In an industry filled with more fantasy role playing games than you can shake a stick at, I find myself filled with a certain level of ennui at the idea of a fantasy RPG. That's not to say they're bad or incapable of being original, but the market is saturated with fantasy titles so it takes a lot more for them to stand out. Therein lies my attraction to sci-fi role playing games, they have always been a pretty scarce market.
When I played the original game, it filled me with a childlike sense of wonder. The story was so captivating, and the more I played the more I felt the choices I made impacted the game. It was such a good long ride that as I approached the ending, I was so sure it would finish with a bang. Sadly, I was let down as the ending in the original version of Mass Effect 3 left a lot to be desired.
So when Mass Effect Andromeda went into production, I was highly skeptical. As time went on the more I read the more this game caught my interest. I signed up for Origin Access so I could play the game before I had to shell out sixty bucks. Also, to be honest, it was worth the $5 just to have the original Mass Effect and Dragon Age trilogies on my PC.
The story of Mass Effect Andromeda is another high-point of this game, and a major factor in my decision to purchase this game. Set approximately 600 years in the future, the story follows "The Andromeda Initiative", a long term plan set in motion by the four Citadel races to colonize the Andromeda Galaxy. After spending centuries frozen in Cryogenic suspension, the colonists arrive at their new home only to find out it was not what they expected. This story really resonates with me because I consider colonizing a new continent to be a frightening ordeal, so by extension colonizing another galaxy is absolutely terrifying. In addition, all of the characters I have met seem to be very well developed, and even though the worthiness of the plot depends upon a few mysteries that have yet to be revealed, it looks like it is going to fare very well from my perspective.
Putting Mass Effect's best foot forward, the gameplay in this iteration was pretty damn impressive. In terms of gameplay, this game feels a lot like Mass Effect 2, providing an excellent blend of action and story. In this iteration, you still must scavenge resources, but it is no longer a major time sink or drag on the gameplay as those resources can be gathered while on an active open-world style missions. Even while exploring uninhabited planets, I seemed to have no trouble finding things to do or people to talk to. This is an important factor, as the protagonists have no access to supplies from the Milky Way, and must develop new equipment as they find resources in the Andromeda Galaxy. All in all, I think they did an excellent job of making sure the gameplay was entertaining and didn't drag at all.
The graphics of the game are quite impressive, and there is a lot of diversity in their character designs, as no two characters look the same. Even the alien races seem to have a diverse array of appearances that never seem like they are using the same design over and over again. In a game where you fight a lot of the same enemies, that is definitely a good thing. The environments of the game are large in scope and meticulously rendered, adding great detail to the lore of this new galaxy. The one sore spot of the graphics of Andromeda are the animations, something Bioware is reportedly working to resolve. To me it looks very much like they tried to reach for the stars, but fell short somewhere along the way. I can see exactly what they were trying to accomplish, but often the emotions displayed on the characters faces seem inhuman and robotic. That is most unfortunate, but there was no excuse for a fringe #Gamergate website to harass a woman believed to be the lead animator on project, and as it turns out she didn't even work on Andromeda at all. More info can be found at Kotaku.
Sound & Music: 4/5
The music does its job which is first and foremost to not distract the player from the game that is being played and it seems very good in terms of knowing when to get intense because you've entered combat. Unfortunately, of the songs I heard, none were particularly memorable or something I would listen to outside of the game. The voices sound very professional and don't distract from the game at all, and legendary voice actor of Lex Luthor, Clancy Brown certainly helped polish that cast. Likewise the sound effects are on point, and every laser blast or energy dispersal sounds great.
Replay Value: 4/5
Another strong point in the game is the replay value. While lacking Renegade and Paragon actions makes the choices seem less memorable, they certainly did a lot of work setting up their character creation. Skills are no longer tethered directly to the class you pick, and from the get go, you can pick from any skill in the game minus a few special ones reserved for NPCs. Instead, once you've purchased some skills you can then choose a profile that gives you various bonuses to your character. Do you like spamming Singularity? Than pick a profile that boosts your biotics. Prefer to snipe opponents? Choose the Soldier profile. Do you prefer to mix and match all of your skills? You can do that too.
Overall Score: 4.4/5 Element Zero Approved
Overall I would say that Mass Effect Andromeda is a very well-polished game whose merits far exceed its flaws. As a longtime fan of most of the series I am very excited to see this game breathe new life into the franchise. There is no buyer's remorse coming from me.
Boning Aliens: 7/10.