Yes, I know, the facial animations are their own sort of hell, but despite that and numerous bugs, Mass Effect: Andromeda is still a pretty good game. We're going to take this step-by-step so I can properly make my case, because the detrimental factors are so easy to name while the good parts can be over-looked incredibly easily. I know because I've done it myself. Whenever I was talking about this game to friends, those playing it and those who weren't, the first things that would come up were bugs. And that would comprise the entire conversation. So we're going to try and avoid that here, as much as we can.
First off, those facial animations. We're going to get this out of the way first, because thats what you are all going to be waiting for otherwise. This is a complaint that has been following Andromeda for months, since we got the first in-engine footage, but especially since December. I've got a whole breakdown of that controversy here for you, if that's what you want to hear about. But in the end, it's pretty simple. Yes, almost every human face moves in a very robotic way that screams uncanny valley, with Sarah Ryder's default face being the most egregious example. Sure, there are bizarre ticks and bugs and the body language is often non-existant, but you do get used to it. I played using the default Sarah Ryder.
And she was a different person from nearly every angle. Several cutscenes had her looking vastly different and it got to the point where "what Sarah am I today?" was a joke. But after a while, my brain adjusted as brains do, and it wasn't quite so bad, because there were other things to pay attention to. Some of your companions have totally normal facial movements. Peebee is incredibly well animated. And she looks awesome.
And that's sort of the cool thing though, you're often focused more on your companions faces than your own, because Scott and Sarah Ryder mostly function as blank spaces for you to insert yourself into. So the facial animations are something I find I can live with. That's going to be a personal call. Granted, Bioware is looking to fix them, so maybe you want to wait for that patch to come through. Fair enough.
The driving force behind all Bioware games is always the story. They're character driven, "choose-your-won-adventure," wish fulfillment machines. And that's what we love about them. Wether Dragon Age or Mass Effect is your preferred drug of choice, it's the ability to put yourself into a rich fantasy world that has you coming back, game after game. And Andromeda is not skimpy on the plot. This is a longer Mass Effect than any before in the series, it's a bit closer to Dragon Age in scope and length, and does suffer some of the Hinterlands problem early on. Yes, Bioware tried to cut down on that, but they have to pull so much leg work on exposition that it was inevitable. Andromeda doesn't suffer from sequilitis in that it tries very hard to be the first game all over, instead it suffers from the problem of being a whole new IP without the benefits of getting it's own name. Sure, a lot of things are similar, but so much of the ME world is different here. You are now a few galaxies over and 600 years in the future. So, that was bound to happen.
Your enemies, the Kett, are a bit of a problem. Minor spoilers here, so, read the below at your own risk.
Not only are they basically the Collectors from Mass Effect 2 both in design, story function, and lore, in 2017 they have a rather more Islamophobic undertone. Without spoiling too much, the Kett recruit from other races and turn them against their own using a sort of brainwashing goo. So yes, they kidnap members of other races, dump them in a vat, and then turn them loose as "the Kett" against their own kind. Given the recruiting tactics of ISIS (or ISIL depending on who you ask), this whole part of the narrative – and it is a rather large one – seems a bit tone-deaf. Either that, or just lazy. It's like "space Nazis" was too easy of a stereotype and so they looked further. Just one step further.
The romantic plots are fine, with the usual cringe-worthy flirting, bad dancing, and awkward sex scenes, unless you want to play as a gay Scott Ryder. Then your romance is more of an afterthought. Scott gets shorter scenes, worse plotting, and absolutely no weird pixelated sex when he decides to bat for the other team. Sorry, Scott. No one thought to give you the glorious gay sex life you deserve.
But if you aren't in the mood for romance, the gameplay is fantastic. It's a solid third-person shooter with intuitive mechanics, you can easily move into or out of cover, your ability to jump is incredibly handy, and you have much more movement options than before. All of this carries over nicely into the game's multiplayer, which is a fantastically solid game mode. I could spend days doing nothing but multiplayer without getting bored, because you just have so many options for characters to unlock, missions to run, and new places to explore. Fernando Melo, Andromeda's head of multiplayer development, and his team did a goddamn fantastic job of putting that mode together.
However, for all that the gameplay is solid in singleplayer and multiplayer, the game is also riddled with bugs, even more than any open world tends to be. Doors sometimes won't open quickly enough because the area behind it has yet to load, you can get stuck in ferrofluid and not take damage because you managed to find an area of the game you weren't supposed to be in, objects appear but only when you have your scanners on (and not like in Destiny where that is intentional, these are normal objects), and you can even perma-death your companions if they die in a Vault and the doors close on their corpse. You can run to quest points and accidentally kick yourself to the main menu, have the game randomly quit on you, and get stuck in loading screens forever. It can be a buggy mess. The first parts of the game, say the first 10 hours or so, are pretty alright. Only ran into a few bugs there, but once I made it about four planets in, all hell broke loose.
Should the team have delayed the game longer to release a more finished product? Probably. But I get why they didn't. March has become the dumping ground for games that get pushed back because it represents the end of the fiscal year for most companies. And they want those profits to hit their shareholder reports. I get it, I just don't like it. Still, nothing we can do about it now.
But hey, if you walk into certain clubs, you can get your Commander Shepard on and awkwardly shuffle your way through some techno. I'm not kidding, you have a dance interact in a cute little throwback moment. And that's pretty damn cute.
Some of the controls aren't laid out well, triangle or Y is often your interact button on console, but if you're in the Nomad (your new Mako), those buttons become your emergency recall to your ship. Yes, I accidentally beamed myself up to my ship while trying to get out of my vehicle. Eventually I got the hang of it, but it's kind of a weird button-mapping problem.
So it's got solid gameplay, mostly intuitive controls, cute throwbacks, an engrossing plot, a ton of bugs, isn't down with Scott being gay, and has atrocious facial animations that may or may not break the game for you. If you can handle all that, awesome. If you can't, fair enough.
Personally though, I've enjoyed my time with Andromeda, though I am waiting on some of those fixes as well.
If you've come across strange bugs in your own quest to explore the Andromeda galaxy, you can report them to Bioware here, or just tweet some feedback if you have it. The team has been very, very accepting of comments.
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