dudewantshisrug's Mass Effect: Andromeda (PlayStation 4) review

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Mass Effect: Andromeda

It's like Halo 4 all over again.

The Andromeda Initiative is the columniation of a vast array of species sent together to explore and populate the universe outside of the Milky Way galaxy. With no Mass Effect relays to take them there, these explorers have built massive arks to carry them across the galaxy while they are in cryo pods waiting to be awakened in their new home. Even with the best of plans things can go wrong. Humanity's ark, the Hyperion, finds itself in this situation from the very start. Things get slightly better when they find the Nexus, the space hub for the Andromeda Initiative, however there are many problems in the galaxy they have found themselves.

As soon as the game begins it is utter chaos in several fashions. It begins by landing on a world that is some how falling apart and you have to shoot your way through the first aliens you find in order save your shipmates. The how and why of this scenario make it feel like a rush job to get the plot set up and rolling. What comes out of this first mission is that you are now anointed the Pathfinder of the Hyperion. Even this seems forced as to how it comes about and leaves an unnatural burden on the story that should have lead to a deeper part of the main character. Rather it sticks around as a strange centerpiece of the intentions others may have towards the character. There are several key points in this story where huge unexplained leaps are taken just to get it moving leaving the player disjointed and confused multiple times.

There are times in this game that it looks gorgeous, then there are times it is unbelievably terrible. When playing in the third person view the environments look great and show a level of detail you would come to expect in a game of this type. Even the sounds fit together whether it is the sound of your gun going off or ambient noise as you traverse a jungle. What doesn't work are all the bodies in the environment. The models themselves look fine but the movement is so weird and unnatural it is distracting especially since there is so much of it as every NPC seems to be always on the move. Once you start exploring you get to work with one of the better looking parts of the game, the galaxy map. It is well detailed and some of the planets are beautiful to look at as is the system overall. Balance this against a cumbersome navigation system that forces you to watch a somewhat jarring animation to arrive at each planet or system that you cannot skip. The worst part of the game may very well be the cutscenes that are meant to drive the game. Going face to face with the deadest eyes and mouth movements that would embarrass a ventriloquist, tears the player out the emersion of the narrative because it is so startling. Not only do the cutscenes look bad, sometimes they don't even work. There were times when the cutscene didn't trigger at all and the only fix was to go somewhere else then come back. At one point, at what was to be a very sensitive plot point, a squad mate failed to render into the scene but it carried on as if they had and the conversation selections had to be made without any of the audio from the squad mate as it and the subtitles also failed to work.

The technical issues could have been somewhat overlooked had the story delivered. Past Mass Effect games have done the same as the series is well known for its jank but providing solid narratives. This, however, is not the case with Andromeda. Most of the characters come off as dull regardless of whatever story they just blurted out for you. It is only later in the game, twenty or so hours, that you start getting things that have depth or weight. When you get to the later story missions, most of them give you a better sense of what is going on but the aforementioned jumps negate the sense of connection. The loyalty mission are likely the most satisfying ones in the game but even they can miss their pay off. After doing said missions, the loyal squad mate normally reveals more about them self and you get a feeling of connecting with them. However, sometimes you don't and you just get a 'hey, thanks' kind of reward. Some comeback later with a little bit more but by that time the connection with them is already severed.

The game packs in a variety of things to do but many of them don't seem worthwhile doing. There are a lot of busy tasks like side quests and such. There is even a side thing to do where you send strike teams to handle certain events. There doesn't appear to be much gain for doing so as you just get more resources to keep doing them. Sure you are gaining viability but it is never clearly explained why you need this viability or what to do with it. Crafting is also present in the game although you are capable of going through the game without it. Limited loot drops and crates can be found throughout the environment. Multiplayer makes a return in this game and it is much like what it was in Mass Effect 3. Overall, outside of the main and loyalty missions, most of what is presented in this game just feels like busy work with no real payoff or return other than the fact of doing it.

As a Mass Effect fan, this really hurts to see it turn like this. Parts of my forty hours in the game where excruciating and forced. My will to keep going was only to see something that would provide redemption to the game. At the end, things did drastically improve but that only seems to speak for how bad they were. Although the game doesn't earn all of the hate that has been heaped upon it by most, it certainly doesn't do much to earn any love. The pace at which this game reveals itself is likely what makes people give up on it before they get to the better parts. Much of what the games does have to offer is loaded heavily in the later stages of the game. A lack of effort on this game was not what spoiled it, on the contrary it may have tried to be to ambitious. With trying to do so much the depth and soul that was desired got sacrificed in order to be wider and more diverse. While Mass Effect: Andromeda does many things it doesn't to any of them well.

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