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While Mass Effect: Andromeda was one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2017, the game’s launch saw intense backlash from fans of the franchise. In the weeks following its release, the developers scrambled to patch issues and regain some faith among players.
But it looks like BioWare chose to ditch the franchise, as it has no more single-player DLC or story content planned for the game.
However this doesn’t mean that Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t worth playing at all. Now that patches have fixed some issues and the game’s price has seen a drop, is it worth the purchase?
We’re here to tell you about the game and the criticisms it has faced, but also what makes it something you might want to purchase.
Why Was the Game So Badly Received?
While the game received mixed reviews, there was significant backlash from vocal fans of the series. These gamers felt that BioWare dropped the ball on this title. After all, developers teased Mass Effect: Andromeda years prior to its release — the official announcement came at E3 2015.
With so much hype and years of anticipation, fans had high expectations. It was also heavily marketed as part of the Mass Effect brand. Since many consider it as one of the best game franchises, hopes were high.
In the two years between announcement and release, fans were expecting a polished product of the same caliber as previous titles. But just like other game franchises with declining quality, this isn’t what they got.
Glitches and a Lack of Polish
While it would be unfair to call the game a glitchy mess, it had far more bugs than is acceptable for a AAA title. Furthermore, the game lacked the refinement of previous entries in the series. Its facial animations became a notorious source of derision for the game.
Just in the clip we captured below in our first playthrough of the game, you can see how distracting the hair and clothing movement animations were (with a phantom breeze indoors).
Characters didn’t react appropriately to conversation options. Meanwhile, the eyes of many NPCs had the soulless and glassy quality of store mannequins. There were also multiple glitches during cutscenes: characters moving through each other, the camera angle bugging out, or even multiple character models appearing in one place. Seeing two Jaal torsos sprouting from one pair of hips was a particularly unsettling visual.
Players also criticized the game for its complex and confusing menus, repetitive side missions, underdeveloped characters and sub-par dialogue. While it’s sweet that protagonist Ryder is less confident than Commander Shepard was, some of the dialogue comes off as cringey and awkward. This is especially apparent in some romance options, where Ryder comes off as creepy at times.
Cutscenes when switching between planets in the galaxy map were also particularly annoying, adding unneeded time to playthroughs.
Soon after launch, Mass Effect: Andromeda came to represent the ever-increasing trend of big studios exploiting popular franchises for cash while destroying their quality.
While not all of these issues were patched out, the update to the game made it a much more polished product.
What Is Mass Effect: Andromeda About?
Unlike the previous Mass Effect games, Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in a completely different galaxy. As part of an exploration effort, huge space vessels from major Milky Way races were sent to a galaxy with thousands of colonists in stasis.
The events of the previous games are far removed from this one. Instead, the Andromeda Initiative’s vessels began their journey between the first and second Mass Effect games. Your character wakes up after hundreds of years in stasis. This means that the choices and ending of your time in the original trilogy don’t have an effect on this game.
As the vessels travel, it becomes immediately apparent that something has gone wrong on the journey with several of these “arks” disappearing. Meanwhile, your own ark encountered problems along the way and was nearly destroyed by a cloud of dark energy when it entered the galaxy’s Helius cluster.
Your job, despite being a relatively inexperienced military recruit, is to get the colonization efforts back on track. You also need to solve the mystery of the dark energy (named The Scourge). But to do this, you will need to face off against a deadly new hostile alien race.
While you encounter fresh characters and even some new races in Andromeda, the game’s story is still centered on your character and their ship’s crew. Much like in previous games in the franchise, you can build relationships and get to know these people — and yes, initiate romances.
Without revealing too much, here are a few of the characters you will encounter.
The Ryder Twins
Depending on whether you select a male or female character, you play as one of the Ryder twins. The twins are the children of a veteran spacefarer who is part of the Andromeda Initiative.
Your background unfolds as you progress, but the game leaves it relatively open. Meanwhile, your personality depends on how you play the game.
However, there are a few constants. For instance, your father is a gifted space veteran who developed an incredibly advanced artificial intelligence (AI) for the Andromeda Initiative. But while your twin, you, and your father all set out on the journey to a new galaxy together, the strained relationship is apparent.
There are standard appearances for these two characters, but you can choose to customize them to your taste.
Liam Kosta, a human crisis response specialist, acts as the class clown of the squad. Despite this, he is still a fighter with a tactical and strategic mind.
Despite his obedient soldier personality, he’s also open-minded. His interactions with squadmate Jaal onboard your ship make for some of the most entertaining scenes in the game. He and Cora are the first squadmates that the player gains.
Cora Harper is a human biotic commando, but despite her origins, much of her training comes from her service alongside a specialist unit of asari fighters.
She’s quite a distant character if you don’t choose to romance her, but it’s interesting to see a spaceborn human who relates more to an alien race than her own. Humans saw Cora as a threat due to her biotic powers. But the asari celebrated her.
Mass Effect series veterans will remember the original trilogy’s Liara T’soni, a reserved yet deeply caring asari that develops extreme loyalty (and love, in some cases) for the player’s character.
Peebee, while still romanceable, is a completely different type of asari. While she has the intelligence that many asari characters show, she comes with a flair for mischief and rule-breaking that makes her different from other characters in the series.
Rather than being shy and timid, she is forthright and exudes confidence.
A Mass Effect game is not complete without a hard-headed (literally and figuratively) Krogan to join the team. In Andromeda, Nakmor Drack takes up this role: a Krogan so old he remembers the first time his race encountered humans.
He falls into the typical stubborn, fierce archetype of Krogans. However, his relationship with his granddaughter gives players a rare insight into Krogan familial bonds.
While Turians are well-established in Mass Effect lore, players have never had the chance to interact with many females from the race. But in the latest game, one of your squad members is just this.
While Vetra has the intelligence and discipline of many Turians, she is also surprisingly shy. Like with Drack, familial bonds are important to this character, who helped raise her little sister Sid.
Jaal Ama Darav
Having two new races introduced in Mass Effect: Andromeda is great, but the added bonus that a member of one of these races becomes a squad member is spectacular.
Jaal is the last member to join your squad. Despite his serious demeanor, he actually provides comic relief through some of his interactions. It is through this character that you learn the most about the franchise’s new friendly alien race.
These six characters make up your squad members, but there are a few other minor characters onboard your ship. Despite them having smaller roles, they still come with unique personalities and even possible romances.
Despite the new setting, new characters, and new mission; the gameplay in Mass Effect: Andromeda will be familiar to fans. But with a new game comes tweaks to the traditional format.
The choice-heavy narrative seen in the previous games doesn’t have as much of a prominent place in Andromeda. In fact, the morality system no longer exists. Rather, your dialogue options don’t impact responses of characters all that much. However, narrative still drives the game, with action-packed quests in between.
The game has several stunning and awe-inspiring new planets which act as the setting for your missions. While you could drive rovers in previous games, the exploration and diversity of the environments was never this advanced.
Along with the main storyline, there are the usual loyalty quests for your squadmates. Completionists will want to explore every nook and cranny of the game’s world.
While character movement is more advanced, combat tactics are far simpler. You have much less control over what your squadmates do. While you can send them to certain locations in a fight, you have limited control over the abilities they use.
As combat occurs in real-time, without any pausing, it’s more fast-paced than its predecessors. While this does make encounters a bit more difficult, it also adds an element of excitement.
In many ways, the mechanics and gameplay of Mass Effect: Andromeda are similar to previous titles in the Mass Effect series. But where these games truly differ is in their strength and weaknesses.
Critics lambasted Andromeda for many of its flaws, and fans felt this disappointment deeply. But this doesn’t mean it’s a terrible game — in fact, it has many strengths.
First, while there are problems with pacing, the game’s story is actually quite compelling. It’s filled with mystery, which makes the game’s antagonists much more intimidating.
Despite the lackluster facial animations, the environments and scenery in the game are absolutely breathtaking.
The ability to discover and colonize new planets also adds an element of variety that the older games didn’t quite have nailed down.
One of the biggest pulls of BioWare’s games, the ability to befriend and romance characters, is still at the forefront of your interactions. The main story has many new faces, each with their own tale. Sometimes you’ll find yourself trying to deal with bureaucracy and politics. Other times you’re in a life-or-death situation while rebelling against invaders.
Certain characters in the game are a bit underdeveloped. However, this balances out with the casual interactions between characters that actually flesh out their personalities. It’s similar to the banter seen in games like Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition (our review).
Through these conversations, you actually learn personal information about your squadmates. Your squad members will even remember these conversations and follow up the next time they’re on a mission together. For example, Jaal and Drack — two squadmates who don’t have much in common — talk about love and heartbreak on multiple occasions, finding common ground in their history of failed romances.
The post-launch patch fixed many of the glitches that degraded the game’s quality. Characters’ soulless eyes are more lifelike, while the underwhelming customization options for your character are significantly better now.
My character received a welcome makeover thanks to the better customization and free “facial reconstruction” introduced by the patch.
The major patch that Mass Effect: Andromeda received a month after its release was a welcome improvement. But it didn’t fix everything.
The game still has drawbacks which prevent it from achieving the same greatness of its predecessors.
A huge factor that made the trilogy a success was the player’s control over the story and their conversations. While Andromeda gives you up to four types of responses in a conversation (emotional, logical, casual, professional), these don’t have much of an impact outside of the immediate reaction. This makes it feel like the dialogue choices are really just lip-service to fans.
It’s great to have more options to explore other areas and smaller storylines, but too many side quests in Andromeda feel like filler content. Many are essentially fetch-and-deliver quests or bounty target quests. Dragon Age: Inquisition also faced this criticism.
Facial animation and quality has improved, but lip syncing issues (while reduced) still exist. This doesn’t make the cutscenes or dialogue unbearable to watch, but don’t expect the quality you’ve seen in games like Uncharted 4 or The Last of Us.
When it comes to the confusing menus, crafting system, and options UI, not much has improved. The sheer volume of menus and sub-menus is overwhelming.
Another disappointment is the lack of meaningful interactions with characters you don’t romance. And even for some characters that you do romance, the story is painfully bland.
However, many of the weaknesses of Mass Effect: Andromeda are noticeable because it’s a Mass Effect game. Some of these weaknesses would have gone ignored in other games. For example, Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing title with excellent reception from critics. But its story is also relatively linear, and dialogue options are more about conversational variety rather than actually changing the narrative.
But variety and player choices were defining features of the early Mass Effect games, so fans felt the lack of choice more acutely in Andromeda.
Will You Enjoy Mass Effect: Andromeda?
Andromeda is a disappointing Mass Effect game, but in isolation, it’s actually a solid RPG filled with compelling action. Much of the backlash against the title was due to expectations set by the series as a whole.
If Mass Effect: Andromeda had not been promoted as part of the acclaimed franchise, it would have stood a chance. But rushed development and overhyping the product were utlimately its downfall.
Now that patches have fixed major issues of the game and consumers have managed their expectations, it’s easy to see that it is actually a highly enjoyable space RPG. The lower price doesn’t hurt either.
If you’re a fan of RPGs and aren’t too invested in the legacy of the Mass Effect name, you will likely enjoy this title. In fact, if you enjoyed Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a perfect addition to your gaming queue.
It won’t be winning Game of the Year awards, but Mass Effect: Andromeda is still a really entertaining and action-packed space adventure for RPG fans.
All aspects considered, do you think you will you will give Mass Effect: Andromeda a try? Or have false promises and disappointment taken away any goodwill you had for the title? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: BagoGames/Flickr