Mass Effect: Andromeda is a welcome new installment following the original Mass Effect trilogy, featuring new characters, places, and a few new surprises.
Mass Effect is a science fiction game that takes place in the Andromeda galaxy. You play as the Pathfinder, the leader of a mix-and-match team of humans and aliens. Together, you explore the galaxy looking for viable worlds to settle, while fighting the evil kett every step of the way.
What I often noticed about Mass Effect: Andromeda was that it was very similar to Mass Effect 2. An ancient long-lost race of aliens (Prothean/Remnant), a diabolical plan to genetically alter Andromeda species into kett (alter Prothean into Collectors), loyalty missions, a finale boss battle that at one point feels beat by beat the same as the humanoid reaper encounter at the end of ME2, the Tempest (the new Normandy, but this is a given), and so on. These similarities weren’t necessarily bad things. In fact, I was happy just to be playing Mass Effect again, with new stories and characters that I could fall in love with again.
Andromeda has some new things to offer, like an explorer’s dynamic between the Pathfinder and this team, rather than the militaristic vibe that Commander Shepard always had with his team. The three new alien races in Andromeda are the Angara, the Kett, and the Remnant. This time in Andromeda, the main character has some new biotic and tech abilities, and you’re not confined to one chosen career path. Before, if you selected soldier as your career path, you were limited to only your weapons and some combat powers. Now, at any time during combat, you can pause the game and switch out your powers to gain the advantage against different enemy types.
Something I really enjoy about Andromeda was the sense that it was returning to the roots of what made the very first Mass Effect game so good. Exploration and customization return in deeper and more vibrant ways to the Mass Effect franchise in Andromeda. As you venture into the Heleus cluster, you will discover habitable worlds, which are all gigantic open-world maps for you to drive around in. I spent so long on some planets completing side quests that I hadn’t played the next step in the game’s main quest for an entire day. You could do this in the first Mass Effect, though this time around the planetary environments are much more detailed. I would take breaks from my mad sidequesting fury to gawk at the horizons and landscapes of Andromeda’s planets. I even played on the lowest possible graphics setting and I was impressed. Customization was a big selling point in the first Mass Effect, and it’s back with some great options in Andromeda. Weapons and armor can be researched and developed or bought, and they improve in power and defense on the classic roman numeral scale I-X from the first game, with X being the best of the best. In addition to acquiring better gear, you can also get attachments for your weapons like heatsinks to exchange your ammo clips for the classic heat sink from the first game, or you can apply a scope to your fully automatic pistol. You can also upgrade your armor for better defense. Customizing your weapons and abilities is necessary for making it through the game on Insane difficulty. I wouldn’t really know though, I played on “Narrative” difficulty.
Which brings me to the cast – many people who play Andromeda will likely say that the original cast members from the Mass Effect trilogy can never be replaced. I say of course not, but BioWare still has to have characters for their video game, dinguses. And you know who is great at making believable, relatable, characters with dreams, fears, and emotions? BioWare. Romance options are back, allowing you to pursue a relationship with boys, girls, and aliens. I’m pretty you sure you can even make it to bed with more than one character, though I don’t know what consequences are in place should you try that. During my playthrough I attempted to romance Cora, but I think I missed a mark somewhere because we never got jiggy with it. Next time I’ll be sure to make my character look more attractive. While I will miss the cast from the original Mass Effect games, there is room to love and adore these new characters too. Andromeda certainly gives them each a special moment, and the future of the franchise will give them room to grow. I suspect fans will grow to love this cast just as much as the originals.
The Pathfinder himself and herself are voiced by the Uncharted Series’s Tom Taylerson and the talented Fryda Wolff from every video game ever. This time around the main character has a family. Depending on whether you choose to play as male or female, the gender you do not pick will be your twin for the duration of the game. Then there is the Pathfinder’s father who is Pathfinder Senior Alec Ryder, and then the Pathfinder’s mother, Ellen Ryder. I liked how this time the main character has a family. It makes it more believable that the Pathfinder is a human being with people they care about, and people that care about them in return. The story also has some interesting secrets and twists that involve the Ryder family.
Many of the graphics glitches that the internet raved over had been fixed by the time I picked up the game. So, I am sorry for those people who love to hate things. I’m sure they’ll find something else to hate about the game. The particle effects and level design of the game was on point. Everything was gorgeous to look at, and I really felt the sense of scale as I traveled around the galaxy, driving over the planetary surfaces. Getting your money’s worth in Andromeda means spending quality time on each planet, and that’s just what I did. I do wish that character customization was less ugly, but I think BioWare will always have ugly character creators. They may just be too damn proud of it.
Combat is slick and fun. When you get to smashing kett to pieces, try to the biotic combos. They’re a blast to unleash. Literally.
Overall, Andromeda is a good game and I’m excited for what will come next. It seems to me like BioWare needed to see that they could keep us going, with a new set of characters, a new galaxy, and new challenges. Now that they’ve done that, I believe the next game to follow this is going to be epic and blow their fans right out of the water.