Mass Effect: Andromeda full review

After being in stasis for 600 years, the time has finally come for mankind to awaken and explore Andromeda – but nothing is as expected. It’s down to you, the Pathfinder, to guide your hibernating colonists towards a habitable world where humanity can not only survive, but thrive. You’ll come across new species, alien technology and unexplained phenomena, with the fate of the Andromeda Initiative on your shoulders. Read next: Best upcoming games

In the spirit of full disclosure, we’ve played Mass Effect: Andromeda for around 25 hours so far and we’re yet to complete the main story of the game, but we feel that it’s long enough to get a good understanding of what the game has to offer.

Mass Effect Andromeda UK release date and pricing

Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available to buy around the world after its 23 March 2017 launch. It's available for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and you’ll be able to pick up Mass Effect: Andromeda from the usual places: Amazon (£44), GAME (£49), PSN (£55), Microsoft Store (£60) and Origin (£50).

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Mass Effect Andromeda: Story, discovery and exploration

In 2185, humans stumbled across a Martian ruin that projected their understanding of science and technology forward by hundreds of years, making space travel a reality. While humans were happy to explore the vast reaches of the Milky Way, some had another goal in mind, and thus the Andromeda Initiative was born.

Appealing to adventurers, scientists and those that wanted a fresh start, the Andromeda Initiative took thousands of humans across the galaxy on a 600-year trip to the Heleus Cluster, nestled comfortably within the Andromeda galaxy.

Of course, as many will have guessed, not everything goes to plan. While initial scans from the Milky Way suggested that the Heleus Cluster was home to several ‘golden worlds’ (aka worlds that can sustain human life), the reality is that it simply isn’t the case – and nobody is sure why. It appears that something is spreading across the cluster from planet to planet, consuming everything in its wake – and that’s not all either.

There’s also a mysterious alien race, the Kett, that seem to have an advanced understanding of the mysterious monoliths and ancient technology found on planets across the Heleus Cluster, and will challenge anybody – including the Pathfinder – that tries to go near them. That’s bad news for the Andromeda Initiative, but we won’t tell you why. Spoilers, and all that.

What we will say is that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s main storyline is intriguing, and keeps you coming back for more. In fact, it does more than that: it makes you want to understand why. The great thing is that in Andromeda, that’s entirely possible.

Whether it’s by accident or on purpose, NPCs (non-player characters) dotted around the Cluster will provide you with information via general chit-chat. Sometimes it’s completely random, but every now and again you’ll come across somebody with a snippet of information that gives you a greater understanding of why Andromeda is the way that it is – and it’s exciting.

It makes you want to go out into the world, talk to every NPC you see, read all the datapads that you find and wander away from the beaten track to see what you can find. The story, and all the characters within Andromeda are intertwined, you just need to find the connection that brings them all together. What we love is that you don’t need to do this to enjoy the Mass Effect: Andromeda story, but it brings a greater understanding for those that really want to get into it.  

Choice plays a huge part in Mass Effect: Andromeda too, although not quite to the same extent as in previous games in the series. Still, you’re given multiple choices for many of the conversations you take part in, with your overall tone dictating how characters view the Pathfinder as the game goes on.

That’s not to say that your choices won’t affect the story: they just might not be as obvious as you first assume. This style of gameplay allows the gamer to channel their personality through the Pathfinder, helping to build a connection between the two.

Of course, being the Pathfinder in an open world game means that you’re free to choose your own path: you don’t have to follow the campaign to gain access to other planets. In fact, if you wanted to, you could explore the entire Cluster after the first few missions in the game. Of course, we don’t recommend doing this but it helps us make our point: do what you want.

Taking on side quest, errands and other missions will help the Pathfinder build relationships not only with his team, but the variety of alien species that you come across throughout Andromeda. It’s up to you and the choices you make that define how you’re perceived: if you make combat the focus of the Andromeda Initiative, you might find a little more resistance than if you concentrate on discovery and science.

The quality of the side quests and errands are impressive too, considering the sheer scale of the game: we spent one evening only working on side quests and errands, and didn’t feel like we were ‘grinding’ or performing the same tasks repeatedly. It’s all about variety in Andromeda, and that’s one of its charms: you never know what you’ll get when you agree to help somebody out, you just know it’ll be dangerous (and fun!).

As with any open world game, scavenging is key: if you don’t like scavenging for weapons, armour and materials, Andromeda isn’t the game for you. As you discover and scan new technology on your travels you’ll be awarded points that you can spend on the development of new items that can be used in crafting to completely change the function of a weapon.

Again, as with other elements of the game, scavenging encourages users to stray from the beaten path to find the best armour, weapons and modifications available in the Heleus Cluster.

The range of planets you come across is staggering, too: some may be highly radiated and inhabitable to humans, while other offer lush forests, waterfalls and even beaches – it’s the luck of the draw, but each looks stunning in their own way.

Unlike in other space exploration games, these planet-sized planets look and feel alive. Seeing individual snowflakes blow across the display in a blizzard, or hearing the roar of distant alien species on desolate, hostile planets areas provide a level of immersion not matched by many games.

When coupled with intuitive scripting that reflects the current situation (on arrival on a new planet, onlookers might remark about the appearance of humans, or make throwaway comments like ‘that thing should be locked up’), you’re left with an immersive, reactive galaxy that feels real. You can even eavesdrop on random NPC conversations if you desire: there are hundreds to listen to.  

The only real issue in terms of graphics (and this should come as no surprise) is the questionable facial animations. Since the launch of Mass Effect: Andromeda on EA/Origin Access, players have been posting hilarious GIFs of in-game facial animations that look funny or downright weird. It’s not just facial animations, as walking animations also seem to be effective.

While it’s not as prominent in the game as some are making it out to be, it does break immersion when you see the Pathfinder awkwardly grimace instead of smiling.

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