(NOTE: I didn’t finish the game. I stopped after Kadara. You’ll see why in a minute)
In Mass Effect: Andromeda, you’re certainly not in Kansas anymore. As part of a group of pioneers that left the Milky Way in search of new worlds, you end up in the Andromeda galaxy, where creating a settlement has turned out to be more difficult than originally planned. Do you have what it takes to help the species from the Milky Way establish themselves in this new world?
This time, Shepard is nowhere to be found, as he’s still off fighting his own battles in the old world. Instead, you play as Ryder, a recruit who is thrust into an important role due to unforeseen circumstances. As an inexperienced leader in a time when everyone needs your help in making this unexplored galaxy home, you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you.
The game starts off with an intro mission to get you acclimated with the game. What stuck out to me immediately was the new air dash at your disposal. It’s a welcome addition to the game that makes mobility and combat encounters more interesting. This, along with the general feel of the gunplay, felt really good. Not as crisp as a dedicated shooter, but combat was maybe the best it’s ever been.
From there, the game will immerse you into its new galaxy, though at times, it struggles to feel fresh. Most of the characters you’ll interact with are of the same species you’ve encountered in the previous games. This becomes especially apparent with your new squad mates, as they feel like your old squad mates with a few variables tweaked here and there. As the game progresses, their personalities flesh out to the point where they stood on their own, but they didn’t necessarily make the best first impression.
Without going into spoiler-territory, the game hits its stride when you realize that your pioneers aren’t alone in the Helius cluster. New species of life are found as you try and establish a new home here, and the arc that this story goes through is the best part of the game.
Where things fall flat are in its plethora of side missions. In previous games, I felt like the game had appropriate and worthwhile conclusions to each quest. This time, almost all of them end in throwaway conversations. In one, where I was set off to find missing scientists, the final battle of the quest was against a giant robotic dragon-like thing. This battle was far more epic than almost anything else in the game, but upon my return, the original quest giver essentially told me, “Oh. Thanks for letting me know.” and that was it.
Though I played a bit of the game prior to the fixes, most of my time was spent playing the game in mid-repair. I did not run into any of the weird animation issues, and the weird faces only impacted me fora day or so. However, I did run into a number of other technical issues that ultimately did me in.
On the planet Kadara in particular, the game seemed to struggle maintaining a hold of itself. Playing on the Xbox One, the game would repeatedly hitch during driving sequences as the system tried to load in the next parts of the world. Inside the vault, framerates took a huge dive, especially during the escape sequence. In this moment, where speed was critical, the game chugged at single-digit framerates, making the escape much harder to perform.
There were also a few instances of sequences breaks. In one instance, I couldn’t hack a computer that I needed to hack to complete a side objective because the prompt wouldn’t appear. In another, I completed one mission before another, causing the waypoint to load in the doorway of a building I was supposed to be in, and not on the actual person I needed to talk to who was deep inside.
The worst offense occurred during a side mission called Emergency S.O.S, which also took place on Kadara. Regardless of how I approached the waypoint, the game would crash every single time. Even with all of the updates that have taken place for the game thus far, it’s disheartening to experience the game with this many inexcusable technical issues.
The dumbest offense occurred during the Firefights side quest. I killed all of the enemies in the room, but the game recognized one as still being alive, even though its health bar was at zero and it was lying in fetal position, half way stuck into a wall. Because of this, the game wouldn’t trigger the next objective, effectively breaking the quest.
Mass Effect: Andromeda made a solid first impression with me. I like the main story arc and the combat is as good as its ever been. However, its issues in terms of writing, quest design and technical stability wore me down. In particular, my time on Kadara was so awful that I lost all motivation to play the game further. After going through that mess of an area, I think I’ll retreat back to the Milky Way and not look back.