Mass Effect Andromeda or Good Gameplay, Bad Bugs and Ugly Faces

First things first – Mass Effect Andromeda is not an unplayable mess as some corners of the internet might want to tell you. You can have fun while playing it. It is also no “SJW wet dream” or some other bullshit the alt-right trolls spout, it is just a game. However, the technical shortcomings, especially the ugly human faces (aliens are mostly fine) and the abysmal facial animations ARE bad. Really, really bad. And make no mistake, they’re inexcusable in 2017.

Besides the facial mess, there’s also badly written dialogues, at times terrible voice overs (a fucking female Krogan speaks exactly like a human … what happened here?) and the ridiculously boring exploring solar systems (where your ship travels to each of them for sometimes nothing at all but a description of a lifeless gas giant, and you don’t even get to probe Uranus) to complain about. And there are quite a few bugs and glitches in Andromeda, too, ranging from the animations even more fucked than usual to save bugs that can make you lose hours of progress if you don’t save regularly on different slots. Always do that!

So what the space-traveling fuck Bioware? And what the fuck EA? Did you really think you could just release this mess without getting any criticism? Andromeda was in the making for 5 fucking years, and lifeless androids representing humans and lame writing about tired faces are the result? If EA follows this road of releasing seemingly unfinished and definitely unpolished games, the future of gaming surely is going to look like a galaxy after a reaper sweep.

But all this aside – which is no easy task, but let’s look into it nonentheless – Andromeda is actually well worth the time. Once you struggled past the average and slightly boring tutorial and the Mass Effect 1 Citadel-style Nexus introduction, the game comes alive (upon your return to the Nexus, it really feels alive, while the first time, it feels barren and a bit bland). Although wait – the first hours are a chore, and then the game gets better? Who comes up with this, especially considering we had the EA Access trial of Andromeda on the One, resulting in quite a bit of the flak the game is getting now. Shouldn’t the first hours be full of gripping entertainment and the most polished content?

Anyway, once you are on Eos, your first planet to pathfind your way into your new job acquired tragically in typical Bioware fashion, you’ll notice a similarity with Dragon Age Inquisition: A massive open area waits for you to be explored. But don’t fret because that’s actually where Andromeda comes alive- while Inquisition’s areas felt and quite frankly were static (not much ever changed no matter what you did), you terraform entire planets in Andromeda via main missions that involve puzzles and nicely built levels that are a joy to go through, you establish outposts and repel enemy forces, and you get a feeling of satisfaction from all of it, not just by numbers, but also by making the planets look more hospitable. You also get to visit different planets, and while they are mostly cliché – sand desert world, ice world, jungle world – they look great and there’s plenty of things to discover and of course shoot in the face.

Fighting is still a mixed bag of tricks though – on the one hand, no power wheel means there’s hardly any tactics left in Andromeda – unless sending your squad somewhere is deemed a tactic. Building combos with team mates depends on luck and you hoping it works, so most of the time, you do it all yourself. Then again, jumping and the fact most battles can be fought in large areas enable you to fight enemies from atop buildings, making sure that annoying super-strong brute can’t reach you – at all. Cheap? Yes. Fun? Oh yeah! Changing profiles mid-battle allows you to switch from Engineer to Adept quickly so you can adapt if you prepare. But be careful – focussing on one role makes this role extremely powerful, so choose wisely – a jack of all trades will be worse than a Biotic God! But it can’t hurt to at least develop two sets of skills so you’re prepared for every situation.

Where Andromeda excels though is by offering you a lot of side content that will make your life easier – if you want. Crafting a strong weapon that shoots lightning or shotguns firing exploding bullets? Or you just gather what you find, sell it and buy weapons. What’s not to like? Furthermore, by raising your AVP level (pretty much a colonisation tracker) you can thaw more colonists, giving you bonuses. You do this by … well, playing Andromeda one way or another. You also get materials by exploring systems (boring) and driving around on planets (cool) with your Nomad, a Mako 2.0 but without a turret gun for some reason.

Oh, and the multiplayer of Andromeda is also great fun. In a nutshell, it feels like a harder version of Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much what fans have been asking for. This time though, you don’t need to play it to raise numbers, you simply get loot for your campaign, which is great. If you don’t feel like playing multiplayer (though it is fun), you can play strike missions either on an in-game terminal or on your smart phone, and you get the same rewards. Or you do both and get more! This is exactly how you should build a game – around different ways to reach the same goal, letting the player choose what to do.

So, should you buy Andromeda? Well, probably not yet if you’re not a big fan. To be honest, the gameplay is fine, the game picks up pace after 10 hours, yes, but still, all the technical shit is irritating. But here’s the thing – if you can deal with the bugs, if you can deal with the animations and the dumbed-down combat, your reward is you’re one of the first to explore a new galaxy!

Word of advice about the tone of Andromeda though – the darkness and impending doom of the first Mass Effect trilogy are gone. It makes sense though. You have a motley crew of young adventurers whose task is to explore. Sure, the stakes are high, but these folks are still more light-hearted and … well, cringeworthy at times. That being said, when Andromeda is aware of its silly dialogues, it works. Some of the writing is so bad it becomes great again, pretty much lie a B-movie. Sadly, it doesn’t always work. So watch a few videos with dialogues early in the game to see if you stomach it. And then, you have an A.I. cracking jokes …

Because in this one regard, Andromeda is still a Bioware game: You can spend hours just talking to everyone. The game can easily be played with a few quests to level up and fight on one planet, an hour of talking, a bit of exploration and a few skirmishes on another planet, crafting a few weapons and reading some emails, and so on. After ten hours or so, Andromeda hands you the reins to exploring a new galaxy of hopes, dreams … and silly faces.

Rabidgames wonders: Andromeda can be viewed as a case of “don’t judge a game by its cover”, or rather by its first impressions. There is beauty to be found behind the ugly faces and the bugs, yet it all depends on if you’re willing to take the risk of getting annoyed by the different writing and the weak opening hours. But one thing’s for sure – for a game that could very well make or break Bioware, Andromeda is simply not good enough. It is a decent albeit unpolished game, fair enough, but it is one of the worst Bioware games, too.

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