Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Game Review: Mass Effect Andromeda

Don't let the negative user reviews fool you. This is a good game. I bought this game day one for the PS4. As a huge Mass Effect fan, I've been waiting for this game, and bought a PS4 just so I could play it. Since then, I've played every night for a couple hours at a time, sometimes more than that, and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yes, it has its problems. The facial animation is not what I would expect from a triple-A game on a next-gen console, but it's hardly as bad as people are making it out to be. Addison, one of the Nexus (Andromeda Citadel equivalent) fixture characters is probably the worst, but you don't spend much time talking to her, and honestly, it's just not that awful.
I've seen quite a few reviews commenting on the ugliness of the women in the game, particularly the female Ryder twin. Personally, I find the female Ryder to be attractive to look at. More to the point, she looks believable. She's a space explorer, not a supermodel. Looks all come down to personal tastes, though, and if you don't like her look, you can customize her. This really is a non issue.
Overall, this is a beautiful game, with an outstanding score and superb audio. The combat is much improved, something that seems to be fairly universally acknowledged. The Nomad replaces the Mako and the Hammerhead, and is likewise much improved, though it has no armament.
Another complaint people have made in reviews is the lack of new races. Statements like, "A new galaxy and only two races to populate it." This really is not fair. You're limited to one cluster of the Andromeda, and like the Milky Way of Mass Effect, a single cluster is not representative of the galaxy as a whole. Remember, there is no Mass Relay network in Andromeda, so races will be more isolated to their galactic points of origin.
Probably my biggest criticism is that unless you're already a Mass Effect fan, there's not enough context. Biotics having a hard time fitting in, for example, need more explanation for a new player, as do things like the Krogan animosity toward the Salarians and Turians. Also, if you run a biotic character, Cora Harper, your one biotic human crew member does not offer any unique dialogue options like Kaiden Alenko did in Mass Effect in your early conversations with him. Since this the first game in a new series (?), I would have like to have seen more context to connect new players with the existing Mass Effect universe. This game is written with the understanding that you already know the universe, and have already played through the first trilogy ...
... which brings me to my final criticism: it does not feel like a Mass Effect game initially. The class and skill interfaces are set up very differently, and the bumpers don't bring up the power and weapon wheels like the previous games did. Certainly not a deal breaker by any means, but as a longtime player of the series, it meant that I had to relearn the game, rather than just jump right in as I was able to with ME2 and ME3. Once you get into it, it does feel more like a Mass Effect game, but it takes time.
The story takes a bit longer to get moving, but it makes sense, as it's an exploration game, rather than a military campaign with an exploration element, like the first game was. Once it gets going, though, it's a decent story. And that seems to be the major factor: this game is about taking the time, exploring the various nooks and crannies, and letting the story unfold. Even the side quests and loyalty missions are more appropriate to the story, and in most cases, are better than in prior games, but you’re not beaten over the head with them; Cora won’t repeatedly call you to her cabin to discuss her loyalty mission. She sends you an e-mail, and that’s it. There’s no Kelly Chambers to keep reminding you every time you walk past, and she won’t refuse to talk about anything else the way characters in ME2 did until after you do her mission. Side quests and loyalty missions are things you must seek out to a certain extent.
All in all, this is a solid game, and if you liked the original Mass Effect, then you'll probably like Andromeda.

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