The Massive Effect of Discordant Gameplay

Mass Effect is a series with a remarkable DNA to it. Story, dialogue, unique characters, and cover-based combat ooze out of the original trilogy. It’s unfortunate then that Mass Effect Andromeda would come along and do one thing fantastically, one of these mostly well, and have the other two make you worry that something went wrong.

Mass Effect Andromeda sees humanity and other races of the Milky Way galaxy create the Andromeda Initiative and leave their home for the closest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda. The story launches them towards Andromeda in the middle of the Mass Effect trilogy, ensuring that choices made in the previous games aren’t made void by an overwhelming canon. Six hundred years pass and the humans end up arriving in Andromeda to a wake-up call forcing your character, Ryder, to wake up and take on the seemingly impossible: find a new home.

The story has Ryder coming upon multiple facilities called vaults that he can use in order to shape the nearby worlds and make them a home. Trying to bar the way towards colonization is a race of beings called the Kett that serve as the game’s primary villains. You also make a rival out of a particular Kett known as the Archon. On paper facing the Kett is a welcome challenge, however, it doesn’t take a lot of your time. The main story should take most players 20 hours or less if you want to breeze through. The side missions however are padding to the game’s time. Take for example my playthrough. With a completion percentage of 91, I spent nearly 68 hours in single-player. Side missions are plentiful enough that you will rarely have no objective you could meet, but they come at you fast and hard. But the number of side missions makes me believe that the main quest line could’ve been beefed up. However, the beginning and end of Andromeda stand out as great dramatic acts that pull you in.

Much has been made of the technical issues that have risen at Andromeda’s launch. And while part-way through my play through a patch was released that eased on some of the issues, many still linger. Among the issues still persisting, textures failing to load correctly, abnormal camera angles after fast traveling, and a few game crashes of unknown origin. On one particular set of missions, I also witnessed a squad member unable to fight as she was stuck in a basic model pose the entire time I was on the planet. It was amusing, sure, but if there were bigger fire fights going on, I would’ve had a bigger issue on my hands. It still feels like a laundry list of issues that should’ve been worked out already, or led to a slight delay in Andromeda’s release. Despite these issues however, the environments of the Andromeda galaxy are truly wonderful to behold, and are easy desktop wallpaper fodder.

Sound and music in Mass Effect Andromeda are for the most part great. Sounds of combat and loud and ferocious and draw you right in with gusto. Along with that, voice acting across the board is superb with special recognition from me going to Nyasha Hatendi for voicing Jaal, and Christine Lakin for voicing Peebee. Both of these characters had the added benefit of having some of the better dialogue in the game, but also the best performances. The same however, can’t be said for the music of Andromeda. I found the music serviceable in combat, but during moments to be filled with wonder or triumph it seemed lacking, especially when compared to the memorable themes from the trilogy.

More than any single component, Mass Effect Andromeda gets it’s combat spot on though. Cover is still an important aspect, but steps are taken to encourage the player to move around the battlefield instead of picking a spot and calmly picking enemies off. It serves to make the combat very enjoyable, slicker, and faster then before. Unlike the original trilogy, you also don’t need to worry so much about your class, as you can swap between them on the fly to strengthen certain abilities. As you earn levels, you can unlock all of the available skills if you so choose. It makes for incredible versatility especially when you realize that you can change these at any time through the menus.

Though when you do need to go through the menus it is a tedious task to find what you are after. The various quests are split between 4 different menus and you can’t simply push a button and browse the different categories. Further, the quests aren’t organized by time, you acquired them, but alphabetically. It leads to a little bit of confusion and a lot of frustration. Further, you can only track a single quest a time, making it difficult to work on the huge number of side quests. However, I came upon multiple issues of quests not tracking correctly and either not showing me points of interest to complete the quest, or showing portions I already finished.

Mass Effect Andromeda’s multiplayer though is very light on the menus, and big on the fluid combat featured in the main campaign. The objectives are very much the same as they were for Mass Effect 3, you work with three other players to face waves of enemies with some objectives and a final extraction to mark a completed mission. I greatly advise that if you want to try the multiplayer, to get most of the way through the campaign first. Not understanding how the combat works and not knowing what your preferred play-style is, turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Despite the great playability, I don’t presently see much reason to come back to the mode beyond an initial curiosity. I have hope that this will change with worthwhile DLC.

Achievements for Mass Effect Andromeda can be described as generous. A good 19 of the 55 achievements are tied to major quests, while the majority of the rest reward experimentation in combat by mixing and otherwise using the various powers available to you. Only one achievement makes any mention of “multiple playthroughs”, and other achievements are able to be unlocked through single-player or multiplayer. I find this to be a plus, since it allows for many different play preferences to possibly unlock all the achievements.

Mass Effect Andromeda tries so hard to win the player over, but throughout it’s technical issues, and extreme padding with side missions mar a solid shooter core, and a mediocre RPG layer. Andromeda in fact, may have the thinnest RPG layer in the Mass Effect series to date. Instead it is first, foremost, and specializes in being a third-person shooter. Fans of previous moral quandaries (such as my favorite side quest from ME1, Samesh Bhatia) will be disappointed as well, as I noted only two truly gray decisions to be made in my playthrough.

Andromeda doesn’t feel like it’s aiming for any one goal but is here because it was expected to be. As a result, the RPG portions of Andromeda suffer, despite how wonderfully realized the combat is. There’s a true discord in Andromeda, and I can only hold out hope that a renewed RPG focus takes center stage in the inevitable sequel.

Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Achievement Difficulty: 5/10
Total Score: 7/10