The Milky Way was so meh! Been there, done that!
-Pellasaria “Peebee” B’Sayl
“The following is a contributor post by the Keeper of the Darkness Flame Mage.”
This is my first attempt at a long-form game review so please bear with me. I promise to get better! If you have some suggestions on how I can be better, I welcome them!
Let me start off by saying that I am a BIG fan of the Mass Effect series. The original trilogy had some of the best video game writing, both in story and character development that I have ever experienced. I still own the trilogy and play it when I have a hole in my gaming backlog.
That said, ME: A received a bad rap because of cosmetic issues at launch. Yes, it looked bad for a bit but stepping back and looking at the story and gameplay instead of the negatives, to me it holds up. I’m a sucker for an expansive story that involves space travel and aliens. Playing the original trilogy, I was hooked into an amazing story along with the great character development across three games. I hadn’t seen that before in a video game and the freedom you had to make decisions throughout the games was a first for me, too.
Now, when another Mass Effect game was mentioned, I got excited. So excited that I bought an N7 jacket which I lost on a work trip to Boston (let’s not talk about it). I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and even had a countdown for the game. Even some of my friends were ready to buy the game so we could play the multiplayer together (we expected the multiplayer to be like ME 3). My friends didn’t continue with playing after a few weeks, so I was the only one left playing both the multiplayer and single player (which is all I really wanted to play).
It is extremely hard to follow up to a trilogy hailed as one of the best series in gamedom. I grew attached to Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy as I played through ME 1 to 3. Being plopped into a universe that had different types of aliens and alien worlds was my childhood dream. I’m a sucker for deep storylines and game lore and Mass Effect had plenty of it. By the time I discovered Mass Effect, the final game of the trilogy had been out for about 2-3 years and the trilogy box set had just come out for the PS3. I bought the game on a whim because I had finished Assassin’s Creed 3 and didn’t feel like playing Call of Duty or Madden, so I decided to try something new.
If you are interested in great storytelling, character development, aliens, space travel and third person shooting, then Mass Effect is for you. In case you have not played any of the previous games before this one, Mass Effect: Andromeda began between the second and third games of the original trilogy. Many of the species of aliens from the original trilogy journey to Andromeda to find, explore and settle in a new part of the universe.
You take on the roll as one of the Ryder twins, children to the elder Ryder who is the Pathfinder for this expedition. The main mission is to locate and settle “Golden Worlds” for each of the aliens from the Milky Way galaxy but like most sci-fi movies, something went wrong. By the time your characters make it to the Andromeda galaxy, the Nexus (the center point for the Milky Way races), is in disarray and have encountered a hostile force. To make it worse, your father dies on your very first mission on a planet, making you the new human Pathfinder.
Mass Effect: Andromeda plays very much like the last two games in the Mass Effect trilogy but more like Mass Effect 3 than the other two. Even after all of the launch issues, this is still a very fun game and a great continuation of the Mass Effect universe.
Is this a SUPER improvement of the past games in the series? Eh, kind of. With it coming on a stronger system with better software and hardware, of course it’s “better”. But comparing Andromeda to any of the previous games… I would say this is more like Mass Effect 1 than anything. Not quite perfect but playable and very fun to play.
The 8-bit Review
Yes I know, this is what caused the most problems for this game but hear me out. Visually, ME: A is NOT a terrible game. In fact, it’s quite beautiful. Landing on different planets and actually looking at the planet-wide landscape was something to behold.
Aside from the initial visual blunders this game had, the detail the developers included was amazing. When you landed on a planet, you really landed on a planet. The environments were vibrant and full of life when needed or dark and brooding at the right moments. Even with all of these things, the reason I gave it a 6 instead of higher is because of those launch issues. I had preordered this game and it was the first game I was going to play on my new 4K TV. Hype was not the word to describe my excitement (ecstatic maybe?).
When I first played it, I didn’t really notice anything wrong visually. Everything LOOKED great. Crisp colors, decent voice acting, and of course, customizing my character.
After the first two hours, I started noticing some visual miscues. Frozen facial expressions, or during conversations, half of my character would be gone even though the camera was not hindered. The worst thing about the launch visuals were the talking motions of characters. They were horrendous. I only experienced a few instances but the ones I saw online were just… terrible. Bioware eventually put an update, through, which fixed a lot of these problems but the damage was already done and the support had been put on a stand still.
One thing that ME: A really did well was the sound effects. From the firing of your gun or the use of your biotic powers to the landing on various terrain on different planets, the visual missteps did not affect the sound quality of this game at all. You are able to hear every conversation, even the ones not involving the main character and supporting cast. If you have never used over-the-ear headphones to play a video game, I suggest you try some out with ME: A. That’s how I usually play my games because I enjoy hearing everything (and helps with playing COD or Last of Us).
The voices of the various aliens along with the sounds of the wildlife on the different planets in the Andromeda galaxy are high quality. The background music building up to certain events or situations are done wonderfully. Truth be told, Mass Effect: Andromeda has a great soundtrack which reminds me of the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack. The music seamlessly transitions between both eventful and non-eventful situations and it’s a joy to listen to. The reason I couldn’t give this a full 10/10 is because before the update, the audio would cut out in the middle of a dialogue. The captions would still appear but you couldn’t hear anything and still had to make a choice for whatever the situation was. This could of been tied to the visual issue since the camera angle would unnecessarily change to an undesired angle while the audio was cut out.
With all of the issues this particular game had at launch, how does it play? Very well in some instances and moderately well in others. The battle gameplay is very smooth and fluid. If you have played Mass Effect 3, then you could compare it to those battle sequences. The ability to slide in and out of cover is almost a natural movement in a sense that while in a hard fought battle, you may not notice the action. Being able to chain physical, bionic and tech actions so easily in battle is one of the coolest actions you can pull off.
What knocks some of the gameplay is the distance between objectives. Yes, you get to use a vehicle which reminds you of the Mako from Mass Effect 1 but sometimes it just drags driving that far and long. I don’t mind traveling along the various landscapes but honestly it gets tedious and boring. Don’t get me wrong, the landscapes are great to look at but do you really want to drive 100km to a destination? (I may be exaggerating… or am I?)
When one thinks of multiplayer, it usually involves how well the competition online is and if you can play it with friends. Are the controls fluid? Are there micro transactions? Is it PVP or mission based? These are the kind of questions I ask myself when I play multiplayer games for the first time. Coming into Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer, I expected it to be similar to Mass Effect 3, which in some way, it was. Like Mass Effect 3, ME: A multiplayer focuses on completing objectives throughout multiple waves of enemies while of course destroying every enemy in sight.
Multiplayer links into the main story by way of Apex missions in which you would either send AI to complete missions and get rewards from your strike teams or go on these missions yourself with other players or AI. Like you would in the main game, you can customize your load-out before setting out on a mission.
The multiplayer meshes pretty well with the main game without really noticing. You can of course access the multiplayer without entering the main game but having that option throughout the main game is cool. It gives you a break from single player whenever you need it and then you can jump back in anytime you want.
While the multiplayer is playable and has many positives, the reason I gave it a low score is the lack of players. With the launch being handled terribly, the online multiplayer suffered. Initially, there were plenty of players to team up with and challenge the harder missions. But within about a month or two, the hype died down. Connecting to other players took longer than needed, sometimes up to 10 minutes (I usually left after 1:30). You could play with AI but it wasn’t the same as playing with friends or talented strangers. It became easier to just send the AI out to complete your Apex missions in story mode instead of trying to join a game session.
Everyone loves a good story right? Being immersed in an environment and its characters is something I love in games. I want to assume that most people reading this have played the original trilogy. If you have not played it, the trilogy features one of the best stories in modern gaming. There is one over-arching story through all three games but each game is its own story. The side missions and loyalty missions tie in and contribute to the game as a whole. For those of you that have not played this particular game, here is a synopsis for Mass Effect: Andromeda:
“Mass Effect: Andromeda starts around 2185, as the Andromeda Initiative embarked on an ambitious goal to settle the Andromeda galaxy by traveling in large vessels known as arks. A coalition of Milky Way races – which includes humans, asari, turians, salarians and the krogan – participate in this 600-year expedition and are placed in cryostasis to ensure that they do not age during the trip. Prior to the journey, the Initiative had identified ‘golden worlds’ in Andromeda’s Heleus Cluster, locations that are deemed highly viable for habitation. Each ark consists of a team that is led by a Pathfinder who is tasked to explore and ensure these worlds and any other potential locations are hospitable before settlement can begin.”
This story is a departure from the original trilogy but it is just as exciting. The game does very well to ensure that the protagonists stay on track story-wise while at the same time leaving the missions open to do at the players leisure. The story missions tend to be meaningful, worthwhile, and sometimes short, which can be a good and bad thing. You can lose yourself doing a lot of side missions while trying to find your way back to the story.
This isn’t Commander Shepard and crew but it’s pretty close (imo). The characters in this entry are exciting while at the same time sticking to typical character archetypes. I don’t mean to say that in a bad way. The character development is sort of slow but nonetheless entertaining. I won’t be including the voice actor’s names but they very much give these characters the personality they show. Lets start with the squad members:
Cora Harper: Your favorite militant-minded biotic that was trained by Asari commandos. Cora is straight forward and honest but also by the book for the most part. If you have played ME 2, then think of Cora as a bit like Miranda. She loosens up as the game progresses, especially if she is your love interest.
Nakmor Drack: He’s a Krogan. What more can you really say? He’s a lot older than Wrex and Grunt from the previous games but the temperament is the same. He’s strong, loyal and has some of the funniest conversations when you’re roaming the various planets. He’s actually one of my favorite characters to take with me in my squad
Jaal Ama Darav: Jaal’s species is new to the world of Mass Effect but interesting to say the least. Very proud and loyal to his fellow Angarans, Jaal is fun to learn about. When you first meet him, the level of trust is very minimal but you know it changes throughout the game.
Liam Kosta: Liam reminds me of Kaiden Alenko from the first ME. Kind of a troublemaker but a big kid at heart. He is well-trained and tough, as well as huge movie buff. Liam is the character that kind of keeps you grounded throughout the game with his movie quips along with his desire to make Andromeda as “Earthy” as possible.
Pelessaria B’Sayle (Peebee): Peebee isn’t Liara and I love it. She’s very much her own person (Asari) and a huge break from Asari that those of us who have played previous games are used to. She’s a smart, witty and powerful biotic. She doesn’t come from a military/disciplined background like the rest of the crew so she is a bit more loose with what she says and suggests which is refreshing. She’s a bit like Jack from ME 2 if you want to make a comparison.
Vetra Nyx: It’s clear that Vetra is not Garrus Valkarian. Same race, totally different personalities. The two characters do share similar beliefs when it comes to loyalty and family. What I like about Vetra is the fact that she doesn’t really seem like the Turians from the first three games. She’s trained like a warrior but has the personality of a con artist from Las Vegas. She has a little more depth to her we come to find out later in the story, which is something we didn’t really get with Garrus in the original trilogy.
The mix of varied personalities make the characters quite enjoyable. The conversations these characters have with each other and the main character are diverse and fun to listen to. Some of the funniest conversations come from your time in the Nomad with your selected squad. Drack and Peebee have some of the more interesting questions/statements with each other and the main characters. While each of these characters are different and interesting, you can kind of tell who are the game’s “favorite” characters because of the variety of dialogue they have (this could be because I sort of kept the same squad members).
I am currently on my third play-through of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Why? Because I made decisions that I wanted to see the other outcomes for. For those who have played the original trilogy, do you remember in ME 1 when you had to decide who died and if you saved Wrex’s life? How those choices affected the story in the next game? Those choices made (okay not exactly FORCED) you to go back and figure out what you needed to do to change those choices and what the outcomes became. Even though a second game hasn’t been announced yet, I’ve been replaying the game to see how my choices will end up affecting the story. Like the original trilogy, there are small and big decisions that you make that will affect the end game and sort of make you wonder how they affect the next installment (I really hope there is a next installment).
As much as I enjoy this game and series, it wasn’t a genre-changing game. Did it remind me of the trilogy and do some decent fan service? Yes, yes it did. But this wasn’t a unique game in the aspect of it being something refreshing and new in the current surplus of games like this available. But what does make it unique IS the fact that is like its predecessors in the fact that your decisions affect other aspects of the game along with the endgame. The multiplayer assists in the uniqueness of ME: A but it is not its saving grace and that is because of the lack of online play and support.
My Personal Grade: 7/10
The Mass Effect series is one of my favorite series of all time. I love the story, the characters, the lore and most of all, the space travel. I will not sit here and tell you that this game is perfect because it is not. I’ve noticed most people judge this game based on its launch which sort of made the rest of the support for the game go downhill. The developers stopped working it thanks to the backlash but through all of that, this was not a bad game in the least.
Mass Effect: Andromeda reminds me of the first Mass Effect. It wasn’t perfect in the least. The multiple times I’ve played it, there were bugs, graphics were wonky at times, sometimes the sound was off and animations decided to do whatever they wanted when they wanted but I enjoyed the game nonetheless. This game isn’t perfect or world-changing but it is not as bad as people made it out to be. If you don’t feel like buying the game, then rent it from Redbox (I think it’s still there). Either way, this game is enjoyable even with its shortcomings. Until next time!
Aggregated Score: 6.9
The Keeper of the Darkness Flame Mage hails from the planet of Galifrey. Gamer, nerd, music enthusiast, blogger, anime aficionado, all from a stolen Tardis. Catch him and his contributors on Twitter and the Noir Nerd Zone.
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Categories: Game Review