Video-Game Review: Mass Effect: Andromeda
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The galaxy of Andromeda is filled to the brim with planets to discover, alien species to meet, and decisions to make; and while Bioware’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is an excellent spin-off from the critically acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy, there are several bumps and glitches in the game that makes the experience just fall short from perfect. Between the glaring technical issues present in the game and the somewhat repetitive storytelling, Mass Effect: Andromeda doesn’t quite live up to the original trilogy which was nearly perfect in all regards. Andromeda, however, does bring some interesting cards to the table which allows it to be a great RPG in its own right.
In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the player takes the role of either Scott or Sara Ryder, twins who have both been selected to take a one-way trip (along with 100,000 other people) to colonize the faraway galaxy of Andromeda. The Ryders’ father is the leader of this pilgrimage, and is thus designated as the Pathfinder – the person in charge of finding the right planet to colonize and ensure everyone is safe and secure. Well, as it turns out, their father is a pretty bad Pathfinder because everything seems to go wrong almost immediately. Without spoiling too much, Scott/Sara (depending on who you chose to play as) quickly finds themself as the new Pathfinder and is tasked with travelling around the Andromeda galaxy to have the right place to settle down. Throughout Ryder’s adventure, he/she will encounter several alien civilizations and the player will have to choose whether they want to take a more diplomatic approach, or if they would rather keep peace talks to a minimum.
First and foremost, Mass Effect: Andromeda continues the series’ tradition of focusing on player choice. Throughout the game and in just about every conversation you’ll engage in, you can choose how you want to respond or how you want to handle a certain situation. Unlike the previous Mass Effect games, however, Andromeda doesn’t directly highlight which choices are good/evil (Paragon/Renegade in the trilogy). Instead, choices revolve around four tonal categories: emotional, logical, casual, and professional. When in a conversation, you can choose what to say and depending on the tone you choose, Ryder will respond accordingly – but that doesn’t necessarily mean any of the tonal choices are good or bad. Different tones work for different situations, so this new dialogue system encourages critical thinking on the player’s part; very much unlike the original trilogy, in which the player could just blindly choose the “good” dialogue options because those were clearly highlighted as good.
As for the gameplay, Andromeda is all about exploration. After the somewhat linear introduction, the player is able to travel to just about any (inhabitable) planet within Andromeda to begin the colonization process in the order that they choose. The problem is, many of these planets already have life on them. As the Pathfinder, the player must interact with these aliens and do whatever it takes to create room for the humans to come. But besides talking to aliens, there’s a ton of other things for the player to do on these planets. Firstly, these planets are pretty darn huge. The first one I travelled to, the desert planet of Eos, features massive landscapes and sand dunes to traverse (fortunately, you have an all-terrain car called the Nomad). As you travel, you can scan the land for resources and you’ll often stumble upon alien artifacts or ruins that you can examine further to learn more about the world. Combat in Andromeda is reminiscent of the original trilogy, taking the form of a third-person shooter. Ryder can take cover behind barricades and barriers, and he also has access to several skills and biotic powers which can grant him an upper-hand in battle. The open-world aspect of Andromeda means that players can approach most combat scenarios from any direction and they can choose whether to take a stealthy approach or go in guns blazing. This variety makes the combat in Andromeda a unique experience every time, which can spice up the otherwise dull exploratory gameplay.
Mass Effect: Andromeda’s faults are small, but the abundance of them makes them immediately noticeable. You’d think that since this is Bioware’s fourth entry in the series, that they would know how to iron out all the glitches and bugs, but apparently that is not true. Just in the first five hours, I ran into several animation errors which would result in characters walking around in crab-like stances with their knees bent, they would face the wrong way when speaking in a conversation, and sometimes when they were facing the right way, they would speak with an emotionless face that left them looking not too different from a robot wearing human flesh as a disguise.
All in all, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a great game with the unfortunate issue of being filled with more bugs than an entomology museum. This seems to be the case with several games today, and it may be because many developers are rushing to release their games as soon as possible with plans for updating it after it comes out. The problem is, the amount of glitches within Andromeda has already caused several players (including myself) to be turned off from an otherwise outstanding entry in the series. If you think you have a strong tolerance for technical glitches, then Mass Effect: Andromeda is sure to be an amazing cinematic experience. Otherwise, it may be better to just wait for an update.