Lost in space

Long rumoured to be in development, Mass Effect Andromeda is both a sequel and a reboot to the previous games. Gone is Commander Shepard and the other characters from the previous games, in his place you get Scott Ryder.

Mass Effect: Andromeda
For:
PS4, Xbox One, PC
From: Electronic Arts/BioWare
Rating: (R13) ★★+ 

 

The game sort of came out of nowhere. Publisher EA said very little about it before showing it for the first time very, very close to its release. It's a tactic I hope developers stick with as long, drawn out waits for games are pretty painful.

Unfortunately in Andromeda's case, it looks as if EA was covering up some glaring holes in its once prized RPG franchise.

It was always going to be a hard act to follow after the critically, and commercially successful previous trilogy. Commander Shepard and his band of crewmates are as beloved as characters can be in videogames these days. Andromeda's new bunch of protagonist and crew are about as exciting as vanilla ice cream.

Basically, you're part of an ``initiative'' looking to find a new home for humans within the Andromeda galaxy.

Early on, you discover your father is in charge of the operation and, in a move you'll see coming a mile off, he promptly meets his grisly demise. This puts you in charge of the operation to save humanity, despite only having just been woken from being cryogenically frozen.

Instead of the class based system from the previous games (although I chose to be the jack of all trades in those, anyway), you are now pretty much defined as said jack of all trades. This may irritate players who loved to carve a particular niche on the battlefield, but to me it's a moot point.

The main problem with the game is just it's so unremarkable. It's dull. It feels like work. Most of the games sidequests involve you fetching stuff for other people, or doing their busywork. You've probably read and/or seen all the news about how terrible the animation system is: they're right.

A bigger turn off for me is the script and dialogue.

The dialogue sounds like people reading off sheets of paper, totally devoid of any excitement or any integration with what's actually happening on screen.

Compared to a game like Uncharted 4 where the actors act and voice the characters, is a very stark contrast indeed. The opening scene plays out like how game developers think people communicate online, and just comes off laughably bad.

There's plenty of dialogue options you can choose to get backstory on the characters and events, but I just chose the quickest way I could get out of them, which goes completely against the way I usually like to play RPGs.

But I'm not a complete Negative Nancy - there are some redeeming parts of Mass Effect Andromeda. The combat is fun, utilising jetpack manoeuvrability with cover-based third person shooting, with an array of weaponry. The enemies are well designed for the most part, looking the part as believable alien life forms.

There's a big world for you to explore, if you choose to do so, full of stuff to do and sights to see. It's clear that BioWare tried hard to make varied, but plausible worlds for you to explore to your heart's content, either on foot or in your wee car, the Nomad.

If you dig it, there's a significant amount of content for you to explore, as well as the requisite multiplayer mode for you to get your feet wet in. Ultimately, who to recommend this to is perhaps the toughest question that I ask myself.

Because of its semi-reboot nature, it's a good launching pad into the Mass Effect universe, but so much of the little things will be lost on you.

But conversely, for hardcore fans of the previous trilogy (and there are many), it's a significant step downwards in terms of quality and may alienate those who thrived off the Shepard v Reapers saga. I wasn't the biggest fan of the previous games but even I can tell they were superior.

Overall, it's just disappointing - it could have been so much better.

 - Simon Bishop
 

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