NWG Reviews: Mass Effect: Andromeda with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria here for an expansive review of Mass Effect Andromeda. While this game as met with some praise and some criticism, I hope that I can break down the good and the bad parts of this game. There are no story spoilers in this review, but I do discuss which characters are romanceable and do a full breakdown of the gameplay.

So let’s dive into this! I’ll start with my favorite part of the Mass Effect Games;

Story: 

Mass Effect Andromeda’s story is vastly different from its predecessors. The player controls Ryder (named after the first woman in space, Sally Ride) as they embark with their family onto an expedition across galaxies. Unfortunately, things take a sinister turn very quickly, and Ryder must pick up the pieces of the failed Andromeda Imitative while also protecting the Heleus Cluster from hostile aliens called “the kett” and learn the mysteries about strange ruins left by a race of machines called “the Remnant”.

The game takes place 600 years after the events of Mass Effect 3, but BioWare craftily set the date of the Andromeda Initiative’s launch before the events of Mass Effect 3, so you won’t be seeing any familiar faces. However, BioWare has included references to the previous games that will have a Mass Effect veteran grinning.

The main plot itself is high-octane, and doesn’t slow down once you get going. However, the way it is presented is incredibly similar to Dragon Age Inquisition’s story; you’re free to pick it up at any time, but there are tons of side stories and planets to explore while you wait for it to progress. For a fan of traditional open world games like Skyrim or Fallout, you’ll enjoy that aspect of the game. For the people who preferred the original trilogy’s linear story, you’re probably going to find yourself frustrated with it.

But each planet that you can explore has its own subplot that you can solve to help the people on the planet as well as bolster your resources in the game itself. I found most of the main planet’s plots to be interesting, but I wished that they had been a bit longer. In fact, I wish that (save for maybe a few side quests) the planet’s subplot was the only mission that was necessary.

I also wish the main plot itself had been longer. There is a tendency nowadays with open world games to pad the worlds with tedious side quests and subplots, which make the main objective of the game feel like a brief respite instead of an important narrative. I think this something that BioWare (and other game companies) should change. I’m much more interested in saving a galaxy instead of running around playing errand girl. I’m much more interested in talking with my crew and playing games with them than talking to random smugglers and doctors on every planet.

I see what BioWare is trying to do; they’re emulating Bethesda. They are trying to be Skyrim and Oblivion, and that’s not what they are. They are unique in the fact that the plots of their games are fun, from the wonderful characters they make and the fact that you can create meaningful relationships with them. But they seem to have it in their minds that those story and characters are just not what players want; they want a big world to explore, they want to be able to spend an hour in the game just staring at the scenery. And they couldn’t be more wrong.

Size for the sake of it just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Characters:

The game allows you to choose either Scott or Sara Ryder, and both are customizable. Interestingly, you can keep the default names of the characters, and other individuals will address them by their default names within the narrative.

The main races that appear within Mass Effect are Humans (naturally), Turians, Asari, Salarians, Krogans, and the new race called the Angara. Most of the familiar races haven’t changed much. The fun part is that there seems to be more female Turians and Krogans that have appeared within the game, which is always a nice thing to see. Having no female Turians or Krogans in the first three games was always perplexing to me.

There are tons and tons of characters in this games, but for the sake of my own sanity, I’ll just talk about the crew on the ship and the romaceable characters.

Ryder starts out with two human companions: Cora Harper, a powerful biotic and former Asari commando, and Liam Kosta, an ex-cop and crisis specialist who is certainly quirky. Later, Ryder picks up a few other faces: Vetra, a female Turian smuggler and all around badass; Peebee, a curious Asari who seems to keep everyone at a distance; Drack, a really, really old and wise Krogan soldier; and Jaal, a passionate Angara who fights for the Angaran Resistance. These six characters are your core squad, but there are other characters who work with and/or can be potential love interests.

You have an Asari doctor named Lexi T’Perro and Salarian pilot Kallo Jath (sadly not potential love interests) who serve on your ship. Your engineer Gil Brodie and and co-pilot Suvi Anwar are there and can be romanced as well. Three other characters can also be romanced by Ryder: Aveja, an Angaran historian, Reyes Vidal, a human working for the Angara, or Keri, an Asari journalist.

This is a lot of characters! I appreciated getting to know all of them, and I also appreciated that BioWare made some of them easier to get to know than others. They followed through on their promise to have some characters want a committed relationship while others were more flexible, and that allows for players who enjoy a spectrum of romance options to find something they’ll like. They even included a terminal where you can read forum chats that your characters have for each other, which can be very funny.

I felt that the character dynamic in Andromeda’s party was better than the original trilogy’s. I’m not saying that one set of characters is superior, but that the group dynamic was much stronger than the previous games. This is due to all the opportunities the characters have to engage in dialogue while you’re roaming around on the planets and on your ship. It helped the atmosphere of the game.

And, of course, not everything is perfect. Because BioWare went overboard on creating this authentic world with tons of people to interact with, the opportunities for Ryder to interact with the characters haven’t changed from the original trilogy. That is something I had hoped would change, as this was a problem I also had with Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I don’t want to hear some random Turian woman’s life story, BioWare. I want to make googly eyes at Jaal when he recites me poetry and play more card games with Gil. I want to talk to Suvi about God and hang out with Vetra’s family. The characters in this game had depth, but not enough.

For Story/Characters, I give ME:A 6.5/10

Graphics, Visuals and Art:

It’s obvious at this point, but this is the category where Mass Effect: Andromeda fails. And it fails pretty hard. When I had first heard about the open beta’s rough glitches and animations, I took it with a grain of salt. Some people set themselves up for having errors like that, and to an extent I believe that is true. On my PS4, I had nowhere near as many walking animation hiccups. The faces were still a bit funny looking, but still not as misshapen.

But that doesn’t mean my game wasn’t full of glitches. Even Dragon Age: Inquisition was full of textural problems, and they showed up here, too. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In areas with high amounts of enemies, the framerate plummets. While driving the Nomad into new points on the map, the game will freeze for about two seconds without fail. The camera position when Ryder speaks to NPCs would often misalign; my Ryder’s armor would completely obscure the face of the person I was talking to. The background on the pause menu would flash from the textures of the game behind it now and again. NPCs wouldn’t load into the screen even though I could press the button to interact with them. The list goes on.

These are small mistakes, but once they start piling up, they become one huge mistake. I tried to defend this for the longest time, but I can’t anymore. This game needs some serious tweaks in regards to graphical glitches. At the same time, I’d say this game was no worse than the launch of Skyrim, though. No random enemies would fall from the sky and hit me.

Silver linings exist: I’ve had no quest glitches or game breaking glitches. Nothing has hindered my progression. And when the graphics do work (such as space travel and in non-open world maps) the game is stunning. The main hud is organized and familiar to Mass Effect players. The cutscenes are brilliant. The visual representations of space are spot on. There’s ten times more color and vibrancy in Andromeda than the original Milky Way trilogy.

It still doesn’t make up for the 180-degree head turn my Ryder did in a conversation with an NPC, though.

For Visuals, I give ME:A 5/10

Gameplay: 

Gameplay is where Mass Effect Andromeda shines. The quality character customization that BioWare gives is back. There’s so much you can customize for yourself, but you can also customize your family members. You can customize the color of your armor (and different armor gives you different shapes to work with). You can choose from a few different casual clothes and customize the color of those, too. You can buy paint for your Nomad. So many color options!

Now for the gear. You can also customize your guns and melee weapons. You have so much variety to choose from. Looting chests helps you find schematics for new guns, melee weapons and armor that you can craft. You also find research data to craft different types of weapons and armor; there are Milky Way, Heleus and Remnant schematics that can get you your perfect set up. The more questing you do, the easier it is to suit up. Thermal clips still exist, but if you’re not an ammo person, you can also use weapons that have a cooldown aspect to them. You’re free to choose.

When you craft them, you can also find mods that can help further help you find that sweet spot in playstyle. Whether it be tech, biotics, or just raw damage; you find what you’re looking for.

There are types of consumable ammo (such as incendiary and cryo which return from the original trilogy) that you can use in battle. Though the higher level you get, the less you’ll need them. This was a feature I felt could be taken or left.

There is a system called AVP (Andromeda Viability Points) that is pretty much a rehash of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s “Inquisition Perks”. The more you play and level up, you can unlock a variety of features that are nice bonuses. You can reveal hidden caches on your map, get a steady supply of money and materials sent to you, or lower some shop prices. But this is also optional; you can mostly ignore it if you want to.

Mass Effect did away with the class system it had in the trilogy and has left all powers open to the player so they can build a truly custom character. I was on the fence about this decision at first, as I love class systems. But Andromeda’s leveling is a bit different. There aren’t skill trees so much as there are three sections with a list of powers and abilities that you can chose from. Once you start creating a character, you can choose a profile that will give your character bonuses to help them make something more cohesive.

Combat is a lot more fun in Andromeda, too. You’re not forced into just pointing and shooting a gun as it railroads you through a mission. You’ve got your whole environment to play around with, and it can be somewhat challenging even on the lower difficulties. There’s plenty of random enemies and big bosses around for you to scuffle with.

Driving the Nomad around can be kind of fun, but it’s a very sensitive vehicle, so be careful you don’t drive off a cliff while trying to find your way around to your objective point.

There’s so much else left to discover in regards to gameplay; I could talk about it for hours. It’s best to just jump in and explore for yourself!

I give ME:A’s Gameplay a 9/10

In Conclusion

Mass Effect Andromeda has been a turning point for the series, much like Inquisition was for Dragon Age. There are both positives and negatives to this change. While the games have such depth to them, at times it can be a bit overwhelming for people who are only interested in the games story and characters. You must devote yourself to the game to truly experience it.

All in all, while I feel like the gameplay portion of Mass Effect has only benefited from this new direction, the characters and story have not. Too much depth was wasted on certain things, and I can only hope that BioWare and EA have learned that huge and expansive games with an intricate story and world don’t always mesh.

I give Mass Effect Andromeda a 7.5/10.


Thanks for reading this huge review guys. I hope you enjoyed it! Keep an eye out for more great content from NWG.

–Mod Aria/Sam

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s