Mass Effect: Andromeda - Stripped
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
The newest installment of the Mass Effect IP has had mixed ratings from people all over. There isn’t a clear answer on if Mass Effect: Andromeda is must buy, or a steer clear. There are a lot of things Andromeda does awfully wrong, but there are quite a few things they did right. This is going to be a lengthy review with quite a few spoilers. If you’re looking for a simple “Buy or Don’t Buy” I’ll have the last paragraph dedicated to a spoiler free summary to help you make that anxious decision on whether to pick this game up a little easier.
The Character Creator
Andromeda opens with a sub-par way to start your adventure. Many personalities in the gaming community have extensively covered the unfortunate mess that is BioWare’s new character creation process but I feel it still needs to be talked about.
Andromeda’s character creator is an absolute, all around mess. The process of selecting a face and editing is unintuitive, the key binds to select things change within the process, and it’s absolutely stress inducing to create a character that doesn’t look like an abomination. BioWare could have used the same process Dragon Age: Inquisition used to make faces and everything would have been fine. Somehow they took an already established feature and decided it would be a good idea to scratch the whole thing and build anew.
Talking with others who have gone through the same process I did, it seems that people have resorted to accepting their monstrosities rather than struggle with the attempt at making a decent looking character. Unfortunately the default characters are both unappealing. The male Ryder looks like a high schooler who’s decided his pubic beard makes him look mature. The female default Ryder has the feeling of a sociopath who’s just now learning what emotions look like.
The worst part is that no matter how hard you try to make your Ryder look great in the character creator it will still look terrible due to the animations.
The combat in Andromeda is something I’ve got mixed feelings on. There are some aspects I felt were great and others, I was disappointed in. It seems BioWare has taken several steps forward in the realm of making Biotics active and exhilarating. The new push and pull mechanics are hilarious and rewarding. Biotic detonations feel powerful, and the animations look great. They did however take a step back in the realm of players who previously enjoyed playing as a Soldier.
Soldier has gotten a little more boring. You’ve got some active projectile based abilities, but most of the places to put points are just passive bonuses. Arguably the best Soldier trait we had in the Original Mass Effect trilogy was removed, that’s right, Adrenaline Rush was removed. The iconic ability that slowed time has left us. I still find Soldier fun, but it’s apparent that Biotics were the combat focus in the developers eyes.
The Jump Jet is a fun addition to combat. But unfortunately is over implemented in basic navigation. The Jump Jet let’s you get off quick sniper head-shots on enemies hiding behind cover as an Infiltrator, an easy grenade toss as soldier, or more accurate Biotic implementation for Vanguards and Adepts. It makes navigating the battlefield faster, easier, and more intense.
The problem with the Jump Jet occurs after the fight. There are constant upheavals in the terrain, and platforms galore. After several hours, and so many jump jets, you start to wish you could just run down the path like Sheperd was always able to.
Higher difficulties suffer from the plague that is bullet sponge. Instead of more complex mechanics or thoughtful ways to make the game more difficult, enemies in Andromeda simply take more time to kill and do more damage themselves. This isn’t always a problem depending on the abilities you spec for throughout the game. With the Infiltrator specialization and the head-shot damage amplifying gear I was able to do massive damage with my sniper rifle, especially from cloak. But I imagine anyone playing as soldier was crying a little bit each time they came across a Behemoth or Fiend.
If you are looking for the fast paced exhilarating combat in Andromeda you need to pick a Biotic class. The new push and pull mechanics, along with visually striking Biotic detonations were super fun to play with. With the ability to change your specialization at any time due to SAM, and the sheer number of skill points you achieve from just making sure you complete the little tasks, you can customize your character to a specific play-style which is an aspect Andromeda really excelled in.
The Squad Members
Mass Effect: Andromeda gives you 6 Squadmates, you can bring 2 with you at any time for the standard 3 man squad. There are 2 humans and 4 alien choices. Unfortunately it seems most of the attention for the character’s writing and development went into the human characters. In my opinion they are more fleshed out and realistic than the alien companions. Not to say that having strong characters is a bad thing, but who is playing Mass Effect to bring along humans on their journey?
Cora Harper is your human Biotic. She has trained with Asari commandos since her Biotic abilities began to manifest and has basically began to believe she is one. In many dialogue options it feels like she is referring to herself as well when speaking about Asari. Her role model and personal idol is another Asari commando, Sarissa. Cora treats Sarissa like a god; Worshiping her texts about combat, and dedicating her life to being like her.
Cora is jealous of you from the start for getting the pathfinder position instead of her since she has been “training” for it for a long time. This comes out a lot more in early dialogue and starts to wane towards the end. I liked this because it was some nicely distinguished character development that you can track through the game.
Cora makes the most sense to romance in this game for the male Ryder because their relationship evolves in a more natural way compared to the other less developed characters. You can start to feel more of a relationship build as the game progresses as opposed to PeeBee who is just flirty and eventually just wants to have a side fling. Vetra only ever talks about her sister so I didn’t go down that romance path yet but maybe it’s an insinuation of an impending three-way? If so, that might be the best choice, who could turn down an alien three way? All those sexy carapace pieces grinding up on you, I’m getting chills just thinking about it.
Cora’s sex scene is very nicely animated as well. Everything I saw throughout the game pointed to Cora being the canon romance choice for male Ryder based on the amount of work put into all the things involving her.
Liam is the character I’m probably least qualified to talk about. The only time he ever went on a mission with me is in the absolute beginning when I had literally nobody else to take with me. His stupid lines during combat immediately turned me off. Every time I had to talk with him on the ship my disappointment was a little more realized.
At first glance Liam comes off as a one dimensional character, he is optimistic at every conversation, filled with awe, and constantly talking
about how we all need to be friends. With the premise of the game about making a new life in the galaxy it’s a type of thinking that would be abundant but I found his constant “Why don’t we all just be nice and dance together!” attitude unrealistic and childish. I have heard from others that his character was worked on quite a bit and if you actually take him on missions there is a lot more to him. I guess I’ll just have to take their word for it because I can’t get over hearing his terrible combat lines.
Liam does have his moments of differing emotion, specifically anger is one that is represented in it’s own conversations on the ship. But it seems that what Liam is angry about is people not getting along and trusting each other. The one dimensional Liam I got to see during the game is probably not all he is, but I’ve never been a fan of digging through shit to find the candy center. I didn’t think I’d ever say it but why couldn’t we take Jacob Taylor along instead?
Now we’re getting to why we all play Mass Effect: Aliens. PeeBee is an Asari who’s dedicated her life to studying the Remnant (or Jardaan if you call them that now). PeeBee is afraid of commitment and chooses to live in the escape pod in case she feels the need to make a quick escape. She’s fleeting, smart and enjoys a quick fling.
PeeBees character revolves around enjoying life and not getting tied down. She lives to study the unstudied, explore the unexplored, and she won’t tolerate people who want to hold her back from doing that.
PeeBee’s romance arc involves starting as a non-romantic friends with benefits. Eventually through support of her endeavors, and a special mission to get alien tech where you encounter her ex, she will confess her love to you. PeeBee then has a change of heart and says she loves the whole crew and is here to stay. It’s a pseudo emotional moment. When you and PeeBee “make love”, she reveals that you’re the first one she’s allowed to embrace eternity. You pop her cosmic cherry and begin a beautiful inter-species space relationship.
Jaal is your squad mate from your new home galaxy, Andromeda. Jaal is a member of the Angara, the local alien species. He’s a resistance fighter who specializes in technical warfare. Much of Jaal’s character gets shown when he is talking about how he takes things apart and puts them back together in an attempt to understand, and make things better.
Jaal comes off slightly distrustful but mostly curious. Jaal is my favorite of all the aliens, his talks about culture are interesting, he praises skills, and shows an open mind with respect to the initiative. Through several missions Jaal see’s your actions as an honest attempt to build lasting relations with his people and vouches for you with his
distrustful people. At the end of the game Jaal tells you he has been given an opportunity to have his own squad within the resistance and be a leader. This is something Jaal voiced interest in previously in the game. Jaal decides that he would rather stay with the pathfinder than go down the path of his own command. One of the only times I actually felt emotional in this game is when he chose me over his own dreams. Alien bros for life.
Jaal does do a decent amount of damage to enemies with his Avenger Strike, grenade, and his modded Kett weapon. He was one of my “permanent” squad mates throughout the game.
Vetra is the Turian smuggler with a murky past whose life basically
revolves around her sister Sid. I feel like Vetra is someone who had so much potential to be an amazing character but was held back by so much focus on her sister. Most dialogue with Vetra revolves around some uninteresting anecdote involving her sister. It felt like every time I had her in the party or had a conversation, it was about Sid.
Vetra’s loyalty mission is about saving some citizens from a hostile exile smuggler. It turns out Sid has been posing as Vetra in an attempt to get shit done and see life from the dirty side. Vetra’s dialogue with other characters somehow always gets around to being about Sid, especially with Drack; It gets annoying fast.
In combat Vetra is mainly a tank focusing on her special ability Power Armor, which lets her soak damage. Don’t expect Vetra to do much damage even though she has Turbocharge; She misses about 90% of the bullets she fires in my experience. Just take her with you if you need someone to stop a Fiend with her face.
My Second “permanent” companion, Drack. Drack is Krogan who is around 1,000 years old. He never really says exactly how old he is but we know the old bastard lived through the Krogan Rebellions. Drack is met on Eos as he body slams a wraith through a window in a Kett base.
Dracks entrance is a great indicator of how he plays out through the game, badass. Drack is an offensive bruiser who can take a lot of damage while dishing out huge amounts of melee and shotgun damage. He is the only squadmate I have had that has never gotten shot down on me. He is a combat legend and oddly wise for a space frog; I almost always choose to have Drack with me.
My problem with Drack spawns from the fact that he doesn’t feel as aggressive as a Krogan should be.This can be explained through his old age and that he has mellowed out , but if we look at Wrex or any other Krogan warlords throughout the original trilogy we see that even
old Krogan still have a lot of bite in them. This point is kind of hard to make out because Drack does have that bite, but I felt that in the game him and Ryder went from strangers to great pals way too fast. Even Grunt who takes his literal first breaths right in front of you takes time to warm up.
Drack also talks a little bit too much about Kesh, the annoying Krogan everyone was immediately talking about because the voice doesn’t match a Krogan in the slightest.
Besides sharing Vetra’s problem of talking about another minor character too much and being friendly too fast I enjoyed having Drack on the team. The scratchy Krogan voice Drack possesses, (which is uncommon in Krogan who came to Andromeda) is a happy inclusion on my team.
Suvi is a Nexus scientist who has come along on the journey to help out with any scientific anomalies on the “sanzors”. Suvi is a religious gal in a world where you discover the Angaran’s god is really just another alien race that has mysteriously vanished. If you play the male
Ryder you’re going to have to find another babe with that accent because she only goes for Sarah Ryder.
Suvi as a character doesn’t have too much effect on the story, she’s mostly there to be the one with the scientific explanation whenever a reason is needed lore-wise. But her accent is always a welcome sound in my opinion.
Kallo is the ship’s Salarian pilot. There’s not too much to say about Kallo, in the words of Gil, “He flies the ship.” Kallo is always at odds with Gil and has immense appreciation for the builders of the Tempest.
He respects Ryder and is very worried about his people. That’s about all I got from Kallo.
Gil is the ship’s technical operative. He keeps an eye on all of the ship’s systems and is usually found in the drive core. To me as male Ryder, Gil was just the ship’s total bro. He plays poker with you, shoots
the shit, and talks about being a Dad with you. I enjoyed Gil’s presence on the ship and made a little jog to the drive core usually worth it.
The story starts off fairly tame; You’re waking up from cryo, getting ready for a mission, talking to all your pre-cryo friends. You engage on a mission with ole’ daddio to investigate a golden world. The mission ends up going afoul and your mask breaks. Alec Ryder (Dad) decides to save your life by giving you his helmet so you can breathe. Before he dies he assigns you as pathfinder granting you the special version of SAM, the AI that Alec Ryder created and edited to be specially symbiotic.
You end up taking your role as pathfinder and set out to find the Nexus, you find out that shits gone wrong, a lot of the Nexus has been put out and are exiles. The Nexus hasn’t been completed, and no other Arks have shown up. You set out for Eos on your first mission to explore and establish an outpost.
Unfortunately the game goes extremely slow from here on out. There is a lack of urgency to any of the quests. Things that should be huge events like finding the Turian ark, a ship filled with all 20,000 Turians who set out for Andromeda, feel like minor side-quests. What should be a huge quest is given the same urgency as scanning rocks for a scientist on the nexus. If you didn’t feel like being a completionist you could have missed what should be HUGE plot points in the game. A bigger fuss should have been made about finding your damn colonists rather than creating colonies. There is no colony without the people, but the game wants you to set buildings not find the missing ~60,000 colonists presumably floating around in deep space.
Once you’ve trucked through stupid scan quests, helping the Angara, stomping through enough cookie cutter Kett camps, and solving Sudoku puzzles to activate Remnant monoliths you get to the end of the game! Yay! The final mission is seriously unexpected, to be honest I was a little surprised it was the end because nothing prepared you for it, nothing led up to it, it just happens. A good story always has a rising action, something that leads to the climax, this game lacked that entirely. You go from casually slaughtering Kett and dealing with mindless side-quests to “Our entire existence in this galaxy is about to collapse” in one cut-scene.
The Archon, an enemy you’ve only met once prior and has shown himself to be more annoyance than threat, has somehow taken the Hyperion hostage and is about to kill your sister. The game goes for an emotional showdown where you fight the Archon to save your sister but you haven’t established an emotional bond with her yet. She was in a coma after complications while trying to come out of cryo and has stayed that way almost entirely throughout the whole game.
The fight with the Archon ends up being wave after wave of the same Remnant enemies. It’s a boring, slow fight where your sister somehow uses her link through SAM to activate remnant terminals that allow you to shut down the Archon where you avoid the abilities of a Remnant Architect. After the conclusion you get a nice big “Party” where everyone tells you how great you are and what a savior you are to the galaxy. After talking to all your party members you get to explore the galaxy once more and finish up any loose ends you had before.
The implementation of the story was poor. There were too many big events that got treated like side missions, and quite a few side missions that should have been big events as well. BioWare needed to present the Kett as a real enemy to what the player cared about earlier. There were no attacks on any of the settlements you created, which were so sparsely defended that the Kett could have wiped them out with almost no effort judging by the fleet they possessed in the last mission.
The story had the foundation it needed to be a great one but unfortunately mission priorities, nonexistent threats, and lack of cutscenes for certain missions held it back from it’s real potential. Although Andromeda’s story was sub-par to all of our expectations they have set up a strong baseline for a second game that will hopefully exceed our expectations.
The multiplayer in this game is just about the same thing it was in Mass Effect 3. You must complete waves of tasks with 3 other players until your team gets extracted. It’s not a bad minigame if you just have 10 or 15 minutes to kill but it was never enough to hold my attention for long.
The best part about the multiplayer for me was that it integrated with the single player mode well. Completing Apex missions granted the player crates of small amounts of materials or credits. With this system BioWare gave the multiplayer meaning without falling into the trap Mass Effect 3 had with being obligated to play the multiplayer.
I don’t feel the multiplayer added too much to the experience of the game but it certainly didn’t detract from it like ME3’s did.
Unfortunately the game suffers from quite a few miscellaneous problems that seem minor but really take a toll on the overall quality of the game. Here are the main ones I have problems with.
All Asari Have The Same Face
Almost all Asari have the same face. Even Lexi, the ship’s doctor and a major character within the story has the default Asari face. The only Asari I can think of off the top of my head that didn’t look the same was PeeBee. It’s insane that even recurring characters like Sarissa, Lexi,
and Keri have the exact same face. Why was this done? Did nobody in QA or even anyone during development see any problem with this? It’s jarring and immersion breaking.
One of my biggest problems with the game is the Krogan voices, really only Drack sounds Krogan. Everyone else sounds like a human, and Kesh just sounds… wrong. Krogan have that deep, scratchy voice that is uniquely Krogan. Look at all of the Krogan through the original trilogy, they have that unique voice. The Patriarch, Wrex, Grunt, Wreave, and O’Keer, they all have that unique sound to them. Turians have their unique voices in this game but they really fell off the wagon with the Krogan. Another immersion breaking let down.
Facial and Conversation Animations
I’m sure you’ve heard about it, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s god awful facial animations are just that, god awful. They have released an update since launch that fixed the dead eyes and it helps move the characters from creepy to boring. There is almost no body language within conversations to keep the characters looking more human. There still is hope for them to release more patches and to help flesh out the characters animations bringing them to life. But at the moment the game still has a robotic feel to the non cut-scene conversations.
When you’re out and about, your squadmates love to chat and help humanize themselves with anecdotes and banter. But it seems that conversation priority was given to stupid notification lines like “The temperature has returned to normal Ryder”, or “Kett!”, and even “I think that’s Remnant tech.” Every time you come across some kind of structure on the map the dialogue will get interrupted by any of these things, and there are a lot. I feel the game needs a patch to allow us to hear the work BioWare put into the characters. Because Jesus Christ Cora, I know that’s Kett!
There are a lot of things this game did poorly but I did still put a little over 60 hours into it and had an overall good time doing it. The aesthetic flaws, voice acting problems, and lackluster story take major points from Andromeda but BioWare has given itself a solid base for an improved sequel that can regain and even exceed the bar the original trilogy set. I’m hopeful about Mass Effect’s future and will definitely buy the sequel to see what improvements (hopefully) are made to turn spiral this spin-off to greatness.
With that said Mass Effect: Andromeda has earned a 6/10 rating. This game was still pretty fun even with all the flaws. If you enjoy open world games and want to have more space adventures with alien romances than you’ll most likely enjoy this game.