|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: March 21, 2017|
|Players: Single player campaign, four-player online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Violence|
by Lucas White
A lot can happen in ten years. A decade in pop culture can feel like a person’s entire lifetime. Since the first Mass Effect, an entire console generation and then some has passed. The diversity of voices in the industry has exploded, and many of the older voices have moved around or even left entirely. Creative teams simply don’t last that long. But brands, IPs, those can last forever or as long as the sales keep up. So here we are with a fourth game. Mass Effect: Andromeda is brand new start with a new cast, new setting, and new voices behind its creation. Unfortunately, it has, through what was almost assuredly a mixture of studio shenanigans and lofty ambitions, collapsed under its own weight.
Mass Effect: Andromeda starts innocently enough. Right away, the player is presented with a huge quality of life improvement from damn near any comparable RPG. You can create your character independently from starting the game. That seems small, but it’s actually huge. These games are all about creating a personal link to the avatar, and being able to take one’s time to really “get it right” is crucial. Getting to mess around with the character creator before the game even starts is a huge boon and makes going back and making changes if it doesn’t end up looking great in-game that much easier. This point in the game was approximately the last time I was genuinely excited about anything new.
Now it’s time to address the pink elephant in the room. Mass Effect: Andromeda does have some fairly odd animations at times, sprinkled throughout conversations and walk cycles for the most part, but it’s easy to gloss over them. It isn’t as bad as it seems. Uncanny valley aside, this Mass Effect is a little sillier, a little brighter, and a little more Scooby-Doo than its predecessors, and that helps your brain accept the animations more. The original wasn’t exactly the Home of Masterful Animation either, so this critic could hardly care less. But we aren’t done with technical issues.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a stable experience. It’s full of bizarre, jarring scene transitions. The screen wildly jerks from one camera angle to the other, with split seconds of haphazard movements that mess with your focus and absolutely rip you out of the moment. Performance issues abound, ranging from frame rate weirdness when you’re running around to hiccups in the middle of combat. This is paired with some of the worst in-action camera in third-person action/RPG history. That thing zooms way too far in at weird angles that make visibility an uphill battle. Even in conversations, the camera comes in at an angle that doesn’t make any sense, totally throwing off the way your eyes track the scene and making you painfully aware the conversation happening in front of you isn’t real. Don’t even get me started on the UI.
Actually yes, let’s talk about Mass Effect: Andromeda’s UI. Holy cow, this is like when Dead Rising came out and nobody had a high-definition television, except now everyone has a high-definition television and the text is still a pain in the ass to read. If it isn’t dialogue (which is mercifully legible still), it’s in as tiny a font as possible and either pushed as far into a corner of the screen or hiding in interaction prompts that don’t show up until you’re practically already on top of them. Finding enemy remains or other interactables is a chore, often making me not want to bother. Especially since the crafting system is a dumpster fire anyway.
Picture this tiny text I’m speaking about. Now imagine navigating several multi-layered menus with multiple pages and crap all over to screen to such a degree the lines are practically sitting on top of each other. The system is poorly explained by Mass Effect: Andromeda, as are the methods to obtain the ludicrous variety of resources. So you can fumble around if you want, but part of that fumbling involves using your Omni-Tool to scan your surroundings. That’s a whole other layer of Things AAA Games Do Often That Aren’t Fun. To scan, you press down on the d-pad, then trudge around your surroundings until something lights up, so you can then scan it and make one of several numbers go up. These numbers then let you use other numbers to make equipment with certain numbers, which you can then use to unlock the next stage of equipment with higher numbers. It is complexity for the sake of it and reminds me of when the first Mass Effect had a bunch of annoying inventory management issues for the sake of “RPG Elements,” but is at least twice as cumbersome.