A New Galaxy Awaits – First Impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda

Party members (and Ryder him/herself) are reversals/opposites of the party in Shepard’s story

It might be too early to say for sure, but I think that the characters of Andromeda have been lovingly crafted as foils of the characters from the original trilogy. Vetra is much more chill and calm in contrast to Garrus. Peebee, from the get go, is less about cooperation and more of mutual benefits – far from Liara’s shtick. Drack is much more larger than life than Wrex or Grunt ever was. Cora finds peace and control in herself through less violent means in contrast to Jack. Liam is less out of his comfort zone as Ashley had been in Mass Effect 1. I haven’t met Jaal yet, so I can’t really say anything about him—but what little I have heard about him paints him in a similar manner.

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Have a picture of him anyway, just because.

This also applies to Ryder. They’re presented from the get go as much younger and less experienced compared to the fully accomplished Shepard. And that makes sense— Alec Ryder was originally the Pathfinder, until you had to take the title. Youth and inexperience shows through in many ways, even through the dialogue wheel. Where Shepard presents themselves as more decisive (i.e. Paragon or Renegade options), Ryder is more nuanced and doesn’t present themselves as professionally. It makes a lot more sense when you remember that the Andromeda Initiative isn’t a military setting — of course Ryder doesn’t have to be professional when they’re off the clock.

Of course, none of them are direct subversions, but it’s noticeable enough for me to wonder if Bioware is making some sort of statement. Nevertheless, thus far all the characters have been compelling and fun. My personal favorite character thus far is Kallo Jath, the pilot of the Tempest. Sometimes seeing him does make me a little sad that we don’t have an actual Salarian party member for this game.

(And on that note, RIP Mordin. You will always be missed in my heart.)

Combat is incredibly fluid and on-the-go

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Undeniably, one of the biggest improvements in Andromeda is the combat system and its gameplay. The old trilogy locks players into a class with restricted abilities and stats. Here, you have the freedom to be whatever you desire. All of the profiles are open, with each one augments Ryder’s stats and aids them in different ways during combat. Players are heavily encouraged to explore and try out what suits them best.

The Favorites menu/selection is also an incredibly helpful, allowing you to switch between four different presents as and when you need them. Because of this freedom, every battle feels fresh and new, without any kind of monotony. The action is fast paced and intense and it really feels like you’re battling for your life.

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Look at all the skills Ryder can potentially learn.

This freedom was honestly a little overwhelming at first; there were just so many options, and it was hard to choose what I wanted. It took me a while to get used to it, so I made good use of the option to respec.

Put all of this together and you have an incredibly dynamic combat system. The fluidity of it truly takes my breath away. You could jump and dash and even hover while taking out enemies; movement was not restricted in any way and versatility was encouraged. The auto cover was also incredibly useful to me whenever I screwed up. The fact that you can use the Nomad itself as proper cover was a great plus.

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Everything about the combat just felt great. I did die a lot of times (as a person who rarely—if ever—played shooters and FPS), but it was just fun trying my best in all those battles. Every victory felt like one that I had earned.

 

The verdict?

All in all, my summary for this game so far would be ‘a charming new version of Mass Effect 1. There were a lot of throwbacks for me, from the tone of the game to the characters themselves. There were a few times where I did see the dreaded problems of facial animations, but it didn’t really bother me. In fact, it kind of adds to the charm since the first game had that too.

It’s by no means a perfect game, but what I’ve seen so far has been good. I would definitely recommend people to play it, especially for old fans of the series. The (mostly) clean slate it begins with now also makes it an entry point for newcomers of the franchise. This game gives a fresh face to the series while retaining enough of the old to bring in both old and new players alike.

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And here I will end with a picture of my Ryder, for posterity.

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Frieda Mak
25, female, avid lover of Cadbury chocolates, ice cubes and coke. Also a self-proclaimed tomboy, serial casual gamer as well as occasional napper. Does a lot of things on the internet such as watching Youtube videos, reading fanfics and rambling a lot about her obsessions.

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