Whether you loved or hated the ending of Mass Effect 3, everyone can agree that Mass Effect: Andromeda has big shoes to fill. The new BioWare sci-fi RPG sidesteps the complicated Mass Effect 3 ending(s) by jumping back in time to just after the first Mass Effect game and sending an ark full of passengers away to a distant galaxy, before eventually jumping very far forward. That’s where the adventure in Mass Effect: Andromeda begins.
In Andromeda, players control either a male or female twin from the Ryder family. The likable protagonist is thrust into the essential Pathfinder position very early in the game and charged with solving some deadly mysteries and finding habitable homes for the thousands of sleeping passengers on the Nexus ark. It takes quite a while to get to the actual meat of the game, but players who hang tough will experience some incredible action role-playing, compelling characters and world building, and over fifty hours of gameplay.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is far from a perfect game, but luckily most of its weak points come earlier than later (aside from the facial animation problems, which tend to stick around throughout). The first few hours of the game are crammed with cinematic cutscenes and long conversations that attempt to offer context while explaining why players should care about Ryder’s Pathfinder mission. There are some powerful emotional moments in these early cutscenes, but with all of the characters being brand-new to players, the tragedies that hit early may not have quite as much emotional weight as intended.
Even after surviving the lengthy and frequent opening cutscenes, there are still a lot of unofficial tutorial missions to power through that are intended to help players familiarize themselves with the new Andromeda mechanics and menus (which are definitely complicated enough to warrant lots of practice and explanations). These basic missions and tutorials are helpful, but unfortunately they also keep players from truly understanding and appreciating the gameplay.
The game’s complicated menus definitely warrant a lot of training and even with the hours of starter missions, the interface still isn’t very easy to navigate. Players have the freedom to swap out powers at will, but these upgrades are buried multiple clicks down menu trees, which doesn’t exactly encourage swapping out abilities mid-fight. This does offer some motivation to concentrate on just a few core skills and power them up to max level, but that strategy cuts players off from experimenting with the many awesome abilities at Ryder’s disposal. The menu system isn’t far off from what Mass Effect trilogy players are used to, but it would have been nice to see things like skills, inventory, and weapons streamlined with this fresh start for the franchise.
Once players start exploring the galaxy, things really start to click. Each destination offers a unique open-world sandbox that is much bigger than most of the locations in the previous games. There is still a fairly linear main plot to follow through Andromeda, but players are free to roam each location in the nomad or by foot and really get lost in each world. Exploration is Andromeda’s greatest strength and it is very easy to step into the role of Pathfinder and become invested in finding the best place for your fellow citizens to make their new homes.
Unfortunately, all of the slowness involved in space travel from the original trilogy is still in full effect in Andromeda. Players fly from planet to planet by interacting with a gorgeous map on the Tempest, but there are non-skippable cinematics between each change of locale. It doesn’t sound like much, but the 10-30 second cutscenes really add up, especially if players are just trying to check in on a planet to see if there are any anomalies worth mining for resources. The same kind of slowness takes place at the main space hub as well, with the old game’s elevators being replaced with a high-tech subway.
Players who are willing to suffer through a bit of slowness will be rewarded with some great character moments and an exciting action RPG combat system. Some die-hard lore fanatics may be disappointed that there are only a few new alien races introduced in the new galaxy, but the characters that do exist get plenty of screen time and Ryder is forced to make some of the most complicated decisions that exist in the franchise. Choices aren’t as black and white this time around and there are often four or five possible options in conversation that could lead the crew down different paths. The character relationships are also complicated enough that players don’t have to always stay on a squad mate’s good or bad side. These characters are complex and, just like in real life, relationships can have highs and lows.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is far from a perfect game, but it is an absolute must-play for fans of science-fiction or BioWare RPGs. The storytelling is at an all-time high once things get underway and players who make it through the adventure will be unlikely to regret their time spent in this new corner of the Mass Effect universe.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.