Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 21, 2017 (NA) / March 23, 2017 (EU)
ESRB: Mature, PEGI 16
Players: 1 (Singleplayer), 1-4 (Multiplayer)
Available Platforms: PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action RPG, Third-Person Shooter
Upon starting Mass Effect Andromeda you can play the story with a premade character, create your own custom one, or jump straight into Multiplayer. The singleplayer campaign starts off weak, boring even. You are thrown in there with no backstory and as a result it’s hard to care for any of the characters. In fact, most characters feel unemotional and lifeless. This is due to the lack of facial expressions and lackluster voice acting. If the characters themselves are indifferent about the circumstances they are in, why the hell should you care? For a franchise that used to be so story driven it feels like a completely different game right off the bat (and not in a good way).
After a linear prologue the game begins to open up more and gets a little better over time but it never loses its slow pace. Once you can fly around the galaxy in your own spaceship there’s a lot to explore. Many side quests and romances await. The main story is actually just a small portion of the game and consists of 6 missions. Most of the content is tied to exploration and side quests. The story barely scratches the surface and even lets you skip two planets completely. Most quests are part of a quest line so you have to play one quest to unlock another. At first it doesn’t look like there’s much to do. For example most planets aren’t playable – all you can do is scan them from outer space. There are only 7 playable planets in free roam, none of which actually give you a full planet to play. They are tiny map fractions of planets. Some are very small and only explorable on foot; others cover multiple square miles and can be explored in a vehicle. The Nomad – your six-wheel vehicle – is quite fun to drive. If only the planets weren’t so damn empty. They are mostly uninhabited, so they are barren and have little to no buildings. There are a few rare outposts and alien settlements here and there, but mostly you see nothing but huge empty wastelands… the level designers sure didn’t have much work with that one.
After a while the initial emptiness turns into confusion over how many quests, romances and side activities there are. Some of those quest lines seem never ending. Your squad mates also have loyalty missions and can be romanced. Some romances end in nude sex scenes. There’s something for all tastes but beware that once you commit to an exclusive relationship it locks you out of other exclusive romances. Therefore it’s impossible to romance all potential lovers in one playthrough. This adds a bit of replay value for a second or even third run so that you can test your flirting skills on another squad mate each time. The gender of your character also influences the romances which creates room for experimentation.
Really though, sex and romance can’t save a tedious, horribly animated game. It doesn’t feel nearly as interesting as the previous three games. There’s nothing groundbreaking and none of the cutscenes are particularly memorable. Heck, even the animations are worse than Mass Effect 1 from 10 years ago. There is this huge quality drop compared to old games. Despite all this, it’s evident that a lot of work went into the game judging by the vast amount of content. So it pains me to say that somewhere along the way Mass Effect has lost its touch.
The game is very buggy and has tons of annoying game breaking issues. Sometimes dialogues don’t trigger and the game freezes (only reloading an auto save helps). I fell through the map numerous times and my vehicle got stuck in unreachable places. NPCs and textures are randomly popping in, sometimes trapping the player. There are so many glitches, it feels like playing a Pre-Alpha build.
The game shines with its combat though. The combination of superhuman powers and futuristic weapons mixes well together. The problem is that there’s too few enemy encounters and only 3 enemy races exist in the game. You keep running into the same enemies again and again. None of those encounters felt epic, except for a few large monsters called “Architects” which are really amazing boss battles. The game is best enjoyed on highest difficulty. On normal or below you would miss the best part — the combat.
One utterly annoying “feature” is space travel. This has got to be one of the most ineffective ways of fast travel in the history of gaming. Say you get a quest on Planet A and have to go to Planet B, C and D. You must first get into your Nomad vehicle to teleport to the spaceship (loading screen), from the spaceship access the galaxy map, select a solar system destination (loading), then a planet (loading) and then confirm your loadout and landing zone (very long loading screen), watch the landing sequence (few seconds waiting) and then pick a forwarding station fast travel point near the quest marker (loading screen). When you are done on a planet you must extract to your spaceship again (few seconds travel scene, loading screen) and go through the same steps again. I would understand if the game forces us to do this once for visiting an undiscovered planet. Having to do this over and over again feels like a mind-numbing experience that puts the player to sleep. They really need to implement an option to fast travel directly to discovered planets without going through the same lengthy procedure. A horrible choice of game design!
One thing that I did like about the exploration aspect was the Heleus Assignments. Those are side quests for increasing the viability of a planet so that you can create an outpost and improve weather conditions. Even though the process is the same for every planet — activate 3 alien monoliths — complete remnant vault — establish outpost, it felt quite different each time. Not only are the planets very different looking but each remnant vault feels unique thanks to vastly different vault layouts and puzzles. Sometimes the puzzle solution wasn’t obvious and it took a few minutes of trial and error to figure out how to open a locked door. Remnant Decryption Puzzles are like Sudoku. It might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed having to figure out small puzzles to obtain the best rewards in the game. In a lot of open world games such completion based tasks feel repetitive, but in Mass Effect Andromeda things are always a bit different from planet to planet.
For the most part the graphics are great, but there are some visual glitches (texture and NPC pop-ins, people getting stuck in weird poses, NPCs missing guns or holding guns backwards). And again the facial animations aren’t up to par. Character models and their costumes look stunning, just the faces of humans could use a bit more detail. Planets look good from outer space and during gameplay up close. With default brightness settings it was hard to see in caves and dark rooms. Bumping up the brightness helped a lot.
Aside from some animations and rare visual glitches it looks very good. The planets are different from one another, ranging from hot deserts to frozen snowy worlds and even jungles. Visually the game is better than most and the display glitches don’t usually impact gameplay and just look odd.
ABSOLUTELY BROKEN! Every Alpha and Beta I’ve ever tried ran 10 times smoother than this.
8 out of 10 matches randomly crash the application. That’s not just me, nor is it a PS4-only issue. While playing the Xbox One early access trial I encountered the exact same problem. It’s so annoying because you waste 15 minutes playing a match and then the application closes and you don’t earn any money or match rewards. Aside from those frequent crashes the game is often very laggy. I am based in Germany, my PSN account is German, yet it pairs me up with people from the other end of the world with slow internet = lag. This is horribly coded.
Not only is it broken from a technical standpoint but it’s also dead boring after a dozen matches. Players either exploit melee attacks (because they do so much more damage than guns) or they spam the same power skills while camping near ammo boxes. Each match feels the same which gets real old real fast. There are only 5 maps and 3 enemy types. All you can play is co-op survival, there’s no competitive multiplayer against other players (you can only play with them against AI enemies).
There are hardly any customization options. You can change the color of your character’s armor and there are a few different playable character classes. Each class has 3 preset combat skills that cannot be changed. You’re stuck with the given skills. If you want to try other skills you have to start a new level 1 character. It’s a silly, restrictive system. Given that almost every match crashes it takes forever to make progress. Once you hit level 20 (the level cap) there’s not much more to do other than unlocking new weapons and bonus perks. Weapons are all randomized from loot boxes – a system that is geared towards “pay to win”. Unlocking a highest quality RANDOM chest can take a while through normal gameplay (about 1 hour playing silver difficulty matches). As a result you might end up getting gear that you don’t want or need. If you don’t have unlimited time you must hand over a stack of real cash to EA to straight up purchase those RANDOM boxes. I don’t mind putting in some time to unlock a weapon, however I’d like to know what I get and not spend 20 hours repeatedly earning weapons I’m never going to use.
In the current state the Multiplayer is unplayable. Better should have done that Beta you announced back in November, Bioware. What a letdown!
Trophies / Achievements
Sadly, there are many glitch reports regarding trophies and achievements. Even the automatic story trophies don’t unlock for some players. This is a relatively widespread problem. Then there are trophies like “Friendly Fire” and “Long-Distance Jump” that have a very high glitch rate (on all platforms). Some players have no issues, others experience nothing but problems. It’s sad how many bugs this game has.
A large amount of trophies is combat related. These require very specific skills. A very restrictive design choice when trying to get everything in one playthrough. You constantly have to pick skills that are tied to trophies and can’t use what you like. Trophy hunting should be fun and let players explore optional things, not be restrictive. So why not put more fun trophies in the game like “Hang Time” for making your car fly in the air for 30 seconds. Some of these miscellaneous trophies are fun to figure out and teach hidden game mechanics. On top of being restrictive, the combat trophies also have glitchy kill trackers. This is especially true with “Friendly Fire” for killing certain enemies with a secret skill. Trophies were swept under the rug in QA (Quality Assurance) it seems.
This is Great:
+ Combat is fantastic (especially on highest difficulty)
– A lot of singleplayer content, romances and side quests. However, a lot of this content is poorly executed due to confusing (or non-existent) quest markers and boring dialogues. You can get a lot of playtime out of it though.
Not So Great:
– Astonishingly bad animations for a 2017 big budget game. Lack of facial expressions makes characters feel like unemotional puppets. It’s hard to care for anything that happens if the characters themselves couldn’t care any less.
– Galaxy travel is straight up annoying, very repetitive, tedious and time consuming to move from one planet to another (something that you must do a lot for side quests).
– Vast majority of planets cannot be explored, all you can do is scan them from outer space.
– Too much dialogue, too little gunplay. The dialogues are unenthusiastic.
– ABSOLUTELY BROKEN Multiplayer! Eight out of ten matches crash the application, matches often laggy, very little multiplayer content, hardly any customization options, only 5 maps and 3 enemy types. It feels very repetitive and unimaginative. Most alpha builds run better than this.
– Tons of bugs, freezes, crashes, glitched trophies & achievements.
Mass Effect is not what it used to be. It feels like playing a Pre-Alpha build with tons of bugs, a slow paced story, a mind-numbing travel system, topped off with a completely broken Multiplayer. The only positive things are the combat and sheer amount of singleplayer content. Sadly this is overshadowed by poor technical performance and lackluster side quests.
Played on PS4 Pro with Patch 1.04. Review Copy provided by EA.
Also tested 10 hours of singleplayer and multiplayer content on Xbox One Early Access Trial (which had the same issues).