I wanted to love Andromeda, I really did. The spin off to the Mass Effect series has a promising premise and is hugely ambitious but the game feels like it was cobbled together in a rush. Luckily it isn’t all bad and the game does occasionally pull together for some great moments.

Andromeda picks up 600 years after the end of Mass Effect 2, where the Human Ark “Hyperion” arrives in the Heleus cluster as part of the Andromeda Initiative to search for a new home. As you’d imagine, everything goes wrong and the Ark hits a strange phenomenon known as the “scourge” and the planets aren’t habitable anymore. As the new Pathfinder it is your job to search Andromeda for a new home.  This is a premise I absolutely love and the opening hour of the game is really promising.

You play as one of the Ryder twins, Sara or Scott, and both can be customized to your satisfaction.

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How do the Ryder twins compare to Commander Sheppard, the face of the original trilogy? They don’t. Where Sheppard was a leader, Ryder is more of a joke. He/she never takes anything seriously and will crack jokes even in dire situations. Nothing that happens in the story is because of Ryder’s talents but instead because of his/her implanted AI “S.A.M” who magically knows all the answers when needed. But somehow, I did actually like Ryder. I don’t know if it’s because they have some of the better voice acting compared to the rest of the cast or if it’s because the family dynamic is genuinely interesting.

But, despite it’s interesting premise, the main story is weak and very predictable, even to the point of pulling obvious plot points from the original trilogy and not really doing anything new with them. The ending is a joke and there are no emotional punches at all. Out of the entire cast of characters there’s not many I liked, and I didn’t bother to talk to much of the crew on the Tempest.

Throughout the adventure you’ll travel to a variety of planets, each with its own biomes. They all look absolutely stunning in their own unique ways at times and they feel real and lived in. When you return to the nexus for example there’s a real sense of growth and accomplishment as you see your actions take fold throughout. It’s truly a shame the story couldn’t support this level of detail. However, even the illusion of beauty fades when you get up close to the world and see the flat and low resolution textures.

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Then you get the animations and character models. As you may know Andromeda was the laughing stock of the internet when the trial launched. The facial animations are completely embarrassing and, despite a few patches having been made to help disguise some of the worst the game has to offer, it’s still not up to expectations. During gameplay the animations are often glitchy and in cut scenes everyone looks like an android.

Gameplay is fast, fluid and very satisfying. Andromeda is at its best when you’re moving around and getting the flank on enemies using the jump pack to reach higher places or dash in and out of cover. The guns for the most part feel satisfying to use and enemy AI can be surprisingly competent on higher difficulties when they are trying to get the drop on you.

The cover system itself is auto-cover meaning you will crouch behind low walls or lean around corners automatically. It’s not a terrible mechanic but it can get annoying at points.

Andromeda also stumbles with regards to its new skill system. You can only assign 3 skills to your character at a time, meaning you’ll have to go into the menu to change them or use the favorite feature which is equally as annoying. And your brain-dead AI squad might as well not be there as very rarely do they do anything helpful except draw fire from some of the enemies or occasionally do a combo attack. Commands are limited to “go there” or “follow me.” A significant downgrade compared to the rest of the series.

Once you arrive on each planet you’ll be asked to establish an outpost in a pre-defined area but before you do that you must activate the remnant vault which will “repair” the planet and improve the living conditions. Other than Eos (the planet outside the introduction) establishing an outpost is just side content which kind of goes against what the main story is about with regards to “finding a new home.”

The open worlds are mostly boring as you simply go from point A to B then back to A doing repetitive tasks for characters you don’t really care about. When doing side quests the game just becomes very tedious. Why is it the “Pathfinders” job to run simple errands? Throughout the entire game there were only two planets that actually stood out to me.

Thankfully there’s some linear missions here and there and often these will take place in more unique locations. These missions, mixed with the fluid gunplay, are a real treat and I wish less time was spent making the open worlds and more time in tightly focused levels where Mass Effect is at its best. It’s a shame these are few and far between.

Crafting is surprisingly well implemented in Andromeda. As you scan alien resources, enemies, and structures you will earn research points and these can be spent to research new alien weapons, armor and upgrades for you to craft.

Sound is a mixed bag. Voice acting for the most part is incredibly weak and there’s no chemistry between the cast, most likely because the lines were recorded in separate rooms and not together. The tone of voice can awkwardly shift as well. This alone makes a huge chunk of the characters unlikable. The soundtrack is solid but the problem is that it’s wildly underused, causing it to become forgettable.

I’ve played the game all the way through on Xbox One and am currently making my way through the game again on PC. The Xbox One version isn’t very pleasant to play with constant frame rate drops, multiple crashes in very specific spots and a stream of graphical glitches. Thankfully the PC version is much better and whilst the port isn’t perfect it’s serviceable. I’ve encountered a handful of other problems that I didn’t on Xbox such as infinite loading screens that had me reloading to a previous save and FXAA anti-aliasing causing some weird flickering effect but no crashing.

Between the PC and Xbox One versions I must have easily put 100+ hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda. While the gameplay is fun and engaging everything else falls flat, from the open worlds to the story and meaningless side content.

andromeda

Also available on: Xbox One, PS4

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