Mass Effect is a well-loved series of science fiction games developed by BioWare, with its first trilogy become a fan favourite among gamers. Exploring a vast galaxy full of conflict, technology and amazing species. Mass Effect allowed you to travel this galaxy with ease in the shoes of a Spectre, a secret agent with power above the normal police force, doing work in the name of the council.
Mass Effect ended its first trilogy, putting away Commander Shepard, to usher in their next release in the franchise, Andromeda. Moving on from the Milky Way, Andromeda sets you up in the lesser shoes of a Pathfinder, tasked with finding a new home for humanity. Focusing on first contact and diplomacy, Andromeda has peace and thinking more at its forefront.
With early stages of development starting in 2012, Andromeda has had a shaky release, from memes flooding the internet about its animations to hate posts about its less than stellar QA treatment. Through this article, I will be highlighting the best and the worst aspects of the game, from both my own experiences and those of other gamers.
15 Best: The Return of EXP
Mass Effect started with an experience reward for almost every action you did, be it finding lore within the world or defeating enemies. This system slowly got kicked out in favour of an exp per mission’s structure, heavily featured in ME2 and swapping to a simple bar in ME3. Thankfully Andromeda saw this and thought “hey, numbers are great” and put back in this RPG mechanic.
After finishing a group of enemies in Andromeda, you will be rewarded with exp, equal to the battle fought. While this does seem to glitch sometimes, giving you two sets of exp per battle, it is a welcome return to the old fashion RPG style of levelling up, as well as the returning ability to grind if you feel under-powered. With the addition of MMO style quests, you also have plenty of other options for levelling, besides the massacre of enemies.
14 Worst: No Meters for your Personality
If I’ve learnt anything from playing RPGs and watching people play them, it's that numbers and bars matter. If you see damage numbers getting bigger, more colourful or even vibrating, then you know you’re doing better. Mass Effect used to have a meter to represent how Paragon or Renegade you were being in that playthrough, this was also used during special events where you could use your meter to persuade individuals to your side of thinking.
Andromeda ditches this idea, along with the Morality system, when it put in the personalities system. As you continue selecting a certain response, be it from the heart or in a logical manner, they will begin to respond with these as a default. This system can be praised, but without a clear sign of what your character is, through stats or bars, it feels a bit too hidden or underrepresented. You could go through the game only once, seeing what you assume to be the default Ryder, as there is nothing saying you are a Casual Pathfinder or one that is by-the-books.
13 Best: Removal of Morality Dialogue
Commander Shepard was a paragon of justice or a dealer of pain in the first trilogy, from punching reporters in the face and committing genocide on a race to forgiving your enemies and not blowing people up. This two-sided look at actions really constrained your choices in Mass Effect, as you were either a good guy or a douche. Andromeda replaces this system with a 2-4 choice approach, focusing more on personality rather than morality.
While the system still leads to a singular approach, be it a sarcastic man or logical woman, the move away from good and bad allows a more broad approach to situations. Morality choices have also swapped over to Impulse actions, instead of just being an evil kill button or a good save button, they are more contextual to the situation.
12 Worst: Cover Based Shooting
Through the trailers and pre-release gameplay videos, we were told about how Mass Effect was moving away from cover based shooting. Agile battle and on-the-move combat was at the forefront of their demonstrations, with some cover based shooting thrown in for good measure. Sadly, when you put the game in and reach your first planet, that facade quickly fades away.
Plenty of enemies stick to cover if they are not animals or heavy units, your team stick to cover and, even during low health, you are told to find cover. If the battle didn’t feel static enough, your AI companions hardly ever use their jetpack in a dodging manner, only truly utilizing it if you tell them to get on top of a roof. While Andromeda makes a good attempt to make the fights more fluid, you’re just better off staying in cover.
11 Best: The Jetpack
The first trilogy started off incredibly slowly, from on-rails movement to a slow sprinting speed. As the franchise went on, Shepard moved faster, could vault over more objects and generally became an agile fighter. Andromeda continued this thought process, dialling mobility from a 4 to an 8, chucking a jetpack onto your back. Nothing says no boundaries like a jetpack, or Jump Jet as they call it.
Boosting into the sky, dashing around and parkouring across the battlefield, the jetpack added a sorely needed mode of transport during firefights. Giving you a singular jump, with climbing controls, allows players to freely move around the battlefield as well as improving planet traversal. Gamers who fondly remember side-jumping in Legend of Zelda or cartwheeling in Kingdom Hearts BBS will feel right at home with boosting forward for all eternity in Andromeda.
10 Worst: Boring Main Cast
The first trilogy of Mass Effect had a great cast, from both the character standpoint and the actors voicing them. Either through poor choice of voice actors or script, the amazing cast that was known in Mass Effect is no longer present. While the previous cast do show up in voice recordings or codex entries, your current team are mostly one-dimensional and plain. It doesn’t help that the romance scenes often lead to blank screens or are the ultimate encounters with them.
As you patrol your ship, you will see them interacting with one another, as well as chatting in the Nomad, but they aren’t as funny or engaging as the previous trilogy. The animations are a problem here, as emotion is poorly translated in their faces and movements, or even clearly cut off when they walk out of a room. The only really interesting character is Vetra and her conversations don’t last that long.
9 Best: The Classless Approach
Taking a note from Pen and Paper games, Andromeda has finally ditched their constraining class system of old. Instead of forcing you into biotic, tech or combat classes, you are now given full range of all abilities. If you want to pull enemies around as well as place down turrets to shoot down the annoyances, you can. Andromeda doesn’t entirely forget classes however, implementing profiles that give a boost to a specific play style.
Giving the player so much control over their ability points feels so freeing. On top of that freedom, you can easily reset your character on your ship the Tempest, starting off at 20 credits to refund all your points. You can also reset your companions, though their ability trees are far shorter, with around five abilities each. It would have been cool to customize them more, but the plethora of abilities on hand for Ryder more than make up for it.
8 Worst: No Garrus, No Calibrations
Andromeda became a meme mere days after its launch trailers and reviews, from the poor animations to sloppy controls. Mass Effect used to be known for its one liners, funny characters and immersive world. Walking up to a Krogan and head-butting them, clasping hands with Wrex and punching reporters in the face. The most prominent reoccurring memories of Mass Effect were the lines given by characters upon talking to them.
Garrus, the calibrations man, Zaeed the war stories man and Javik the man from the past with a funny line for any race. Nothing about the current cast has any of that quality. Peebee is too hyper, yet reclusive, Vetra has no one-liner when you walk into her quarters and the pilot no longer makes me laugh. Andromeda does try and throw in comedy, from two of your crew seeing each other naked to an argument between pilot and mechanic, but they are either too spread apart or lack impact on delivery.
7 Best: Planet Traversal and the Nomad
The first Mass Effect introduced us to the universe and setting wonderfully, with beautiful colours and an unforgettable start. Included with this experience was the ability to roam across the cities of the planets and the planets themselves. Outside of the on-rails mission planets, you could land on quite a few random ones, running around, fighting random encounters or roving around in your vehicle, the Mako.
While the later Mass Effects ditched this concept, Andromeda goes to its roots and picks up lost mechanics. The Mako has been swapped out for the more agile Nomad, boosting further, speeding faster and trampling easier. While it isn’t perfect, the Nomad does allow you to explore planets at a good speed, along with mining local areas for minerals. It can also be upgraded for faster movement and better combat capabilities.
6 Worst: Animations
You can’t search Andromeda without finding a parody or compilation of its faults, from flash animations making fun of it to complied clips of characters glitching out. Like I said before, the game has become a meme, even amongst journalists. While these videos do exaggerate the problems that the game has, they don’t lie and the game has plenty of glitches and bugs, plaguing the dialogue and movement.
The bad animations aren’t just kept to short dialogue either, as you can find characters contorting themselves during major conversations, breaking all immersion. Even outside of talking, Ryder’s head can do a 360 turn, squat while running or have his companions teleport around. While games like Goat Simulator play on outlandish movement and comedy, when you’re playing through a serious sci-fi experience, you don’t expect to drink from invisible glasses or hold invisible guns.
5 Best: Skill and Upgrade Customization
Besides the free choice of abilities, Andromeda features a few more mechanics to personalize your character and customize their fighting style. You can craft new arms and armour, along with modding them with scopes, magazines and damage modifications. The Nomad can be re-skinned and tooled up. Even your civilian clothing can be changed and colour swapped, along with armour pieces.
Besides all the crafting systems in place, you can also unlock Cryo Pods after progressing in the story, unlocking timed miners who give you resources every 45 minutes. You can increase vendors item ranges, get money overtime, highlight important caches on the map, increase gains from the map and even experience gained. While you can unlock close to all of the bonuses towards the end of the game, it is a nice addition to focus on certain areas during gameplay.
4 Worst: The Clean Environments and Play Dough Models
Games have varying art styles, from hand-drawn to cell shaded, each beautiful in their own right. However, the style that Andromeda went for is just plain ugly. Comparisons between Mass Effect and Andromeda show the degradation in quality, from realistic faces to ones made out of play dough that has been stretched too far. The environment of your Ark and the main station have way too much wax slapped on them, shining up like a J.J. Abrams film.
Andromeda does try and go for a sci-fi look, but it devolves into being too cartoony at times. The face designs are also hurt severely when their lips move past their nose or left agape five seconds too long. Mass Effect used to be a bastion of quality, for its later missions and its alien designs, but now it feels like a joke. Not all characters suffer from elasticity and not all environments have a triple coat of wax, but the ones that do will hit hard in the immersion department.
3 Best: More Consumable Items
I feel like a broken record, but Andromeda continues to implement more and more RPG elements into its release, this time in the form of Consumable Items. The first release saw unlimited ammo resources, switching to a ammo approach in later games, as well as adding in different ammo types as abilities and explosions as more abilities.
Andromeda instead converts a lot of the previous infinite attacks in consumable form, while adding in more to boot. From elemental ammo becoming a consumable for a clip, as well as healing or shields boosts being a consumable item. You start off with two consumable item slots, unlocking more as you progress. This addition of on-the-fly items adds even more to the before battle preparation, which fans of The Witcher franchise will appreciate.
2 Worst: So Far Away But So Similar
When you think of space, you think of something different then the norm, you think of sentient plant life, monsters with a hundred limbs, different gravity fields, different colours and different ways of thinking. The Milky Way was a great introduction into the franchise, with dozens of new races and locales, while Andromeda was meant to follow on from that with even more outlandish areas and aliens.
Even after travelling for over 600 years, we still see an overabundance of Humans, Asari and Milky Way races. While they did bring 20,000 per ark, the familiarity is too much for a place that was meant to feel alien. The Kett look way too similar to the Collectors and Protheans, and the Angara are just cat-like Protheans. They even use the same currency and language as us. It would have been amazing to have to develop new translators but no, they speak English or at least the game doesn’t go into detail about how we talk with one another.
1 Best: New Game+
Once you complete Andromeda for the first time, you will unlock New Game Plus, a fan favourite feature in games recently. This mode will allow you to play from the beginning with a new appearance or sex, to see a different view, as well as keeping several of your unlocks from the previous run. Keeping powers, skill points, credits, levels, research and non-mission items into your new run will make the game quite a bit easier.
You won’t get to keep Cryo Pod upgrades, as those are linked to the story and your progression, along with mission completion or code unlocks. So if you want 100%, you will want to do it in a single run or your next to make it a bit easier. If you don’t want it to be too easy, however, you can up the ante to Insanity to combat your higher level status. There is the slight issue when starting a new game, where it breaks, but BioWare do know about it.