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- Mass Effect Andromeda
Mass Effect: Andromeda has been a target of negative press. I get it, some people think it's fun to gang up on games they consider anti-consumer, hoping to make a statement to developers that gamers aren't to be trifled with. But for whatever reason, even though I'm by no means a Mass Effect fan, I've found myself deeply addicted to Andromeda. I'm not alone, either.
Although social media discussion would lead you to believe that this is the end of the world for BioWare, there are a large number of us who are very happy with how Andromeda turned out. That's not to say that the game doesn't have its flaws; it has plenty. It's just that some of us think its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. And it has plenty of strengths.
As covered by many reviewers, Andromeda starts out slow. It's during the early hours that it tries to introduce itself as the new generation of Mass Effect, and it does so stumbling along the way. The writing has a lot to contribute to this, as early dialog can feel forced and at times dull. In addition, most of the animation issues present themselves early on, giving the impression that you're playing something made by a less competent studio. At the very least the story develops quickly, and doesn't send you out on hours upon hours of errands to meet new squadmates like Mass Effect 2 did.
As I've spent more time with the game, I've found that the story and its delivery becomes much better. The voice acting in particular sees an improvement in execution while the narrative pieces become more compelling. My guess is that as development moved along the new composition of team members at BioWare got into a rhythm, resulting in this uneven execution. What has resulted is something that is certainly uneven, but at the very least is on-point when it matters most.
The world of Andromeda is a great place. There are a lot of sci-fi games out there, but few create an experience that convinces you that you're exploring outer space. Andromeda achieves this in a few ways.
For one, similar to the original Mass Effect, planets are open-world in nature. Large landmasses can be explored for hidden treasures such as monoliths, and there are hundreds of quests to stumble upon. It's like having access to a few mini-Skyrim worlds, each with drastically different geography and climates.
Though, unlike many other open-world games, these open landscapes aren't where you derive most of the entertainment value. The optional quests simply aren't as consistent in quality as something like a Skyrim, often times shifting your focus to the much better main missions. Despite this, the world plays an instrumental role in substantiating the Andromeda galaxy as the perfect place for a Pathfinder like Ryder to be.
Traveling between planets is achieved by flying the Tempest. There might not be any manual flght controls, but from early on you can mine planets and asteroids for important resources before visiting one of the several habitable planets. When flying from place to place, the world is displayed in beautiful fashion, with stars and distant galaxies dotting the sky. You get the sense that you're in just small cluster of stars within an enormous galaxy, but still have access to all the breathtaking sights you would hope for in space. The only game that does it better is Elite: Dangerous, and that's a game that has devoted all its energy to simulating outer space.
Since you can't engage in battle while in the Tempest, gameplay relies entirely on the classic third-person shooter combat of prior games. While it appears similar to past installments in videos and screenshots, it feels so much better.
The weapons and skills in Andromeda handle remarkably well. Playing as an Infiltrator who wouldn't go anywhere without a sniper rifle at his side, I've derived a lot of fun in pop shotting enemies from behind cover. There's a great sense of feedback here that makes the action more dramatic, encouraging headshot sprees. This is supplemented by new mobility options offered by the jetpack, which make locomotion exciting.
As I continue logging hours with Andromeda, I almost get the feeling that I stumbled upon a gem, only this is a AAA game with a massive budget. I was supposed to spend my week playing Horizon Zero Dawn and NieR: Automata, but as fate would have it I ended up in the latest Mass Effect game on launch week. I came in expecting little, and am increasingly surprised the more I play it.
If you're steering away from Mass Effect: Andromeda because of the animations, reconsider taking a look at some gameplay videos that are at least a couple hours into the adventure. I'm enjoying it so far, and you might too.