PSA: this review contains heavy spoilers. Please do not read if you have not completed, or care about spoilers.
There have been all kinds of opinions flying around the internet about the latest instalment of the Mass Effect series. $40 Million dollars, and five years have given us the first ever full game by the Montreal BioWare studios. And what a controversial ride it has been. I was incredibly excited when the game was first announced, years ago. Back when all they had to show was concept art for some armour and a drawing of the Nomad. Since then I have been patiently waiting for the release of the game itself. Watching development panels, and scouring the internet for hints. Obviously, the release was incredibly exciting, and bittersweet. I was taken aback by the infamous animation problems, of course. However, I tried to overcome it, knowing that – despite not perfecting it before release, for whatever reason – BioWare would definitely patch it at some point, as they did with Dragon Age Inquisition’s problems.
Since all the bad press was circulating, I wanted to wait until I had finished the main quest before I wrote my own review. I won’t be talking too much about the technical side of the game, more the experience of playing and story. That being said, this video is extremely insightful and tackles the issue of animation:
Starting Out, First Impressions
I made a massive effort to avoid any spoilers at all costs. I wanted to go into the game blind – or as poorly sighted as possible, since some spoilers are impossible to avoid. Upon starting I was a bit concerned with the face options in customisation. They were not great, and this was immediately a red flag. I also noticed you could only move parts of the preset around, rather than choose features. Which was very odd. However, I pushed on and tried to create the best twins I could; I opted for Sara Ryder. All in all, I wasn’t overly impressed by the character creation.
The actual start of the game, I was impressed by. It had a great pace, and landing on Habitat 7 was breathtaking. The loss of Alec Ryder was slightly predictable, but the way it was conducted and implemented into the rest of the game was interesting – via SAM and the memory fragments. The mystery of the missing arks, and the emptiness of the Nexus was almost heartbreaking. Since now, we only have the Milky Way residents that came over on Arks. Not finding them could mean their end.
I was also impressed with the new boost/dodge abilities. Moving around, even in a basic sense, was much more interesting. Combat was still classic Mass Effect combat with a new dynamic; I found myself very happy with that aspect. I loved being able to create builds that merge together all kinds of classic, and new, Mass Effect abilities.
Just Dragon Age in Space?
Even before release people were crying that Mass Effect Andromeda was just going to be ‘Dragon Age in space.’ While I understand why they thought this would be the case – and it is to some degree, I feel it is merely a cosmetic similarity. Yes, now there is an open world, with markers and side quests quite similar to Dragon Age Inquisition. However, the player is the Pathfinder. Their role is to literally run around exploring. I found it fitting.
When compared to Inquisition, at this point in time, I feel Inquisition holds up better than Andromeda. Inquisition did more justice to the games that led up to it, and the lore of the universe it was set in. At this point, Andromeda has better graphics – but not by much. Inquisition had some beautiful places to explore. I found myself being blown away much more during my first Inquisition playthrough.
Dragon Age Inquisition was a good game, and I am glad that Mass Effect took some aspects of it and implemented them. It also, undoubtedly, learnt from some of its mistakes. One example being, actually including the intended ending in the game.
The Mass Effect trilogy was always compelling because of this huge, terrifying, looming enemy. It had huge battles and universe-changing decisions to make. However, Andromeda to me felt more like the original Mass Effect game. An unclear enemy, a slow build up, not really understanding the underlying issues: fighting for something much bigger than first realised. When you look back, the first Mass Effect was very different to the following two games because it had to set them up. It took gamers years to follow and learn everything we now know about the universe as a community, and the original did a lot to gently introduce us to this universe.
One feature many disliked, but I appreciated, was leaving missions ‘on hold.’ I found it stopped me from rushing through quests and taking my time to really engage with every aspect of the game. In other BioWare games I have rushed things, such as romances, and been left feeling bored when I’ve run out of conversations or side quests.
Despite the positives, I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of the quests – especially side quests – were just filler. They lacked substance. And the build up to the main events of the game was not very grand, or engaging. I did not feel the same sense of dread or urgency to fight as I did with the trilogy.
Friends and Lovers
Honestly, it was never going to be easy for the companions of Andromeda to live up to those of the trilogy. We had three games to get to know and love them, and replacing them – especially when there is zero chance of them making an appearance in anything other than logs or codex entries – was never going to be straightforward.
Personally I feel the new companions/crew members met, and exceeded, my high expectations. After all, if there’s one thing BioWare does well, it’s great characters and relationships. The loyalty and side quests for the companions were one of the strongest assets Andromeda has.
The friendships in Andromeda were very enjoyable to watch unfold. Each character was engaging and believable. Not everyone had a tragic backstory, or a crippling emotional hurdle to overcome. In true BioWare style we gathered together and befriended a band of unlikely misfits to save the galaxy; what’s not to love?
I also loved the occasional cutscenes involving all companions. Be it the meeting room or one of my favourite side quests: Movie Night, it was great to see them interacting as a group. The general chatter around the Tempest was interesting for this reason to. It gave depth to the characters, showing us they have a life outside of their connection to Ryder and the Tempest.
For my first and so far only playthrough I romanced Jaal with female Ryder. I originally planned on Peebee or Vetra, but Jaal drew me in with his endearing nature. Jaal’s romance had a natural progression, from untrusting, to friends, to lovers. After the trilogy, and the ever popular Garrus romance, I was excited to see what improvements BioWare had made. The Jaal sex scene, for one, was incredibly different to the ones I’d seen with Garrus and Shepard. The amount of action seen was unexpected. I admire that BioWare wanted to make amends for leaving fans disappointed in the past. However it seems that not every romance had the same treatment and detail as Jaal’s did – with sex scenes that dipped to black a lot sooner. Other than that, I really enjoyed the way Andromeda tackled romances.
I was completely blown away by the final mission and all of its cutscenes. The animation and graphics were beautiful. The action and pace was incredible. It was one of my top moments in any Mass Effect game. It felt like an epic battle. Watching allied ships flying overhead as Ryder drove through Meridian was simply awesome. The general cutscenes throughout this entire mission felt like watching an epic movie, rather than playing a game.
Although it lacked a proper final boss battle – which was especially odd considering an architect was right there – the ending was great.
This mission, to me: shows us what BioWare wanted for this game. To me, it spoke volumes of what the entire game could have been like. There was even a big difference in quality in the cutscenes, compared to the majority of the game. I can’t help walking away from it and hoping that BioWare can pull something else like that ending out of the bag. If the whole game had been that quality, I highly doubt there would be so many complaints.
The epilogue of the final quests was dropping DLC/sequel hints hard. One of the most exciting being: The Quarian Ark. I have no doubts that BioWare will be delivering DLC for this game, and another game to follow up. I feel so confident about another game, because of where things were left.
Let’s consider where the game left off: at the beginning. A new home for humanity, amongst technology no one understands. An enemy species that is still at large, the possibility of there being more life outside of the Heleus Cluster. Essentially, it ended at a complete new beginning for every Milky Way immigrant – and for us. The game was full of technology and races we don’t fully understand. I mean, it was even revealed the Angara have no real understanding of themselves and their origins, and they’re native to Andromeda.
To me it seems that BioWare have left a lot to explain and delve into. This game feels like a fresh start, be that good or bad.
I personally enjoyed it immensely, despite the areas it could have improved. I look forward to any DLC or sequels.