Because EA and BioWare’s shooter looter Anthem is a mind-numbingly boring grind that will turn any Saint into a “toxic gamer”, I decided to give up on it and brave Mass Effect: Andromeda after nearly two-years. As if you don’t already know, Andromeda is the failed successor to the Mass Effect trilogy that resulted in BioWare Montreal being shamed and pelted with sh*t Game Of Thrones style. At the time of its release the soft reboot was quickly turned into a meme thanks to its facial animations being nightmare fuel, as well as because the experience was plagued with infinite glitches and bugs. However, with the game supposedly having been “fixed” post-launch through about a dozen patches and updates, is Mass Effect: Andromeda now a good game that looks like a masterpiece compared to Anthem?
Well, in short, the answer is no. Sure, the game's population is no longer brimming with psychotic animatronics trying to blend in as real people with creepy blank stares, but the soft reboot is still a terrible experience thanks to its horrible character creation suite, new dialogue wheel, awkward male protagonist who think he's Nathan Drake, and its failure to be an actual "new beginning". Its cast of characters and easy to grasp narrative does make it better than the nonsensical gibberish Anthem, but Andromeda is still far from good.
The squad is decent
Well, the only positive thing I’m going to allow myself to say about Mass Effect: Andromeda is that the squad is decent. Granted, it’s underwhelming when compared to Mass Effect 2’s party of the female Michael Jackson Miranda, the psychotic but goddamn hot Jack, and even the charisma vacuum Jacob, but when you forget about the original trilogy Andromeda’s core cast of characters is technically sufficient.
Liam is undoubtedly the worst with his “witty” dialogue about p*ssing off aliens because he shot them in the face, but the rest of your companions are harmless chums you wouldn’t mind having a drink with once every ten years. Vetra Nyx is a motherly control freak who is endearing as she too has a pain in the ass sister, PeeBee is an occasionally charming Asari when she “lets it ride”, and Cora Harper is the game’s “best girl”.
But the character creation system still sucks
The character creation suite in Mass Effect: Andromeda is the world’s hardest challenge at turning undatable monstrosities into average-looking C-grade actors. Despite wasting an hour of my life trying to give the game’s second male face template a plastic procedure that would make him no longer a traumatic nightmare for children and adults, it was impossible to mould anything more than a BTEC Brad Pitt with fish lips.
You might be able to come up with something that looks somewhat attractive from the right angle with specific lighting, but it’s impossible not to frequently cringe at your creation’s overexaggerated and scary facial animations during cut-scenes and dialogue. For the men it’s bad, but it’s even worse for the women as apparently white girls without freckles and a pale Irish complexion don’t exist.
The new dialogue wheel is meaningless
One of the worst decisions BioWare Montreal made with Mass Effect: Andromeda was removing the Paragon and Renegade system. While the moral mechanic was admittedly straightforward and removed any possibility of dilemmas being difficult and morally grey, it at least added replayability and gave the dialogue wheel a reason to exist. However, with Andromeda, barely any of the conversation choices matter. Sure you can be “witty”, constipated, boring, or desperate for love and meaningless sex, but it barely changes anything about your Scott or Sara Ryder. Aside from the love heart being a blatant choice for “make this squad mate my waifu”, the options are barely different so you might as well as pick anything.
Scott Ryder is a poor man’s Nathan Drake
Because I never want to play as the sister whose only viable romances include a disturbingly skinny alien with saggy breasts, an Asari with commitment issues, and a Scottish lass with the most embarrassing flirty dialogue in all of gaming, I chose to control Scott Ryder and it quickly became apparent once more how much of a failed copy he is of Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake. In addition to his standard character model being the less attractive brother, it’s kind of creepy how BioWare hired some dude to mimic Nolan North’s natural voice and mannerisms. It’s so eerily similar yet hollow and lifeless that you’d easily be forgiven for thinking that Nolan North merely half-assed the role like he did with Desmond in Assassin’s Creed.
Compared to Commander Shepard, Scott Ryder’s characterisation is an imitation of what’s popular elsewhere. He’s a cynical puppet rather than a fully fleshed and original character with his own quirks, and he’s symbolic of Andromeda’s failure in copying the biggest trends in the video games industry.
And there’s barely any new aliens
Mass Effect: Andromeda was billed as a new beginning with characters every five-minutes reminding you that everything onwards is new. Yet, despite being in a different galaxy, nothing appears to have changed. You still can’t turn around without running into humans, Asari, Krogans, and Turians because the only new species are the Kett and the Angara. And the Kett don’t really count as – despite the leader having an unfortunate halo which probably resulted in him being bullied as a child – they are pretty much identical to the Collectors. Meanwhile, the Angara are stereotypical “victims” that remind me too much of the insufferable Jar Jar Binks, along with Mass Effect 2’s plot.
The new planets you visit are also nothing new as I’m pretty sure the Milky Way galaxy had inhabitable planets that were too hot and too cold for Goldilocks to fuss about. When the game promises a new beginning but offers nothing more than the same with a miniscule shade of polish, then you know the studio and writers massively failed at what they were trying to achieve.
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