Franchise-killer Andromeda suffers from being a merely-okay Mass Effect game
action RPG Mass Effect BioWare EA terrible combat interesting NPCs
Mass Effect: Andromeda had a very challenging remit from its inception: wipe away the lingering bad taste left in the mouths of many gamers after the disappointing (to many) ending of Shepard's saga and ignite gamers' passions for a new series of adventures with a new protagonist and a new crew in a new part of the universe. It was a Herculean task, and in the end, ME: A doesn't quite pull it off. While a lot of the same drive (and budget) went into this project, the end result leaves less of an impression than earlier iterations in the series.
In this fourth Mass Effect game (excluding the spin-off mobile games and oddball things of that sort that don't count, IMO), humanity, asarity, salariankind, turiankind, et cetera, has embarked on a grand adventure of colonizing a new galaxy--specifically, the Andromeda galaxy. After travelling for hundreds of years in suspended animation, the protagonist awakens as part of an advance team after the "arks" arrive at their destination, a series of "golden worlds," worlds that were determined on the basis of long-range scans to be ideal sites for colonization; naturally, you soon discover that things are not at all this simple.
I know that the game was criticized soon after release for some of the characters' creepy expressions. This has largely been resolved, and although characters' eyes continue to make odd random movements when they talk, the most distracting thing about Ryder and the other humans in this game remains hair. Hair just looks awful in this game, and I'm not quite sure why. Yes, hair is hard to model and complex, but the humans in this game look like action figures with molded-plastic hair.
I didn't experience many game-breaking bugs except for one persistent issue where the entire screen looked like it was coated in a green filter that made everything unreadable. This prevented me from running the game in fullscreen mode; running in windowed mode resolved the issue.
The combat in the Mass Effect series has gone progressively downhill since its inception, and in Andromeda, it is at its nadir. Combat is as shooter-y as ever, so if you're the sort of person who enjoys running-and-gunning, you'll like this part. Even after having finished the game, it's still not very clear to me exactly how biotics work in this iteration. The official Prima guide says that many biotic powers like Shockwave and Nova simply won't work on shielded or armored enemies, the implication of which is that you'd have to destroy that enemy's armor or temporarily reduce its shielding to zero to "hit" it with an appropriate biotic power. That makes them rather less-than-useful, and it's been a while since I played the previous games, but this seems like a novel development unique to this particular entry in the series. So, if biotics aren't too great, you can always shoot things, right? Yes, the shooting is still here and it's still way better with a KB+M than a controller (although PC movement is arguably smoother with a controller--Shep, er, Ryder moves with a combination of walking, running, and a short-burst jetpack); however, the game likes to throw hordes of enemies at you without giving you the opportunity to save regularly. I got slaughtered on this one section of the first planet you land on over and over again, until I threw in the towel and switched to "easy" difficulty, after which the game became considerably more enjoyable. I was on the verge of permanently ragequitting the game and uninstalling it before I did this.
It's disappointing that there won't be any DLCs and likely won't be any sequels as well. While the story seemed a bit generic by BioWare standards (explore new worlds, fight enemy who's opposed to your presence/existence because reasons, defeat said enemy, become celebrated hero), the characters (especially your non-human crew members) were entertaining to spend time with and kill people with. The fun of taking a mix of different crew members on missions lay in hearing the banter among them and your PC. I'd like to see some of these folks again in a new game, and the long post-victory denouement was a blatant setup for future installments (including the requisite mustache-twirling villain gloating in a cutscene in a different part of the galaxy and hints about other arks that remain lost), but the game was so poorly-received on release that it seems improbable that BioWare will return to the Mass Effect universe anytime soon. Heck, if Anthem does not fare well (and it's a weird sort of game for this particular developer to be focussing its efforts on), there may be no BioWare a year from now. Time will tell. As far as Andromeda goes, I would recommend it (on easy) to fans of the series. It's not as well-designed or enjoyable as Mass Effect 2 or 3, but perhaps if BioWare had been given the chance, the inevitable sequels to this title could have been.
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