Mass Effect: Andromeda revolves around the Andromeda Initiative; a group of colonists with the mission of settling in the uncharted Andromeda Galaxy. You play the role of Ryder, a Pathfinder, tasked with finding suitable planets for your people’s colonization efforts. While exploring this new galaxy, you will discover new worlds, encounter new races, and uncover ancient alien ruins; all the while bonding with your ragtag crew, each equipped with their unique quirks and personalities. While this may sound familiar to most fans of the series, Andromeda expands and builds upon the positive aspects of what made the Mass Effect games so engaging, but is ultimately hampered by its technical shortcomings along the way.
ME:A continues Mass Effect’s tradition of presenting the player with fast paced 3rd-person shooter combat. Ryder’s abilities are impressive to see in action; while mixing and matching them on the fly is necessary to exploit weaknesses on tough enemies or create massive combos on opposing forces. The vastly improved cover system also helps to create desperate, exciting battles that never seem to play out the same way.
The new jetpack is also a welcome feature; adding a level of mobility unprecedented in the series thus far. I found it extremely useful in combat situations as I was able to create angles on enemies behind cover simply by jumping in the air. The jetpack also gives way to new platforming sections in which I never really minded as they never felt obstructive to my progress in the game.
Outside of navigating the world on foot, you will have access to the Nomad, a six-wheel all-terrain vehicle. Driving the Nomad is pretty fun due to the design and layout of the different planets offered in Mass Effect. One of the more memorable moments of the game consists of driving the Nomad on a low gravity planet, as I spent the majority of my time there launching myself as high as I could before slowly crashing back down.
This new sense of freedom translates directly into Mass Effect’s emphasis on catering to your play style. Customizing your character’s combat abilities is easier than ever with the introduction of the Profile system, allowing you to switch combat roles on the fly. You can start a battle with being a Sentinel to soak up damage and then switch to a more damage dealing profile, such as the Adept or the Soldier, or just stick with the always fun, jack-of-all-trades Pathfinder profile, giving you teleportation abilities. This freedom encourages you to experiment with different loadouts, and with the game’s exceptional selection of weapons, you can spend quite a bit of time re-specializing your character to find out what works for you as well as what complements your team’s strengths and abilities. And while your teams A.I. can sometimes get you into trouble, as they seem to find it hard to find cover at times, I still found them helpful specifically in setting up combos and taking down priority targets.
The teamwork expressed in combat translates into your conversations with your squad as well. Your team will interact with your character unprovoked, sometimes at random, interjecting their personality at their whim, shouting at you in a fight or even arguing with another squad mate. Conversations feel more organic than in previous entries, with Andromeda forgoing the Paragon/Renegade morality system used in previous games, and allowing the player to easily express their genuine response to a situation, rather than tying the player to one of two responses. The game also uses this to great effect in missions where I found myself not entirely sure what was the “right” thing to do.
While the majority of your time will be dedicated to exploring planets and shooting enemies, that would be just a snapshot of what Andromeda has to offer. From solving murders to stopping assassination attempts, and even tracking down movie snacks- ME:A seems to have an endless variety of missions to try. I’ve clocked in around 70 hours with the game, and I still find new missions to complete or items to collect for the robust loot system. Researching and developing new upgrades or weapons for your team becomes an addicting endeavor. Not to mention Andromeda’s excellent, wave-based online co-op multiplayer also offers countless hours of entertainment. Simply put, the amount of content offered in Andromeda is staggering.
And while ME:A provides a lot of value to the player, it fails in its execution at times. Besides the controversial facial animations, I’ve found myself falling through the map after fast travel, or stuck in one place, unable to move and having to reload a previous save to fix the problem. While these errors are inexcusable, nothing I’ve encountered so far is game-breaking and can only hope a patch can fix the issues I’ve come across. ME:A’s glitches certainly add frustration to your journey, but there is enough good in this game to keep you interested regardless of its faults. You’ll still find yourself anxious to uncover the next story development or discover the next planet to survey. Mass Effect’s spirit is alive and well within Andromeda’s universe, even if it’s ugly to look at sometimes.