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Mass Effect: Andromeda Review – Adapting To Harsh Frontiers

Joe Juba
 

In the Mass Effect universe, the Andromeda Initiative is a bold and ambitious program. Looking for a future in uncharted territory, its volunteers leave the past behind and search for a new home in a faraway galaxy. However, despite all of the planning and preparation, cascading complications make it difficult for the Initiative to accomplish its mission beyond the Milky Way. In this way, Mass Effect: Andromeda is like the story it tells. It is a fresh start for the franchise and invigorated by a renewed sense of exploration, but a variety of problems prevent it from reaching its potential.

With Commander Shepard out of the picture, players control Ryder, a young explorer who inherits the role of Pathfinder – the one charged with finding humanity a home in Andromeda’s Heleus Cluster. Ryder has just the right mixture of confidence and uncertainty, so you feel capable while improvising in strange situations. Whether you’re brokering peace with a new race or uncovering alien technology, you and Ryder are figuring things out together. You make some tough calls along the way, but the focus isn’t on choice and consequence this time, so just about any response can feel correct. You and Ryder have a lot of work to do.

All of the potential settlement worlds have catastrophic problems, the arks carrying the Milky Way’s other races have gone missing, and the conquering kett race is waging war on the natives. These looming mysteries and threats provide a fantastic foundation for Andromeda’s story; the opening 10 hours set the stage and build anticipation, and I could not wait to begin my Pathfinder duties in earnest. By the 40-hour mark, the big questions like “Does Andromeda have habitable planets? ” and “What do the kett want? ” reach predictable conclusions.

Seeing the story unfold is still cool, but you learn the Heleus Cluster isn’t as full of mystery and novelty as you thought. For example, I like the designs of the new alien races, but they would look right at home in the Milky Way. Mass Effect fans are already used to bizarre creatures like krogan and hanar, and the new races don’t push boundaries to fulfill the initial promise of encountering truly foreign life. (Please visit the site to view this media) For the series that brought us adversaries like Saren and the Illusive Man, the primary foe in Andromeda is surprisingly boilerplate. He barely gets any screen time, and his goals are exactly what you would expect from an evil alien overlord.

Your confrontation culminates in a confusing final mission in which everyone’s lives are at stake, but I cannot tell you precisely how my actions were preventing disaster, which drains the tension and triumph from the ultimate victory. The main story…

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