Taking a Second Trip to the Mass Effect: Andromeda Galaxy

Over the weekend, and after finally being able to put the finishing touches on my playthrough of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I had decided to sift through my backlog of games and pick up something that I hadn’t been able to finish initially. The game in mention, and the one I’ll write about today, is none other than Bioware’s sci-fi action RPG Mass Effect: Andromeda. The idea of trying to replay Mass Effect Andromeda came to me after having a long conversation with a friend about under rated video games. After we both came to the agreement that Mass Effect: Andromeda was one of the more recent underappreciated titles to come out in the past few years, I decided that with nothing much else to do for the time being that now would be the perfect time to revisit the game.

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Going back into the game after about a year, and one of the very first things I had noticed, I felt as though I had completely forgotten that Mass Effect: Andromeda was such a beautiful game, with fine detailing to go with its massive areas that still seem to hold up graphically wise, at least in terms of its environments and atmosphere, with fantastic looking areas such as Voeld, and Havarl being appealing to me, at least from a visual standpoint. I feel as though I appreciated the area design as well as some of Andromeda’s fantastic looking weather effects the most. In terms of the character models, and even with them being patched to fix the original wonky animations, I still felt as though when interacting with other people at times it came off as very awkward with some very twitchy movements, either through body movement or even motion in the faces when conversing others. As for the voice acting, it felt varied, with some of the voice acting seeming great, and some of being was just awful. I felt like interactions between party members was when the game was probably the best in regards to dialogue exchanges, but overall this one might be subjective. I can admit that even though at times some of the animations and voice acting openly made me laugh, I feel like to someone else it might not bother them as much. That being said, I didn’t really mind this so much but at times I found it difficult to take certain things seriously when conversing with an NPC floating in midair or twitching nonstop at random.

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Actually getting into things now, you initially have the option of selecting one of the Ryder twins as your playable character, with the option of some customization for either the male or female twin as well as choosing the gender of the previous Mass Effect playable protagonist Commander Shepard. As for the game itself, it takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy. Starting from the beginning, you awaken from cryogenic stasis on board an Ark named Hyperion. After some interactions with the crew and gearing up you are then sent off to the planet, Habitat 7. Upon arrival to the planet, you eventually come across an alien race named the kett, who you come to find out are hostile after witnessing them kill some of the other crew sent to Habitat 7. After some events, and meeting up with Ryder’s father Alec, you then make your way to a giant alien structure which Alec activates. After exiting the structure, a brief conversation happens between Ryder and Alec, after which a giant smoke cloud bursts out of the alien structure thus knocking both Alec and Ryder off of the platform they are standing on and off to the ground, which also cracks Ryder’s helmet in the process. After calling in an extraction, Alec rips off Ryder’s helmet and places his own on their head, thus sacrificing himself to save Ryder’s life, as Ryder blacks out. Upon regaining consciousness, Ryder comes to coming to find out of his father’s sacrifice and that Ryder was given Alec’s AI and the new-found responsibility of being the Pathfinder, which is a person tasked by the Andromeda initiative to find the colonists a new home. Thus this becomes your role and main focal point of the game, spending your time colonizing planets in the Andromeda Galaxy as you battle with the kett. Admittedly, I felt as though I had completely forgot much of the story until I started to replay the game. Even with Mass Effect: Andromeda being something I had played just last year, it felt like something I had gone into again for the first time in regards to anything that was actually happening.

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In regards to its gameplay, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a relatively large game with a lot of content available. Each visited planet has its own set of unique side quests that will reward you with XP and increase a planets viability, increasing viability is a necessity because with enough points it will level up the Nexus which provides Cryo Pod points which allow for extra perks such as being able to gain a higher percentage of XP, or have more inventory space. Rewards aside, I felt as though none of the quests seemed as though they’d be memorable at all, though I felt some were at least somewhat enjoyable enough when given the motivation to go and explore certain areas, depending on the quest. Venturing through the Remnant vaults was also not a terrible experience either, and being able to finally set up an outpost after doing enough to build up a planet’s viability did at the very least give me a bit of a satisfying feeling. Outside of that, there are typical fluff collectible quests included in the game as well. From collecting memory fragments for your AI to scanning rocks and collecting plants, there really is no shortage of things to do. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t a quest that involved members of the crew, more often than not it felt as though they the quests were extremely tedious.

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Another piece of content, in Andromeda, comes in the form of the strike team missions. These missions can be performed by sending out squads that are available for hire via mission funds. Each mission seems to take at least a few hours to complete. If the mission is successful, you’ll be rewarded with credits and random loot. You are also rewarded with mission funds upon completion, these funds can then be used to better equip your squad or hire more squads to send out on missions. Each strike team mission has a certain chance of success, regardless of failing your squads will still get experience points which will allow them to level up making any missions that come up in the future a bit easier for them to succeed at. Alternatively, there are other missions that will periodically pop up called APEX missions. These missions can be done through multiplayer connectivity or by sending out your squad. I felt that the strike teams were one of the more interesting things to do in Mass Effect: Andromeda, albeit a bit time-consuming.

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There is also a crafting system available in Mass Effect: Andromeda through the research & development terminals. Blueprints can be researched after receiving points that are obtained from scanning planets on the galaxy map or certain objects in any particular area. As for crafting them you need to find or purchase different materials. Outside of purchasing materials from vendors, they can also be obtained by scanning certain planets or anomalies, mining resources on planets yourself either by sending a drone into an area via the nomad, or sending out your strike teams on random missions. The entire time I’ve played it’s felt like the research & develop terminals were the best way to upgrade your gear as well as the ground vehicle, the nomad, so I felt like this was a notable thing to mention.

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Finally getting to the character progression, there are three different skill types available to allocate your points obtained from leveling up. Each skill set has a number of powers and passive abilities to choose from, with the powers allowing for a small skill tree after achieving a certain level in the ability. The skill types themselves being combat, biotics and tech. Describing each skill set to at least minor detail: The combat skill set allows the strengthening of your weapons and gives high damaging skills that are more effective against enemies without shields or armor, the biotics skill set allows for mostly energy based abilities, like throwing enemies and causing shock waves, and last but not least the tech skill set has abilities that will burn through shields and overload armors. That all being said, it seems like a good idea to have your party set up to be able to have at least one member of each skill set type to create some diversity, as certain skills can prime for combos in each tree, with others being able to detonate the primers for a bit of damage burst. Other than that the other thing worth mentioning is the pathfinder profiles, which are exclusive to Ryder. To unlock different profiles, you’ll need to allocate points to different skill sets, the profiles will rank up depending on the amount of points you invest in certain skill sets, each rank up will increase a profiles stat. I thought this was a nice little extra touch to making Ryder feel a bit more special compared to the normal crew members.

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In terms of the combat, I felt for the most part the mechanics were fine, as the solid shooting mechanics seemed like they worked well enough. Being able to hug up to walls and barriers to crouch or lean against for cover was an alright added touch for giving yourself a nice advantage in a firefight against multiple of enemies. I thought having skills more accessible to use was a nice touch as well, playing with a controller you’re able to slot 3 skills for use at any given time, which you can use by either pressing L1/R1 or LB/RB depending on or if you are using a controller. I mentioned the combos before as well, how they work is under the skills available for use, as you will have certain skills that will start a skill combo and then others that will end the combo. This all depends on play style I suppose, sometimes you may not even really need to bother with the combos, but it is still interesting none the less.

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While I believe Andromeda has mostly been fine, as there has been a lot of small attention to detail that I feel I can mostly appreciate, there has been some other things that I have annoyed me worth mentioning. For instance, the galaxy map. Going into the galaxy map, to me, has felt absolutely tedious at times. Having to scan everything would at times feel like a chore, and not having a quicker way to access and fast travel to certain areas felt highly annoying after a while and started to eventually wear me down. Having to solve the glyph puzzles for the monoliths also felt a bit tedious and pointless as well. I don’t really mind puzzles in a general, but some of the tougher glyphs usually just resulted in me looking up how to solve the puzzle online or use a Remnant decryption key. Strangely, I’ve still witnessed horrible technical issues and glitches, along with the game freezing on me a couple of times playing Andromeda as well. There have been more than a few weird moments with NPC’s flying into the air for no reason at all, with another case of where I fell off of a cliff in a Remnant ruin and spawned inside the Nomad which allowed me to drive around inside an area otherwise inaccessible to the vehicle. It’s still strange seeing a Bioware game with these kind of problems I suppose.

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Coming to a close, the real question now is, do I still feel that Mass Effect: Andromeda is under rated? My answer to that is no, though I do at least feel like the game is under appreciated at the very least. Beneath its technical issues, and a few minor annoyances, I feel like Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game at its core. The foundation for most of the game is solid and some of the gameplay still manages to be relatively enjoyable, even with some of the repetitive and mundane side quests. The interactions between Ryder and company feels like when the game is at its best, though I feel like the romancing in Andromeda is the most corny thing I’ve ever seen in a game. This is a game that you can go and pick up a used copy from GameStop for $10, for that price I feel as though there are worse things someone could buy. At the very least, I’d say Mass Effect: Andromeda has been a good enough experience for me to where I can say that I think I like this game enough to recommend it to anyone looking for a decent action RPG to play. It’s not perfect by any means, and probably a far better game to play with patches installed, but it’s still been a fine enough experience overall.

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