After the rampant success of the Mass Effect trilogy, a new console generation brought forth a new hope for the next chapter of Mass Effect and the space opera antics. By taking it back to its roots of exploration and with a new crew of humans and alien races flying through the galaxy, hopes were high for this revamp, and while it mostly delivered the release has been plagued by bugs and eye animation that seemed to irritate gamers resulting in a less than stellar reception.
The new protagonist Ryder, is placed as the new Pathfinder and in command of the ship Tempest. Ryder can be fully customised as either male or female along with a variety of races, colours and hair styles. Ryder must explore new planets and uncover ancient alien technology (sounding familiar?) to release the stronghold of the Kett race and make the planets habitable for the tens of thousands of stranded refugees. Ryder is a well acted and written character that succeeds in taking you on a journey of self-discovery through his (I say his as I played as a male) family history, to uncovering just exactly what being the Pathfinder is and means and to his status as a hero at the end of the game.
The great thing about choice for Ryder is should he be the business logical type character of the goofy sarcastic dad joke guy. Every decision and response that you make factors into this and I found myself striving for a balance between the two. It was through this that I really felt and understood Ryder as a character and appreciated the effort the writers went to to give this depth of character. In stark contrast so this if you would like your male character to get romantically involved with another male character you have two choices…a Tempest crew member rat or a dark and mysterious rogue. As you make these awkward advances towards these characters, there is little to none romantic interaction until the closing scene of the game that left me deeply unsatisfied. Particularly when my friends who chose to have heterosexual relationships and even female and female relationships were more fleshed out (for lack of a better phrase) and much more extensive.
The crew that make up the Tempest are a tame bunch compared to the original trilogy. There is still the mix of human and alien species but we have seen them all before…apart from standout character PeeBee who serves as the most interesting of the crew with her attitude and conflicts with crew member and fellow Asari, Lexi. There is no major conflicts or uncertainties which worked as a great subplot in the original trilogy. While this is not a necessity for the game, it could have added in some extra plot points to even out the fetch quests.
Stories of consistent bugs and glitches have plagued the game, and while I was fortunate enough to not encounter any on my first play through, other players have filled YouTube and Facebook feeds with some hilarious bugs. Bioware have released a patch in the meantime that have seemed to have fixed a lot of the issues plaguing players complaints, including facial expressions that while personally never bothered me, seem to be a bone of contention with some.
The gameplay is a variety of using a Arkham Knight like scanner to search for clues to complete certain missions which have a large impact on the state of the world in the future and other political happenings throughout the game. When you’re not using your scanner for these, there are a bunch of fetch quests, investigations and go here, scan this, kill that type missions to attempt to give the game some variety, but at the end of the day it’s the same old Mass Effect style gameplay and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I did note a massive improvement scanning desolate planets from the previous games. A much more basic and simpler approach to mining and searching for resources has been crafted in Andromeda and the series is much better off for it. Speaking of improvements the vehicle in this game, the Nomad is a jet pack, 6 gear infused unbreakable machine that miraculously never flips or crashes (believe me I tried!) It is a heavy tank so it can be used to mow down hoards of enemies before jumping out and finishing them off. This also works for the local wildlife on some planets who are unwittingly hostile.
What I did not enjoy were the puzzles, if you are a Soduko fan then this is the game for you. I find nothing more irritating than not being able to progress in a game because of a ridiculously overcomplicated puzzle with little to no guidance to help you through. Fortunately this game lets your purchase overrides that fill in the blanks for you and will have you unleashing monolith after monolith with the greatest of ease. Chookas Bioware!
Overall Mass Effect Andromeda continues the series well, with a major graphics facelift from the previous versions, Bioware make the most out of the new generation consoles delivering a beautiful space opera that shines. System bugs and facial animations seem to have effected other players, although I myself did not experience any, delivered a solid performance on the Playstation 4 system and the whirring and groaning of my system in the more detailed parts of the game showed that they had truly used every part of the system to deliver an outstanding experience. Although I did have personal complaints about the male same sex relationships, in hindsight the game does have a lot of other strengths that make up for this, it was just a minor annoyance that I feel more obliged to go into on my second playthrough.
Mass Effect Andromeda largely plays it safe with breathtaking visuals and minor upgrades on what past games failed to excel at and while it is not groundbreaking or series changing it is a step forward on the current console generation and a great introduction to the new character Ryder and I look forward to more adventures in the new Andromedaverse.
Mass Effect Andromeda is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC
This game was reviewed on the Playstation 4 system and all images are in-game screenshots
Review by Alaisdair Leith