Mass Effect: Andromeda

To give Mass Effect: Andromeda a fair shake one needs to spend enough quality time with it. Now that this has been done, we ready to render a verdict on the new generation of Bioware's space RPG.

As a fan of the original trilogy of Mass Effect titles, I was very much looking forward to the new game in the series. The change in setting offered a fresh take on the material and while the game's technical issues cannot be overlooked the biggest issue the new Mass Effect has is that it simply doesn't feel as fresh as the setup would indicate.

At a point set in the middle of the Mass Effect trilogy, thousands of people from the milky way galaxy decide to go looking for a new life in the Andromeda galaxy. They fill giant space crafts called arks, put themselves in suspended animation, and wake up 600 years later in an entirely new place. Unfortunately, the beautiful new worlds they expected to colonize aren't there when they arrive, as in the intervening centuries something has happened to make these worlds uninhabitable.

You play as either Sara or Scott Ryder, one side of a brother-sister combo who is designated as the Pathfinder when your father, who previously held the title, sacrifices himself to save your life. Now you must figure out what has happened to these worlds while searching for a place for thousands of people from all different races to settle down and start new lives. The premise is a brilliant one that opens up the game for the introduction of entirely new characters, creatures, worlds, and abilities, but in the end, it simply doesn't follow through on much of it. Your party is made up almost entirely of the same sort of characters you remember from the previous trilogy. The characters themselves are different, more or less, Asari Peebee is fun and flirty compared to all-business Liara from the other games, but only a single member of the Angarans, a race that resembles what a manta ray might look like if it was bipedal, joins your team. Outside of them, and the villains, called the Kett, there's almost nothing "alien" about Andromeda.

Angarans Mass Effect: Andromeda

This was supposed to be an entirely new galaxy, yet all the creatures of note are bipedal and speak a language that must follow existing structures, allowing for translators to work and everybody to understand each other. While I can understand that this was the simplest way to make the characters relatable, something utterly unrelatable would not have been out of place in a completely different galaxy.

Having said that, the characters that make up your team and crewmates in Mass Effect: Andromeda are a fun collection. While some a bit too close to counterparts from the first three games a few are interesting new addtions. As well as the aforementioned Peebee and the Angaran Jaal, you also get a female Turian with access to the black market, two humans, one soldier and one biotic, and a Krogan, who's pretty much like every other Krogan in the entire game. In addition to those that you can take on missions, there's also the crew of your ship as well as numerous other characters back on the Nexus, the stand-in for the Citadel, as well as other planets.

Of course, no discussion of the NPCs can be complete without discussing romance. Your options in that regard are varied depending on the gender of your character, though at least some options exist among either gender of NPC regardless of whether you play as male or female. The amount of "romancing" required varies by character. As much as romance may be a normal part of human interaction, the idea that sex is a reward one earns after making the right dialogue choices still makes it all feel a little creepy but if animated sex is what you're looking for, you'll find it here.

Character creation feels much more limited than the previous games, and even while doing so you begin to discover the graphical issues that Mass Effect: Andromeda has. No character I made felt cohesive. They literally looked like several different elements slapped on top of each other, rather than a single face. I ended up going with the default look for Sara Ryder in hopes that it would make the character come across better. If it did, I'd hate to see what a created character would look like. A great deal has been said about the character animation issues that Mass Effect: Andromeda has and while I can't really argue that faces never quite look right, the issue is mostly limited to human characters. Aliens, by virtue of the fact that they simply look less like real people, seem to survive much better. Perhaps another reason that the game should include more aliens.

The game's RPG elements take their cues from Mass Effect 3 giving each stat a fairly simple skill tree to upgrade. The one notable addition is that rather than forcing you pick a character class at the beginning and then limiting the abilities you have, you have full access to all three primary ability areas, combat, biotics, and tech, from the beginning. Focusing your stats in certain areas unlock character profiles that can be used to give you different bonuses as well.

Combat is pretty much what you'd expect from a Mass Effect game. It's primarily cover based shooting, though the addition of the jetpack to give you some vertical movement does change things up and make you a bit more nimble than previous titles. Combat is the core of Mass Effect and while the game doesn't do a great deal new, it also doesn't do anything wrong. It's solid and satisfying.

Mass Effect: Andromeda also borrows from Mass Effect 3 by adding co-op multiplayer to the mix. If you enjoyed the multiplayer in that game then you'll love Mass Effect: Andromeda because it's basically the same thing. There's an added level of polish and the addition of the jetpack gives you the ability to move around maps vertically, but it doesn't take advantage of that nearly often enough.

While character animations may seem a little off in Mass Effect: Andromeda planetary designs do not. All of the different worlds that you can visit look unique and the landscape of each is interesting a fun to look at. The worlds are beautiful, which makes roaming around them in a Mako-like cruiser much less frustrating than the original Mass Effect.

If this was the first game of the M\_ass Effect_ series that would be one thing. So much of the game is "almost" there that we'd give the few stumbles a pass. While this is the first Mass Effect game on this generation of consoles, we're too far into the life cycle of them for that to be an explanation of the problems. There's still some great stuff here. If you're just looking for a Mass Effect game to sit down and play because you like the combat, Andromeda will not disappoint, but if you were looking for a new galaxy of gameplay, we haven't arrived there yet.

This game was reviewed on Xbox One via a download code provided by the publisher

6 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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