Mass Effect: Andromeda has to probably be one of my most anticipated games ever. It’s one of those games that I’ve been waiting for since the last Mass Effect and was super excited once it was announced. I even stayed excited as I waited for it to be released as I tried to gather every little piece of information about the game as I could. Then the early release reviews started coming out and it kind of felt like the ending to Mass Effect 3 all over again. Wanting to play the game for myself though, I subdued my excitement a little until I could play for myself. Even though I haven’t completed the game to 100%, I have completely finished my first playthough, before the game was patched, and figured I could give some honest opinions about the game. Just as a side not though, while I have played the multiplayer for this game, I haven’t played enough to actually comment on it so multiplayer will not be mentioned in this post.
Side Note: When I had originally wrote this blog, sometime last week, there was no news of a patch or anything, but since then a patch has been released that addressed a lot of the issues that I had with the game. To be fair, even though I had to sit through an unpatched game that had some annoying moments, I have excluded the gripes that I had prior to the patch.
The one good thing about this game is that it’s still Mass Effect. It still has all the core principles that made me fall in love with the Mass Effect series to begin with. This time around though it’s a new galaxy, a new main character, a new crew, and a new story. Even though I’ll admit to still missing Shepard and her crew, Ryder has started to grow on me along with the rest of her crew. Then there’s the story. The story is massive and there are so many aspects to it that it’s almost impossible to find something about it that you won’t enjoy. The main story of finding out who the Kett are, trying to make nice with the Angara, and trying to find the missing Arks are all deeply engaging and will draw you in. The new main character is a complete 180 from Shepard. Mostly because Ryder is new to all of this. She’s not a seasoned solider, she’s learning as she goes and the game shows this. The game shows the progression of her character as the game goes on and is really developing the character into something more. Sure, she has her awkward moments, but haven’t we all? I guess that makes her a little more relatable when you think about it because it shows that she’s human. Then there’s the crew. While there are little aspects of each crew member that make them resemble past crew members, they are each new characters. Sure it’s easy to say that Cora is the new Miranda as they both have some obvious daddy issues and so on, but these characters are new and each have their own individual stories and purposes for traveling 600 years away from the Milky Way. Each character is well crafted and if you take the time on ship and off ship in docking areas to interact with them they’ll quickly grow on you. Let’s not forget about the fact that this is a completely new galaxy. There are a ton of different planets to learn about and explore not to mention the ones that you can actually land on and find out more about. Each planet that you can actually land on is beautiful in its own way. The graphics for the landscaping of the planets is top notch and you can tell a lot of time went into making each planet feel like it was alive. I don’t know how many times I’ve stopped playing just to admire the scenery around Ryder and take in each new planet. This all comes to a head when you first go to your new planet which usually isn’t ideal and has something wrong with it, but then when you “fix” the planet, the subtle differences that you see are beautiful in their own way.
With good always comes bad, and yes there are some bad things that come along with this game. It’s almost obvious to see that this game wasn’t properly QA tested as there are certain aspects of the game that just don’t work right. This is probably the worst part of it all. Missing dialogue, invisible objects, invisible people popping out of nowhere, glitched animations, combat lag, and mission stalling. All of these are part of the bad that come along with Mass Effect: Andromeda. If you’re a BioWare fan and have played some or all of their games you know that this happens for each and every game. This is in no way an excuse for them and you would think that with a new engine they would be fixed, but obviously they aren’t. Moving forward this isn’t good, and that doesn’t excuse the fact that the game should not have been released with these problems to begin with. Moving away from obvious glitches in the game, the game itself isn’t perfect. A lot of games have this problem with finding the proper balance of story missions and side missions and this game is one of them. This game already has enough content to keep you going for hours, but add in the horde of side quests and you’ll be tearing your hair out at the amount of fetch and come back quests that are in the game. Sure you don’t have to complete them, but you’ll be left with a bunch of exclamation marks on your screen if you don’t. Then there’s all the driving. There is so much driving in this game until you unlock the proper fast travel stations on each planet that it’s unbelievable. While it wasn’t meant for the Nomad to be the Mako version 2.0 it truly is as you’ll struggle to drive around each different landscape the planets have to offer. Driving around isn’t as carefree and awesome as they promised and it makes me groan every time I have to go into the Nomad to drive somewhere knowing that I’ll probably get stuck in a patch of dirt or not switch to the six wheels at the right time and will be unable to go over the smallest little hill. Looking back, I would take the Mako over the Nomad any day.
Good…but also Bad
A good thing is that each planet that you can explore is huge! A bad thing is that each planet you can explore is huge! It’s great to explore and find new things, but sometimes it just gets to be too much. I understand that the new normal in video games are these unfiltered words that seem to have no boundaries, but sometimes you need boundaries especially when it takes away from the actual game itself. BioWare is known for the stories that they create not the environments and exploration. They should have kept it this way and focused more on what they’re good at instead of trying to get into these huge open world type games. Another good thing, your Ryder isn’t alone. You have an already made family for you consisting of your dad and brother/sister depending on which Ryder you decide to play. The bad thing is that you’ll care about this family as much as you cared about your family in Fallout 4. Which, if you’re like me, when the bomb dropped in Fallout 4 you were already out the door running for the vault with your husband or wife screaming behind you that they had Shaun. Who’s Shaun? Oh that’s right the kid that you had. The family aspect only works if there is some way to for the player to form an emotional connection to them and this game lacks that. Then there’s the combat system which is new and different from previous Mass Effect games, this is also one of those good and bad type things. It’s good that it’s new, but also has that familiarity to it. You’ll know how to play if you’ve played the previous games and if you’re new you’ll find it easy to get used to. The bad is that this was one of the things that Mass Effect didn’t need to change. The combat system was fine just the way that it was in the previous games. I hate being limited to only using three different powers at a time. It’s annoying when you want your full arsenal of combat, biotic, or tech powers at your fingertips, but you can only use three at a time unless you want to constantly be switching profiles which isn’t as seamless as you would think especially in the middle of combat.
If you’ve read anything about Mass Effect then you already know what this section is going to be about. This game has the most ugliest characters and facial animations that I have ever seen in a game and I’ve played some pretty crappy games. For a AAA game that took 40 million dollars to make, these are not the facial animations that you would expect. There are games that came out years ago that have better looking characters than this game. With all of the advancements in technology this is something that cannot be overlooked and I can understand why people are so upset about this. These characters just look like really bad Sim characters as everything looks plastic and fake. There is nothing real about any of these facial animations or the way the characters behave. I understand the whole thing about using algorithms when it came to doing the facial animation stuff, but seriously no one picked up on the fact that this did not look good. Seriously though, who said “wow this looks amazing! Cutting edge technology here!”? Someone had to say that in order for this to pass and clearly that person didn’t know what they were talking about. When it comes to the characters and facial animations this game has become one huge meme and it’s really sad.
Side Note Since the latest patch, I have seen some improvements to certain cinematic scenes. The characters look a little different than they did when the game launched, but it hasn’t fixed everything. That being said, I’m not sure how many patches it’s going to take to actually fix all of this or if there will be a time when BioWare just gives up and says the characters and facial animations are what they are, but this is just something that should have been fixed way before launch.
Without making any kind of excuses and being blunt, this game isn’t perfect in anyway and could have probably used another 5-10 months of polishing in order to make it the worthy successor of the Mass Effect trilogy. At the moment, it seems a little unworthy of carrying the Mass Effect title. There seems to be this equal balance of something good, something bad, and something ugly, but that’s not what you want. You want an outstanding number of good things and then some bad things that can’t be helped, not to mention you want to stay away from the ugly. While patches may make all of my points irrelevant in the future, the fact of the matter is that they exist now while not only myself, but tons of other people are trying to play this game. That being said, this is still a BioWare game and it still excels at telling a story which is what BioWare is great at doing, but at the moment the bad and the ugly are kind of overtaking it. I can find myself playing for hours and enjoying myself until something bad comes along, another glitch that can’t be ignored, another awkward facial animation that cannot be overlooked. It’s my hope that by the time I truly finish the game, get all of the trophies, and publish my final review, that a lot of these things have changed in order to make this the game that it deserve to be.