BioWare’s “Mass Effect” series made the idea of traveling outside of the solar system a trivial matter. Traveling between systems was just a small step in the grand scheme of saving all the species in the Milky Way from extinction. By the end of the original trilogy, the entire galaxy felt like a home to protect.
In the studio’s new installment in the series, “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” the player goes from protector to intruder. You travel into an untouched frontier to set up colonies in a brave new galaxy. In this game, you are the alien in the Andromeda galaxy.
The story sets up the protagonist in typical BioWare fashion, meaning your character, Ryder, is set up to be an important “chosen one” called the Pathfinder. Ryder’s actions determine the fate of the Milky Way’s species in Andromeda, and it’s up to him or her to travel to habitable planets — using the Tempest, one of the fastest ships in the Milky Way — and set up new colonies. This game excels at making you feel like your decisions will impact the survival of all the species you care about, especially if you played the original trilogy with Shepard.
In the 15 or so hours I’ve spent with the game, it’s hard to say if the story will shape up to be on the same level of Shepard’s tale, but the stakes feel similar. However, the storytelling is hampered by boring animations, occasional visual bugs and some spots of uninspired voice acting.
Facial emotions are nearly nonexistent in this game. You might see a hint of concern or happiness in the characters’ faces, but for the most part, faces remain static. Other times, people face the wrong direction or disappear when they shouldn’t. These animation issues take you out of the story for a second to remind you that the studio’s design team should have given the game more polish.
As far as voice acting goes, you’ll run into the occasional character who could’ve used a different actor. Among important characters, such as Ryder and the Tempest’s crew, the voice acting is mostly good, although some lines are delivered horribly and could have used more work in the recording booth.
Where the game shines brightest, however, is in the combat. Never has combat been as satisfying in a “Mass Effect” game as it’s been in “Andromeda.” Unlike the previous games that locked Shepard’s abilities based on the chosen class, “Andromeda” chooses to give the player free reign over all the abilities. As the Pathfinder, Ryder can create four sets of abilites.
These four presets can be switched in the middle of combat, adding a layer of depth to the combat that allows players to expose more enemy weaknesses than before. “Andromeda” also introduces the jump jet system, giving players far more mobility than previous games. Players can now jump very high and quickly dash in any direction and even hover in the air to attack from above.
The extra dimensions of verticality, increased movement speed and access to more abilities make every combative encounter dynamic, with no fight feeling the same as the others. The weapons feel good to use in the game, and with a large variety of weapon types such as laser beams and krogan hammers, most players should find something to their liking.
Fans of the “Mass Effect” series will likely find something to enjoy in this new romp in a different galaxy, with the polished combat and interesting world-building. Those new to the series might feel lost initially, but if high-stakes space operas are your jam, the game might be worth picking up during a sale.
Video by Jose Luis Lacar