Mass Effect Andromeda Review – Civilization Reboot

By: Louis Edwards
 

Developer Bioware is ready to unleash their latest title in the always popular Mass Effect series. We have traveled 600+ years into the future while traveling countless light years in the process. Is Mass Effect Andromeda worthy of your journey, or should it be left to drift off into space, screaming into the vacuum.

Read on to find out

The Mass Effect series has long followed the exploits of Commander Shepard and has seen some great games and great storylines through the years. The series is well known for great story telling, RPG elements, and a third person combat system using futuristic weapons and abilities. All of the previous titles created one long story arch, all centering on the Commander and had the player guiding him through all of it. Mass Effect Andromeda breaks away from his arch during the events of Mass Effect 2 and sends us on a 600 year journey across deep space, in search of a new home where civilization can reboot and start over fresh. The program is called the Andromeda Initiative and the target is the Heleus Cluster of stars and planets in the Andromeda Galaxy.

The Initiative created four large ships, known as arks, and each ark carries tens of thousands of cryogenically frozen people, each representing a different race or species, and each with their own specially trained leader, or Pathfinder. It is the pathfinder’s goal to wake up first, along with their team, and search for a viable planet to call home. It is their duty to do all they can to ensure the folks still asleep and frozen will have somewhere to go when the time comes for them to thaw out. Everything rests on the shoulders of the Pathfinder and in Mass Effect Andromeda, you are the pathfinder. Everything rests on you.

No pressure.

The storyline follows one of the two Ryder twins, Sarah and Scott, and you can choose which one you want to play as, or you can customize the playable character by using a first name of your choice and choose from the limited character selection to try to make it a little more personal. You are given the mantle of Pathfinder during a mission on the first planet you visit, and it turns out the data gleaned from the Heleus Cluster back on Earth 600+ years ago is badly outdated, and it also turns out you are not alone. You are first unsure about the aliens you encounter but when they shoot first and forego the questioning, it’s obvious the Kett aren’t very friendly and shooting back is your only option.

Once back on your ship the Hyperion, you get the bad news that there currently aren’t any viable planets in the cluster and it is up to you to travel to the ones in the golden zones to see what you can do to make them viable. You find each possibly golden planet was visited by a different race called the Remnant that was in the process of making each viable but their projects were never fully initialized and activated. Through a series of Sudoku like puzzles, using glyphs you’ll have to find, you’ll be able initialize three towers on a given planet and unlock an underground vault where you’ll have to work through even more puzzles to fire up the atmospheric stabilizing system the Remnant had set-up. Sounds easy enough, but the Remnant also left behind a defense system that pits armed robots against you and your chosen team.

Before you can fully start your job as Pathfinder, you must first deal with the politics and strife that comes with any given civilization. Your ark docks onto the space station Nexus and you are greeted by the leaders of the Initiative, who are already bickering and fighting among themselves for years and have hit a dead end due to the lack of viable places to live. You also find out that the other arks are missing with only rumors and whispers of where they may have ended up. What started out 600+ years ago in the Milky Way, with visions of peace, prosperity, and rainbows has turned into a major cluster mess and it’s up to you to clean it all up and create worlds where tens of thousands of lives can live.

Again, no pressure.

Each planet has its own set of challenges for you to deal with but if you can activate those towers and get into the vault as quickly as possible, you’ll save yourself some headaches by not having to worry too much about the unpleasant atmospheres and surface temperatures. As you work towards 100% viability on each planet, more challenges will become available, but you can progress through to the end the main story without reaching full viability on any planet. Finishing the main story is important, but the adventure really begins upon that completion.

The main story starts off slow but does get better as you progress through it. While not some of the best writing in the Mass Effect series (ME2 maybe?), it’s still right up there with what you would expect from the franchise. The Side missions you’ll encounter, and there are a bunch, are also decently written at times. You will have to make decisions that alter the outcome of the game. Decisions that will save some and condemn others to death (or fates worse than death) and you’ll have to face the repercussions of these decisions. You’ll get to choose how you want your character to play emotionally through a selective response system that will have lasting effects on your relationships with the other characters in the game. The story is why a lot of folks will want to play this game, and they won’t be disappointed, but they’ll want to keep playing after the credits roll because the fun is just beginning.

The RPG elements to the game are many, with upgrades not only for your main character, but upgrades for all of your teammates as well. You’ll earn upgrade points as you rank everyone up earning XP throughout your gameplay, and you can either micromanage your teammates upgrades or just let the system spend their points evenly. If you have a playstyle in mind, you might want to micromanage them and build them up accordingly. There are basic combat commands in the game so making these folks better soldiers is never a bad idea and can only benefit you.

The weapons in the game are varied and includes an awesome melee type of weapon, pistols, shotguns , and sniper rifles. Blueprints will be aquired through your game play and through Research and Development that will give you access to not only Kett weapons, but also Remnant weapons. Upgrades become available that make these weapons stronger and better and add on some weapon augmentations, and you can be one mean killing machine.

The graphics and animations for the game have been a much talked about topic on the internet in the week prior to the launch of the game, but we only ran across a few glitches ourselves throughout our 40+ hours of gameplay. This is a gorgeous game with intricate worlds and many intricate solar systems that are beautiful and entertaining to visit. While there are only a small number of planets you can actually land on, there are many more you can travel to and scan for resources and information. We found ourselves traveling from star system to star system just to see what was out there and to see what the views looked like, and we weren’t disappointed. An hour later and we still hadn’t visited half of them.

One of the multiplayer parts of the game ties in to the overall story of the game, which was a nice addition. After settling new worlds and getting them going in the right direction, Strike Teams become available. Strike teams can be teams you’ve created yourself and then send out on their own using AI to complete them, or you can take these missions on yourself. While these missions aren’t required for the story, they can help you out by earning you resources and blueprints for some pretty kick-ass weapons and tech. There’s also a horde mode you can play online with others, but we spent most of our time on strike missions.

The Mass Effect series has a very strong and outspoken following, and most of them will love Mass Effect Andromeda.

9

 

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