As I’ve said previously, I’ve been waiting a long, long time to get my hands on Mass Effect: Andromeda. Finally, the wait is over and I was able to dive straight in with the latest addition to this epic franchise. I don’t mince words when I say that Mass Effect in its own right is a modern sci-fi classic. Not only did Bioware manage to create some awesome games in the original trilogy; they managed to create an entire galaxy full of life. And now, for the first time since it’s beginning, we get to see them do it again.
Mass Effect: Andromeda leaves behind the Milky Way galaxy of the first game in search of new beginnings. We were promised a new start. Free from the reaper threat of the original trilogy. Free to carve out a new story with new characters. But most importantly, we are free to explore everything a new galaxy has to offer.
And trust me when I say it has a whole lot to offer. After being awoken from cryo-sleep at the beginning, your party is in for a rough start. You crash land on an alien world prepared to face the unknown, ready for anything. But from that first glimpse of a new world you can tell what is in store. I was really struck by the beauty and wonder that was in front of me. The planet you land on is plagued by storms but sports some truly impressive views thanks to the floating rock formations in the distance. It really helps to set the scene of exploring the unknown and I love that! Within 10 minutes of booting the game, I was hooked in and ready to see what was out there, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Each world is unique. Be it the dense jungles of Havarl or the radioactive wasteland of Eos, each world has something new to offer. What’s more, once you get there, there’s far more to do than stop and smell the roses. Seeing as how we are trying to find a new planet for our people, each world offers a challenge to us. Whatever the problem on each planet, we have to make sure it is inhabitable. Our people are depending on Ryder, the Pathfinder and protagonist to the story, to find us a new home. It’s a monumental task to be in charge of millions of citizens, but hey, someone has to do it!
Which brings me to my next point. Fans of the original trilogy will know that when we get our hands on Shepard, they’re already an established military hero. However, in the case of Ryder, all we can say is we were in the wrong place at the right time. It’s no spoiler that at some point in your adventure, Ryder’s father becomes unable to fulfill his duty as Pathfinder. Charged with finding new worlds to settle, the Andromeda initiative cannot survive without a Pathfinder. And so, the job falls to you, a novice at best. Though little is known about Ryder and there are a lot of blanks to fill, we know one thing: You are no hero. You have minimal training, you’ve never fought a war, and you’ve certainly never been responsible for an entire galaxy.
Ryder is a new lump of clay for the player to mould. What you do with them is entirely in your hands. And the role of Pathfinder gives them a huge chance to not only mark out a path for their people but for their success. It’s actually quite refreshing to be the underdog in this situation. It’s like giving a farmer Excalibur and telling him “Hey, go kill that thing that’s been plaguing the land!” We get to see Ryder mature not only as a leader but as a soldier.
Speaking of which, let’s talk combat! When I say Ryder is a lump of clay to mould, I’m really not kidding. When it comes to combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda there’s a lot to love, but also a little bit to hate. First and foremost, this is a Mass Effect game. What happened in the original trilogy is gonna happen here. With the addition of some jumpjets which allow you to hover and dodge in combat, the combat still boils down to aim, shoot, throw biotics at it til it dies. The real fun comes from the skill trees. For the first time in the series, the player is not
For the first time in the series, the player is not constricted to a single class. Players are given the option to spec into combat (weapons), technology or biotics (space magic) however they like. Think of it as a pick ‘n’ mix. If you want to sample a couple of tech skills, have decent aim on guns and then throw in a few biotics for good measure, that’s completely available for you. If you want to stick to the old system and specialize in one or two trees, that’s good too. It’s all about experimenting and finding what’s right for your playstyle. It’s a bold choice that was criticized heavily pre-launch. However, I really like it since it ties in well to the games overall theme of exploration.
That said, there is one thing I will massively critique on that note. While Ryder is free to pick anything, there are only a limited number of points to invest in skills. If you spend a couple points on one skill then decide “Nah, this sucks!” you can respec aboard your ship for the cost of a few credits. However, since the credits scale each time, at a rate I thought was quite high, it does hamper the excitement of experimentation. On first playthrough, it’s natural to not know what any of the skills do. We should be free to explore without a barrier in place for our skills.
Finally, I would be remiss in my duty as a reviewer to ignore the glaring flaws in this game. The game is quite buggy. You’ve no doubt seen the infamous animation bugs that have been making the rounds. At the time of writing, these have not been fixed. However, Bioware has stated that these will be fixed with time. I wish I could say they’re the only bugs I’ve encountered, but as the picture of Drack and his clone will tell you below, there’s more to be found. In my opinion, corners were seriously cut when it comes to playtesting the game. There are animation bugs, complaints about the male/male romances and the constant annoyance of NPC’s speaking over squad banter. But I have faith most of these will be fixed… eventually.
So, final thoughts? Let’s face it! Andromeda will never live up to the original trilogy in the hearts and minds of many a fan of the series. But the great thing about Andromeda is that it doesn’t have to measure up. In the original trilogy, the story was all about Shepard and the Reapers. You were saving the galaxy from certain destruction but anything that we learned about the galaxy was because Shepard personally hadn’t experienced it. However, in Mass Effect: Andromeda, we are the first to experience everything. We make first contact with aliens and we discover worlds. This isn’t going to the library and studying, this is writing the goddamn book!
While comparisons will always be made, I believe Mass Effect: Andromeda has all the potential to become something great should a sequel arise. After all, everyone thought Mass Effect 1 could use a bit of work too! If you’re even the least bit inclined towards a fresh adventure, this certainly isn’t a bad choice. Whether you’ve played the original games or not, you can have fun here. You just need to get out there and find your path.