Mass Effect: Andromeda for Xbox One reviewed from a casual gamer.
Games & Software: Playstation 4
Games & Software: Windows PC
Games & Software: Xbox One
This is a review of Mass Effect: Andromeda on Xbox One (affiliate link) from a casual gamer. I was a big fan of the original Mass Effect game series and was really looking to this one. Let's see how it is...
Never played Mass Effect games before? The original story is very complex. It's so complex that I couldn't possibly explain it easily for you. For a casual gamer like myself who doesn't enjoy stories I'll sum it up quickly. Basically, you played a human in our own Milky Way galaxy surrounded by other alien life. Some aliens were good, others bad. You had to kill them before they killed you and took over.
In the new Mass Effect: Andromeda (ME:A for short), big time fans would have you believe that the story is entirely different yet I can sum it up in a similar way. You are cryogenically frozen this time and travel through space to reach the Andromeda galaxy which takes over 600 years. You do this with several ships and several races with the plan to colonize new planets in a new galaxy.
Things don't go as planned and there are both good and bad aliens. Kill the bad aliens so they don't take over. Rinse and repeat for dozens upon dozens of hours. When you sum it up things don't sound so great, but they are much better than I make them sound.
If you don't love long and involved storylines then ME:A may drive you nuts because this game is loaded with more animated cutscenes and loading screen than actual game play. Or so it seems to be. The good news is that you can easily skip almost every cutscene, just jam on the X (on Xbox) button to skip and when needed the game will prompt when you need to make a dialogue choice, most of which feel pointless when you play like I do.
On top of that, you're working in a huge galaxy filled with planets. Or so that's what they want you to feel. The bulk of planets you cannot visit and simply "scan" from a nav screen. But the few planets you can visit are massive in size. My first complaint is all of the loading screens. They're endless. Even traveling from one plant to the next in your ship's navigation menu goes through endless cutscene animations and you often only end up pressing a button to launch a probe to gather resources. It's frustrating at best.
Landing on planets is a pain and slow. Fast travel is an option, but incredibly limited. I can fast travel within a planet which often takes longer than driving. But you cannot fast travel from a planet back to the main ship (Hyperion I think it's called). Nor can you fast travel from the main ship to your own ship (Tempest) or directly to a planet. It involves plotting a course which is basically pushing a button and watching more animations.
If I can fast travel to my own ship and from there navigate through planets (which is really just animated cutscenes) then why not just let me pull up a map and fast travel to any place I've already discovered? Let me do that and I'll pretend I'm doing all of the other boring stuff but can get a big chunk of my life back in the process.
Board yet? Yea, me too. And I haven't even got into all of the tedious nonsense in this game like checking your email. That's right, imagine a world many hundreds of years in the future where we have email to still check! More amazing is that you can only do it from various terminal computers. Yup, you can't check email from your omni-tool (aka, your smartphone)...how does this make any sense?
So why play this game? Because of the combat, leveling up, weapons, loot, driving the moon buggy even. It's all incredibly fun and really well done. I really, really enjoy the actual gameplay and simply wish there was more gameplay and less animation to watch. Even the team AI is fun to play with and when I give them a command to target a certain enemy they do a great job at it.
Graphics & Audio
Any time a major game comes out so many dissect the graphics to bits while others remind us that the gameplay is what matters. Well, they're both right. Gameplay is important, but graphics are as well in a game like this. You don't own a giant, high resolution flat screen TV for bad graphics, right?
Fortunately for you, the graphics are very good overall. Sure, they're not the best you've ever seen but overall everything looks very well done. The environments are amazing and the characters look great, usually. I say usually because during those annoying dialogue cutscenes the same characters are now close up and don't look as good. They don't look bad by any means, just not great.
In one world, I forget the name because I don't care to remember it, the world is so hot and bright that I found my eyes actually hurt after an hour there. I had to dim the brightness in the game it was so bad. I get what the developers were going for there but at what point does realism win over fun?
On top of that, the facial animations nearly blew up the Internet when this game came out. The fanboys and girls flipped their collective lids at how bad they are. Were the right? A little, but mostly not. The facial animation isn't great but it's not at all bad, except for some odd cases here and there. Some even made death threats against the developers because of this. What sort of sick world do we live in where that happens?
Speaking of odd cases, there is plenty of object and texture pop in. Run fast enough and stuff will pop in, sometimes too late. For example, we've run into a room only to fall off the screen because it wasn't there yet. It's not bad, but you'll notice it.
For a AAA game, Mass Effect: Andromeda has more than its fair share of bugs. I mention texture pop in and missing rooms already but try driving the moon buggy around and you'll have the screen freeze for a second or two and then continue on, as if it can't load the terrain fast enough.
There are also many game breaking bugs reported at this point. A big one we see is the game freezing up. On my own game it's only frozen a few times and even then after a full minute or two comes back. On my son's game (same console, different profile and game save) the game locks up after just a few minutes of play (he's 10+ hours in) and is completely unplayable for him. That level of bug is a deal breaker, many others aren't but you still have to wonder how a game like this is so buggy.
Another great example is enemies that get stuck in walls. During battle, it's often easy to have an enemy get stuck in a wall. Sometimes they can shoot (and kill) you but you can't shoot them back. Sometimes you can melee them out, other times you can't and have to restart the mission to complete it properly or to clear a base. This is another one where you can't help but think "yea, the developers knew about this bug but pushed the game out the door anyhow".
I love ME:A. It's tons of fun even though I hate the story bits. I don't fault the developer there as this game is about story, I simply don't like stories in my game. That's what books, movies, television, and real life (to name a few) are for. I play games to just relax and have fun. Watching endless cut scenes and checking email isn't fun.
Another thing I haven't mentioned yet is Sudoku. The game has a lot of these puzzles in it to make the storyline progress. You have to find certain glyphs (symbols) and then play a game of Sudoku to unlock doors and whatnot. If you're like me and never played Sudoku before you'll hate this. Even if you like Sudoku wouldn't you rather play a Sudoku game rather than being forced to do it in another game? It's nonsense and some of the puzzles, until you understand how to play, are frustrating. Get anything wrong and it resets and you start over. It's the single worst puzzle system I've ever seen in any game, ever. Later on you can sometimes find or buy keys to skip the Sudoku, but not always. Worst. Idea. Ever.
So what's the bottom line for Mass Effect: Andromeda? It's a really fun game, when you can actually play the game. Believe it or not, I'm not docking a star (or any points) off my review because of the story. I'm docking a star because of the bugs, the endless animations (beyond dialogue animations), and all of the endless micromanaging the game wants me to do. All of these annoyances really detract from an otherwise amazing game. Still, it is a game I recommend buying (affiliate link) because it's really fun overall. Grab your copy now on Amazon.com. (affiliate link)
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