In absolutely everything it does, this game reminds me of Mass Effect. It feels like Mass Effect. From the awkward character movement to the hours spent talking to all the NPCs, Mass Effect Andromeda is definitely Mass Effect.
As I expected when I first opened the game, half the time I spent playing was talking to people. And to be honest, the characters are and have always been the best thing about Mass Effect. Ignore what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard, because all your allies are interesting, all your crewmates are loveable (heh, pun), and all the politics and tensions and interactions between one another is juicy and sometimes shippable.
Talking of ships, I was super loyal to Garrus in the previous trilogy, but now I have absolutely no idea who I want to romance. Liam’s a funny guy, Vetra is super intimidating in a friendly way, Peebee’s fast-talking, scatterbrained intelligence is cute, Lexi is the competent but slightly nervous doctor, Jaal seems serious at first but he’s totally a fashionista, Cora makes sure everyone’s doing stuff, Kallo and Gil’s bickering is the highlight of my bridge trips. Oh, wait, no I lied. Suvi is the highlight of my bridge trips. Suvi is great. Just great. I dunno, she’s quiet, has an amazing accent, not particularly stand out but at the same time she is. Yeah. Suvi’s cool.
If you’ve played Dragon Age: Inquisition, you’ll be familiar with the open-world set-up and dialogue format. Each planet has a reasonably sized open area filled with story missions, tasks and side quests.
Andromeda brings back aspects of each of the previous games where you can now feel like you’re really exploring planets as in Mass Effect 1 (without the expanse of drab nothingness), send a couple of probes onto planets when a point of interest comes up like Mass Effect 2 (though definitely not as much or as imperative), and the occasional prompts in cutscenes that give you the option to change things up like in ME3 – except now there’s no paragon/renegade play.
While the paragon/renegade actions were a large part of the original trilogy’s gameplay, it’s a welcome change. In its place is the Dragon Age: Inquistion-esque tonal options, where you can choose between casual, professional, emotional or logical (as well as flirtatious when the opportunity arises). This, I like. I can be who I want to be, without it totally affecting my ability to calm a crewmate down so that they won’t die in an important cutscene, Miranda. You didn’t have to die. Just … just come back, okay? We’re cool, right? Miranda?
Also, it makes for interesting interactions. Now that tone is more important than content, I feel I can truly act differently with different characters but still feel like the same person. You know, instead of a being very honourable soldier who preferred to talk first shoot later, but then out of nowhere suddenly give an outlandish outburst where I pre-emptively shoot a guy in the middle of a monologue, make him fall from a height into a flammable liquid and then turn him into KFC – Krogan Fried Carcass. Talk about jarring! I was so shaken that I restarted from my last save to redo the interaction.
To this day, I can still hear their screams.
Okay, so, if you didn’t realise this, I am a massive Mass Effect fan. Mass Effect was the game that brought everything I love into one thing: characters, aliens, SPACE, shooting, ships, exploration, science, politics, moral choices and EPIC DRAMA. I got all three games at once and binged them all within a month. The month in which all my exams and final assignments were due.
So I was super excited about Mass Effect: Andromeda, and my love for the ME universe still persists. I have spent over 80 hours playing the game. And what do I think? Oh, I loved it. I loved it a lot. If I could review this game on enjoyment alone, it would be … an eight and a half out of ten.
Wait, if I loved it, why didn’t I give it more?
I have said this before: I need to do every single side quest before I can continue the main quest. As it is, there are still about ten “Additional Tasks” I haven’t done. These are mainly because I had no idea what they were or I really, really couldn’t bothered after the previous quadrillion side quests. Me?! Not bothered! And then some of them didn’t actually work…
There was also the veeeerrry occasional glitch where Ryder would disappear from cutscenes and dialogue was cut out completely. That’s my biggest complaint, really. While these aren’t “game-breaking” bugs and glitches, they certainly stunted my enjoyment of the game from time to time.
There has been some hoo-hah about facial animations (body movement can be quite awkward as well). They have since sent up a patch fixing the biggest memes and are planning to send out more patches that update even the romantic arcs of some characters. But these are going to come bit by bit over the next couple of months. As you play the game now there are still moments where the animation is so jarring you cringe a little. You just sit there wishing there was a little more care taken into polishing what could have been a really, really amazing game.
So, I see the potential. It’s just really disappointing that it had to come out so … unfinished. So much so that I’ve seen comments like, “How can you support a game with such bad art?”
Wait, hang on. Let’s hit the pause button here. Yes, the game has plenty of glitches and bugs (just saying though that the main storyline is still there and in one completed piece). Especially compared to other games that have come out at around the same time (*cough* Horizon Zero Dawn *cough*) the character animation in Andromeda is sub-par.
However, to people who say “how can you support a game with such bad art?” I ask, have you actually seen the game? I mean, facial expressions aside, everything is very beautiful (which is why the quality of the animation sometimes gets to you). From the weather, to the sand, to the sun peaking over the mountain range. Oh, massive shout out to the people who worked on the footprints. Especially when everyone’s treading in the sand, there are some good footprints animations. Dayum.
There was so much bad press over the facial animations that one of Uncharted’s developers decided to hit Twitter with a bit of a response. It’s an interesting (and really quick) read if you want to check it out.
Another thing to note is that apparently this is the first game this particular studio within BioWare has ever created. Though, I haven’t been able to source that information and cannot confirm whether this is true. And anyway, game-making, especially open-world RPGs, is hard. Jonothan Cooper of the above linked Twitter feed mentioned that BioWare was probably planning to go back across all the animation by hand, but the “5-year dev cycle shows they underestimated this task.”
Though, enough excuses. As a published game, I was slightly disappointed (especially towards the end) with the quality of animation – but only in the cutscenes! During actual combat and running around, sheesh! That suit looks good. That helmet looks good. I look and feel good! On that note, combat feels so much more intuitive than all the previous games. It feels good to hide under cover, use your tech and biotic skills without pulling up the skill wheel and pausing combat. Oh, and to be able to jump and dive in and out of cover with the JUMP JET. YES, THAT’S RIGHT, YOU CAN JUMP. I think that was the most exciting thing about the first gameplay reveal.
Overall, Mass Effect: Andromeda does good. The story and premise is interesting enough to keep me hacking through the laborious side quests. The combat and exploring in the Nomad is always fun. And the highlights of the game are definitely always the loyalty missions and social interactions with your crewmates (of whom, Suvi is the best). If BioWare continues to send out patch fixes, Mass Effect: Andromeda could be great. But as of now, it’s just good. Worth it, but good.