour personality over formality. Both the Kett and the Angara prove interesting adversaries or allies, but the Remnant could easily have come from any science-fiction film or book from the last fifty years.

For those looking to immerse themselves fully in the world, besides the more freeform character classes there are RPG systems upon systems piled into Mass Effect Andromeda, all of which can potentially suck hours of time from you between and during missions. Mining resources, scanning alien technology – which in turn provides points for researching – developing new technologies, and of course building personal relationships with each member of your team, are only a small part of what’s available to you. As ever, you can have a particularly personal relationship with the object of your affection and Mass Effect once again leads the way in terms of inclusivity, and shows that there really are no boundaries to romance.

Andromeda essentially re-skins some of the best-known features from the Mass Effect trilogy, with the Nexus replacing the Citadel as the central hub for the Andromeda Initiative, while you embark on your personal ship the Tempest. The fastest ship in its class, its huge meeting room with its 360 degrees of viewports give it a light and welcoming feel that the Normandy and its enclosed spaces lacked.

What isn’t reskinned is your new Nomad transporter, the sports car of planetary exploration. It’s a huge improvement over the original Mass Effect’s bus-like Mako. You can explore huge swathes of a planet in it, with swift four-wheel drive or slower six-wheel when you need extra traction, while it’s equipped with a boost and a jump for getting out of trouble. It’s upgradeable as well, and you can load it out with various defensive measures or improve its performance in a variety of ways.

Navigating in the Tempest is also a simple matter, with some great graphical transitions making it feel as though you really are a member of a space exploration team. While the planetary scanner returns, allowing you to find points of interest or mineral deposits, the ship refuelling has been done away with, streamlining the experience for the better. This is true science fiction theatre, and there are shades of Star Trek and Star Wars at play here, alongside the novels of Iain M Banks or Isacc Asimov. There are very few games that have nailed the sensation of adventuring in space as well as Andromeda does.

Returning from the third game is the multiplayer, though this time there’s only a very loose connection between it and the single player content, with the ability to send Strike Teams off on missions that gain you various rewards. These missions can either be automated or handled personally in multiplayer, though it does make them completely optional and ultimately somewhat throwaway. The full multiplayer horde experience is still as enjoyable as before though, benefitting from the improved visuals and expanded combat movement, and tackling missions with a team of like-minded compatriots remains a thrill.

Despite some of the early feedback from Andromeda’s Early Access trial, most of the game genuinely looks phenomenal, and in the midst of combat or exploration on an alien planet, there are plenty of moments where you’ll be drinking in the visuals, particularly if you have an HDR enabled screen. Labyrinthine alien structures glow with fluorescent glyphs, while the flora and fauna of alien worlds gives way to some remarkable, breathtaking landscapes.

Where things fall apart are in the character models, both in appearance and animation, and there can be some distinctly lacklustre design at work in both the central and the outlying characters. Commander Addison is an early low point, and her almost robotic animations and mannequin-esque eyes serve to pull you robustly out of every conversation with her. Bioware’s games have never had the most remarkable character appearances, but then it seems relatively common for games of this scope to take things a little easier in this department. Despite that commonality, it’s still a big disappointment, and there’s been little improvement, if any, over the previous games.

Indeed, despite all of the good work that’s been done elsewhere, Andromeda certainly isn’t without flaws. Whether it’s the glut of minor annoyances, like an immersion-breaking pop-up window each and every time you pick up some salvage, or something more likely to seriously break your concentration such as a character’s speech not playing, screen tearing, frame rate drops, or the physics engine going crazy when you despatch an enemy, they all serve to cheapen what is still largely a good experience.

People will have different mileage on such things – I know some gamers who can barely play something if the lip-syncing is off, let alone if a character is hanging unintentionally in mid-air – but it’s a shame that Bioware haven’t been able to sand off more of the game’s rough edges given how long it’s been in development.

What’s Good:

  • Fantastic sense of exploration
  • Spectacular landscapes and planets
  • Deep RPG systems
  • Finding true love (and lust)
  • Enjoyable multiplayer horde mode

What’s Bad:

  • Poor character models and animation
  • An array of technical glitches
  • Writing isn’t always of a high standard

I found it hard to be excited during the opening hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda. It feels too safe, too much like what’s gone before, but then it clicks. There’s a moment where the galaxy opens up and you find yourself embarking once more on a huge mission across compelling, beautifully constructed planets, surrounded by memorable characters. Sadly the glut of technical missteps serve to cheapen proceedings, but this is still an adventure you don’t want to miss out on.

Score: 8/10

Versions tested: PlayStation 4 Pro, Windows PC

14 Comments
  1. JR.
    Member
    Since: Apr 2013

    Loved the original trilogy and really looking forward to playing this but my god, those character models look like they were lifted from Saints Row the Third.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 08:40.
  2. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    Loved ME2 and ME3. The ending, it sucked but unlike most fans, it did not ruin the game for me. This, it sounds like a worthy entry and fun but I am disappointed by the lack of squad power usuage, customisation(Armour,weapons) and the levelling system is something i’m not sure about.

    I will approach it with caution. DA:I let me down with the last act being a bit meh(pre-Trespasser), the main antagonist being a bit crap and too many fetch quests that can give Skyrim a run for it’s cash as Fetch quest simulator.

    Regarding the responses, does it still have the words(I.e. same as METrilogy) or is it the Fallout 4 approach where we have feck all idea of what will be said? If it’s the latter, feck that! If it’s the former(and a hybrid of DA/ME’s dialogue wheels), that is intersting.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 09:50.
    • Dominic Leighton
      Member
      Since: Mar 2012

      It still has the words, with your chosen tone bringing a logo up in the centre (just in case you’re not sure which is a casual response and which isn’t!). It’s an evolution of what was there before – and feels more or less the same.

      Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 10:14.
  3. JustTaylorNow
    Member
    Since: Oct 2011

    Cancelled my pre order. I will stick with Horizon Dawn, ME will drop in prince crown real quick.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 10:02.
  4. RFC2007
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    I find it strange that nothing much was made of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s awful facial animations and lip syncing considering so much of the game is spent talking/listening to other characters, but with Mass Effect it’s been made a huge deal.

    To start with it put me off H:ZD hugely, but being honest the vast majority of the characters are highly uninteresting anyway and I find myself skipping through a lot, just enjoying the open world and general gameplay.

    ME games on the other hand, always seemed to have many interesting and unique characters to talk to, so if it’s a similar case with poor animation then It’ll still be an improvement over Horizons generic ‘dangly shit hanging off their heads’ characters.

    Nice review, and still hugely looking forward to the game :)

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 10:05.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      “It’s not helped that talking to basic quest givers and picking options for more information gives you fairly wooden conversations. The camera changes focus quite dynamically, but the participants feel like they’re only moving from waist and up, while Aloy is stuck with an ever-so-slightly pained expression throughout.” – TSA Review.

      It’s generally accepted that big open world RPG games won’t have the best facial animations are they are done using algorithms rather than animators. As there is so much dialogue, animated everything by hand would take far, far to long.

      Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 10:36.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      Well TC got there before I could finish my comment. End of the day, yes it can be pretty bad at times in MEA, but it’s not as bad across the board as it’s been made out to be since people got hands on the Early Access trial.

      Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 10:39.
      • RFC2007
        Member
        Since: Sep 2009

        Fair play with the TSA review on Horizon mate, you guys certainly picked up on this. I suppose I meant more ‘across the board’ to pinch Stefan’s wording.

        I just felt that nothing much was made of it in comparison to MEA. Is it much worse?

        Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 11:43.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        I think it’s more jarring in MEA than in HZD, but it’s also been amplified by the Early Access trial getting the game into so many more people’s hands. The cutscenes can actually look pretty great, they can also look like a donkey’s poorly animated behind and everything between.

        I’m only a few hours into the game, so Dom would have to tell you how it balances between the two ends of the scale.

        Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 12:35.
  5. Severn2j
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Hmm, I dunno man, reads like a 6 or 7 to me.. Although, other reviews I’ve read are harsher than this one, so maybe I came to this with a negative viewpoint already.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 11:31.
  6. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Good to know the game is still worthwhile but jeez – those facial animations are horrendous! I could understand the player-created character not gelling well with their animation but it’s difficult to excuse the other characters. A disappointingly jarring blemish on a game which at this iteration should be striving to be stellar in every way.
    Good review, i’m still looking forward to playing it and i’m leaning towards picking Andromeda up before H:ZD but i’ve waited this long so i’ll give it another few days before deciding.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 12:23.
  7. homerjnick
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    8 out of 10 even with all the cons? Other reviews are far less scoring…

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 13:15.
  8. MrYd
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    I presume that yellow-haired character is the result of ages spent fiddling with the character designer and eventually settling on something that looks almost, but not quite, entirely unlike what you were aiming for?

    And that vehicle looks all the wrong size. As if it shouldn’t be driving around alien planets (because nobody could fit in it), but should be delivering apples around a 1980s living room. And yes, I doubt more than about 3 people will know what I’m getting at there ;)

    I think it’s one to pick up cheap later on when I’ve not got a big backlog and I get around to adding an external drive to the PS4.

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 15:29.
  9. Andrewww
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Quite happy it’s just ok, and I won’t have to dash out and get it right now. My backlog needs more work anyway, and later on it’ll be cheaper and better (patched).

    Still, the worlds look quite good in the video, so it’s definitely on my wish list.

    What worries me most aren’t the facial animations, but the ‘Writing isn’t always of a high standard’, because that won’t be patched. And, isn’t that what we come to Mass Effect for in the first place..?

    Comment posted on 20/03/2017 at 21:58.
Mass Effect Andromeda
  • Developer:Bioware
  • Publisher:EA
  • Platforms:PS4, XBO, PC
  • Release Date:23/03/17

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