‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ Review
8Played on PC with Gigabyte G1 1080
Bioware’s “Mass Effect: Andromeda” isn’t going to please everyone, and before we move on to a new galaxy, we will have to come to terms with that. The game’s fanbase, which spans the globe at this point, consists of more than a dozen countries, languages, cultures, and age-demographics, and not everyone is going to find exactly what they’re looking for in the new installment. Many younger players will travel into Andromeda without ever having played a “Mass Effect” title before, so Bioware’s new installment has to serve as an introduction, and continuation, for a large mass of disconnected users. In their neverending quest to find the perfect structure, Bioware implemented a few new changes to the classic “Mass Effect” gameplay, but many popular aspects of the previous three games have been carried over into this new title.
After dedicating almost an entire decade to Commander Shepard and his fight against the Reapers, the “Mass Effect” series is finally branching out, and telling a new story in a new galaxy. This new story actually begins in 2185, just after the events of the original “Mass Effect,” but before the start of “Mass Effect 2”. At this time in the Mass Effect universe, the “Andromeda Initiative” officially begins to take shape. The initiative cryogenically freezes hundreds of thousands of individuals, from all of the major species in the Milky Way galaxy, and loads them into specially designed ‘Arks’. These giant ship are sent through hyperspace towards the Andromeda galaxy, a trip that takes over 600 years to complete. The gameplay picks up as you awaken from cryosleep aboard the ‘Hyperion’ Ark, which is mostly human.
Through events in the early-game, you will be named Pathfinder, leading the efforts to establish colonies on ‘golden worlds’ that can support life for your people. The game’s start is slow, painfully slow if you have played a Mass Effect title in the past, but understandably slow for users that are being introduced to the franchise for the first time. This give-and-take relationship with new and returning users will be a central theme moving forward, and returning users should get used to it if they can.
While your character is currently awake, tens of thousands of people are still dormant in cryosleep. The Initiative’s plan was to travel to Andromeda, and quickly settle the pre-picked worlds that were scanned 600 years ago before launching the arks. You quickly learn that a dozen or more situations have complicated the plan, and you will have a series of challenges to overcome in order to save your people, and the people on the other Arks.
A ton of the early game is finding your bearings and learning the RPG mechanics and perk systems, broken up by quick instances aboard the Hyperion and other structures. Once planetside, previous Mass Effect users should feel right at home. There are a few new tricks and RPG elements that you will learn while you play, but most of the combat should be familiar to anyone that has played “Mass Effect 2” “Mass Effect 3”. I would love to tell you that everything about the gameplay is simpler and more fine-tuned, but parts of the UI feels like it was slapped-together as quickly as possible. Like an overstuffed sausage, everything packed into the game is great, but it’s all crammed in a UI casing that can’t handle the demand.
The actual gameplay mechanics are solid, which makes sense because they are mostly carried over from “Mass Effect 2” and “Mass Effect 3”. Before long however, you will have a seemingly endless supply of weapons, junk (literally junk), research points, tech points, skill points, data feeds, memory modules, weapon upgrades, weapon parts, armor, armor upgrades and more. The length of your inventory isn’t even the real problem, it’s almost impossible to understand if you have anything rare or important, and visualizing how all of these parts and upgrades work together, or build into one another, is a nightmare. The only easy part of the inventory is selling the junk, which is at least a one-button command at a vendor. This brings me to my first overall comment about the game, it’s a long-read, and you should just sit back and enjoy the view.
I think your best bet to loving “Mass Effect Andromeda” is to go into this game with the mindset that you are playing an open-world RPG, and at times, think of it as a strategy-based game with timeouts. It’s not a quick a pick-up, or even a quick play, and all of the gameplay menus, interface actions, and loading animations take a substantial amount of time to get through. All of them are beautifully rendered on 4K, but the wait can be unbearable.
Depending on how much time you dedicate to each play session, one day might be filled with just hub-quests aboard the Nexxus, or scanning one or two planets. Everything is slow, and cinematic. I don’t want this comment to come across negatively, or that I feel the slow-pacing was a terrible choice by the developers, but I would have to tell anyone going into this game that Andromeda takes its time in completing even the simplest of tasks. Just moving from planet to planet could be frustrating if you’re not prepared for it. There is a dramatic animation that zooms into the cluster you are looking into, then the camera brings the planets into focus as you read about the local and situation. Clicking on the planet launches another long, yet beautiful, animation that eventually takes you into hyperspace before you are finally at the planet you clicked on almost a minute or two ago. It’s so long, but it is wonderful to watch (at least the first time).
With the inventory system in shambles and loading animations out of the way, the third-person combat is fun and engaging. The developers took a lot of steps to ensure that everyone could ‘play their way’ by introducing the profile mechanic. Instead of labeling yourself as an “Infiltrator” or a “Biotic” you can switch between them, but only at certain locations, and you have to pause the game to do it. This is another moment where gameplay is coming to a halt for a mechanic, just as the animations were slowing down traveling from planet to planet. The new profile system does let you create the Pathfinder of your dreams, and before long you will notice a terrific improvement to your ability to take down enemies.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda” introduces an open-world concept to the series, and for the most part it pays off. Playing the game on a Gigabyte G1 1080 let me crank up the graphics, even while playing on a 3840 x 2160 monitor. The 4k graphics are stunning, and “Mass Effect: Andromeda” is a wonder to behold in 4K. That’s why I said that you should sit back and enjoy the view, if you take the game slow and just enjoy the graphics and animations in front of you, I think you’ll have a much better time. You certainly can’t rush anything in this game.
“Mass Effect 3” left many fans on a sour note, and I think a lot of people wanted “Andromeda” to be the white knight that brings the series back into the spotlight as one of the best franchises of all time. “Mass Effect: Andromeda” is less like “Mass Effect 2,” and more like “Mass Effect 1” in those regards. The game introduces a lot of mechanics that I don’t think will be permanent fixtures moving forward, and introduces an open-world, open RPG policy, that needs time to find the perfect fitting. I think all of the base elements are there for another great trilogy to emerge, just like they were for “Mass Effect 1,” and I think there is enough within the game for both new and old players alike to enjoy the Mass Effect franchise for a hundred-hours or more.