Mass Effect: Andromeda Review – An Interesting Space Romp

Mass Effect: Andromeda
Bioware/Electronic Arts

I’ll just say right off the bat, I’m a huge science fiction fan. Next to fantasy, science fiction has to be my favorite genre. In that regard, I’m pretty happy with the way things are going within the gaming industry right now, as there are a veritable plethora of science fiction games that are being released as of late. Although I do like the post-apocalyptic subgenre of science fiction, I also enjoy a good old fashioned, space-faring, far-future science fiction romp as well. Anything that is even remotely like Star Trek-y or Star Warsy (the older films not the new feminized Disney claptrap) is right up my alley.

Therefore, it came as somewhat of a surprise when a gaming buddy asked me the other day if I’d ever played a Mass Effect game. I was taken aback, as I’ve played (or at least tried out) pretty much every science fiction-themed gaming franchise known to mankind, including the series’ closest rival (at least in my mind), the Gears of War series.

Actually, when I think about it, five whole years have passed since the last game in the series, Mass Effect 3, was released, so it hasn’t really been on everybody’s radar until very recently. Mass Effect: Andromeda is certainly one of the most anticipated games of 2017, that’s for sure. It seems like the past couple of months in the gaming industry has been chock-full of Mass Effect fanboys who have been salivating over this most recent entry’s release. So how exactly is it? Read on…

Mass Effect: Andromeda starts off as a sort of prequel to the series, before the Reaper invasion which took place across the bulk of the previous installments. With the help of some benevolent aliens, humans created an initiative to “seek out new life, and new civilizations…to boldly go where no ma—“ ooops, wrong series. Actually the plotline is a little Star Trek-y, but in this universe humans want to explore a new galaxy (Andromeda) in order to find new, habitable planets.

Loaded into a gigantic space-borne city called the Ark Hyperion, a vast population of humans are shot out into space and frozen in cryo-sleep for the six hundred year journey. Of course, things go a little haywire but they eventually make it to their destination. However, the Golden Worlds promised in the shiny brochures back on Earth were far from the realities that the would-be colonists would find. I won’t reveal any spoilers here but let’s just say that early on, soon after your arrival in the Andromeda galaxy, things go south.

You step into the role of a newly anointed Pathfinder, a highly-skilled and charismatic individual who has the capabilities to lead their people to (hopefully) the Promised Land. You can choose which of the Ryder twins you’d like to play—Scott for male or Sara for female, and further adjust their appearances from there. In an interesting and cool little touch, their father, Mr. Ryder Sr.’s appearance adapts depending on how you choose your appearance.

From there, you choose things such as your combat style, skills, and talents. For weapons experts you have the Security class, for stealthy types, the Operative, and so forth and so on. Suffice it to say that there’s probably a class that matches just about anyone’s playstyle out there. There are also plenty of cool weapons to wield, such as blasters, kinetic weapons, and explosives.

Gameplay is generally open-world, and Ryder and his/her squad mates are free to travel to various planets within the Andromeda galaxy, exploring, procuring new resources, and of course, fighting all manner of cantankerous alien beings. Speaking of aliens and mysterious worlds, each planet also has a big bad main boss that can be challenged. However, many of these bosses are so uber-powered that Ryder and co. usually have to do some serious leveling up before even thinking about taking them on.

There are many different types of missions that Ryder and his/her galactic posse can take on, and nothing ever felt very repetitive to me while playing this game. I also liked the diversity of the aliens that we came across, as well as all of the fascinating worlds we landed on, complete with exotic locales and vistas. No Man’s Sky this is not.

Game mechanics-wise, I’ve heard a lot of people taking about how different combat in Andromeda is from its predecessors. After playing it for several hours and being in a few firefights, I watched some YouTube combat footage videos from previous Mass Effect games, and could see what everyone was going on about. Andromeda features a decidedly more mobile combat system, which encourages such things as zipping around with your jetpack and quickly dashing left or right. The original games featured a more cover-oriented system, which I thought was cool too. Fortunately, those who liked the cover system can still play Andromeda that way since it allows for that as well. It’s just not forced upon the player as it was in previous games.

Andromeda’s graphics are spectacular. I’ve heard lots of grumblings about the flat in-game characters and their wonky dialogue delivery. Personally, I thought that characters (with few exceptions) were kind of forced to be normal or even sub-par looking, and I’ve heard about Bioware jumping onto the whole SJW bandwagon (a movement which seems to be in some serious trouble by the way), so lots of “strong female” characters and “diversity” abound.  At least the visuals in this game looked stunning, especially the ship designs and planetary flora and fauna. Every planet was so vastly different from others that it was a real joy to simply touch down on new ones, each and every time.

Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t going to reinvent the wheel as far as being the be-all, end-all of science fiction epics, at least not in the way that many people had been fantasizing about. But what it does, it does decently—creating an immersive space opera adventure that features a fun and rock-solid combat system, pretty good graphics, an engaging story, and many exotic planets to explore.

SCORE: 68%

Mass Effect: Andromeda offers some excellent visuals that suit its futuristic theme. However, you have to have a fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

 

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