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Mass Effect: Andromeda | Review

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Mass Effect started out way back in 2007 when it was released as a console exclusive to the Xbox 360. In the next few years we saw Mass Effect 2 and 3 release to finish of an epic trilogy telling the story of Commander Shepard and his quest to save the galaxy with his choice of fine companions. The Mass Effect series took the world by storm and sci-fi fans around the world lapped up the expansive worlds and relationships that could be explored. Popular demand eventually saw the Xbox 360 exclusives come to PC and Playstation 3. Mass Effect was one of the greatest video game series of the last generation but alas, it had to come to an end with Mass Effect 3 finishing off the story (not without its controversies) for Shepard.

Now we are sitting comfortably in 2017, a year over saturated with fantastic triple A video games to choose from. Mass Effect Andromeda has come across our tables with a lot of hype and expectations accompanying it. The original trilogy is definitely a hard act to follow but surely with the same team at the helm and a new generation of hardware to develop with, we shouldn't have any issues right? Mass Effect Andromeda launched a week early via EA Access on the Xbox One which helped reviews hit web sites early. A lot of media outlets were damning it for poor facial animations and character models. Andromeda's early scores landed it around the 70 out of 100 and adversely affected how people perceived the game before actually playing it. Let me just tell you that this is all over hyped nonsense and Mass Effect Andromeda is a game worth your time.
Being a new story in the Mass Effect world, you won't have to have played the previous games to get into this one. All main characters are new and their development starts here. As per usual, Andromeda will pay respects to veterans of the series and old characters will get a mention, but nothing to a degree that will lose newcomers. For those who did play the original series would know that you could choose whether your main character (Shepard) was a male or female. In the beginning of Andromeda you can choose whether any references to Shepard in your playthrough are as a male or female. Nice touch.

You start off with a character creation screen just like previous Mass Effect games. Here you will be creating two characters. The Ryder twins are the main characters of the game here and you can customise them however you see fit. You have the male character Scott and his sister Sara. Those are their default names as you can pick your own there too. During my playthrough I left them as their default names as I wanted the game's NPC's to continue to say their name during dialogue. Choosing a random name may turn that off.

The story begins where Scott and Sarah are in a cryo-chamber as you embark on a 600 year journey out of the Milky Way, to a galaxy aptly called Andromeda. Your mission as a pair of young inexperienced military recruits, is to accompany your father as he attempts to locate a place of safe harbour for the human race. The day is coming when mankind will have to pack up and leave, and it's your father's job as the Pathfinder, to locate a planet worthy of colonisation.
Of course it all goes horribly wrong as you and your posse encounter problems beyond expectations. Avoiding spoilers here you will meet up with a new form of alien as you arrive and you have no idea whether or not they're hostile. Remember this is a Mass Effect video game so I'll let you have a guess how that went.

The game play elements within Andromeda are satisfying and well thought out. Combat is fun with controls being reminiscent of the previous games. Biotic abilities make a return, and for those that aren't in the know, Biotics are special powers that one can possess such as telekinesis and the ability to throw fire attacks out of your bare hands. Weapon crafting has been added as well as a plethora of upgrades, mods and armour choices. Andromeda even incorporates a mini game within the game where you can send mercenaries out on missions that will land you loot and cash if they succeed. These kind of mini games are usually seen in companion apps on smart phones, however this time it has been added to the full game itself. The best part about this is that if you run out of mercenary teams to do the missions for you, you can option to do the missions yourself. If you choose this option, you will launch into an online co-op lobby where you will be matched with three other real players doing the same thing. The online portion will be a game of wave survival which is so well made that even I, someone that generally steers well away from multiplayer environments, love it so. If you're successful you will score yourself some loot which you take back with you to your single player game to equip on your main character. Sounds good doesn't. It is.

Side missions are a plenty, and so are the conversations you can have with people you encounter. Even though there are so many side missions to collect, they're easily filed away in a sorted system of locations where the missions will be completed. Adding to the depth, the side missions can easily consume an entire night of gaming, just like the main missions. The side missions not only teach you more about your character and the world you're in, they also make for really interesting plot points. If not for the fun of the mission, do it for the XP and loot.
Jumping is a thing now too. Your character will learn early on that you have a jump jet on the back of your suit. You can use this for some really cool sci-fi themed platforming and for climbing up on buildings and landscapes to take cover from fire. This not only works well, it looks super cool too.

Why take a car to the moon they said? Why not they said! Well you get a car too. Well it's more of an all-terrain vehicle called the Nomad ND1. The Nomad is a six wheeled off road vehicle which you can use to cover the vast semi-open world environments that Andromeda has to offer on its many planets. In two wheel mode you can hit speeds over 100km/h but you won't be climbing any steep hills like that. Switch it over to six wheel drive and watch that thing crawl up seemingly impossibly steep mountains with ease. Not only is the Nomad good for travelling large areas, it's also your life line when passing through areas of heavy radiation. Your Nomad truly is yours to own so you can modify the paint job by unlocking different skins and you also have a set of upgrades for it too.

There's so much to do in Andromeda that you may as well cancel the rest of your pre-orders for 2017 because this game will make you work to squeeze everything it has to offer out of it.

I completed the main story for Andromeda in around 25 hours, but I ended up doing very minimal side mission content after the first couple of hours. I like to get buried in the main story rather than going off the beaten path to see what the side quests have to offer.

I have to say that I have been extremely pleased with the main story for Andromeda and I think it sets up a trilogy really well. I loved the characters and I felt that they have been thoroughly created with excellent history to them all. While I imagined that it would be near on impossible to create a whole new roster of characters that would even come close to those from the previous games, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I really did enjoy the characters in Andromeda and how they meshed together really well.
On top of all of the gorgeous graphics and amazing story, there are two further aspects to the game that I need to mention. These two things go hand in hand with each other too which is pretty awesome. Early on you will encounter a Mercenary that will introduce you to Strike Teams that you can hire to go on missions for you which will earn you materials for crafting and currency for purchasing items within the game. These missions can be organised within the game, however you can also initiate them completely outside of the game using the companion app called APEX. These missions are automated once you send a team on their merry way and can take up to a few hours to complete. Whether your team succeeds or fails, you will score XP which will level up your team, making them stronger each time they're used.

Now, if you run out of teams to send on missions, you can opt to go and do the mission yourself within the main game, but playing out the mission scenario in the online co-op part of the game. You will team up with other real world players in a horde/wave mode style game which you will either succeed or fail, resulting in the same rewards that you Strike Team would have received. This is seamless with the main game and is actually quite fun to play. Not to mention that Gold Tier missions yield some pretty damn awesome Ultra Rare weapons that pack a punch.

Once you're done with the main story missions, depending on how thorough you were while playing through, there will still be a lot of missions to complete which are secondary to the main. I couldn't count how many characters there were that I just ran past that wanted to sell me a side quest. There are also plenty of planets and locations that I haven't even been to as they weren't part of the main story. Beyond the main game there are so many different things to go and do which extends the life of the game beyond the initial 20 or so hours that the main story asks for.

If you're a fan of the original Mass Effect games then I would definitely recommend that Andromeda is for you. Even those that love Sci-Fi will likely enjoy the hell out of this game purely for the amazing special effects that bleed Sci-Fi space exploration with aliens and lasers and all of the above. If you've never been interested in Mass Effect but enjoy a good role playing game with good dialogue choice and character development, then get this into your life. A game of the year contender if I've ever seen one.

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
9th May 2017
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