Rarely have I run across a game that has left me as torn as Mass Effect Andromeda. First, let’s get this out of the way; Yes, the gameplay and visual style does look like Mass Effect meets Dragon Age Inquisition. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There were many positive things about Inquisition and much of that I like in Mass Effect Andromeda. There are also a lot of things that I don’t like.
Let’s start with what I didn’t like. Let’s talk races… What the hell happened? The Turians and Salarians both look as though they got into a fight with some child’s pastel kits and just simply lost. In previous games, the Asari race, even the NPCs, each looked distinct. Different face shapes, different nose shapes, making it easy to differentiate between the various characters. In Andromeda, every single Asari looks nearly identical, to the point that they had to swipe a pointless “Priss” style grease paint strip across Peebee’s face. Which is a shame. Unlike previous Asari characters that we’ve seen in Mass Effect, Peebee is not the Introverted or reserved character, being more Mordin than Liara, and that makes her awesome. Unfortunately, that’s about where the interest in the Companions end. I haven’t run across a Garrus or Tali, yet. A character that we, as fans, would revolt if they did not appear in the next installment of the game. Hell, even Wrex was such a singularly interesting character that they brought him back for both of the original Mass Effect sequels. Meanwhile those characters that were less interesting were somehow made more prominent… Cora Harper, a character that should be a strong and intelligent character, just comes across as a whiny little girl who can’t get over herself. Think, Kaidan or Ashley, but with undertones of Miranda. Vetra seems like a passing thought as she’s just too far away in her interactions, and Drack reminds me of the single-minded merc from the second game, Zaeed. (Insert eyeroll here)
I haven’t really mentioned the abysmal character animations, these GIFs should sum it up better than my negative words could.
In game – NPC from Witcher 3:
Default protagonist from ME:A:
Yes, they’re awful. You’ve already heard this a thousand times… However, they did get one part right, the walking, jogging, and running. It’s quite obvious they took some notes from ME 3, just not nearly enough. Like, allowing J.J. Abrams to direct the lighting effects… I mean, REALLY??
While the character animations leave a lot to be desired, let’s talk about what Mass Effect Andromeda does right; the environmental animations. Frankly, they’re gorgeous. The sense of scale and scope is simply enormous. You’ll find yourself just stopping and looking at the world, or space around you. Mountains, alien plants, tracks left by you or your nomad as you traverse, what most of the time feels like truly alien worlds. Then you look at Space… It’s hard to convey just how immense it comes across as, or the beauty of the, well, everything! There have been times I find myself wanting to just reach out through my TV and touch the vastness of space, as my living room fades and I become transported into the Mass Effect world. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are a few screenshots I’ve gathered along my journey:
Along with the grand visuals, you get the newest travel effects, and access to fast travel while planet side. The effects of your Tempest traversing from one planet to another, and one system to another is so well done, I’m at a loss for words with how smooth, beautiful, and natural they’ve managed to produce. It’s just stunning:
Simply put, I want to see how this ends. When I play, I find myself looking up and realizing that 4 hours has passed, and if I don’t hit the sack I’m going to have trouble getting up for work. So, I play for one more hour. Yes, I complain about the character animations. Yes, I bemoan that I haven’t fallen in love with any of these characters yet… except for Suvi, because damn she’s cute! But I haven’t stopped playing yet.
After playing Mass Effect 2 and 3, and enjoying the incredible cinematic feel of those games, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been as completely enthralled by them without the world creation that I experienced in the very first Mass Effect game. This is what Mass Effect Andromeda feels like to me. This is the very first Mass Effect game, all over again, with a different bottom line. It’s setting the stage. Honestly, I still have hope that any new Mass Effect sequels will follow the same course as the last trilogy. The first game is so-so, but sets the stage for some of the most gripping and compelling Sci Fi games that I have ever played.
I hope you all have enjoyed this mini review, and look forward to more of the storyline and character development in my next review; Mass Effect Andromeda: Making A Home