Yes, I know. It’s taken a little while for our review of Mass Effect Andromeda to arrive, but there’s a good reason for that. I wanted to know if, over time, I’d grow to love it like I had with the last couple of Mass Effect games. I didn’t want to make a quick judgement, drop an opinion based on a few days intensive playing or spout off about what I didn’t like about the first hour. I’ve given it a few weeks, I’ve put a huge number of hours in, and I’ve come to love it. I’ve read a lot of people’s views about Andromeda, and on the whole I’m finding it very hard to agree with the negative things that some people have said. It’s not the perfect game, and I wouldn’t pretend it is, but it’s a very, very good game that I’ve absolutely adored playing, and fans of the Mass Effect series would be absolutely barking mad to pass it up.
I won’t give too much focus to the story even though it’s a good enough vehicle for the action, mainly to avoid any unnecessary spoilers. But the main idea is a quest to Andromeda to find new planets to settle on away from the Milky Way, and when you and your dad – a Pathfinder responsible for finding suitable planets – find out that the intended planets that everyone thought would become home are actually uninhabitable the hunt is on to find a way of settling elsewhere. As you’d imagine, it’s not straightforward, and you eventually pick up the Pathfinder title and become the go-to person when it comes to completing various missions and getting each planet to the point where you can set up an outpost and start to think about civilisations.
As for the missions themselves, there are LOADS of them. Arriving at a new planet brings dozens of things to do, and that’s in addition to the loyalty missions for your crew, various tasks that crop up around the Nexus (the big space station which serves as the hub of the Andromeda operations) and a few other small things which crop up in a Pathfinder’s daily life. You might also like to know that the romancing ability is still in place, leading to some remarkably steamy and naked encounters between yourself and the various other characters around the place, and in a firm “screw you” to those offended by the same-sex relationships in Mass Effect 3 there are all kinda of cross-race, same-sex cut scenes to experience in Andromeda. If that kind of thing offends you as a result of being stuck in a 1950s bubble then you can just focus on the opposite sex, but doing so will miss out on some great missions and (entirely safe for work) cutscenes – I set myself up as a female character, and ended up in a relationship with Peebee, a female Asari who was not only great fun while trying to crack onto her but also developed an awesome extra attacking option to play with while I was doing it. They didn’t need to go together, but the mix of relationships developing and her becoming a more relaxed member of the crew was a fascinating combination.
And yet while there’s loads to do the missions do lead to my only real issue with the game. All of the main missions and crew based tasks all have a clear end result, a chunk of the story done and dusted and ready to move on, and that feels good. But a lot of the planet-based quests often just end with a line of speech, and it’s either not at all obvious or not at all important as to how you went about completing it. In one particular task I had to go and retrieve a formula which could be used as medication, but when I found the person who had supposedly stole it they gave me another side of the story. I believed her and left empty-handed. When I got back the guy was pissed off, told me she’d lied and demanded I leave. I still got the rewards for doing the mission yet I felt bad, that was for all of a few moments until it was clear that my screw-up ended up making no difference to anything. That’s a little disappointing, but symptomatic I guess of having so many missions that you can carry out at any time. Despite it being understandable and kinda of expected, it still made some of my great effort seem a bit wasted.
What definitely feels great though is the combat. The weapons feel really good, and as you start to level your character up and head towards the top end of the weapons they start really becoming something spectacular. And just in case they’re not interesting enough you can research new weapons and mods in order to build them yourself later on. Want a sniper rifle that causes explosions with every round? Done. A shotgun which fires a bolt of electricity with every shell you send at your enemy? You betcha. Add this to the huge number of biotic and tech skills you can unlock and upgrade and you’ve got a huge amount of variety at your disposal. Whether you use the classic pull and push combo (dragging enemies towards you, only to send them flying away with huge damage) or go for some of the newer skills you’ll soon be developing your own style of play, and combining these with the right crew members can make you a real force to be reckoned with as you enter the closing stages of the game and undertake some truly epic missions. The cover system works well too, and while I found it tricky to get to grips with it soon became far more natural, zipping between cover and using it to keep myself away from enemy fire.
There’s some multiplayer options too, and despite them blending quite nicely into the single player game in terms of how you can launch it, it’s actually a totally separate entity. You don’t use your character from the main campaign, none of your weapons carry over and your carefully crafted upgrade tree might as well not exist. Instead you get a whole new progression system by completing individual missions which mix up sequences of rounds, all of which basically equate to surviving while hacking into something, activating beacons or simply just not getting killed. It’s really tough for the first few games, and while you’re operating with pretty weak weapons you’ll appreciate having a couple of higher level teammates on your side to carry you through until you can level yourself up a bit. You can, however, also send AI squads into these missions which unlocks gear for the single player mode – a particularly handy way of getting a few freebie weapons if you’re patient and level up your squads by running some lower level missions.
So despite my reservations about how some of the missions end, I’ve loved my time with Mass Effect Andromeda, and I’ve still got the Game+ option to start again with my abilities intact. I’ve thought about it while I’ve not been playing it. I’ve wanted to go back and play it. I’ve struggled to turn my PS4 on and play something other than Andromeda. I don’t know what else I could expect from a game; maybe it suffered as a result of being a Mass Effect game, maybe it suffered from too much hype and expectation, but put this in isolation and it’s an excellent game in its own right.
Fan of Mass Effect or not, you’d be really missing out if you chose to ignore it.
Reviewed on PS4