Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t merely one game, but two folded in upon themselves. One is exactly what we had hoped for, a Mass Effect version of Dragon Age: Inquisition, with all the exploration and ideas any fan could hope for. The other verges upon self-parody so often that you only need Mel Brooks’ involvement to turn the game into a Spaceballs reboot. The sad thing is, you can’t separate one from the other.
The story this time is set apart from the initial trilogy. Bereft of Reapers, Protheans or Shepard, it instead follows the story of an experimental colony ship sent out to the Andromeda galaxy. However, their golden new worlds ripe for colonisation soon prove to be deathtraps, and with time running out to find a new home they soon discover something very old and very dangerous is lurking in this corner of the universe…
To focus upon the positives first - The shooting and class mechanics are outstanding. Core combat for this series has never been better, and proves to be fluid, highly mobile and the way in which you can switch between class abilities grants a freedom the series has not seen before. More importantly, the open world elements truly feel like a refined version of the original Mass Effect’s landscape traversing segments, capturing the feel of exploring an alien world almost perfectly as you decide the fate of your people. Your choices of settling colonies and starting a new life have more weight to them, and it truly feels as if someone was asking what they could accomplish here which was never possible with the original trilogy.
The new companions are also a brilliant addition, and while one or two veer a little too close to being copies of their predecessors (Wrex 2.0 says hello) there is usually enough there to help them stand out. Unfortunately, this is where the other shoe drops. While the characters themselves are fantastic, they are often lumbered with elements which undermines their potential; notably the already infamously awkward animations, and lines which sound like they came from a Chuck Wendig novel: "No one's a pathfinder until they pathfound something."
This same truncated quality is inherent within the core story as well. It seems as if the writers wanted to get from point A to point B, and ignored everything they needed to resolve on the way there. So, the krogan are present, but a two line conversation mentions they semi-resolved the genophage in their own way, and thus aren’t angry at anyone else. Everything is either hand-waved away with an incredibly flippant attitude or simply remain unaddressed in the hopes that players will not question them. Starcraft fans will know exactly what this feels like, as this suffers the same failing of too many relentlessly upbeat and positive characters, ignoring all that should be weighing down upon them. This could be forgiven as some effort to break away from 3’s grim angle and make a fresh start, but that doesn’t work when you are literally racing against time to prevent your entire species dying out overnight. Or, for that matter, when the villains rehash so many elements from the Reapers you’ll just be left wondering why these aren’t linked to the robotic space squid.
Now, all of this would earn such a six out of ten on our scoring - Marking it as above average and worth a look thanks to a few high points. However, that’s before we get to the technical side of things. The game is so poorly optimized that we are amazed that it runs on consoles let alone PCs, and the gigantic updates and reboots it needs before you even run the game speaks volumes of its almost unfinished nature. This is so rough around the edges at points that you can practically see the gaps in the programming, and no amount of love for this universe can overcome that at the moment.
Mass Effect Andromeda is ultimately Dragon Age 2 all over again. It had the potential to stand out from the original trilogy, but everything here screams that it was rushed to meet a tight deadline. As a result, while the combat mechanics might be a step forwards, the story and ideas simply don’t measure up to its predecessors. If you’re an avid Mass Effect fan or a multiplayer junkie, give this one a look, but everyone else should wait until we’ve seen a lot more updates before getting it.
MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA / DEVELOPER: BIOWARE / PUBLISHER: ELECTRONIC ARTS / PLATFORMS: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: 23RD MARCH