Review: Mass Effect Andromeda – A Weak Entry to a Strong Pedigree

I can’t hide it. I have a soft spot for epic sci-fi. I will drink it up in any medium, whether film, book, or game. Because I enjoy it so much, I have strict standards for my sci-fi. It must be intelligent, it must explore, and it has got to be enjoyable. The original Mass Effect trilogy, despite its flaws, did this for me. So with great anticipation, I looked forward to Mass Effect Andromeda. However even if I remove the rose-tinted glasses, this new experience falls significantly short to its older siblings.

The Core

At its core, Andromeda should be a game about exploration, after all the game is set in the eponymous galaxy which we have yet to visit. It is that wonder and sense of excitement that draws me into sci-fi; exploring the unknown.

Single-player

There’s been a lot of outcry about the animation issues, but I have yet to run into those personally. I kind of like the campaign because I enjoy wandering around and exploring everything, but the artificial map “walls” that prevent progression early on on Eos are kind of annoying when I just want to complete some of the side missions before the main mission.

Artificial Caps

I like the strike teams concept which lets me send out a team to complete the multiplayer Apex missions without having to play which is useful when I don’t have time, as it earns you single-player rewards in-game including resources, credits, research, and items. However due to the in-game inventory limit, opening a multitude of rare boxes while my inventory was full resulted in me losing a lot of ultra rare weapons, an unacceptable loss with no warning.

I haven’t encountered or personally verified this but a friend reported that Zero Element capped out at 999, preventing them from collecting more, losing out on extra materials, while the others possibly exceeded that number.

User Interface

Simply put, the user interface is crap. I don’t know what’s wrong with AAA games in 2016-2017, but it’s been a really annoying and unacceptable trend. I’ve had long discussions with my friends while playing Ghost Recon Wildlands, Battlefield 1, and Mass Effect Andromeda. They all have the same problems, a UI that is underdeveloped and backwards. I’ll list the problems that I have with the UI of each of those games, and then I’ll jump into my theory on why they are such crap.

  • Battlefield 1
    • For the longest time, no Quit button. When they finally add a quit button it’s basically non-functional. You click quit and wait 5 minutes to exit the game.
    • On the squad screen there’s an arrow that looks like you can give the leadership to someone. It’s actually a “quit the squad button”. I’ve hit that too many times.
  • Ghost Recon
    • Shifting from mission view to map view is impossible
  • Mass Effect Andromeda
    • In most games, Escape brings you to the menu. For some reason it’s backspace in multiplayer. Then, you don’t even know it’s backspace because the little hint for it disappears when more players join your lobby. I couldn’t find a quick way to get to my menu settings.
    • Clicking on a player to mute them opens the stupid Origin In-game. I have to use a hotkey (x) to mute them.
    • Inviting a friend to play opens Origin In-game which slowly loads a friends list. You then have to click to the side of their name and confirm to send invite.

My theory on the piss poor UI that we’ve seen lately is the growing trend to produce cross-platform triple games. These games are developed with controls for a console, and then ported over to the PC. As a result, UI decision that might make more sense on a console make zero sense on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. You can see this when you remap an action key in Andromeda and for a certain action (escaping an attack) it’s still using the default key. That particular action was forgotten in building out the key-mapping functionality PC users come to know and expect.

Since these games are designed with an eye for consoles, it would be double the work to design a separate interface for the PC. Thus we end up with the nonsensical user interfaces that work poorly for PC users. This has to stop. Millions of dollars are poured into these games, and creating a good user experience, which is the point of the entire medium, should be the number one priority, whether it’s gameplay, story, or the very user interface that players are going to be constantly navigating through.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer feels like a simple extension of the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. One of the things I had trouble with ME3’s multiplayer was the magnetic nature of the cover system. I would often stick to cover when I really didn’t want to. The exact opposite is true in this game. I find it hard to take cover at all, but at least I have found joy in melee smashing all but the largest of enemies. The jump jets do add a new element of vertical combat which I like, along with the dash mechanic. Utilizing the two together allow me to break combat to regenerate, something I’m not used to doing.

However even with the new mechanics the multiplayer still just feels like a rehash. Your objectives are the same from the previous installment: kill the enemy wave, hack a data point, hunter the big bad guys, and a new (and much more annoying) 3 point capture round. This one is the most annoying since any enemy touching the point pauses the hack. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and once you lose two teammates the round is almost always over.

Music

I’ve been underwhelmed by the music in the game. The Mass Effect trilogy has recognizable music that gives me chills every time I hear it. I don’t know what the music sounds like in Andromeda because I can’t remember it at all.

Day One Patch

Following the hot trend that AAA games have been following, Andromeda is a victim of a day one patch. That’s not reassuring, especially since there’s still a multitude of bugs remaining even after that patch.

 

Conclusion

I’m still going to play through the Singleplayer because I enjoy the experience of exploring, but we’ll see if it quickly becomes tedious. I’ve all but given up on the multiplayer as it is not a very compelling improvement on Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer. The artificial resource caps annoy me a lot, but using the Android App to send my Apex teams out on missions is a relaxing way to earn loot.

Score
  • Story - 7/10
    7/10
  • Music - 4/10
    4/10
  • Atmosphere - 8/10
    8/10
  • Gameplay - 7/10
    7/10

Summary

The fourth entry in the Mass Effect series fails to overwhelm, providing more of the same in terms of gameplay.

    The Good

  • Great Atmosphere
  • It's in space!
    The Bad

  • Unforgettable Music
  • Clunky UI
  • Artificial Resource Caps
6.5/10

SXN31

I am a fan of science fiction shows/movies/games/media and I really enjoy character driven stories. Additionally I am fascinated by grand world-building and the mythos and technology that is created within these unique worlds.

My Rig:

  • CPU: i5-3550p 3.1Ghz
  • RAM: 32GB
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA 970 GTX latest NVIDIA Drivers
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