After all the furore surrounding the completion of the original Mass Effect Trilogy, and in particular the massive amount of fan upset that the ending to the story brought, you’d have thought for the difficult follow-up – Mass Effect: Andromeda – Bioware would have pulled out all the stops to make for a smooth launch. And you’d have been half right, as while I’m sure all reasonable steps were taken to try and mitigate the amount of bugs that were released into the wild, Mass Effect: Andromeda was a typical Bioware launch, with typical Bioware issues.
It was back in 2017 when Andromeda released that I reviewed Mass Effect: Andromeda for this very website, and while I didn’t see too many issues, the ones I did see were frankly terrifying. I still have flashbacks to the time my character was about to get down to business with one of the female NPCs, when her head began to elongate until she looked like she was about to eat me, rather than indulge in a spot of *ahem* romance.
Now, we won’t dwell on the slightly rough launch, as it has now been patched to within an inch of its life. In fact, going back to play the game these days, Andromeda is now much improved and actually plays really well. There are no more predatory, praying mantis style partners, anyways.
The story of the game is a fresh start for the franchise, with no mention of Shepard, whether it be the male or female variety. This time, the story follows the exploits of one of the Ryder siblings, either Sara or Scott depending on who you choose in the beginning. Set in the time period between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, the idea is that the four Citadel Council races and the Quarians are planning to populate new worlds in the Andromeda Galaxy, hence the name. Each race sends 20,000 citizens on a one-way trip to Andromeda, to the Heleus Cluster aboard a sleeper ship known as an Ark. When the races arrive, they build a space station called the Nexus, which serves as the basis and location for the new galaxy’s government and headquarters for the Pathfinders.
Obviously, things don’t go smoothly, and so we, as Humanity’s new Pathfinder, must have a look at the planets and try to find one that can sustain life. All this while coming into contact with the Scourge, a cloud of dark energy that destroys ships; and also with a hostile alien race known as the Kett, who want to keep that galaxy for themselves. With the scene set for an inevitable showdown, can the Ryders get everyone to pull together, find new friends and save the day? Well, no spoilers here…
Mass Effect: Andromeda itself plays out like the rest of the Mass Effect series, being an action RPG set in space, viewed from a third person perspective. In a departure from the systems in the previous games, the way that your character can be built depends to a large extent on the choices that you make as you level your character up. Put all the available points into Ryder’s biotics, for instance, and you will unlock the Adept profile, which allows you to gain bonuses relating to biotic use. The EXP necessary is earned in the usual way, by completing missions and fighting anything that looks at you funny. The best news is that points that you have spent can be reallocated at any time. This means that if a particular skill tree isn’t working for you, you can respec your character at any time without losing progress, which was a big improvement.
The combat in the game is pretty familiar to anyone who has played those which come before it, being almost a cover-based shooter in the style of Gears of War, but with added special abilities rather than just an endless supply of bullets. The skills can be built up into sets, which can be swapped between, so having a set of skills useful against one set of enemies can be swapped for the next encounter, making the combat feel fluid and fun. There is the obligatory cooldown once a skill is used, so rotating the skills is a good plan, rather than relying on one. The other big part of Andromeda is the interpersonal relationships that can be entered into, not always with the goal of a bit of horizontal jogging, although that always seems to be on the cards. This is a Bioware game after all.
It must be said that the launch of Mass Effect: Andromeda was a bit buggy, but the actual game was solid enough, and in March 2017, it was the third best selling physical release; it couldn’t have been all bad. The game was certainly a looker, and Bioware utilised the Frostbite engine to its potential, creating a beautiful universe to mess about in. The voice work and graphics were well up to snuff, and with the gameplay nailed on, the game was well worth a play, especially with the multiplayer segments tacked on.
So, these are my memories of playing Mass Effect: Andromeda back in 2017, when it had anything but a smooth launch. How about you guys? Did you play this game on launch? Was it smoothish for you too? Have you since picked it up on the EA Play service, where it remains free-to-play to this day? Let us know in the comments.
You can find Mass Effect: Andromeda on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC. The Xbox Store will sort you a download.