Title: Mass Effect - Andromeda

Platform: PS4, Windows, Xbox One

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: ARPG, Third Person Shooter

Players: Single player, Co Op 1-4 players




Written by Whistler 5th April 2017

















Mass Effect: Andromeda, if you’ve not been privy, has been at the epicenter of yet another squabble between critics, fans, angrier fans, and onlookers. Why is this you ask? A title that took something around five years to develop as well as going up against the lofty expectation set about from the previous trilogy, (known for their fantastic character interactions and storylines) but what we got is, well, it’s no Mass Effect 2 nor 3.

With the masses at each other's throats over pre release footage showing not-so-great animations, so-so writing and bugs a plenty, is the Andromeda galaxy done for, or is there something worth exploring?  


Let’s get the obvious out the way though, the PS4 version of Mass Effect: Andromeda is an absolute technical mess. Facial animations are by no means the worst, but they are incredibly subpar for a title that’s supposed to tell a Sci-fi epic with a vast array of colourful characters. Most alien races look fine, but the humans all have this elastic rubber doll thing going on, diving headfirst down the slippery slope of the uncanny valley.

The lip movement is decent but nothing looks like it’s going on above them, characters either staring into blank space or erratically look anywhere but where they should do. The framerate is mostly stable but there are some odd and overly regular moments that it tanks considerably during conversations and in the Remnant vaults (not helped by the heavy handed motion blur). There’s a comedy season’s worth of glitches in both singleplayer and multiplayer such as voicelines playing over one another, floors vanishing and one particular glitch that saw my character take an action man pose who could only jump forward.


























It should be noted that the Sci-fi RPG boldly strides beyond the familiar; if the original trilogy could be considered Firefly, then it could be said that Andromeda attempts a more Star Trek approach. 600 years after the events of Mass Effect 2, you take the role of either Sarah or Scott Ryder aboard the Hyperion, one of four ark housing tens of thousands explorers with the intent of founding a new home in the Andromeda Galaxy. However turns out the promised ‘Golden Worlds’ are now harsh hellscapes, the other arks are missing, and Ryder has suddenly inherited the title of Pathfinder. The Andromeda Initiative has suffered every setback imaginable, now it’s up to Ryder to solve the resource crisis, find the other arks and unlock the secrets of the Remnant technology in order to make the planets inhabitable again.


The story never quite hits the same high notes as it’s predecessors but it was initially refreshing to see such a different take on the space RPG as opposed to retreading the same motions. With the title of Pathfinder, a role of which decides the best course of action for exploration, it felt more believable to have others look to you for a decision. Thus when the HQ for the Initiative, the Nexus, finally showed signs of progress it felt all so rewarding; however this feeling is short lived. Afterwards, the Nexus rarely shows any change, even outposts you help build are merely plonked down and that’s about the size of it. Alas too much of Andromeda’s story feels like nothing more than a plethora of side objectives and to-do’s, an unending list of MMO grade fetch quests and rather anti-climactic side stories. Crew loyality missions and a handful of the main campaign are more in line with the quality expected, but these are scarce gems buried under the heap of unavoidable tedium. Even this entry’s antagonist is depressingly one-note, often sidelined to the restoration of the Golden World’s plotline, with a one tracked goal and a painfully predictable plot twist.


The broadly focused narrative could have worked, however the plot if plagued left right and centre thanks to the lacklustre delivery, both in terms of dialogue, writing and pacing. The cast is initially dull and dialogue rarely goes beyond small talk or info dumps, hell when showing grief or joy you could barely tell without the context of the conversations. There are some decent moments and some genuine conversations that touch on poignant themes, but these are few and far between amongst the awkward dialogue, cringey interactions and amateurish writing.


























The series’ signature Paragon/Renegade system has been ripped out and replaced with the Personality System which regularly gives you a selection of four dialogue options: Passionate, Logical, Casual and Professional. These serve as a way to shape Ryder into what you would want but I couldn’t for the life of me tell if it made any difference. While the binary choice of “good” and “evil” was certainly an outdated mechanic, but outright replacing it with this half baked illusion of choice is one step forward and five steps back.

Much like how Fallout 4 faltered for it’s limitations for how the player may “roleplay” the protagonist, Andromeda suffers heavily from feeling like no matter the path taken, the outcome will always be the same result. There are still some consequences, but they’re a far cry from the ones made in previous entries, often feeling utterly contrived. Be rude, the character shrugs it off, silly, they simply ignore it; the dialogue is written poorly enough but when my choices made little impact to the outcome I found it rather difficult to stay invested.


ME:Andromeda is by no means a bad game, in fact it makes several notable improvements to the series. Narrow corridors and chest high walls are now dwarfed by expansive planets; these miniature open worlds are certainly breathtaking sights with rich varied landscapes and fantastic lighting. Each planet takes full advantage of the frostbite engine offering cinematic sights that really give you the sense of a living world. While exploring did dull due to the aforementioned laundry list of side objectives, it captures the feel of interplanetary exploration down to the tee. That being said it feels like so much more could have been done with your Star Trek-esque wrist scanner linked to your very own omnipresent super AI, SAM. At first it was pretty cool as Ryder and SAM analyze foreign vegetation or the structure. Quickly scanning objects are reduced to nothing more than pushing a button to progress a mission and interesting pseudo-science tidbits a means to gain research points for the tacked on crafting system.


In order to gain access to the stronger weapons and armour, as well as modifications for gear and your planetary land cruiser. You’ll need to scan objects throughout the galaxy accruing the necessary Milky Way, Andromeda and Remnant research points to then manufacture them for field use at the cost of precious minerals and resources. Due to the messy UI crafting can be such a headache, even comparing weapon stats felt overly clunky. Even once I accrued massive stockpiles of every bloody space rock and bug shell, it hardly felt rewarding crafting high level gear for how much time it demanded.


























Combat at least offers up the same quality we expect from the Mass Effect name; the added mobility thanks to Ryder’s spacesuit enables you to make lofty jumps or evasive maneuvers to quickly reposition yourself in battle. While the shift to more open combat has is growth pains and can feel haphazardly messy in certain locations (especially in multiplayer) once become accustomed, it allows for more experimentation in conjunction with the flexible skill tree. No longer do you you need resort to separate saves and while you shouldn’t stretch yourself too broad, Ryder can adapt several play styles and experiment with multiple class abilities. Not only that, but thanks to SAM you can assign profiles that offer substantial buffs to certain stats and swap them on the fly mid combat. Cooldown upon swapping makes them feel less useful, but it was certainly exhilarating as I stealthed my way behind the enemy lines, picking them off slowly then jumping head first with my vanguard profile for some biotic fisty cuffs.  


You can’t help but wonder what a few more months in the oven could have done for Andromeda, it feels lacking in refinement. For those willing to see through or outright ignore it’s issues there is a some solid quality underneath, however it’s hardly consistent. Alas it steps too far away from what made each Mass Effect such a special experience and this time where the writing is downright abysmal, the gameplay doesn’t compensate for it’s shortcomings. You can get your money's worth with the mammoth amount of content and there’s enjoyment to be had with the combat, but if you're looking for compelling stories and multifaceted characters then look elsewhere as the weak writing will only leave a bitter taste. It’s an interesting venture into the series’ unknown, but one that wasn’t worth the wait. Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a bad game, but it is a disappointing one.



Pros:

Refreshing narrative framework,

Beautiful looking worlds to explore,

Builds on the combat of previous entries,

Plenty of content.


Cons:

Missions and objectives feel more like chores,

Laundry list of fetch quests and busywork,

Technical flaws aplenty,

Lacklustre writing,

Dull cast of characters.


Final verdict,

Mass Effect: Andromeda scores a so-so 6.5/10.

 

Written by,

Whistler

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