*Authors Note: This was originally written before various update’s were released. Depending on when you read this, some of the game experiences may be slightly fixed.*
*Reviewed on PS4*
New game, new galaxy. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, the familiar things we have come to know and love during our time in the Milky Way are left behind. In favor of more of the same.
One Small Step…
Andromeda kicks off 600 years after the events of the original trilogy, with different ark’s containing species that are sent out to make planets habitable for future generations. Once situated in this new galaxy; the journey begins, with a new cast of characters led by “The Pathfinder” known as Ryder. Trouble comes in the way of a new brand of enemy labeled as “The Kett,” led by the Archon. As far as enemies go, the Kett never feel like a true enemy mostly because they are seen only as cannon fodder for the player to take care of. That isn’t to say they don’t have an agenda, as the Archon’s only desire is to acquire remnant tech, a new synthetic-based machine race-that seems strikingly similar to the reapers.
Most of what Andromeda has to offer is a “next-gen” Mass Effect experience that doesn’t really breakout of the traditional mold from which it was formed. In fact, it’s played quite safe. Even space exploration feels familiar; scan a planet, then launch a probe to collect resources. It’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with this type of gameplay, it just lacks innovation. My play-through started to feel more like a Deja-Vu experience than a new one. Despite arriving at a new galaxy, there’s only one new species, not counting enemies such as Remnant and Kett: the Angara.
Andromeda is also plagued by consistent technical issues found throughout the game. Besides the sub-par facial animations, the game features many bugs such as textures popping in and out; audio drops; and crashing. Some of these issues can take immersion out of the game due to how jarring it is. In many ways these issues feel familiar, as most games have some of these issues in one form or another. I also found familiarity in exploration.
What really stood out was a continual sense of progression and accomplishment found in establishing planets viability. Interacting with Remnant monoliths make habitability easier for each planet. To further increase a planets viability to 100%, a series of side missions must be completed in order to achieve full effect. Since most of these locales are decent sized sandbox environments-especially the planet Elaaden-the Nomad is the go-to vehicle in helping traverse vast landscapes.
Many of the same combat abilities found in previous games remain with the exception of a few. One thing Andromeda does differently, is the freedom to pick and choose which classes you want on the fly, adding for much more experimentation. This is quite useful when it comes to tricky combat encounters. The same can be said for a limited, yet upgradable arsenal of weapons. Gathering different research points and resources can lead to better tiered weapons, consisting of the standard assault rifle, shotgun, and sniper type. The Pathfinder can also send out strike teams to acquire resources, provided you have an internet connection.
The moment-to-moment gameplay boils down to feeling competent. Shooting and using abilities feel fun, while the new jet pack allows for mid-air hovering. Taking cover is slightly finicky however, as Ryder will only hunker down behind certain objects found on the battlefield. Leaving Ryder exposed to incoming fire.
Multiplayer, when boiled down to its simplest form is simply a horde mode. Based on three levels of difficulty: bronze, silver, and gold; a team of four players complete seven objective-based waves, all while fending off enemies. Wave tasks range from assassinated key enemies within a given time frame to disarming bombs. Different alien races with their own unique skills can also be unlocked and switched on the fly. Leading to a variety of experimentation of which is also found in single-player.
Fun can be had with this type of mode, even with friends. That is, when the multiplayer runs smoothly. My time in multiplayer was frustrating to say the least. During many of my matches I would experience severe lag and/or rubber-banding, making gameplay unbearable and even non-existent.
If you can get past the consistent technical problems, there is a fun game to be had in Mass Effect: Andromeda, even though it feels somewhat dated.