In 2006 the gaming company Bioware, famous for their strides in the RPG genre through such titles as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, revealed that they were working on a brand new IP for fans. Riding off of their massive success with the critically acclaimed Knights of the OldRepublic, the game was set to be their own epic space opera, with the team revealing that they had spent over a year creating the individual alien races that players would interact within the landscape.
That game was, of course, Mass Effect. After stealing the show at E3 2007, it was finally released as an Xbox 360-exclusive in November of the same year to widespread applause, with both critics and audiences enjoying the game’s in-depth mythology, character development, and story amidst a plethora of other positives. As a result, Mass Effect ended up being a big success, selling nearly three million units and setting the stage for a major franchise.
In the ten years since Mass Effect’s release, the series has blossomed into one of the cornerstones of AAA gaming, with two direct sequels and tons of supplementary media creating an ever-growing fan base. The character of Commander Shepard has become a video game icon, joining other such legends as Master Chief and Marcus Fenix in gamer polls. While the third entry’s conclusion to the trilogy received significant controversy, that ultimately did not do much to stifle the hype for the fourth entry Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Taking a departure from the Commander Shepard story, Andromeda moved the dynamic narrative to an entirely different setting in the eponymous galaxy, with the game’s timeline conveniently taking place between the second and third Mass Effects in order to avoid complications with the latter’s definitive finale. Despite this, Andromeda has opened up to a mixed response from the reviewing community. While there are objectively good and bad things about the game being pointed out by both sides, including the facial animations and boost pack addition, this article will focus on some of the more obscure features and how they play into the bigger picture.
First and foremost is the free roam aspect of the game. Contrary to earlier reports that suggested Andromeda would be completely open world, Bioware confirmed back in earlier February 2017 that the title would be more akin to the first Mass Effect in that players would be given the ability to venture through several planets in the galaxy. This is a great decision from the get-go as, while Mass Effect 1’s celestial bodies were more-or-less reskins of the same template, there was no denying the sense of freedom that came with exploring a potential space habitat.
Going alongside this, vehicles have returned, being absent from the previous two entries. While the Mako of Mass Effect 1 was fun to drive, the new Nomad incorporates many gameplay elements that were added throughout the franchise, including the ability to scan for new resources and subsequently mine them in order to get upgrades. As fans may remember from the ending battle of Mass Effect 2, the upgrade system was integral to game’s climax. In Andromeda, it has been given a complete RPG-overhaul, extending to weapons and armor on a tier scale.
Unfortunately, not every addition is as good as it could have been. Continuing off of the aforementioned upgrading, it is worth pointing out that enhancements to the Nomad vehicle are not worth doing due to the lack of payoff from the high material costs. While making this an interesting contrast to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s encouragement to prioritize the ship’s advancements over the main character, it sadly does not balance them out in a way that actually makes selecting each upgrade a subjective strategy to the player in the way The Witcher and first Deus Ex did.
And finally, there is the simple fact that the cryo pods are not well-implemented. Though presenting an interesting concept of having to harvest particular boosts for everyone, the micromanaging of the individual pods combined with the confusing relationship between the player’s nexus level and cryo pod points necessary to activate one makes the system not worth worrying about. However, as stated before, the foundation is definitely intriguing and can be built upon in future sequels.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Staff/Getty Images]