Mass Effect Andromeda is a fresh start. It features a new crew, trying to make their home in a new galaxy and divorced from the beloved series and its derided tri-colour ending choices. This reboot of sorts gives its makers an opportunity to cast off some of Mass effect’s baggage. Instead they’ve made many of the same mistakes, delivering a game that is perhaps by necessity or perhaps by wilful design, reminiscent of the very first Mass Effect.

Andromeda delivers some heavy-handed exposition early on, front-loading the experience with what seems like too much information. It settles in to a better narrative groove later on, but the early hours of the game aren’t very strong.

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You choose to be one of Ryder twins, Sara or Scott – soon to be revived from a hundreds of years of long cryogenic sleep. The pair are the progeny of the Human Pathfinder, one of a handful of leaders from the Milky Way galaxy tasked with finding new settlements in further reaches of space. Along with other Arks from other species from the Milky Way, the human exploration ship has come to the Andromeda galaxy, looking for new worlds to settle on. According to their long-range scans, these new astronomical bodies could be “golden world” planets – hospitable, habitable. Home.

Things don’t go quite to plan because of course they don’t, and in the hundreds of years since their journey’s start, their would-be new homes aren’t quite as welcoming as they imagined. The space around the Heleus system in Andromeda is filled with the Scourge – an expanding, destructive mesh of… something that looks like steel wool that’s had a bit of electricity applied to it. The Salarian, Turian and Asari Arks have all disappeared. There’s also some sort of old angular Remnant technology everywhere that doesn’t seem to have been there when the teams from the Andromeda Initiative left the Milky Way in their frozen slumber.

Mass_Effect_Andromeda_9

On top of that, the worlds within that cluster are subjugated by a race of silly-looking rocky aliens with rubber faces. They’re the Kett, and they serve as the primary menace in this new Mass Effect. Not quite as imposing as rogue Spectres or looming Reapers at first, the Kett reveal themselves to be a worthy, somewhat goofy foe.

Within the first hour of Mass Effect: Andromeda it becomes clear that you’re the chosen one as situation dictates that you become the next Pathfinder. The implant in your head allows you to receive the Pathfinder’s SAM, a neurally-linked artificial intelligence of your father’s design that allows you to be a cosmic wayfarer. It also, for reasons that can only be explained as a narrative contrivance, allows you to interface with the centuries-old remnant technology that could be the key to making the cluster you’re now in habitable. Much of that interfacing devolves in to a tiresome Sudoku-like relic puzzle.

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It’s clichéd hero stuff, going from trope to trope as it tries to give players some sort of impetus. But far from Ryder being chosen by destiny, fate or some other intangible force, they’re chosen by a human being. Ryder is young, underestimated by her new crew as she takes over the job of Pathfinder – playing on, and subverting the key themes from the original game.

Becoming the Pathfinder leaves Ryder with an unenviable set of tasks: find a new home for the humans and the rest of the Milky Way’s expatriates by establishing new colonies; find out what happened to the vanished Arks and of course, save the galaxy from a megalomaniac. It’s packed with writing that’s sometimes asinine, sometimes nuanced and poignant. Is it all that different from Shepherd’s tale?

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No, and as with that first game, its charm lies less in its overt story and more within its smaller tales. The relationships and sub-stories involving your crew have always been a hallmark of Mass Effect, and the narratives you’ll find in Andromeda are as endearing as ever. Andromeda serves up a diverse cast of characters to accompany you, proffering bits of wisdom and delightful little anecdotes when they’re not helping you shoot things. Interestingly – and a bit of a change for the series – you’ll have nearly your full crew in the early hours of play.

You start off with two humans, fellow members of the Andromeda Initiative. Cora is a tough-as-nails biotics specialist who was supposed to be the Pathfinder’s successor. She’s joined by Liam Costa, a funny and affable young cockney lad. Soon, you’ve got a complement of a crew, its ranks filled by the species you’ve come to know and love from your old adventures. A battle-ready Turian, a wise but menacing Krogan, a wacky and irreverent Asari and a character from a race new to Andromeda. They’re all eventually interesting, and their loyalty missions make them doubly so. Even the crew you can’t bring with you on your missions have a little more personality.

Interaction with other people is a little different. Gone is the quick and easy choice to be a Paragon or Renegade. The conversation wheel is now replaced with a slightly more robust one, offering fewer black-or-white choices that favours tone instead. You can appeal to emotion or logic. You can be casual or carry yourself with utmost professionalism, mixing and matching your responses to suit the moment.

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The other great big Mass Effect hallmark for me is also intact; discovering new worlds. Probably my favourite aspect of the series is the exploration. Your first real one is an acrid desert that could easily be mistaken for somewhere like Arizona. Dry and dusty, it’s hardly the most hospitable or interesting place to explore – but as you start to gain a foothold and establish an outpost it starts opening up, offering a semi-open world that’s ripe for exploration. From there, you’ll reconnoiter frozen tundras, dense lush biomes and everything in between – trying to find somewhere that’s suitable for sustaining human life. You’ll even see giant flying space lobsters.

Planet traversal is made a little easier through the reintroduction of a ground vehicle. This isn’t the horrible and clunky Mako though. The Nomad is a 6 wheel drive all-terrain-vehicle, which lets you switch traction on the fly. The upgradeable Nomad is also adept at mining for mineral resources, which you’ll use for the game’s largely unnecessary crafting system. You can also scan planets for said resources, using a system that seems like it’s taken a step back from previous games. Flying to planets and firing off probes to extract minerals is dull and mindless.

There are quests, of course – a seemingly endless list of things to see and do in this new galaxy. They range from the unimportant humdrum (usually labelled as “tasks”) to grander, more elaborate exercises like solving murders or dabbling in the newly established political landscape. Importantly nothing I did ever felt like mindless fetching. It’s not Dragon Age: Inquisition, and unlike with that game, I don’t regret the dozens of hours I’ve spent exploring Andromeda.

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Secondary to exploration and relationships – for me anyway – has been the actual playing. When you’re not exploring, talking to people or trying to solve what seems like everybody’s problems on the Citadel-like Nexus, you’ll be shooting at things. Lots of things. The Kett are a formidable enemy, and you’ll have to use a deft combination of armaments, space magic powered biotics and technology to bring them down. As you level up, you’re awarded the points necessary to put into these disciplines – but you’re never stuck in one role. I’ve always favoured Mass effects Vanguard class – analogous I suppose, to the traditional RPG’s Battlemage. Here though I was able to dynamically shift roles through something called profiles which lets players switch roles to leverage different buffs, adapting to suit my playstyle. Your hero is now also a lot more mobile, thanks to jump-jets that allow you to actually jump over obstacles and scale vertical surfaces.

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Beyond that, combat itself isn’t too removed from the previous games. It’s the same sort of competent, cover-based third person shooting – though going to cover is now contextual. A bigger change is the removal of the radial powers and orders wheel. You have less granular control of your squad mates, able to send them to spots to cover or defend, but you no longer have direct control over their powers. It does remove some of the game’s tactical gameplay, but I can’t say I missed it too much.

Weapon modifications make a welcome return from the first Mass Effect, adding a layer of complexity that’s been missing from the series’ sequels. While Andromeda is still an action shooter it still has more role-playing mechanics inside that can be a little overwhelming at first; systems on top of systems on top of even more systems. There’s crafting (with modifications!), mining, biome viability and other busywork that don’t make too much of a functional difference to the game, but will delight people who prefer their games to have more than just shooting inside of them.

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And of course there’s the multiplayer, which isn’t too far removed from the wave-based co-operative shooter from Mass Effect 3. You’ll still be shooting wave upon wave of bad guys, grouped with a collection of friends or random people form the internet. The difference here is that it’s not mandatory. There’s no Galactic Readiness you need to prepare for, so those who prefer to play alone can skip it entirely. It is ably weaved into Andromeda’s single player through passive Strike Missions, where you’re able to send non-player teams off to do operations. Some Apex Missions allow you to join in, earning rewards for single player and unlockable multiplayer loot in the process.

You’ve probably seen some examples of the game’s poor writing and some of its subpar animation by now, and your face is likely tired of it all. It does start off that way, and your character and crew – particularly the human ones – all seem to be plasticine puppets with Parkinson’s disease. While there’s little that can be said to excuse the jarring animation, it does seem to get better or at the very least become less noticeable. It’s all excused within Andromeda’s climax, which delivers just the sort of tense and epic space opera stuff we’ve come to expect from Mass Effect. By the end of it, it felt like I‘d done something important.

If Andromeda has egregious faults beyond its occasionally sophomoric writing,  it’s that it just doesn’t really do enough that’s fresh. It uses new technology to create bigger, better-looking worlds – but it doesn’t do much that we haven’t seen from the series before. It doesn’t make much of a generational leap. For better or worse, it’s really just more Mass Effect – and I’m okay with that.

Last Updated: March 22, 2017

Mass Effect Andromeda
Summary
Mass Effect Andromeda is a fresh start – but in borrowing liberally from the first game it’s made many of the same mistakes. In spite of them, it’s an exciting space adventure that delivers everything that’s become important to Mass Effect: Great characters, fun exploration and a climactic tale of good vs evil.
8.0
Mass Effect Andromeda was reviewed on PlayStation 4
71 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • konfab

    So basically Mass Effect 3 with more reach and flexibility.

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/zMiX9AUssiI/maxresdefault.jpg

    • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

      In other words, Dragon Age 2….

      • konfab

        lol

        • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

          Mmmm that one familiar cave…. :/ I still have nightmares.

          • konfab

            Imagine this:

            You are stuck in Dragon Age 2’s cave, with only the Mako to drive out. Among your companions is Tired Face, who keeps you entertained with Krogen Poetry. As you drive out, you drive past multiple stores which all state that each store is the best one in the cave.
            As you near towards the end, there are three entrances each with a different colour. Standing in front of the exits is the dead villain from the previous game.

          • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

            Sweet mother of mercy…. that’s horrifying!

  • miaau

    Wait, wait: In its climax? You have finished the game?

    Wow, roughly how long did that take? And the usual: did not skip side missions, that sort of thing?

    I savoured ME1 and spent roughly 100 hours on first play through. Subsequent were done in 25 hours, all side missions et al

    • We endeavour to finish every game we review – so yeah, I finished it. I’ve played it for about 40 hours now, though I expect to playit for many more.

      • 4 hours… ouch… I presume you mean 40? or 24? or 14?

        • Sageville

          #FakeComment

      • I sincerely hope that you finished the game in 40 hours by skipping a ton of content. Cause if a completely clear is 40 hours long I would be very very very deeply sad. This would be more of a sore spot than the animations. Also HOW DARE YOU MAKE FUN OF THE MAKO!

        #Makoforlifeyo!

        • Oh hells no – there’s still a lot more I want to do. I reckon if you blaze throguh the main missions you could do so in about…20 hours? But you’d be doing the game and yourself a disservice.

          • miaau

            Yeah, that sounds like a BioWare game, some flaws in main plot perhaps, but the point of the game is the rounding out the side missions give, to universe, to characters, to nations and all that.

      • miaau

        Cool, sounds about right for main missions and you said you still had stuff to do.

        Thanks! Still not buying it…….

      • Sageville

        You didn’t even finish 30% of Zelda… such disappoint!

  • Member Berry Bob

    I think this sums it up nicely. Is it perfect? Of course not. It has it’s problems and oddities but I can definitely see myself sinking many hours into the game. Certainly far more than I did with DA:I.

  • Dutch Matrix

    Andromeda is the 2nd game I ever pre-ordered. The first being ME 3. 8 is not a bad score, I think, and based on this review, I am in for a treat. Maybe not on ME 2’s scale, to be honest. The characters in Andromeda looks bland, compared to say Miranda or Jack, or even Garrus.
    And just one question:
    So, you send an Ark to the Andromeda galaxy. It takes a bit to get there. Now you build your base or colony or whatever. Then what? Who keeps the thing running whilst you wait for Colonists to arrive? And with regards to populating the place?
    They send a brother and sister. Twins nogal.
    http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/3b/3bb7f1d98c4565e7d5bb1397869360a755578c596c27cabbc7f717ef703d50d1.jpg

    • Member Berry Bob

      Someone could answer that but wouldn’t it be more fun to find out for yourself? 🙂

      • Dutch Matrix

        I guess. But my brain cannot help asking these types of questions.
        Like why can’t Charlize Theron not run 300 meters to her right? Or even twenty would have done!
        http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_6mX6xwywpQ/T_gHLiG6e0I/AAAAAAAABBw/f28OlP1kdTs/s1600/prometheus_ship_crash.png

        • Member Berry Bob

          Well, I’m not going to spoil anything for you. I’ve only played 2 hours but most of those questions will be answered.

          • Dutch Matrix

            Oh. So romancing my brother is out of the question?

            *Sneaks off to cancel order from Takealot.

        • Captain JJ

          Because blockbuster movies need coincidence and stupidity to make money

          • Dutch Matrix

            No but there is stupididty (like I did there) and then there is Charlize levels of stupidity. That even someone as slow of brain as I am waves my hands in the air and go WTFreakazoid!

    • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

      This poor guy really lost the genetic lottery, hopefully he has a humongous wang or make serious bank.

      • Dutch Matrix

        Elke pot het sy deksel.

        • miaau

          What does not even mean? Something like each to their own or there is something out there for everyone, stop judging?

    • miaau

      Even Garrus? Even Garrus? Did we EVEN play the same game?

      Even Garrus indeed,,,,, Garrus is the thread that ties all 3 ME games together, for me at least.

      Hah. Even.

      • For the Emperor!

        I was literally on the verge of man-tears when my Sheppard reunited with Joker and Garrus in ME 2 the first time. I only started playing ME 1 when 3 was released and didn’t get spoilers, so those scenes were so epic! Garrus was always in my squad, for all 3 of my main play-throughs! He was my bromance! Actually got his voice-pack for XCom 2 for my main sniper 🙂

        • For the Emperor!

          PS didn’t like Miranda. Next play-through I will romance the heck out of Jack though!

      • Dutch Matrix

        Unless on your first playthrough of ME2 he bites the dust…

  • Captain JJ

    Though this sound promising I’ll probably wait for a decent sale before I attempt it.

  • Kenn Gibson

    Awesome. i just need to sell some body parts to be able to afford it.

  • For the Emperor!

    You had me at “Sudoku”!!

    Honestly what I have seen on streams, it is only the animations that are an issue for me. Well, that and the price! Can’t buy now because DoW3 is my priority. Oh, and that trip to Egypt. Need some spending moneys there, so cannot buy both now 🙁

    But will definitely get the game eventually!

  • For the Emperor!

    Did you guys notice that the appearance of the Pathfinder changes if you change the look of your Twins? That is a nice touch! I think it is based on whatever pre-set face you choose and modify.

  • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

    Honestly, after Zelda, Zero Horizon Dawn and the multitude of awesome games so far, Mass Effect Andromeda, Bioware and Manveer Heir can go fuck themselves. I’m not spending a dime on this turd!

    • konfab

      I will buy Mass Effect Andromeda when its price drops.
      Horizon seems is a better investment at the moment for me.

      • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

        Ubisoft’s Wildlands is a better investment as well. With so many cool games out, Meh Effect is definitely a bargain bin purchase. EA is not getting first sale money from me.

        • Dutch Matrix

          I’ll say this about Wildlands: They got so much prettier playable females than The Division. One preset in Ghosts even reminds me of Blacklist’s Agent Lizzy Keene.
          Opposed to the “Ugliest Bitch Alive!” comment I got on my The Division character.

          • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

            Dutch, I noticed that as well, you can make a really pretty gal in the character builder too.

        • Peter Pan

          The thing with Wildlands is that, at least for me, it is pimped out version of Just Cause, but without the explosions and crazy stunts!

      • Peter Pan

        Agreed. I have just finished Horizon Zero Dawn and it’s a spectacular game. I would choose that title any day over the new Mass Effect!

    • you shut your hole!

    • Manveer Heir is long gone. If he was still with them even I would not have pre-ordered.Also Zelda was not that good apparently.

  • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

    Young ones, servants of the Fruit Bowl…. Put your trust in CD Projekt Red! Cyberpunk 2077 is going to deliver and save us from the disappointment of Meh Effect (and Bioware’s continual fall into the dark abyss of mediocrity)!

    • For the Emperor!

      I still need to finish Witcher 1, 2 and 3! Heresy I know! But since I am giving this game a wait until the price drops, DLCs are all out and many, many patches are included, I might finally have the time to finish them! Plus, DoW3 is coming! For the Emperor’s Greater Good!

      • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

        What a time to be alive! We are spoilt for choice!

  • bluegoon

    Welp, lazygamer, you had a good run, all the best in the future.

  • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

    Lol this game! This game is going to leave us with all sorts of hilarious memes about shitty animation. It’s Marauder Shields all over again, except this time, he’s now there to save us!

    http://www.thecoli.com/styles/default/xenforo/smilies/francis.png

    http://i.imgur.com/D4qQXLc.gif

  • Sock-puppet

    @OddSockZA:disqus You guys were mentioned on The Know https://youtu.be/XaJBeLxvjhQ?t=81

  • MonsterCheddar

    Well if its good enough for the Oddsockian, then its good enough for me.

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