Mass Effect: Andromeda
This is my second attempt at starting this review. I have had to reconsider my original review because despite my overwhelmingly negative comments being entirely accurate and accurately reflecting my opinion it doesn’t accurately depict how much I’m enjoying playing this game and how addictive I’ve found it.
It reminds me of when I was playing Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3. The Witcher is a better game in every conceivable way, it is in fact one of the best games ever, however I continually found myself playing Fallout rather than the Witcher and if I had a gun to my head and had to chose which was more fun I would always say “Fallout 4! But I’m not sure why”.
Well Mass Effect Andromeda is a bit like that. It’s seriously flawed and the bits that aren’t flawed are pretty average but I’m still enjoying it. I look forward to playing it and time passes very quickly when I do. I can’t really tell you why but this game is fun and is worth your time playing it. So as you read the rest of the review please remember that I do like this game… Hard though that is to believe from the comments that follow.
It’s hard to believe that two hugely experienced game development companies (Bioware & EA) with a multimillion dollar budget and years to expand on a much loved universe full of history, colour and characters could fail so spectacularly but somehow EA has managed to deliver to us the worst Mass Effect game to date.
I started playing the game on launch and it was awful.
The faces? Oh god, the faces!!
I know there has been lots of coverage about the bad facial animation but I really cannot overstate how off putting it all was. Luckily I was away for a few days and when I got back a massive patch had dropped which narrowed everyone’s eyes. This small change improved them from looking utterly moronic to simply having bad facial animation which is a huge improvement but all they have achieved is to fix the problem it doesn’t actually make them look good.
I’m also wildly disappointed with the overall character models for all the alien races. The Mass Effect universe has always been populated by races that are bi-pedal with strangely humanoid bodies but now the difference between the humans and the aliens seems to stop at the neck with just a little variation at the hips. And the gait when they walk (humans included) just looks odd. A further annoyance with the NPC’s is the in-game dialogue. It’s difficult to activate conversations as you have to be standing in their forward arc to initiate it which make sense, until they are standing facing a monitor/computer etc. Then you have to try and force your way in alongside them, sometimes having to wiggle back and forth to get the conversation prompt up. The debacle continues during the conversation when instead of stopping to talk to you they just keep doing the same default activity they were before you spoke with them which makes it look like they are either ignoring you completely or doing unjustified body scans or other strange acts during the conversation.
All of which is a sad state of affairs for a franchise that has previously provided options to just play the story and have super simplified combat.
The story itself? Well actually I quite like it. And more than that I really like the way you are launched into the new universe with no idea what is going on. It felt uncomfortable and strange, which is great!
Sadly this feeling quickly fades to be replaced with frustration and a fair degree of boredom as you try and navigate the new universe. The way you traverse the stars in your new (but remarkably familiar) starship is tedious. There is nothing in the process to provide joy and after the first few interplanetary jumps the “zooming through space” first person view becomes tired. So tired in fact there is now (thanks to that aforementioned patch) an option to skip this screen but even when you skip it the screen flies in close to the planet and then pulls back out again before you can interact with it. WHY? It’s an annoying waste of time that serves no purpose. It’s not interesting or immersive; all it does is steal a few more seconds of my life every time I change planets. This would be less annoying if investigating a planet was an interesting exercise but this has also been simplified so much that it’s a boring exercise in testing your patience as to how much you really want to try and locate small amounts of XP or resources.
As best I can tell there is no point in exploring the universe…
A game about exploring a new universe and the game mechanic makes it boring and pointless… Uh, yeh. Nice one.
So you’ve skipped character design (because they are all fugly), you are talking to as few people as possible (because it’s weird and awkward), you aren’t exploring space (because it’s boring and pointless), you aren’t reading the expansive back story, managing inventory or developing weapons (because the menu system is fundamentally broken), you aren’t developing your squad or managing their equipment (because you cant) so what are you doing?
Well, at the end of all of that you are playing a fairly average 3rd person shooter.
MA:E has sacrificed any resemblance of tactics (apart from movement you can no longer give instructions to your squad mates) and replaced that with a jet pack that lets you bounce around the battle field. The jet pack mechanic is fine, I’ll possibly even go as far as to say it’s good, but it’s simply too one dimensional and is in no way enough of feature to carry an entire game. And besides I want to play as a sniper so apart from grabbing the odd high vantage point I get little value from the jet pack… And not to mention your companions jump around behind you grunting and groaning like they are being shot….
Perhaps I should start again playing as a Biotic, it might make the game better but when you have to pick your character type to maximize your enjoyment the game is pretty broken (although I restarted Dragon Age: Inquisition to change to a mage because being a fighter made the combat too boring).
“Alright, alright”, I hear you say, “the game must have some redeeming features?!”
So to the good.
Combat is fast and simple; the alien worlds you can visit look beautiful. Perhaps not Red Dead Redemptions mind blowing vistas but it’s certainly top quality. The sci-fi design elements are great; they appeal to me hugely and provide the right “Mass Effect” vibe whilst being fresh. Well apart from the shuttle on the nexus… that’s a hideous bit of design. See? Even when trying to focus on the good I keep being dragged back to the disappointments and frankly that is my summary of the game.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a long string of disappointments. Sure it was always going to struggle to live up to the expectations of fans but I can confidently say this is the worst Mass Effect Game. It’s fundamentally flawed in ways that can never be patched and whilst the game is quite fun it constantly left me wanting to go back and play the original trilogy.
I just hope this is not the death of the Mass Effect universe.
Rating: R13 Violence, sexual material & nudity.
Sorry, I forgot to mention the multi-player!
What? You don’t care about multiplayer in a story driven, sci-fi RPG about space exploration?
Me neither. Maybe that is where they spent $35million dollars because otherwise I can’t tell where the money went!