Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest in Bioware’s groundbreaking sci-fi series, has copped a lot of flack over its various bugs and graphical hiccups. Despite only coming out earlier this year, it suffered a troubled five-year development, after which the studio in charge shut down and Bioware decided to abandon its new project- meaning no downloadable content will be available for single players. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a really good game, and didn’t deserve the amount of criticism it got.
The main idea behind Andromeda was that Bioware wanted to expand on the world-exploration concept introduced in the first Mass Effect: you travel to new planets, help make them habitable, and then move on. The emphasis was very much on discovery. To an extent, this worked; however, what most players loved about the original Mass Effect trilogy was the story and the choices made within. You could be good and virtuous, or you could be good but also be a massive dickhole while you were at it. The moral ambiguity was what made Mass Effect such fun to play.
Andromeda still has personality-related choices, but with less depth. Instead of the original Paragon/Renegade metres in the trilogy, which were influenced by both dialogue and actions, in Andromeda your character’s personality is shaped by dialogue alone, and has almost no bearing on the story. You have four choices: Logical, Emotional, Casual and Professional. Not all dialogue options are available at one time, which is great as it stops your character from being too one-dimensional.
Speaking of which, I really liked the characters in this game. There were a few that annoyed me *cough*Liam*cough* but they were a great mix of personalities and their personal back stories made them seem like real human beings, rather than just one characteristic becoming their entire personality (I’m not saying that’s a problem with Mass Effect, but it’s a pretty common issue in video games in general).
What I especially loved were the loyalty missions. This concept was first introduced in Mass Effect 2, where, to gain the loyalty of your squadmates (which affected the outcome of the ending), you had to do a personal mission with them. Andromeda took this one step further. Whereas in Mass Effect 2 you just had to do one mission and BAM! BFFs 4 lyf, in Andromeda each character required a different amount of effort depending on their personalities. For example, I had to do quite a few missions to gain Peebee’s loyalty, but only one to gain Vetra’s. It made it seem much more realistic than in the previous games- as in real life, some people take longer to warm up to others.
I can’t say much about the romances in the game, as I’ve only completed one playthrough, but the game did introduce a new way of romancing other characters- it starts off as a fling, and it can either stay that way, or eventually move in to an exclusive relationship. In previous games, you often ended up “locked in” to one romance and couldn’t even so much as flirt with other characters after that. This time, each character has different preferences- some, like Cora and Jaal, want commitment, whereas others like Peebee and Liam can be either flings or exclusive. As always, there are gay and bisexual romance options, because Bioware is awesome that way.
Liam and Jaal didn’t get along with my Logical/Professional Sara Ryder, and Peebee and Vetra felt more like buds than potential girlfriends, so my Ryder ended up romancing Reyes Vidal, a Spanish Han Solo (or, for you Dragon Age fans, “Space Zevran”) with questionable morals and a lot of charm. It was a cute, light sort of romance that I felt was really well done, considering it was only expanded from “fling” status in some last-minute patches after the game’s release.
Gameplay-wise, Andromeda didn’t differ that much from the Mass Effects we know and love, which is great because it worked fine the way it was. The new jump-jet feature was a lot of fun, though. I loved being able to jump across long distances or over foe’s heads during combat. They also added a “scanner”, which could be annoying at times, but did add to the gameplay in certain parts (although it was mostly just “get out your scanner and scan this thing so we can move on to the next scene!”).
One thing that has to be said about this game: it’s huge. Much like Dragon Age: Inquisition, you can potentially get so caught up in a rabbit hole of side missions that you can actually forget what the main storyline is! Completionists beware: you can accrue Skyrim-like hours playing this game and still get nowhere.
The environmental graphics are gorgeous and breathtaking, but unfortunately the facial graphics don’t match up. Apparently Bioware had problems with the original software they were using and had to switch to a new one not long before the game’s release, resulting in a lack of facial expressions, random eye movements, and some weird graphical tics. That didn’t bother me too much, though, but perhaps it’s because I play a lot of older games so graphics aren’t a huge factor for me. They’re not up to the standard of the day, sure, but they’re really not that bad.
Andromeda is actually a really fun game. I think the reason it got so much hate is because it didn’t match up to people’s rigid expectations of excellence from a Bioware game. I had a lot of fun playing it, and I think it’s far enough removed from the original trilogy to be played as a standalone game. In that respect, it’s excellent, with fun gameplay, good storyline, plenty of content and lots of witty dialogue to enjoy. If you spend too much time comparing it with the original trilogy then it’s natural that you might find things like the facial graphics and glitches to be irritating- but no game is perfect, and that includes the original Mass Effect trilogy. In the end, it’s a great game, and it makes me sad that Bioware gave up on it so easily.