As a departure from the core series, Mass Effect: Andromeda aims to expand it’s universe into depths unknown. A giant leap for mankind? Perhaps not.
With Bioware’s latest effort, the player is plunged into a beautifully diverse world that is full to the brim with excitement, unknowns and adventure. After my short time in the game, I’ve come to the early conclusion that this, however, is not enough. A few glaring oversights plague this game. It is pitiful to think that Mass Effect: Andromeda had so much promise, but has been let down by shoddy game design. There are flashes of brilliance, from the gorgeous visuals, to the astounding depth of character and item customisation. These things are all easily implemented, however. In this golden age of RPGs, (I’m looking at you, The Witcher 3…) if your game doesn’t have these things, it’s an instant flop. The flipside to this, is that Mass Effect: Andromeda completely gashes the idea of fleshed out and important relationships.
The first two hours of the game are a rollercoaster of storytelling. You’re probably going to want to bring a sick bag though. After introducing you to your father, who’s also your commanding officer, some seriously heavy themes play out. What sounds like it could be an intense narrative actually turns out to have very little effect. Characters aren’t built up. Relationships aren’t created. Deep emotional ties never come to fruition. I didn’t feel for any of these people. All credible storytelling is thrown by the wayside in favour of ramping up the action and moving the player into the next phase of the game. I like to think that the writers envisioned a grand space opera full of perilous plot twists, heartfelt moments and thrilling suspense. Instead we receive B-movie actors in a highlight reel that would not be misplaced in a parody movie.
The mistakes do not stop there. In fact, it’s insulting to even think of these as mistakes. I can only describe the abomination of facial animation during cutscenes as pure, unequivocal laziness. Twitchy eyes, contorted jaws, bent limbs. The list is endless. What starts off as a humorous encounter, quickly devolves into the status quo. I find it laughable that Mass Effect: Andromeda comes equipped with a difficulty setting called “narrative mode”, when the visual bugs and nasties do everything in their power to rip you out of any immersive narrative that Bioware have haphazardly thrown together. This is 2017. Products should not be released with these glaring oversights and with complete disregard for quality assurance.
Whew. Rant over. Almost.
For everything this game does brilliantly, there are small details and missteps that infuriate me. The inventory system is a shambles. Navigating it is a chore. I feel like I have to strategically plan my journey through my inventory more than I plan my way through an enemy’s base. Funnily enough, I’m quite impressed by the way Bioware have implemented a loadout system. Instead of carrying around a battalion’s worth of blasters and armour with you, players must make tactical decisions as to which weapons they will deploy with on missions. Its refreshing, and encourages the player to know for themselves which weapons are best suited for the task ahead. As you unlock more bases on a planet, you will gain access to your armoury during a mission. Sometimes the nature of your task evolves in such a way that a strategic change in firearms may be just what the doctor ordered.
Gunplay is also well executed. 3rd person shooters sometimes suffer from a severe lack of precision and simplified controls. It’s a delight to see that Andromeda actually uses this simplicity to it’s advantage. The cover system is intuitive and does not distract from the fun. Walk up to an object of waist height or more, and you will instantly hug it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without fault. On occasion it will throw your aim off where you weren’t focusing on your surroundings, or you’ll think a crate can be used for cover, when you’re sorely mistaken. Aside from this, blasting enemies with pew-pew laser guns is incredibly satisfying. Sound design is a big factor in how enjoyable I find a games’ gunplay, and everything in Mass Effect: Andromeda has an audible kick to it that I love.
In fact, the sound design is an all round success. The hum of a cruiser’s innards as it rips through time and space, perfectly painted over a beautifully haunting orchestral backdrop. It’s so incredibly immersive. All of this combines well with the general visuals of the galaxy. Barring the inexcusable mishaps I mentioned earlier, this is a very pretty game. I wasn’t expecting this to be a world where every now and then I’d need to pause, take in a scene, and smile at it’s beauty. These small moments in Andromeda serve as a reminder that this hostile galaxy is full of delights and stories. You simply need to seek them out.
In general, Mass Effect: Andromeda will satisfy many gamers. There are missions aplenty, swathes of narratives to explore, and enjoyable gameplay. Unfortunately for me, the inherent issues with it’s quality severely distract from the bursts of exhilarating firefights and storytelling. It’s unforgivable, and in its current state, does not warrant the AAA asking price. As is now the norm, day one patches will hope to alleviate some of the pain. I truly hope that Bioware can rectify the situation. This game has huge potential, and can be a breath of fresh air for the Mass Effect series. As it stands, it’s a sorry sight. Place it on your wishlist, and wait for either a quality assurance update, or a decent price drop.
This preview is based on the pre-release PC build available to Origin Access members, however it can be expected that this is the exact same version that will be used at launch.