Xbox One Review: Mass Effect Andromeda

One giant leap for Mass Effect?

I love the Mass Effect Trilogy. I’ve played it countless times, made good, bad or funny choices like punching journalists or getting down to business with Liara. Sure, the way they end of the final game was a bit of a letdown, but it didn’t stop the overall impact that the series has had. It’s been a good few years now and the series is headed in a different direction…a new solar system and a new timeline.

It’s set 200 years after the trilogy, but the crew of the Andromeda Initiative left Earth during Mass Effect 2, so they are aware of the likes of Shepard and so on, but it’s definitely a whole new universe. You play as Ryder, the Pathfinder who is charged with finding a new home for humanity in the Andromeda system. You’ll set foot on a number of uninhabitable planets, tasked on making them liveable and sustainable for humans, but a new alien race called the Kett is standing in your way and Remnant AI also try and intervene.

Ryder has an AI companion called Jarvis…I mean SAM…who explains everything and is linked to Ryder’s mind in ways that are new to everyone. As with past Mass Effect games, you’ll have companions who fight alongside you, as well as tons of side-quests and romance options. Ryder can also be either male or female, although the customisation options for their appearance is more limited than in past games, but I hear that they may add more through updates.

Which brings us to the most talked about online aspect, the facial animations. They aren’t great, they lack emotion and look stiff and even a step backwards from the original trilogy. Despite that, a patch coming out this week is meant to improve that…will it improve things that much? Time will tell.

Combat was always tactical based before, but gone is the command wheel of abilities you can use. Instead combat doesn’t slow down when you hold down the LB or RB button, it’s fast-paced and while you can use biotic powers and the like, you can only assign 3 to yourself at any given time. On the plus side, you can pretty much level up any ability you want and even reset your skill points to change the way you fight.

Andromeda’s worlds are pretty big, so getting around them on foot would be a nightmare. Luckily, you get a ground vehicle that is reminiscent of Mass Effect 1’s Mako, except it handles so much better and even has traction control for steep terrain. The worlds are littered with enemies, side-quests and lore…there’s tons to uncover and it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but becomes second-nature after a while.

Besides the main game, there’s a multiplayer component which takes props from Mass Effect 3, but is definitely more challenging. It’s fun and a welcome addition, but I personally prefer the single player.

Visually, Andromeda’s worlds are stunning…while the animations and character models are a real mixed bag. I do believe it will improve with the upcoming patch and also fix some of the small glitches. The framerate is pretty consistent, even during the heavy firefights. Voice-acting is pretty good and even has the likes of Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) acting as the ship’s doctor Lexi T’Perro.

The Verdict

Mass Effect Andromeda mixes the Mass Effect universe up, giving us a different take from humanity’s point of view. It changes it’s combat, drops the renegade/paragon choices, but has so much to explore and so much to do. It doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but I don’t think it ever would considering the fanbase and their reaction to the last game. On the whole, Andromeda is well worth exploring regardless of if you’re a veteran or newcomer to the series. Let us hope that Bioware’s updates and DLC further enhance what they’ve created.

Score: 8.5