Release Date: 03/21/2017
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I have tried to play this game since it was released numerous times and just couldn’t get into it. After putting 110 hours into the Mass Effect Legendary Edition recently, I decided it was finally time to blow through it. After 40 hours I can say that the game is more enjoyable than I first realized, but also has more flaws than I imagined. Most of the major visual bugs are patched out at this point, but what remains is the core game that can never change or improve without an actual sequel.
I love the premise of Andromeda. The game takes place 600 years after the events of the original trilogy and that’s because a private company sent every species known to Council space out on several arks to the Andromeda galaxy and establish lives on then discovered “golden worlds”. Everyone stays in cryostasis while an illegal AI named SAM watched over all the arks. You play as Ryder who wakes up to the human ark being hit by something called the Scourge. This is a space phenomenon that honestly is never really explored or explained in the game. Strange tendrils reach out and destroy worlds and ships. Your brother also ends up in a coma as his pod was damaged during the incident.
This is where you learn the basic controls and how to interact with the world. The core ideas and gameplay loop of Mass Effect are intact. You can read datapads, talk to people for extra information and story, but in the end, your conversation choices make zero difference in the story. Whoops. I’ll get to that later. Once you finally try to explore the first golden world you realize it’s not. The Scourge changed it somehow and all the golden worlds are no longer habitable. This sense of fear is something I wish the game touched on more. Being lost and stranded in space with no way back home is a really great idea, but they never play upon this much. Once you land not the first planet you learn how to do everything else. Controlling Ryder is a breeze and the character is nimble, has a jetpack to jump around on ledges, can infinite sprint, and the shooting is more akin to standard third-person cover shooter gameplay, but barely.
Let’s go over the combat. Sadly, Mass Effect 3 had more satisfying combat than Andromeda. It plays well, but it’s very generic and just gets the job done. Once again, like in Mass Effect 1, there’s too much loot. Weapon mods, augmentations, armor, armor mods, minerals, random collectibles, etc. This means while each weapon looks unique, they don’t feel too unique. A shotgun feels like a shotgun, an assault rifle feels like an assault rifle. They just picked a center lane or each weapon type and stuck with that. Games like Gears of War have weapons that have their own unique personality. They are almost a character among themselves. At least in Mass Effect 3, the weapons had punch and weight to them, while these do not. The combat is mostly boring and the same enemies repeat forever. You have the kett, Remnant, and the usual raiders. The kett are the main enemy as you are trying to stop the Archon from using this Remnant tech to destroy worlds. More on that later. Then the Remnant is just generic boring robots. Each faction has different enemy types, but the game, in general, is pretty easy and I rarely ever died, even during boss fights.
The biggest change in Andromeda is being able to explore actual planets. There are quite a few here and they are actually really fun to explore. There are many side missions that involve your crew, and there are tasks, but honestly just exploring and doing the main missions was the most fun I had in the game. The open maps feel like major filler and while the worlds look beautiful, and the new vehicle you get is much better to control and it can get upgrades, but no combat, it’s 90% filler. There are tasks you can complete, but most don’t have objective markers so you either have to wander around aimlessly looking for these or use a walkthrough. In the end, most missions don’t give you any rewards at all outside of XP. Unless you are a completionist there is zero reasons to stray outside of the main missions. This is really a bummer and most of Andromeda is just filler with no real rewards or pay-off.
There are also way too many things to keep track of. AVP missions, R&D, buying and selling, modding, unlocking cryo pods teams to bonuses. It’s just too much. AVP missions are pointless as you just send teams out to complete missions for you. There’s a co-op multiplayer section tied in here, but why bother? The rewards out pointless. Andromeda tries to create an economy and ultimately fails as it doesn’t need one. The game is too easy, so most of the weapons are useless. Once you get a level five weapon your good. I had one of each weapon and the mods are nice, they actually do help, but this meant I never needed to buy anything after the second world was finished. I mostly collected too many minerals on missions that I just R&Ded the weapon I wanted and that was it. I needed research points to research the weapon and then I could develop it. I also found most rare weapons as loot. By the time I got the third and fourth world, I stopped caring about all that and ignored it. I just continued to level up. Another thing I don’t like is elemental ammo is now expendable and you need to acquire it as it’s limited. It was hard to keep track of when I was using it as there’s no sound or icon flashing that shows me when it’s gone. The icon just disappears.
So the main reason you explore these worlds is to establish a base and to clear each world’s hazardous conditions by activating three Remnant monoliths and then the vault. The monoliths sometimes require you to solve a sudoku-type puzzle using glyphs. Yep, I sighed at that too. At least it’s a real puzzle, but why do we need these? They just slowed the game down and some are insanely difficult. Once you get into the vault you activate consoles to get a path to the purifier console then run out as the gas chases you. You do this about six or seven times and it gets more boring as you complete each one. One thing I did like was seeing each race and how they fit into the Andromeda Initiative. It really feels like a reboot of the series while keeping the core of it intact, sometimes too intact.
That leads me to the main reason why most people felt so engrossed in the original trilogy: The choices. The dialogue is now split up into five emotions and the binary moral system is gone, but each choice doesn’t really do anything. The only thing you can really control is who you form a relationship with. There is so much dialog and so many choices, but they mean nothing in the end and that is one of the major problems with the game itself. I enjoyed the story itself, and the personalities and politics of the races remained intact and were in full force here, but my character was probably better off just not having any dialog choices. That would have been a bold new move rather than keep a system that is hollow in the end. And essentially that’s what Andromeda is. A bunch of systems from the trilogy that is either just there because it’s familiar and don’t do anything new, or is just there for no particular reason. This leads me to the Galaxy Map. BioWare just can’t get it right, even four games later. Sure, you are actually on a map this time and can zoom across the system and it’s pretty cool for the first few times, then you want to skip it after that. It’s slow and uninteresting after a while, and there’s no reason to explore most planets outside of reading their description. Sometimes you can launch a probe when Suvi announces an anomaly, but that’s it. So while the map is visually more impressive, it’s still pointless.
The visuals are outstanding as the game uses EA’s Frostbite engine, but the game is horribly optimized. Frame drops happened mostly in cut scenes and in random areas. Sometimes dropping into single digits. It didn’t matter if it was on an overclocked RTX 2080 or an overclocked 1660ti. Both exceed the minimum requirements exponentially. The game still looks good with detailed textures and models and I can’t explain just how beautiful the worlds are. I really felt like a space pioneer when exploring them. Overall, Andromeda is only worth a play-through for hardcore fans. If you just pick up this game you’re going to get bored and not feel interested. It’s clearly geared towards fans of the series as a lot of events carry over from previous games and the knowledge of the races and events that took place to reflect a lot in this game.