*Minor Spoilers*

You’ll have to forgive the late reviews that I do. I don’t like to give a game a review until I have either completed, played an enormous amount of it, or given up entirely on it. Only then do I feel that I have gained enough knowledge of the game itself, and seen enough of it to truly give it a review that I personally feel is accurate. It is something that I fear a lot of people might have done with Mass Effect: Andromeda. The first hour of the game is good, but the next few cause it to drag, and this is where I believe most of the preliminary reviewers stopped playing to review the game. While they are paid to do it, they can only hit a certain amount of game time before they are forced to move on and review the next thing. Being a gamer myself, I do not have that luxury/curse. As I would only stop playing a game if I was not enjoying it. If it was a game that I found myself eager to get back to and play it, then I would never stop halfway through and move onto something else. That is why most of my game reviews will come reasonably late after the game has actually launched.
Of course that is not to say that the points brought up in most of the reviews are inaccurate, far from it. Some of them have hit the nail perfectly on the head. I just feel that maybe they gave Mass Effect: Andromeda a correct review for incorrect reasons.

Anyway, moving on to my thoughts of the game. As I said before, ME:A has a strong opening, which also has a way of pissing off every single fan of the series. You awaken years in the future, following a journey to a new galaxy. Any choices you might have made in the previous trilogy is now voided. It did not matter what choice you picked for humanity and all the other races as Commander Shepperd at that hands of the ravenous Reapers, nor did it matter which characters you decided to sleep with, or punch during an interview (an achievement I acquired across all three games in the original trilogy). For that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, so it doesn’t matter. “Look what is happening over here!” you can almost hear the game calling out.
I think that given how Bioware decided to end Mass Effect 3, and Shepperd’s story, there were three very distinctive options to make during the final scenes of the game. All of which could greatly affect how the next game could begin. It seems that the developers thought “You know what? This is going to be too much work. Let’s just start again over there”. Which is fine for new comers to the series, but I have failed to meet a Mass Effect fan who was not annoyed by this decision. All of the choices you had made through that game are now not important. A character you help build and design through the course of the series, is now nothing more than a name dropped very occasionally in conversation. I was personally hoping for a legacy status of my Commander Shepperd in the game, so there would be talk of my great achievements.
On the “New Game” screen on this Mass Effect, the game mentioned something about my previous saved data in the series; a kind of ‘Previously on Mass Effect…” where you can make the choices of the previous game to help mold the one you are about to play. Something that they had done on the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, as the original game was not on that console. But alas, all the game did was ask me if my previous game’s Shepperd was a boy or a girl. What a tease.

But I suppose we cannot blame Bioware for this. We have seen it before on Telltale’s The Walking Dead, especially at the end of Season 2, when Clem has four very different endings, all of which need to be tied up so flow into Season 3. When it came to Season 3, other than a little one scene flashback, the choices you made did not really seem to matter.

So, in this game you play as one of the Ryder twins (the boy or the girl depending on your preference), as you are now part of the Andromeda Initiative; a mission to colonise the Andromeda Galaxy which takes six hundred years to get to (so anything happening in the regular galaxy is all said and done… and most likely dead). You are now on-board an enormous ship; named an Ark, which left the regular solar system along with three other Arks. The idea is to just set shop there for some reason. Apparently the galaxy that you had was not good enough? And so you must venture onward because you can.
“Space… the final frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before”. These words couldn’t help but echo in my ears throughout the course of the game, assisted by the fact that every bloody person you meet talking about “New Beginnings” or a “New Home”.

I decided to play as the male Ryder. Not entirely sure why. Looking back I wish I had picked the female one, as I believe that the script would have been better suited for her personality. I prefer my male characters a little more gritty and rough around the edges. I am more of a fan of the Marcus Fenix type, over this classic generic brown short haired, cheeky, joking, nobody that the games industry think that everybody likes. I am by no means a Marcus Fenix type myself. I do not possess any level of “grit”, and I am probably more like Marcus’ son in Gears of War 4 (as I do have a number two round the sides and shortish on top with a flick). But I am not interesting in projecting myself onto the character. The days of Gordon Freeman and Isaak Clarke (at least from the first Dead Space, which is why you can imagine they changed it in later installments) of a silent protagonist are gone. I play games like I do when I watch a film. I don’t want to have a generic short-brown haired character that is the same as every other one that has come before appear in my film. That would make every film terrible. I want characters with depth and who interest me. Maybe they have an interesting backstory or are on a mission of vengeance. I personally blame Nathan Drake.

So, as you can tell by the passage above, the male version of Ryder is this type. While you could roleplay Shepperd however you like, with the paragon and renegade options, allowing you to be a massive a-hole if you wanted to, Ryder only ever responds with sarcasm; a trait that becomes eye rolling and annoying almost instantly. The entire paragon and renegade options have now been removed from the game, which is not entirely bad, as in previous Mass Effect games, the paragon option was the only real choice, unless you was roleplaying Shepperd as pure evil. I found that often in games, the ‘Renegade’ option would lock out quests and rewards.
With that in mind, I felt that in conversations in this game, you only had the option to say “Yes” or “Yes” followed by some stupid cheeky jest that never hit the mark. In fact I could probably count on one Turian’s hand the amount of times that this game made me laugh; which this was desperately trying to do (I had to check which Mass Effect alien race had the least amount of fingers). It is harder to make someone laugh that it is to make a player interested in a character with a good backstory/drive, and it annoys me how many game developers try and go for this, whilst using the same short brown haired white guy option that everyone else has been trying to do for a few years now.
Of course you can customise your character… but not really. You can make him a black guy, who just has the same facial features of the white guy. There are a few ‘normal’ haircuts to choose from, along with a few bastard joke ones that you would never choose unless you planning on truly mucking around during your run through of the game. And there were not many facial hair options to choose, especially strange considering how much the beard is in fashion at the moment. Any beard options were either too short, or stupidly long and all of which never quite connect correctly to the haircut. This is the same issue Bioware had a few years ago with Dragon Age: Inquisition. And don’t even get me started on the scars. They were terrible. They looked like someone had wiped lipstick on the character’s face. I have seen better scars on 80s Action Man toys.
I don’t see the point of being able to create a character when the choices are rubbish, or next to nothing. I would have rather a pre-made Ryder with his own personal backstory and character traits. Instead of this generic male character for us to project ourselves onto, that everyone thinks we want to play as.
I may have gotten a little sidetracked there. This is going to be a long review if I keep going off on one like that. But I do feel that these are points that game developers need to address.

One thing I did like was that if you created your own Ryder, along with their twin (which the game lead me to believe would change my normal Ryder back to the original configuration if I altered the twin, so I didn’t bother with them), then the two characters blended together would create the look of the twin’s father; the famous Pathfinder Alex Ryder. Which was a nice touch. Alex is played by Clancy Brown, who was the only famous actor other than the crew’s medical officer played by Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer.
Alex was the kind of character I was looking for. He had that level of grit that I was after. He was a badass who did what he wanted and didn’t care about the risks, but then something happens, and YOU are promoted to the position of Pathfinder; a person in charge with doing absolutely everything! From collecting plant samples, to settling colonies, to terraforming planets, solving ancient race puzzles, fighting an invading alien races, convincing people to go back to their families or friends, solving murders, and choosing which type of outpost is established on a planet. All in all, they have to do pretty much everything.

You see, since they woke up in Andromeda, everything has gone up shits creek. The other Arks haven’t made it to the Nexus; which is far too large with nothing really in it, and every person you need to talk to is about four loading screens away from one another (the Nexus is the equivalent to the Citadel of the other Mass Effect games). The galaxy has some strange unexplained… mist? Was that what the Scourge was? Anyway there is some kind of strange cloud that is causing destruction in the galaxy, but never really gets explained (so I am imaging they are leaving this for another game, if it ever gets made).
You and your father are to lead a squad to the planet that humanity planned to use as their home (now damaged by the Scourge), and your father is pretty much running stuff here, while the leaders on the Nexus as in disarray, but then something happens to him and you are now the Pathfinder (something that the game continuously reminds you of). So you must venture on a quest to find the other Arks, restore the Initiative, and make the Andromeda galaxy a new home.
Id like to point out at this point that the missions to find the other Arks were probably the best in the game. I enjoyed the breadcrum trail that they lead me on. I just wish that we had a few Event Horizon or Pandorum-esc scenarios.

The game has cut and pasted lots of things from previous games. You have the evil alien race that are the primary antagonists, who genuinely are up to no good (the Kett – the Collectors). You have the ancient robotic race who have already been before and you are following in their footsteps trying to uncover more about them (the Reapers – the Revenant). You even have the shady organisation, run by an anonymous individual that is pulling the strings on one of the planets (the Shadow Broker – the Charlatan).
And you have the return of the scanning and probing of planets from ME:2, as well as the driving segements of ME:1, all thrown into the mix.
The game screams of familiarity. As if it was going through a check list of all previous Mass Effect titles, and a few boxes that they thought they would bring back because fans didn’t hate them enough in the previous game, so they are back with a vengeance as a reminder of why we didn’t like them in the first place.

The main story doesn’t overly captivate me that well. While it started off good, and being an original twist where the humans (and the other Mass Effect races) are the alien invaders of another galaxy, this was never truly done to its fullest potential. It was a great idea that could have been enough to carry the game’s story in its entirety, had they decided to go down the route of having more than ONE new alien race (that isn’t an enemy) in the game. If they had multiple planets with different dominate species on it, all confused and scared of the alien invaders (humans) and their capabilities, meaning that you had to learn their ways and teach them yours, or, in true Mass Effect fashion, mess up the relations and cause tensions between humanity and that race, then that would have been a game for me. Instead the plot does that for a very, almost instantaneous moment, before moving along with a classic and revamped Mass Effect plot line of saving the galaxy from some alien and/or robotic race.
To me it felt like a missed opportunity. When you first meet the new alien race, they are nervous of your presence, although they are not overly impressed with meeting so many new species from another galaxy, but soon enough they come into the fold and status-quo resumes.
A little point I want to make here is something that has annoyed me. It is the same thing that happens in the Walking Dead TV series, why does everyone call them Walkers? Or uses the term “Herd”? Despite the fact that they have never met the characters who, if you will, coined the phrase. In the comic book, nearly every group they meet use a different name for them. And this is the issue I have with Mass Effect: Andromeda. When humans (and the other races from the previous games) first meet the bad alien race, they call them the Kett. They also call the strange ancient robots the Revenant. However, when you meet the Angara; the new friendly race, they are already using these terms. We have only just met them, and they have been fighting the Kett for decades, however we both came to the same conclusion on the name.
It just broke immersion for me and feels like sloppy writing.


By this point you have probably read that the Mass Effect series is now on hiatus. So any chance of DLC (maybe involving the Quarian Ark) or a sequel, that will make THIS game’s choices matter, have now been shelved, making me wonder if any of it was really worth it? I had spent hours on this game completing a large amount of the side quests (The ones that I felt mattered that were not just crappy collection quests), in hopes that in future games these will be brought into play, as they have done in previous entries into the series. As these types of games are brought to life by how in sequels, you see your choices affect the world around you. Something that was done brilliantly in Mass Effect 2; the series’ best game. But now I fear that this was all for nothing. Although having said that the final mission in Mass Effect: Andromeda was excellent because of this. Everyone you had helped along the way got involved in the final battle. This was probably one of this game’s saving graces, so maybe that was the only pay-off for making the hard decisions such as who to put in charge of something, or which out of two people do you kill. Which will be a shame as I did invest myself into the story, despite the fact that the game did try and push me away a few times. For every time I found myself really enjoying a session of this game, there were three other sessions that followed where I felt as if I was just going through the motions, crossing off the list, and thinking to myself that I wished the game was closer to the end that it currently was (if it was not for my OCD telling me to go for that nearby star system and scan all the planets there; a factor that did not make any difference to getting closer to the game’s finale).

You might have noticed I haven’t gone onto the actual gameplay of the game yet. The reason being is that Bioware’s previous games; Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, were very story heavy games. Their gameplay could easily be carried along by the actual story of the game in my eyes. So as long as this Mass Effect stuck to the same style of gameplay as the previous one, then I did not mind much about that aspect of it. A massive RPG needs a good story to help push us through. Bioware’s Dragon Age 2 had good gameplay, but a terrible story that just meandered around, not actually going anywhere, and so that game was regarded as being awful, which is exactly what I thought of it. At the other end of the spectrum, Knights of the Old Republic’s gameplay is not overly exciting, especially if you leave the pausing aspect switched on, but the overall story is absolutely amazing and it is why the game is regarded as the best Star Wars game ever made.

Well Mass Effect is similar to the previous games; a third person shooter, however the developers claimed it to be different from the other games by being more aggressive, but I found myself taking cover and using my  abilities to only push back enemies and disperse large groups that had me surrounded, just to give me some breathing room. The gameplay really isn’t that bad at all in all honesty. It is a little bit repetitive at times, and certain moments, such as holding a position while a hack bar completes, can outstay their welcome. But overall you use one trigger for zooming and one for shooting, then you use your bumper buttons for your special abilities (three you can set to these buttons out of a choice of about thirty different ones).

When it comes to special abilities, you can have various powers, including firing a freeze blast or turning invisible, which a player will choose based on their preference and play style. Unfortunately they do not carry the gameplay. For example you cannot use cloaking to sneak past a group of enemies. If the game requires you to kill the meat bags in order to proceed, which is 99.9% of the time, then that is what you are doing. Turning invisible is only good have a brief moment to yourself to get into a better flanking position to take the opposition down. The truth in the matter is that this will probably be the last thing on your mind. The action is so chaotic, with most of the time one of your two allies, that you can pick and choose to bring along to any mission, running about and getting involved. If you then pick the Revenant robot companion you can acquire, then you are adding another one into the mix. All of these cause the game to be quite confusing as to who is on your side. The Turian ally looks exactly the same as every other Turian enemy, and given the fact that your allies are running around all over the place, the enemies are not always facing towards you, causing even more confusion as to who to shoot at. Half the time I found myself unloading onto a baddie, only to realise it was my companion that I was pumping full of lead. Thankfully friendly fire is not a factor in this game, otherwise I would have found myself on my own for most of the missions.

When it comes down to it, the skills did not overly matter. Choosing to only have bionic skills and abilities might sound good, but it doesn’t overly affect the gameplay. Most of the action comes down to your guns, and occasionally your awkward melee weapons that only register to hit one in five times (on the subject of it, every melee attack comes straight down in front of the player like a club, which is why most of them didn’t connect. By the time the weapon came within striking distance, the enemy had moved, leaving me open to attack. A side swiping style attack would have been a million times better). All that the skills and abilities do is give you a few additional colours to your pallet. It reminded me of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. In that you have a million and one ways of distracting a guard, when you have one built into your own robotic hand from the start, causing the rest to be pretty obsolete, so you really only used them because you could. That is now I felt about Mass Effect’s skills, as well as setting your own personal profile builds (which again I did not change after I found a cool one that turned me invisible for a brief moment whilst jumping).
The same can be said for all the research and even the purchasing of new weapons and their upgrades. You can pretty much kill anything you want with weapons you found on the ground early on. It is only if you want to kill them a little bit faster that you would then look through items you found in previous missions, only to realise that one you already had a gun that is a lot better to use.

That was what most of Mass Effect: Andromeda felt like; a lot of fluff that really didn’t add anything to the game. Using the Car to mine for resources, scanning planets for resources, sending soldiers on missions to collect resources, and choosing what cryo-chambers to unlock to gain… resources. Not once did I really feel that I even needed these resources. The weapon upgrades and researching into new tech is what they are used for, but I used it so infrequently that it really didn’t matter, and collecting them was no reward at all.
Maybe this is a fault with me, but the game really didn’t require me to do this stuff, and so I just didn’t feel the need to give it much attention (other than the Cryo chambers and the scanning planets for the overall game percentage).

What I really like in this style of game is the classic RPG element of gaining quests off of NPCs and completing them. Unfortunately this was not well executed either. NPCs are pretty bland and uninteresting, and the game does not even go into a cut-scene for most of them. The characters just stand there awkwardly in gameplay and talk, most of the time with an ally glitching out somewhere nearby. A lot of the quests required you to go to some other far off planet, which takes a very long time in loading screens and videos of the ship taking off and landing on the planet, before we can even get there.
On the subject of glitches, this game was full of them and covered all areas. From getting stuck between the scenery, to character’s not speaking but the subtitles say others, this game had them all, leading me to believe that this game was rushed (an issue I will address below). Thankfully I only had one game breaking bug that caused me to have to restart the game completely, but the auto-save feature was on point and I didn’t need to redo much of the game to get back to where I was before the bug occurred.

It might seem from this review that I really didn’t like Mass Effect: Andromeda, but that really isn’t the case. It is not a particularly bad game. It has some really bad game mechanics and poor design choices implemented into them, but the overall game is okay. It is a solid 6/10 game that ticks all the boxes (if only categorically) but never attempts to push the boat out. The issue is that the game feels old, and by old I mean last gen. If this game came out at the time of the original Mass Effect, then it would have been brilliant. But now the bar for this style of game has been set too high, and now games like this just simply get forgotten in the sea of games that are incredibly similar in style. Especially ones that make me feel that he developers were just trying to rush it out half finished.
There are no shortage of open world third person RPGs, and more so with much better graphics that this one. I mean the environments looked good. Exploring the variety of different worlds (snowy, desert, grassland, a giant meteor, and other alien planets) looks impressive. It is the character animations and faces that ruin it. They look as if they could be straight from the original Mass Effect game back when that was first released. Bioware even released a patch to fix this, but even with that, it is still nowhere near the level that we have come to expect nowadays.
I think most of this came down to the fact that Mass Effect: Andromeda feels like a rushed game. It is clear that the development time for this game was nowhere near as long as previous entries in this series, or other similar games (if I am wrong about this… then for shame Bioware!). A lot of the quests seem uninteresting, the skills and abilities do not make much of a difference, there is a lot of generic fluff that if you cut out then it would not make much difference to the gameplay, and the graphic and bug issues, prove that Bioware did not give this game anywhere near the amount of attention it deserves. Which is a shame as Mass Effect is a great series. I have hazy dream-like memories of the other entries, which have now been despoiled by this attempt to replicate the magic of the series.
This is the same issue that I had with the most recent Gears of War game, and probably another number of series that developers have tried to bring back into our lives by throwing out exactly what we have had before, only this time nothing more than a cheap imitation of the original, and I wonder how long this can continue before the developers realise that if you are not going to put a lot of effort into your game, then the players are not going to put much of an effort into playing them.

So did I enjoy Mass Effect: Andromeda? Some of it I did. I put the time and effort into it and I think coming out the other side, I feel good that it is over, if only for the experience. It most likely won’t remain in my mind for long however, and I doubt I will ever play it again (as I played the previous Mass Effect games a number of times over), which is a shame. I would pick up the next game if they ever do make it, but if the series is left to disappear, then I would not lose any sleep over it. To be fair, after Mass Effect 3, I was under the impression that it was all done and dusted. That was until this strange entry appeared. But much like Bioware have done with the series, I too will be putting Mass Effect back into cryo sleep until six hundred years later when it is time to thaw it out and have another crack at rekindling the flame that made the original series great. Until then, there are plenty more games out there in the galaxy for me to explore.


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