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Review: Mass Effect Andromeda

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Mass Effect is back in the form of the new video game, “Mass Effect: Andromeda.” Featuring a brand new cast, story and setting for Mass Effect fans and gamers to sink their teeth into, the game follows new protagonist Ryder as he follows his father and sibling to the brand new Galaxy of Andromeda as part of the “Andromeda Initiative.” The initiative is comprised of several races from the original Mass Effect trilogy, such as the Asari and Salarians, working together to forge a new home.

After spending 600 years being cryogenically frozen, your character discovers Andromeda hosts many exciting new opportunities and also terrifying new dangers. When the first mission to scout out a new home for humanity goes horribly wrong, you’ll find yourself taking up the role of Pathfinder with the fate of 20,000 human colonists and many other lives resting on your shoulders as you fight, talk and romance your way to a new home for humanity.

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“Mass Effect: Andromeda” is by no means a terrible game, but it has many issues that should have been handled before release. One of the game’s highlights is its new combat mechanics. Every fight is fast, explosive, smooth and fluid. The addition of the jump jet adds a new dimension to combat and zipping to the side while a rocket zooms by you is quite thrilling; however, outside of combat gameplay, many noticeable hiccups become prevalent. Characters make unnatural and clearly faulty movements, and facial animations were almost laughable at times, which did do a little damage to the overall experience. Thankfully, Bioware recently released a patch that fixed many of the bugs and glitches, but it’s still a little disappointing that these problems were so evident in the release of such a beloved franchise.

Story-wise, it’s very different from the original Mass Effect and features a much lighter tone. The protagonist, Ryder, is not Commander Sheppard–he is unproven as a leader with much more sarcasm and wit. Still, since this is a Mass Effect game, you get to customize Ryder’s gender and appearance, and even the look of your sibling. The new protagonist provides a fresh set of eyes to view the Mass Effect universe through.

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The new squad-mates are interesting, complex and colorful with my favorite being the old, grizzled veteran warrior, Drack. You are given many opportunities to bond with and learn more about your crew members as well as to discover the compelling intricacies of them. Since it is a new galaxy, new alien races do appear. For example, there are the Angara who are artistic and emotional warriors. You also encounter the game’s new enemy, the Kett, a race with sinister plans for any species that isn’t Kett. The new villain, the Archon, is also a big plus; although, he doesn’t get that much time to shine until the final act of the game. The Archon is a fun villain to hate, and he adds to the hero’s journey that Ryder goes on.

One of the biggest elements of the original Mass Effect trilogy was the ability for players to make choices with many difficult ones to make throughout the games. “Mass Effect: Andromeda” seems to have taken the pressure off of these decisions. There are still many different choices to make, but rarely did they feel like there was actual weight to them. This was very disappointing given the franchise’s history. The beloved Paragon and Renegade morality system is also gone, and I found myself missing it terribly while I played. This may not be a problem for people who are new to the series, but it is still something that should be taken into account.

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Another low-point of the game is the puzzle solving. It seems Sudoku puzzles is the favored security system for the Andromeda galaxy because they are all over the place, and they do start to feel repetitive.

Exploration is a big theme in this game, and there are several planets to visit that are each different in their own way. You and your crew traverse scorching deserts, lush jungles and freezing tundras. I found myself exploring one planet for hours–discovering the various secrets and story lines.

In the end, “Mass Effect: Andromeda” is a game with so much to like with a lot to dislike. Hopefully, as more patches and updates are released, the distracting problems found throughout the game will be a thing of the past. If you loved the original Mass Effect trilogy, then this will be a fun experience. If you’re just joining the series, then it may be hit or miss. Let’s hope that if there is a “Mass Effect: Andromeda 2,” all of these issues will be addressed.

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