Anything less than a genre-defying masterpiece would have made Mass Effect: Andromeda a disappointment, which is why sizable portions of the internet are exaggerating that the game is a dismal failure. Those who ignore the noise and actually give it a shot will be able to see that’s not the case at all. This is a full-scale BioWare-driven deep dive into interstellar love, politics and conversation-wheel juggling that has drawn legions of obsessed fans for a full decade. There are a dozen ways the new game could have lived up to expectations that may well crush it, but what we got is an absolute beast that should be savored by any Mass Effect fanatic.
Games: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 21
Let’s start with the ways Mass Effect: Andromeda soars. The galaxy it presents seems vast and limitless, burgeoning with possibilities begging to be explored and discovered. Combat is vastly improved over previous Mass Effect outings, with a free-ranging, melee-and-flanking-prioritizing dynamic that makes battles seem visceral and dynamic rather than rote button-mashing cover-based slogs from before. The dialogue is more diverse than ever, with writers doing away with the simplistic paragon/renegade pendulum in favor of a more nuanced system that lets you craft your character’s personality throughout, reacting and adjusting to the needs of the moment without artificially forcing you to take the high or low road. Whether you choose the male or female twin space explorer as your avatar, you can customize the looks, voice and body type to your whim.
Although few fans embraced the horde mode-style cooperative multiplayer from Mass Effect 3, the mode is still around in Andromeda, carrying considerable heft and upgrades along with it. Although not necessary to complete the game, racking up loot and upgrades online ups the speed that you rack up funds to purchase upgrades. That plays well with the uncapped level system, which lets you respec at any point throughout the game. Gone is the restrictive class system that locks you into favored strengths and weaknesses. You can reconfigure your character’s specialties before every mission if you want to micromanage to that degree. The much-derided land-based travel from the first game is back in a far more navigable and less aggravating form. The sheer amount of ways you can traverse the galaxy — making friends and enemies of various races to band together against a greater threat and establish a new interplanetary government — is liberating. For players who are into the dating sim/social dyanmic aspect of gameplayer, the game is loaded with tantalizing romantic possibilities.
Now for the nagging shortcomings that limit the potential of what could have been an early game of the year contender. Sloppy texturing and an antiquated, overburdened engine make the game chug and pop like a last-gen holdover all too often. And as strong as the dialogue options are, the storytelling as a whole feels milquetoast. The plot amounts to a chain of fetch quests and inconsequential decisions that have little effect on the story as a whole. There’s no use stressing over a particular call when you realize the only changes will be what characters pop up in the background of cutscenes. Although the plotting picks up pace the deeper you sink into the story, the beginning segments move so slowly that many players will give up before things really get moving. The game is packed with untold riches, but it takes more patience than it should to enjoy them.
An RPG as stout and robust as Mass Effect: Andromeda demands a heavy investment of time and effort, as well as attention to deal from its players. That’s why it’s confusing why BioWare didn’t sin as much into the latter into this game to fully reach its grand vision of an open-world, exploration-based deep-space saga. No matter what the amount of post-release patching and story-based expansions developers crank out, Andromeda will probably always carry the stigma of a missed opportunity. But while it falls short of the stars, it still manages to reach a comfortable, satisfying orbit and simply can’t be ignored by any serious RPG fan. Don’t let the whining distract you from the fact that this is one of the most satisfying treks you will enjoy on your console this year, and one that will have you aching to take on the next entry in the new trilogy. There’s a brave new universe out there, just begging to be explored and conquered, and gamers who go all in won’t regret answering that call.
‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ Around The Web:
“There’s a lot of roughness throughout the game, and the technical issues, while not game-breaking, are often incredibly distracting.” –Polygon
“Sadly enough, doesn’t deliver.” –M3
“Performance issues are a huge letdown.” –VideoGamer
‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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