Mass Effect Andromeda: A Retrospective Review
Mass Effect: Andromeda explodes on the scene with an action-packed storyline that begins almost immediately at the start of the game. You are Ryder, the son or daughter of the hard-charging, inspirational human Pathfinder whose primary purpose is to explore galaxies and planets in order to find the next home for humanity, which was forced to flee the Milky Way. Without giving away too many details, your father dies fairly close to the beginning of the game and in his last moment, transfers his special AI to you. Upon his death (and much to the chagrin of a teammate who has been actively training to be the next Pathfinder), you have now been charged with the responsibility of finding viable homes in the form of foreign planets...for the entire human species.
It's a lot to handle, and Ryder struggles with the sudden burden by questioning his or her competency and level of training. The new Pathfinder begins to build mutually beneficial relationships with the many other species who live in Andromeda and who share the desire to locate new homes. But as the threat of an invading alien race rises during the midst of all of this space exploration, Ryder undergoes a massive trial-by-fire and is eventually victorious, thus providing humanity with the almost foreign concept of hope.
Andromeda's story line seems familiar because it is. It is very reminiscent of the plot in Mass Effect 3, during which the Collectors are the alien race that is threatening humanity's existence. Again, the main character is responsible for uniting everyone across the galaxy in an effort to prevent this alien race from killing everyone, an initiative that seems doomed from the start. Instead of the Reapers, it's the Archon and the Primus.
Andromeda lacks the fresh, new start that fans of the series were longing for, and it seems to simply recycle plot details from Mass Effect 3. Novel alien races were invented and the faces on the enemies changed, but there was nothing mind-blowing about this story line (even the bit that involves the evolution of the Angara). It was disappointing to note the similarities between the two games and it was even more disappointing that history seemed to repeat itself at the end of the game, when the collective of your efforts finally comes together.
Despite the overall lack of creative genius at work here, the story line holds up in Andromeda. It's engaging and it maximizes the number of new faces and new challenges you experience along the way. The plot wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it's fun and it'll take you some time to wade through.
Similar to Mass Effect 3, you have a crew in Andromeda that you'll build from scratch. Although the characters are already made and the crew selection is prescribed, finding and recruiting these individuals was fun. I enjoyed meeting new faces and identifying each of their skills, talents, and pet peeves. Some of their personalities were a bit overdone though (see: Liam) and those characters tended to aggravate me, but for the most part the crew members were an enjoyable lot.
Romance options seemed limited initially, and I didn't notice a whole lot of change since the patch. During two play-throughs I completed three total relationships, as both a male and a female Pathfinder. Depending on who you choose to link up with, your romantic journey may be fulfilling. It certainly isn't with everyone who's a romance option; for example, my first romance as a female Pathfinder was with Reyes Vidal, whose story line was lacking in quite a few ways. The best romance- at least from my standpoint- was with Cora, who presented as a solid partner and teammate. It is possible to romance multiple people at once, and at least one of the characters admits that she's perfectly happy being a side chick.
Depending on who you select to go into battle with you, your combat experiences will differ. Some of the squadmates are better at fighting than others, such as Drack and Jaal. Others are ballsy as hell (see: Cora) and a few just seem to suck (I see you, Liam). It's important to anticipate the enemy as well as the combat situation if you want to succeed. I would also recommend selecting squadmates who compliment your character's skills, which is common sense for many of us.
Just like in Mass Effect 3, you'll complete personal missions for each of your crew members and bond with them in the process. There is the potential to build friendships with those you choose not to romance, and some of the sub-plots can be rather entertaining. I highly recommend talking to your crew as often as possible, as some of your side missions rely on their information.
If I had to identify the best thing about Andromeda, it would be the combat mechanics. Fighting in this game was so much fun. I played as two different classes and whereas the soldier class gets the job done really well, playing as a biotic was so much more engaging. You can literally lift an enemy and fling them through the air farther than the eye can see! It is really quite satisfying for some strange reason.
Two things about combat I did not appreciate: one, we lost the ability to grab an enemy from overtop their cover and take them out with the Omni-tool. This particular technique would have been extremely helpful, especially in some of those close-quartered situations. Also, even though an enemy is thrown biotically hundreds of feet into the air, he typically won't die when he hits the earth again. This was a massive oversight and one that was really frustrating at times, especially when the enemy runs back to the battle.
Weapons and gear seem standard, which a few outliers on each side of the spectrum. One interesting thing about the weaponry and armor is that you can borrow blueprints from the alien races you encounter, thus providing you with the ability to build some pretty cool gear. Andromeda also implements the importance of research by requiring that you gain research points for learning and exploring. These points can then be used to draft the blueprints for these novel weapons and armor pieces, which can then be built utilizing a variety of materials. So, you could be the only person in the galaxy wearing armor that was created and developed by the ancient Remnant race!
The Extra Stuff
Us gamers like to refer to the extra stuff as "filler" and Andromeda has a lot of it, mostly in the way of side quests. These little missions alone require so much of your time and attention that at times it feels like they represent your main plot line. Granted, some of these quests feed into your main mission; however, their impacts are rarely observed outside of their own little atmospheres. You can choose to do these missions, or just skip them entirely. Completing these will gain you additional experience points, loot, and a few extra things, but ignoring them and moving on won't typically elicit any negative effects.
There is one or two side missions that are worth the time and effort, such as the "Movie Night" plot. This particular quest requires you to journey all over the galaxy to find certain components for a crew movie night, but it is so worth it in the end. You can definitely skip the Architect battles (especially if you're already at full planetary viability) and some of the other ones, but make "Movie Night" a priority!
There are so many things about Andromeda that I haven't included here, because it's simply not possible to identify every detail and I wouldn't want to spoil every last surprise. Overall, it is an enjoyable game and one that takes a while to beat (+/- 60 hours for me) and I always delight in being the hero that everyone worships in the end. I certainly wish that some aspects of the game were done differently, but there are others that were enjoyable the way that they were and in this particular set of circumstances, I believe that the pros of Andromeda definitely outweigh the cons.
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© 2017 Jennifer