Mass Effect: Andromeda is just… so bad that it is just bad.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is the latest title in, and spin-off of, the Mass Effect franchise. Gamers take on the new role of Ryder as a “Pathfinder”, an explorer that can do whatever they want as they are mostly above authority, to help establish colonies across the Andromeda galaxy. However, the Andromeda region may not be as hospitable to life as the team had envisioned. It’s a new galaxy, and with it, a new adventure and new dangers await.
I’m going to say this as soon as possible so that people can immediately determine whether or not they will enjoy playing Mass Effect: Andromeda or not. The writing in this game feels as though it was written by a 14 year old fan-fiction writer from tumblr. And not one of those good ones either. The kind that writes themselves in as a Mary Sue character that has all the side cast eating off of their every word and exist only to further their whims.
So the game starts with the crew of the
Starship Enterprise Colony Ship of the humans reaching Andromeda galaxy. Their job is to explore new worlds and to establish contact with the new Nexus base set up in the Andromeda Galaxy. Immediately upon entering the system, the crew decide to take a tour onto a nearby world, shortly after their ship is damage from some kind of dark matter nebula. It’s not the smartest move, considering there is a Nexus base nearby to get repairs done, but, fan-fiction tier writing.
While on the planet, the games narrative really starts. After some explosions and some linear pathfinding, you come face-to-face with the mook soldiers of the game’s primary villains, the Kett. Anyway, more poorly written exposition later and suddenly you are no longer a regular explorer, but are now the Pathfinder. Breaking protocol on becoming Pathfinder, because your dad passes it down to you, and the rightful next-in-line gets shafted.
This part is another example of poorly written story in this game. The rightfully trained next-in-line Pathfinder doesn’t even care in the slightest that all of her years of training have gone to waste. She is just like: “Yup, you’re the Pathfinder now. That’s cool. I will follow you to the ends of the galaxy and die for you.” In fact, just to see if at any points she becomes resentful about it, I’ve taken her on every mission I could and spoken to her often. It rarely, if ever, comes back up as a topic. Heck, you can even kind of become her friend (I played female and didn’t notice romance options, only the friend heart; I will also admit to rushing this a fair bit). If this was the first two Mass Effect games, there’d have been some kind of tension here for sure.
The way the story is told and progresses isn’t particularly appealing in comparison to previous Mass Effect games either. At no point did it feel like there was any kind of urgency to my mission, nor did it particularly feel like there was a reason to explore. Definitely though, the narrative was dis-interesting enough for me to not want to pay attention to it. I can handle dumb narratives, but the way it’s delivered here, it was just boring.
Let’s look at an example of an urgent quest that you get locked into. There’s one quest where you have to rescue some aliens from an alien brainwashing facility. You go in, none of your party members use their talents to help you get into the facility, nor do you get the opportunity to bond with them through special dialogue via them helping, unlike in the other Mass Effect games. After that, you fight a bunch of enemies, not too much happens but the person you’re doing the quest for giving some dialogue. None of it meaningful. Soon, you fight a boss. The boss was actually slightly challenging if you don’t realise that you have guns and his only damaging attack is a one hit kill melee attack and are hit by it. And then his ending dialogue gives you two choices, each as stupid as the other, and finally, you go through an actually challenging firefight that is easier if you do it wrong.
I want to expand on the dialogue choices on the boss in that scenario, as it is major point that echoes throughout the game in almost every conversation. You’re simply not given enough realistic options to deal with a scenario. Spoilers: Your two options are to either save the person you came to rescue, or, let them die and rescue all the brainwashed people. It’s dumb, because in previous Mass Effect games, there would surely be a third option to save everyone the hard way. In this very specific instance, it’s kill the bad guy and bomb the base to save the one person, or, let the bad guy live and save all the brainwashed people.
Now, we could have just added a deceptive third option here and had our cake, and eat it too. Shepard would have done this. This is dumb. The writing in this game sucks. And this one scenario echoes this weakness throughout the entire game.
I don’t want to spend all-day talking about just how poorly written this game is, or how poorly thought out the choices that progress the story are, and so I will end that discussion here. It is a shame that Bioware’s writing has fallen so far in recent years, although the signs were all there, pointing to this inevitable conclusion.
A thing I’m not sure if Bioware intended with the gameplay or not is that all the decisions and things that you do in the game, can very easily be done by the people asking you to do them. This isn’t just reflected in the quests either. There are small mundane things in the dialogue as early as the start of the game that make you feel less like a hero, or an explorer, and more of a galactic delivery boy. I remember being in shock at how dumb some of the NPCs in this game sounded asking for you to do things that are literally right in front of them. “Ryder! I have arms, with hands on them! Can you touch this thing for me that is literally right within not even a full-arms length of distance from me?”
Speaking of dialogue, it plays a huge part in this game. It’s just too bad it’s uninteresting, mostly useless, and seems to serve some point other than creating an enjoyable experience. Why is it that literally every alien you meet in the first few hours of the game gay? I get that gay representation is seen as good in games, but why are there no gay humans? Are Bioware trying to tell us that all gays are aliens? Wouldn’t it have been more believable if there was a more varied mix of characters? Why does their sexuality even matter?
Actually speaking about that, in a (SPOILERS) cutscene where you first meet Peewee, you are on a hostile alien world where literally everything is trying to kill you. What does she do? She runs into you and pushes you onto the ground with her grotesque alien body that is sure to make anyone being tackled on an alien planet immediately react in a self-defensive manner. Does this believable scenario happen? No? Instead, we get instant sex-eyes.
I’m going to be honest, I was ready to drop this turd of a game at this point. Nobody can write, and nobody knows anything about anything. This is worse than: “DO YOU WANT TO RIDE THE BULL,” because at least at that point we were asking for it. Here it’s just: “HEY LET’S NOT REACT DEFENSIVELY TO ALMOST BEING KILLED OR MOLESTED ON AN ALIEN PLANET WHERE EVERYTHING WANTS TO KILL US.”
There is also a lack of opportunity to make your character into a Paragon, or, a Renegade in this game. As I previously mentioned, the dialogue makes almost no difference to story progression, and when it does, it is dumb. Regardless of if you pick the smart option, the emotive option, the curious option or the friend option, not much really happens. All dialogues lead to the same place, outside of the specific ones that don’t, and it just seems like cheap differences with no consequence. No longer can you be a good dude, or a dude that just goes around punching people in the face and shooting them in the head, or a deceptive dude, nope. Now it’s just: advance dialogue>choose 1/4>advance dialogue in similar manner>if story mission give two dumb options. There is no real depth here, just slightly different scripts.
Anyway, the combat gameplay in Mass Effect: Andromeda is actually pretty good. It’s pretty reactive and the jump-jets make an awesome addition to making firefights fast and visceral. Particularly, if you have a fast shotgun you can just rocket in and kill things with relative ease. The melee combat is a bit iffy though, that could have had a bit more effort put into it. Though, if you imagine that you are a robot and not a person, you are making excuses, but they are fun excuses.
One thing that I don’t understand in Mass Effect: Andromeda though is that you can effectively jump-jet everywhere. Because this can be spammed, it effectively makes sprinting useless as it comes out ahead in movement speed. It’s not quite as fast as using the not-mako, but it’s still pretty quick.
When it comes to the game world and the scenario in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the game is a little different to previous games. In the first two Mass Effect games, moreso the first, big open worlds were relegated mainly to mako drives and not many main scenario missions utilised these sandbox style worlds. Instead, most of the roleplaying is done on bases and in stations. Very tight areas that were interesting and made you want to explore. In Andromeda, you will be mostly running around empty sandbox planets, going from copy-paste station to copy-paste station to find the one item that will advance the mission you are on.
It feels like a lot of the game’s length was artificially created through this egregious, and often annoying, spacing. There’s just not enough to do to justify the vast amount of space between objectives. And if you’ve come out of previous Mass Effect games, it just feels like a lot of wasted time.
Interestingly, the sound in this game is really well done. The background tracks give an awesome feel to the game that really makes this worthwhile. Unfortunately, the soundtrack carries the game, rather than being a supplement to a great package.
The voice acting in Mass Effect: Andromeda is also done okay, but you can tell that even the voice actors began to feel how dumb this game actually was from a writing perspective. There are a few standout performances, but on the whole, it felt like a lot of lines weren’t given enough context to make it work. Or, everyone involved knew they were making rubbish and simply didn’t care. The only voice actors that seemed like they were happy to be working on this game were the not-kitty-twilek aliens.
The Frostbite engine used in this game really does do all of the hard-work in making Mass Effect: Andromeda truly standout. And standout it does. All the blemishes of amateur modeling and amateur rigging stands out like a stick in the mud. I mean, the developers couldn’t even be assed making a detailed character generator. How much effort do you think they actually put into making decent models themselves. 0. It was outsourced to someone else.
Honestly, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a symptom of a bleeding western game industry. You have talentless hacks being hired because they know the right person, or they wrote some erotic fanfiction that someone at the studio got the tingles over and ended up getting the job as a writer. After that, because nobody can actually do anything except write fanfiction, all the grunt work gets pawned off to someone else to do, someone that doesn’t care. And the end result, well, is Mass Effect: Andromeda. Note: This whole paragraph is supposition, and may not be truthful. But damn, this is the only explanation for how things could have gotten so bad with this title. How do you mess up Mass Effect with such a Mass Effect?
Overall, I just can not advise people buy this stain on the franchise. Your money would be better spent on buying the classic three games if you’re hungry for some space-faring sci-fi. If you’re a fan of the series, do not tarnish your memory. Stay safe. Avoid.
Rating: DO NOT BUY/ 10
Mass Effect: Andromeda is developed by Bioware and published by EA. This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, as supplied by EA for the purposes of review. You can buy it on Origin(PC) for $99 dollarydoos, PSN(PS4) for $99 dollarydoos and Microsoft Store(Xboner) for $69.99 USD.
This has been cross-posted to Attack On Gaming.