Wanderlust. That’s the defining characteristic of Mass Effect: Andromeda. 600 years and 2.537 million light years from the Milky Way, humanity (and company) arrives in our neighbouring galaxy to explore bold new horizons and find a home in a strange but beautiful heaven teeming with possibility and novel alien species to inevitably bang.
Or at least that was the idea. The Andromeda Initiative found seven “golden worlds” which were ideal for colonisation, though upon arrival in Andromeda we find that things haven’t gone to plan. The Scourge, a mysterious and unnatural celestial object, has materialised and seemingly terraformed these golden worlds into inhospitable wildlands. Things may look bleak, but at least there aren’t any Reapers.
As Ryder, a likeable protagonist with the ability to carry the plot, your task is to make these worlds viable once more. Each world is expansive and carries its own unique threats and mysteries for you to tackle, and as you progress and the world becomes more viable, your progress becomes tangible – skies clear, outposts are constructed, and new beginnings are founded – which gives a real sense of satisfaction and achievement.
The worlds, however, once explored for a while become somewhat tired. There’s an apparent lack of flora and fauna, and there are only so many times you can view a breathtaking vista before it makes you sigh instead each time a side quest drags you back. The same can be said of new species. Mass Effect excelled in its diversity: from monstrous krogans to the ethereal asari. Andromeda does precious little in expanding this collection of aliens; 25 hours in and I’ve only met two new species, one of which resemble humans a little too closely in terms of their world and personalities.
The plot and gameplay resembles the original Mass Effect greatly. Players use a cornucopia of fun skills and weaponry to help unravel the ancient and advanced technology of an unknown race in a story peppered with twists and challenges in an endeavour that should take over 40 hours. Yet, perhaps most saliently in a Bioware title, it forces you to make hard choices in moral grey areas which may come back to haunt you.
Now for the bugbear: faces. The internet reacted in apoplectic rage (as it so often does) to early footage of awkward and sometimes genuinely terrifying facial animations, although it seems to have been an overreaction. There are uncomfortable and immersion-breaking moments like Addison’s cement block of a face or Cora’s wild, unblinking eyes, but they aren’t frequent. The voice acting is acceptable in swathes but some conversations can feel a tad unnatural; like two recordings slapped hastily together rather than two people actually conversing in a booth. Characters, though, mostly come across as natural and well-developed – the same of which can be said for your crew. It’s an amicable and deep cast worth investing your time and emotion into.
On a technical note, Andromeda is far from perfect. The game is laden with bugs and glitches which can be detrimental, especially in the mostly encapsulating multiplayer, but Bioware have stated that they will be “aggressively patching” to resolve these issues. The savvy consumer might wait a few weeks before diving into the action.
Despite its drawbacks, shortcomings and beautiful emptiness, Andromeda is a pleasing but exacting RPG fused together with a strong storyline and enough avenues to explore. Perfect for anyone feeling a sense of wanderlust.