Find a home in a new galaxy, meet new friends, and fight new enemies.
For twins, Scott and Sara, joining the Andromeda Initiative with their father, famed explorer Alec Ryder, was a chance at a new beginning for the family, with the promise of adventure in a galaxy far away. But, after waking up from their 600 year cryo sleep that transported them from the Milky Way to Andromeda, they are met with unforeseen dangers and inhospitable worlds. With a hundred thousand humans and aliens counting on them, the Ryders must navigate their way through the Andromeda galaxy, and forge a new home.
Taking control of either Sara or Scott Ryder, Mass Effect: Andromeda puts you into the role of the Pathfinder, whose mission is to evaluate planets to find a home for the different Milky Way species of the Andromeda Initiative. You won’t be alone in this journey, as the common elements of Mass Effect, and most Bioware games, come into play, such as your squad of humans and other aliens, each with their own colorful personalities, side missions, and reasons for leaving their life behind them and joining the Initiative. Bantering during missions or on your ship, the Tempest, these characters make Mass Effect: Andromeda feel less like a trained squad on a mission, and more like a diverse family of pioneers ready to claim their new life together.
This pioneering spirit can be felt in every part of Andromeda. With every new planet you visit, you’ll load up your vehicle, the Nomad, and explore these strange new worlds, finding areas to build settlements, grow food, and set up defenses against the hostile elements. And while the game is based on exploration and discovery, you’ll encounter more than enough hostilities to justify crafting your armor and weapons.
With new enemies, comes a new way to fight. Evolving from the Mass Effect trilogy’s cover system, Andromeda offers a more fluid range of motions based on where you are in the fight. While shooting, Ryder will take cover automatically if they are near a wall or crate. And with the addition of the Andromeda Initiative’s jump jet, created more for exploring the terrain, Ryder can also use it to quickly dash out of harm’s way, or hover momentarily in the air to get a vantage point on your target. And where the trilogy gave you the option to micro-manage your squad, ordering them to make an attack that you’ll turn into a hard hitting combo, control of your team has been scaled back. But, in its place is even more control and options for Ryder. Instead of relying on your teammate to create a combo, Ryder has the ability to use any attack they choose, offering a number of ways to create your own combo attacks, while your team offers cover fire. Ryder’s customization doesn’t end with the way they fight, but also with who they are as a character. While Shepard was already a hero at the beginning his story, Ryder is determined to prove themselves in Andromeda, and the decisions that will shape the galaxy, and their personality, are left to you.
The story and exploration offer countless hours of gameplay, but it’s the technical side that Mass Effect: Andromeda runs into some problems. I’ve yet to find any game breaking issues, but there are many small bugs throughout the game. You’re likely to freeze for a moment when entering a new area, a character will be found hovering in the air for no reason, text updates will remain on screen for far too long, etc. Though not too big of a deal, these glitches are a minor annoyance you’ll come across during your adventure. Hopefully, these will be addressed in upcoming game patches.
To make a comparison, the Mass Effect trilogy was Star Wars; soldiers fighting a war to decide the fate of the galaxy. Mass Effect: Andromeda, on the other hand, is more like Star Trek; scientists and explorers more interested in the unknown, searching for a rock to lick or a spot to plant a flag. Perhaps a better comparison would be Firefly, with the trilogy being the Browncoats’ war against the Alliance, and Andromeda telling the stories of pioneers settling on various planets. I admit, there were times in the game I tried to gear Ryder to look more like a western gunslinger, with rusted armor and a six shooter. But whether you’re shooting or exploring, Mass Effect Andromeda is a massive RPG offering a variety of quests, some funny and some serious. Despite its technical difficulties, it’s a fun and shiny new addition to the Mass Effect franchise.